Battenkill Fiber Mill

For years …as long as I have raised sheep, over twenty five years now, I have been searching for the perfect woolen mill to process some of our fleeces. We always keep a bundle of the newly shorn fleeces here to process ourselves, the rest will often get sent off to be cleaned and carded. This means bags of beautifully cleaned roving returns, ready to spin. The last two years I’ve even sent off several fleeces to have them cleaned, carded, and spun into yarn. So I have both available……skeins of our Blue Face Leicester spun right here with me at the wheel or yarn from our sheep that has been sent over to the Battenkill. Even with any mill spun yarn, I still do all the dyeing of each skein. With a flock of sheep’s fleeces piling up (I can only spin so fast and there is always so much else to do…surprise, surprise, huh?) I decided two years ago to send some of the fleeces off. This allowed me to have more inventory to sell to our yarn customers. Finding the right woolen mill has always been a challenge. For years we’ve had a local mill who did a great job, but they no longer clean fleeces, and because ‘cleaning’ the fleeces is the job that is most helpful, I began looking elsewhere. It’s not easy to find a mill you trust. Being a handspinner and working hard to maintain the quality of our sheep and their fleeces, I don’t want to risk sending them just anywhere. I had one mill years ago lose all of my 1st year lamb fleeces. Not happy, I can only say. Blue Face Leicester tends to have a fairly long staple length (length of the locks), it is quite crimpy, and often contains a fair bit of lanolin. This can gunk up a machine, so carefully washing is important. Some cottage mills are not able (or talented enough) to handle fleeces that are considered extra fine , like Merino or Rambouillet, or they are not able to slow the machines to handle a long stabled fleece…like Blue Face Leicester. Owning and operating a woolen mill is a craft. They need to understand the different wool breeds, they need to be able to assess the fleeces when they come in, and they need to be able to process each order to the customer’s request. There is a lot to pay attention to. So, this is why I am promoting the Battenkill Fiber Mill. They are, by far, the best mill I’ve come across. One of the great things about them is that they strive for accuracy. I get my own fleeces back and the weight of the finished product is always on the high end. They are great communicators, I often send my fleeces with a ( fairly) long list of instructions and thoughts…. the folks at the Battenkill know that they are working with producers that care about their sheep and the end quality of their fleeces, and so they listen. Quality is first and foremost at the Battenkill. I have been so happy to find a mill, one that is not across the country, that I can trust with my fleeces. They really are an excellent mill.
Recently, I received an email from Mary Jeanne who owns and operates the Battenkill Fiber Mill. She sends out a yearly update of things happening at the mill, along with this great video which explains how the mill operates. The best part of the video is learning a little bit about the happy folks who work there. If happy and contented people are doing the job of processing your fleeces, it makes sense that they come back to you reflecting the happy hands that handled them.
Check out the Battenkill’s website, the video is there to click onto……join in with supporting a great little business!

Change Is Going To Come

Chelone glabra

Chelone glabra

So much change! Yes, the seasons……. we’ve talked about that. At the moment, the big changes we are feeling happen to be the ones experienced by our family. First, no one in our household is preparing for going back to school this fall. Noah has decided ( with our support) to postpone further schooling at the moment, and to do some traveling. He heads out this fall for the wild west, on his own epic adventure to see some of the country, visiting with friends and family and WWOOFing a bit along the way. His older sister has just changed jobs within the company she works for and has moved to the big city of Portland. This means………just two of us in the house this winter. Who are we going to feed? What am I going to do with all this food? It is great to see your children branch out into the world, to find their footing, to create their own independent life and to follow their dreams and aspirations. It is also a very significant mark in time. Excitement and sadness. Thrills and deep breaths. We can account for all the things that have brought us to this point, the stages of childhood, the growth, the life learning, that has nurtured and prepared them ( hopefully) for these moments of flight from their nest. They charge ahead with their very good intentions and work, and we try not to cling or hang on to them, keeping them from the world they are about to explore. Not keeping them from their worlds, their choices, their adventures, and their responsibility to learn and grow from all of these things. We are never far away, we continue to lend support ( and counsel them even when not solicited), and we will always be home to them. This is comforting. They are traveling away, but the nest remains intact. With food….lots of it actually. Ha, this will bring them back on occasion! I feel better. So, what will we do? Oh goodness, lots! More of what we do already and then find all kinds of new things to add to our plate. Indulge in things that have been put on the back burner for years, and explore some new horizons ( we may not even leave home for this, we hardly ever do). We’ll grow too! And of course, we have our very good life here at the farm and nursery. This will continue to keep us busy……. always.
Speaking of the nursery, this wonderful native is in full bloom and bringing us pleasure at the moment. Turtlehead ( Chelone glabra) likes moist soil and part sun, it is long lived and blooms late summer through fall. It reaches a height of about 2-3 ft. tall.
Chelone glabra

Chelone glabra

Another variety we grow is Chelone ‘Hot Lips” which has blooms of very deep pink and darker foliage. Both are available at the nursery right now.
In about ten days we will be traveling to pick up our new Blue Face Leicester ram. ( I guess we are going to be leaving home once in awhile!). Our current ram, Puck, will service a few ewes here before heading off to his new home and new flock of ladies. We are glad he’s going to a nice farm with hopes of improving the fleeces of their existing flock. Puck’s fleece is quite nice, and he’ll be sure to add some fine qualities to any wool. I will be selling yarn at a few locations this fall.Picture 056 During Commom Ground Fair weekend (Sept. 19, 20th, and 21st), I will set up the Teardrop over at my friends shop, Garden Variety, in Thorndike, Maine. Lots of hand dyed, handspun yarn will be for sale, including the skeins that I had milled into yarn from Battenkill Fiber Mill. Plus, of course, my own handspun yarn.Picture 061 All of the wool is from our own Blue Face Leicester flock here at the farm. I will keep readers informed of other ‘yarn’ events, and people can continue to purchase yarn here at the nursery. So these days, aside from all else, lots of dyeing and spinning going on! And on good days….a bit of knitting, too!Picture 062