Here is a little history.
We discovered this 15-acre property in 1985. It was just what we wanted: a run-down cabin, an ancient barn, and a woodshed with a garden, some pasture, woods and a stream. Having an architect on the team [John], we felt confident we could deal with the buildings. Since then, we have remodeled or replaced every structure. As John would often say, you need a good piece of dirt and a good well. The top of the hill has always been the best viewpoint.
We had four acres of pasture, and we thought sheep would be perfect grazers. So in 1988 we got Romeo the Romney Ram and three ewes aptly named Mrs. Romney, Mrs. Suffolk, and Mrs. Lincoln.. Three of our four kids got involved in 4-H, which helped all of us learn how to care for them.
They seemed to do well in all kinds of conditions.
The flock grew. We wanted a dual-purpose breed that would provide both wool and meat. Over the years we have had Montadale, Border Leicester, and Romney rams. For the last decade, we have settled on Romneys. They come from the marshes of England and tolerate our wetland conditions well.
Romneys are good mothers, typically raising twins. They produce long, wavy spinner’s wool. The market lambs give us lovely sweet lamb chops.
Beth comes to shear once each year, usually in May. The typical fleece weighs 9 or 10 pounds.
Soon we had a new challenge: what to do with all this lovely wool.
We began to learn how to sort, skirt, wash and store the wool.
We set up a “dye factory” and a “tanning booth” for hides. We have tried local plant dyes, lichen dyes, and also commercially made wool dyes. It seems that local plants offer mostly yellows and tans, and we must turn to other sources for reds and blues. We have used a variety of methods for tanning hides; most recently, we fleshed the hides on a fleshing beam made of a tree branch, and applied alum on the skin side as the tanning agent.
There are unlimited possibilities when dyeing wool..
Once the wool is washed and dyed, it is ready for to be made into yarn or felt.. All this came from one ewe’s fleece.
So Marilyn learned to card the fibers,
spin them into yarn,
and knit, crochet and felt the yarn.
After a while, she began to think about weaving too. Amazingly, we were given three looms!
So John built a studio to make room for the looms.
Here is the well loved four harness folding loom with handspun Romney warp and weft. This loom came from Marilyn’s sister, Cathi Block of Newport.
This diamond weave scarf and matching knitted fingerless mitts can be seen all winter on daughter Susan Langenes of Portland.
The “windowpane” blanket was woven with the summer and winter technique.
John was inspired to learn about Navajo-style tapestry weaving.
Our Romney wool makes a beautiful tapestry.