As part of our management of the wildflower meadow we are advised by Natural England to graze the area with sheep for 2 months of the year starting around the end of July, this helps prevent overgrowth of grass and ‘cuts the meadow for us allowing the flowers to thrive. This has helped us to get to know the local farmers and led to a growing interest in all things sheep!! For the past few of years we have borrowed some sheep from Griffe Walk Farm over the hill. The gift of some fleeces from Ian, the farmer, one the autumn started off an interest in spinning, something new for those winter ‘non gardening’ months.
The supply of fleeces is now regular from Ian together with others both from local sources and further afield. Bridget is thoroughly ‘hooked ‘ on her new hobby and has also become interested in dyeing the fleece using plants from the garden, pots bubble away in the kitchen producing many shades of green, yellow,orange, brown and even blue. Gardening will always be her main hobby but it is good to have something for the bad weather times too!
The different wools both natural and dyed have been turned into many different things, making unusual gifts and winter warmers.
The garden produces many plants that can be used to dye the wool and part of the vegetable garden now has an area where some plants are grown specifically for that purpose. The photos below show dyers chamomile, bronze fennel, calendula and dahlia, just a few of those stewed up in the kitchen during the summer!
When we open the garden we set up a display to illustrate our interest in the sheep, how they manage the field and all about processing the fleece to produce wool for knitting and other projects. Lovely new friends have come with the hobby and Gill, one of them comes and spins for us amongst the display offering advice and information to our visitors
The sheep continue to visit each year, their arrival is always fun providing good entertainment for us all as we try to get them into the field avoiding all the garden plants. They are doing a brilliant job, the wildflowers get more and more beautiful each summer. Some are quite an adventurous lot and on a few occasions we have had to chase them back into the field after they had escaped through the electric fence! We now have some of the orphan lambs from the farm over the;summer to do the grazing. They are lovely and become very friendly once they get to know us!
Bridget collects more fleeces from the farm each July and we have discovered that the lamb tastes delicious too!
This has continued and each April now finds us spending some time in the lambing sheds. It is a very special time for us, great helping new life into the world, good to be able to offer help to the farmers who work so hard and lovely to get to know the family at Griffe Walk Farm so much better.