My Latest Fibre Field Trip
I’m always on the prowl for local fibres for #TheSubwayKnits project and I love finding sources that are sustainably produced. My latest Fibre Field Trip to Dover Farm was just such a discovery. A small mixed farm snuggled in the West highlands of Grey County, Dover Farm is home to 60+ Finn and Gotland sheep, along with an assortment of other happy animals and people.
Owned and operated by the Shepherd and the Hand Spinner, also known as John and Veronica, Dover Farm is developing a reputation for lustrous, clean fleece and impeccably cared for sheep. Not all that surprising when you consider the experience and dedication Veronica and John bring to the task.
It Began with Maevis the Terror
Veronica is a self-taught shepherd and hand spinner with a need to understand everything about her sheep. She started with one ewe: Maevis the Terror, a Lincoln-Suffolk cross that was a ewe with attitude. Maevis loved Veronica and never dropped a lamb unless she was home. But the stories of what she did when any else tried to approach her would curl your hair.
John, originally from New Zealand, has 55 years of shepherding and shearing experience, so the leap from Maevis the Terror to a commercial flock running 500 head wasn’t as extreme as it sounds. 8 years later the BSC scare hit Canada and the sheep market collapsed. It was time for a change. The commercial flock was sold and Dover Farm’s sheep days seemed to be over.
Until Veronica found 4 Finn-Gotland ewes for sale. Once a sheep lover, always a sheep lover. Veronica brought them home the same day.
Just a Hobby. Honest.
Initially the idea was to simply have a few sheep supplying fibre for herself. Just a hobby really. In Veronica’s words, “it got out of control”. Soon Dover Farm was bringing Gotland rams from Martin Daly into Canada, following the breeding standards of the American Gotland Sheep Society and growing a complementary flock of pure bred Finnsheep to use as the Gotland’s foundation breed. Today Veronica sits on the board of the American Gotland Sheep Society. Just a hobby, eh?
It’s All in the Pasture
Full disclosure: I am a major fan of Dover Farm fleece. I love the range of greys produced by Gotlands. I love the quality and the cleanliness of each fleece. (These are the cleanest fleece I have encountered and I’m sworn to secrecy on how it’s done). I have fallen head over heels for the Finnsheep and love the fineness of the Finn rovings.
How is all this fleece love accomplished? According to Veronica, it’s all in the pasture. Intensive and thoughtful pasture management, including constant rotation, is key to keeping the sheep calm and healthy without major interventions.
Soil to Skin
I am dedicated to filling my wardrobe with pieces that reflect the pathway from soil to skin. Just like food, I believe that what we put in bodies and on our skin has an impact on our well-being and health. Watching Veronica pursue health of her flock with such dedication is refreshing.
When I bring home roving or fleece from Dover Farm I’m bringing home sustainable farming practices, healthy land, loved and cared for animals and years of research and shepherding experience. I like to think that whatever I make, from hand spun yarns to hand knit sweaters, is an expression of all of that Dover Farm goodness.
And that feels fantastic on your skin.
Do you have a favourite fibre producer that you’d like to share with the world? Leave a comment below!
Location: GPS Address 301502 Concession Road 2 SDR, Neustadt, ON
Farm Visits: Please Call Ahead
Fibres: Gotland and Finnsheep
Products: Yarns, Rovings, Pelts, Raw Fleece, Breeding Stock
Available At: On Farm Shop, Online, Events