Our newest Fibre Spaces tour features an Australian Shepherdess: Wendy Beer of Beersheba Farm! She manages a sizeable flock with heaps of love, and sells their wool as single source top for spinners around the globe. We are always in support of small family farms and are thrilled to learn more about her sweet animals and beautiful land. Read her story below, and visit her Instagram/Website for more wooly wonders!
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up in Fiber-Arts.
I’ve been a sheepfarmer for quite a few years and then a neighbour taught me how to knit. A few years later another neighbour taught me how to spin. Then I learnt how to dye wool and it’s been “down the rabbit hole” ever since!!
Give us a brief history of your farm/studio and how it has evolved over time.
The farm has been in the family for nearly 100 years and I used to visit on school holidays since the year dot. I took over the management of the farm after quite a few years working with alpacas. Our farm consists of native and unimproved pastures. Sections of the farm are reserved for remnant vegetation, with extra tree and shrub plantings to expand on the existing biodiversity. The farm is more suited to sheep grazing than cropping (due to the poor soil and the native grasses present) and so sheep have been on the farm for close to 100 years. Various breeds of sheep have been tried here. At present, there are Merino, Drysdale, English Leicester and various crossbreds. They represent the “complete range” of microns and use!! The Drysdales and English Leicesters are both rare breeds and preservation is important to me.
Part of my Fibre Arts journey has been the reinforcing of “each breed has its use” concept. There are so many breeds of sheep in the world and their fleeces are all used for different things. A couple of years ago I was encouraged to get some of my wool clip processed locally into combed tops for the handspinners market – it had been galling to buy in tops when I grow the stuff! So, I did that and everybody loved it, so now I have it available as single-source tops in undyed and dyed form.
Can you give us a glimpse into a typical day on your farm?
First chores of the day include feeding and checking the “special needs” sheep (eg. the “retiree sheep”). At certain times of the year it may be necessary to supplement the entire flock and that is done 2-3 times a week and can take all morning. After the chores there is either sheepwork or dyeing work. The majority of the sheep don’t need handling every day as they live out in the paddocks all year. The rest of the day is taken up with paddock maintenance or dyeing wool. Today, for example, I need to sort out some sheep, change their paddocks and then start cleaning out the shearing shed in preparation for shearing next week. I probably won’t get any dyeing or spinning done but there’s always tomorrow. 🙂 Evening chores are usually related to putting the poultry away for the night and giving the dogs their dinner.
Name a tool you cannot live without and why.
The hand-shears. We have a pair of old-fashioned handshears that are so important when I need to trim a sheep or there is a problem and I need to quickly part-shear them.
Is there a piece of equipment or fiber you own that is special to you?
My spinning wheel is an early-1970s model Ashford Traditional, and it was sourced for me by my neighbour who taught me to spin. She’s passed away now and the wheel is the one I use for my spinning. I could never just sell it. 🙂
Do you have a favorite animal on your farm?
Difficult!! I have a favourite sheep… favourite alpaca…. a horse…. and my Border Collies!! I can’t choose!