Welcome to part two of our travels exploring the wool origins for our Heirloom Romney yarn. On Wednesday we reported on Silver Cloud Farm in Ashland Oregon. Today we'll take you to Tawanda farm in Montague, California, home to a large flock of over 100 Romney sheep.
Tawanda Farms, run by Carol Pasheilich and Maggie Howard, is located in north central California. We first experienced Tawanda's Romney wool in 2008. We got our hands on this lovely wool at The National Needlearts Association trade show where Jeane deCoster was selling dyed roving made from Carol and Maggie's wool. We instantly fell in love with the over-dyed natural grey lustrous roving. Later, when Jeane produced the first batch of Heirloom Romney yarn, it was made entirely from Tawanda Farm's wool.
Carol and Maggie's farm is an expansive 120 acres located in the Shasta Valley, with stunning views of an epic 14,179' stratovolcano, Mount Shasta, to the south.
Tawanda Farm is home to a larger flock than Silver Cloud, and keep six rams of various colors compared to Dona and Kent's two rams. Maggie has literally written the book on genetics and sheep colors in all breeds - The Coat of Many Colors, which compiles her research on sheep colors, markings, and genetics. This resource helps sheep breeders of various breeds with their production of colors in their flock. Because of her research, the flock at Tawanda Farm has many hues and has adult Romney sheep that are very dark, retaining more of the dark color they are born with.
Carol gave us a tour of her farm, which is so large it required her to ride us around on a gator to see everything. The views are vast in this part of California and large Mount Shasta is always visible from anywhere on the farm.
Carol was in the middle of lambing season and still had five pregnant ewes ready to lamb. She was certain at least one would lamb while we were there, but sadly we did not get to see a lamb being born. She wrote to us that evening to tell us that three healthy lambs were born that evening after we left - so close!
Just like at Silver Cloud Farm, the sheep at Tawanda Farm are allowed to graze in pastures during the day and are brought in at night to keep them protected from predators. Carol and Maggie use a Great Pyrenees dog to survey their land and scare away any coyotes at night. Both the farms we visited do not use any antibiotics, but do give vaccinations to the lambs when they are born. The sheep are allowed to exist in a very natural state with little intervention. Carol and Maggie separate their ewes with lambs from the other ewes that will not or have not yet lambed. The rams are also kept in a separate pasture.
Unlike Silver Cloud Farm, Carol and Maggie shear their sheep in January so their sheep had shorter coats when we came to visit. While it was great to see all the baby lambs, it would be just as exciting to be able to visit during the shearing. The fleeces are skirted as they come off the sheep and Carol said a lot friends from her local spinning guild would come and help them with this chore each year (and get first dibs on the freshly shorn fiber)
We couldn't have been more pleased with our trip. The Romney sheep were beautiful and lambs were adorable. The farmers that raise the animals were kind and gracious hosts and allowed us into their lives for a few days to learn about the work that goes into raising sheep. Our trip has brought us new awareness of the lives of the people that help make Heirloom Romney such a special yarn and we're so glad to have the opportunity to work with them. Our next goal is to visit the mill that turns this wool into Heirloom yarn, and to dig even deeper into the process. Stay tuned for that, but for now we'll leave you with another cute sheep pic!