Shepherdess Carole Precious' farm, hosts the widest range of activities and breeds of animals we have seen on a single farm to date. Some of those activities include: falconry, competitive and recreational carriage racing, bee keeping, horse riding, rare bird keeping, wildlife rehabilitation, numerous fine arts pursuits/workshops - Oh! And did we mention the first Shetland Sheep flock to be raised in Canada (Flock #1 in the registry)!
It started in 1980 when Colonel G.D. Dailley was the first person to be granted permission to import the rare Shetland Sheep directly from the Shetland Isles to Canada. Passionate about preserving all endangered species, he founded two safari parks (which are still thriving today), and was able to buy sheep registered with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust in England.
What began as 28 pregnant ewes and 4 rams is now approximately 70 ewes, 18 rams and a legacy of Shetland Sheep breeding stock that have been sold, both in Canada and the U.S., to farmers who wish to keep this sheep breed's fine fiber legacy alive. The Shetland Sheep breed is known for having one of the widest range of distinct natural colors - 11 to be exact - and Chassagne is home to all of them.
This is a truly unique farm home and we are very thankful to be able to use the wool fiber of a flock with such a rich heritage.
WHY IS THIS A NECESSARY COMPONENT OF OUR SUPPLY CHAIN?
It is truly unbelievable how many vivid, rich colors can be found naturally - no dyes - just nature. And Chassagne's flock produces all 11 in varying amounts. Not only does Shetland wool produce a wide variety of colors naturally for us to drawn from each season, it also has an extreme fine-ness to it that allows us to use it on it's own in 100% wool fabrications as well as blend it with our alpaca fiber without taking away from the soft-ness. It is truly one of the softest wool fibers North America can boast of having.
Considering how harsh Canadian winters can get, most wool farmers we have met, only shear their animals once a year so as to make sure their flocks keep warm. This does present some challenges when it comes to keeping vegetation/plant matter (hay, field grasses, etc.) out of the animals coats. A lot of North American farms that are in a more temperate climate will shear two times a year: spring and fall. The "Spring Clip" is usually not the best quality because it is extra dirty from the sheep being kept in the warm barns all winter (rolling in hay). The "Fall Clip" usually produces the higher quality clean fleece because the animals are out roaming in the fields where there is less "sticky" vegetation and they have been eating fresh green grass instead of dried hay.
Not all of the vegetation can be taken out of a fleece in small scale milling. Often to completely get rid of it you have to use heavy chemicals and bleaches to dissolve the smaller bits. When you resort to that sort of chemical processing (which some larger mills do) you loose the natural fiber's soft hand-feel.
Have you ever "fried" your hair by dyeing it one too many times or bleaching it too blonde? Then you spend the next months applying heavy conditioners to try and reverse the damage. Well - the same goes for those larger mills that bleach their fibers - often times a conditioning element has to be added back in. Resulting in more chemicals and more water usage.
The beauty of wool is that it has it's own natural conditioner - lanolin. We try to send our farmers' wool to smaller mills that use mild soaps and we try to work with our farmers to help keep vegetation out of the sheeps' coats as much as possible from the start - or we just spend days on end at the skirting tables picking it out!
Chassagne's wool is not only bold in color but is beautiful in it's quality and we are so thankful to have this breed present in Canada to be able to use it's unique fiber!