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Meet a Sheep!

Everyone is invited to the At Home Store in Fairfield on Saturday, November 12, from 11 am to 3 pm, to meet a member of the flock and see what everyone has been knitting. The sheep will be waiting in the garden at the back of the store to greet you, and wool from the flock will be offered for sale at the store. In addition, there will be knitted samples, project ideas, patterns, kits, along with a drawing for a door prize and hot cider.

Photo by Rick Donhauser

When Rhonda Foster and her husband, Doug Foster, moved from Burlington to their rural Danville home in 2015, Rhonda Foster knew she wanted some kind of livestock to graze in the 2.5-acre pasture and barn accompanying their property. It was at the encouragement of her knitting group at the At Home Store in Fairfield, where she sells her yarn, that she decided on sheep. (Burlington Hawkeye article, 2014)

Rhonda has made it possible for our local knitters to knit with Iowa wool that is completely traceable from sheep to skein. It is a joy to work with the yarns produced from these sheep. The yarn has a liveliness, a buoyancy and springiness not found in commercially produced yarns.

The sheep are part of a local flock of endangered and old-genetics Shetland, Finn, and Gotland sheep cared for by Doug and Rhonda at their Danville farm. Yarn from the Prairie Farms Woolery is hardy, due to the old genetics of the breeds, but it’s also soft and wearable, due to the flock’s good diet, excellent pasture, clean accommodations, and minimal processing of the fleece. Colors of undyed Shetland wool range from moorit (traditional mid-brown) to fawn, various greys, warm blacks, and natural whites.

Rhonda and Doug are passionate in their commitment to humane animal husbandry and sustainable agriculture. They’re currently working with the Iowa DNR to develop forestry and pasture conservation practices. The sheep are sheared once a year in the spring by a caring and experienced shearer that the Fosters have developed a relationship with.

The Fosters’ Shetland flock is directly descended from a 4,500-year-old breed indigenous to the Shetland Islands that was crossed with sheep brought to the Islands by Norwegian Vikings over a thousand years ago. The Shetland breed neared extinction in the 1970s, but it has since been revived, with good prospects for survival.

Finnsheep are native to Finland. Their wool has a soft hand and beautiful luster (shine) otherwise only found in the long-wooled breeds, which are often courser. (Stop by to see what is on our needles!)

shetland sheep

Photo by Rick Donhauser 

Gotland sheep originate from the small island of Gotland, set in the middle of the Baltic Sea, off the coast of Sweden.

Each delightful sheep has a name, a personality, and is lovingly cared for by the Fosters.

 Photo by Rick Donhauser


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