Our family has agreed to exchange gifts this year that are made within 100 miles of our homes. Local agriculture is something that I passionately support – so when I discovered blankets made from the wool of sheep raised in Chippewa County, I figured I’d found the perfect gift.
Lake Superior Woolen Company in Rudyard in Chippewa County offers blankets or mattress pads made from the fleece of locally raised lambs like the ones in the photos that I posted. Eric Wallis (being nuzzled by a newborn lamb) and Selden Collins (with her guard donkey, Bea, who is making sure I don’t get too close to her sheep) pool their wool.
A thousand lambs are born on Eric’s farm every year. They arrive, like most babies, sticky and not particularly cute, likely to be ignored by their own mothers until confined to a small pen together for a few hours. But once they’re released to the barnyard to bleat and hop about in that stiff-legged way that looks so experimental, they are darling. His sheep spend the summer grazing on the grassy fields of Eric’s 100 year old farm and wandering about in big old barns and clean barnyards. They’re guarded by several Great Pyrenees, dogs as big, shaggy and white as the sheep. So whether they’re turned into meat or used simply for wool, these sheep lead contented lives.
Selden’s flock, on her farm in Pickford, is much smaller, raised nearly exclusively for wool. Some even wear jackets to protect their coats from manure and bits of hay. She sells this clean wool to spinners who are meticulous about their fleece. After losing several sheep to predators, she acquired a guard donkey andnamed her Bea. When I visited Selden, Bea stayed next to me, gently edging me away whenever I strayed too close to her sheep. At first Bea wouldn’t bond with her flock and was causing such trouble that Selden had almost decided to send her back to where she came from … until the night she was awakened by a braying from the pasture. She shined her flashlight out into the dark and saw Bea, her head hanging low, eyes on a coyote as it sidled back and forth searching for access to the sheep in a tight huddle behind the donkey. Selden didn’t lose any sheep that night, nor has she lost any since.
Go to Lake Superior Woolen Company’s web site www.lswoolen.com/blankets.htm. I bought three lap blankets to give as gifts. They’re beautiful.
(My son is more interested in a broomball helmet. Does anyone know of a local maker or local craftsman of anything to do with broomball?)