Junegrass: a Colorado Yarn Project has been in the works since last year, but it really came together quickly once we made the connection of Cody and Kim Burns of 2B Ewe farm in Hooper, Colorado.
I started calling mills around the same time I had reached out to Jennifer of Aniroonz. After talking with a few people we decided we were going to work with Yampa Valley Fiberworks to mill Junegrass. Lorrae and Lewis Moon own and operate Yampa Valley and I'll talk more about them later this week, but know this: Lorrae is a force. She seems to know everything about the wool-growing scene of Colorado. She knows who has what breeds, who has wool to sell and whose wool is worth buying. When I asked Lorrae if she knew of any farmers with wool that might work for us, she immediately knew of a few. She listed off breeds, pounds available and prices. It was a miracle. She even had fleece samples from two farms (both Merino and Merino-crosses) that she could send me to check out. She sent them down and we fell in love with the wool from 2B Ewe. Lorrae put me in touch with Cody. Cody Burns is affectionately referred to as Farmer Cody here at Fancy Tiger Crafts. Him and his wife Kim had been cattle farmers for a while and recently they became interested in raising sheep. They already knew much about animal husbandry and the meat industry. They didn't know much about wool, but they decided that it would be more financially sound to raise a sheep that would be good for both meat and wool. They have only had their Merino/Rambouillet cross sheep for under two years and when we first talked with them, they had wool left from their first shearing in 2015. I let Cody know about our Colorado Yarn Project and that we were familiar with the wool sample Lorrae had sent. I told him how much wool we needed and he told us a price. It was all working out perfectly. The Merino/Rambouillet is beautiful wool. It is springy and soft and Junegrass is a soft springy yarn because of the high content of this white wool.
I was finally able to visit Cody and Kim on their farm in Hooper, Colorado in the end of March for their shearing day. Hopper is located in the southern part of the state conveniently right across from one of my favorite places in the world, the Great Sand Dunes National Park. On shearing day, I was able to witness first hand how the sand dunes came to be: it was one of the windiest days I've ever experienced and sand was being blown across the valley toward the dunes where it gets stopped by huge mountains. It was crazy. Unfortunately for the shearers and farmers, there wasn't any way to reschedule the shearing so everyone was working hard in the high wind conditions.
The shearing operation was amazing! It was my first large scale shearing. Cody and Kim work with local shearers who travel around the valley in this amazing shearing shed on wheels. The shed has a tunnel to lead the sheep in and then several shearing stations. There were 3 shearers working that day and it would take them just a few hours to shear the 200 sheep. Once the sheep are sheared, there are ramps they can leave out of back into their pasture with their other freshly shorn friends. The shearers then drop the fleece down a shoot on the other side of the shed where we were waiting for it.
Each fleece is brought onto a skirting table. Since Cody and Kim are fairly new at sheep they had been taking skirting classes and had a wool grader on hand to help them skirt and grade each fleece. Skirting is removing the short pieces of wool and the wool that isn't going to go into yarn from the belly and bottoms. The wool classer assesses each fleece and sorts it based on the quality, micron count and length. Some are bound to be sold at auction, some will go to private handspinners and some will hopefully go home with us.
Once the fleeces have been skirted and sorted they are baled. The baler is able to stuff hundreds of pounds of wool into giant bags that are easy to transport.
Here is Kim, excitingly writing their farm name on their first bag from this years clip! We've really enjoyed getting to know Cody and Kim and working with them. Like Nancy, they have a real love for what they are doing and they are excited about our project and working with us as well. We hope that everything goes great this year and that we can continue this project with a new, limited edition yarn every year. Fingers crossed!