Today, we are celebrating Betsy McPherson and her sheep at Love Ewe Farm located in Montpelier, Virginia.
|Betsy McPherson, Love Ewe Farm|
Betsy is a member of my Wednesday night knitting group and I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her and her yarns. Betsy gets me into lots of trouble and frequently makes me goof up my self-imposed yarn diet. My most recent shawl that I showed you the other day is using wool from Brandi (the brown) and Sadie (the white.)
|Romney wool from Love Ewe Farm|
Despite her bad influence on my yarn diet, I asked Betsy to tell me her story. How did a surgical nurse become a soap making sheep farmer, author, and knitter? This is what she said...
We moved to Montpelier Va in 2012 to a house with 15 acres of land. At the time I was working as an operating room nurse but soon found out that I needed both my hips replaced! I was only 55 and after 30 years on my feet my hubby suggested that I retire. I knew I couldn’t just sit around and because of all the land we had we decided it would be fun to raise some animals. I have always loved to knit, I love the feeling of wool yarn between my fingers and then after seeing sheep sheared at the Powhatan Festival of Fiber, choosing sheep seemed like the most logical and magical animals to raise!
I had no idea of how many sheep breeds existed in the world, so I read and researched while I was recovering from my first hip replacement. I chose the Romney breed simply because I LOVED their faces! To me they looked like the all- American sheep, there are white and natural colored Romneys, but the white faces with their beautiful black noses just spoke to me! Another reason why I chose Romneys is that their wool is the “ finest “ of the long wooled breeds. Spinners love to spin Romney, the fiber drafts very easily and it is known for being a good beginner wool to learn to spin with. And lastly, Romney ewes are known to be wonderful mothers and have gentle temperaments.
Our farm is now in our seventh year and along the way I have become a District Director for the American Romney Breeders Association and I am on the Powhatan Festival of Fibers committee and head up the animal exhibit every year. Funny how life takes us down different paths, but our previous lives always play a role in our present lives and my nursing experience has played a big part in being a sheep farmer. We had a lamb one year who’s lower eye lid was turned inward and it was irritating his cornea.....our vet was out of town so I had to put a suture underneath his eye to pull down his lower lid until the lid was trained to sit normally. I could never have done that if I wasn’t an OR nurse in my previous life!
|Farm Yarn table at Center of the Yarniverse|
Raising sheep is fun because of the seasons that go along with it....there is breeding season, shearing season, lambing season, and then just summer season where we watch the lambs play and grow until they are sold. We send our fleeces to a mill which makes beautiful Romney yarn for us and we sell any leftover raw fleeces to spinners at local festivals. I have learned how to felt little sheep which is a fun activity for me to do in the winter months as I await the lambs who will be born in March &April. I also make Goats Milk Soap ( we don’t have goats, I use a goats milk base )that I originally made to give to those who bought lambs from us, but so many people loved it so I keep making it to add to our table along with our yarn.
Lastly I’ve written a children’s book called Daisy and the Shepherd. I got the idea for the story while I was bottle feeding a little lamb named Tom Thumb......I looked into his sweet face everyday as I fed him and wondered what it would be like if the lambs could talk......so I put my story on paper and found a wonderful young illustrator who helped bring it to life! I have written a second book but haven’t gotten serious about it yet!
|felted sheep from Love Ewe Farm|
Our girls are grown and gone now (28 & 25) and I feel as if we now have 19 wonderful children in the backyard, each of whom have their own personalities and give me a purpose everyday as I shepherd them. My hubby always says that there are “highs and lows in farming” which is so true......some days are trying; tackling chores while enduring hot Virginia summers, dealing with ewes who have mastitis, or managing pasture parasites that make lambs sick, but as in all of our lives, you just have to stay positive and weather the storm!!
If you'd like to get to know Betsy in person, she invites everyone to come out and see the new little lambs that will be born in March and April. You can schedule an appointment to see them either via email (email@example.com) or through her website, loveewefarm.com. She's also created several lovely shawl patterns that compliment her yarns which can be found on the website as well. Additionally, her yarns are for sale at the Center of the Yarniverse as well as at the following fiber festivals this year:
- Powhatan Festival of Fiber - April 25th
- High a Fiber Festival - May 16th
- Fall a Fiber Festival - Oct 3-4
Besides the website, Betsy and her farm can be found on Facebook and Instagram with a quick search for Love Ewe Farm.