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Auld Lang Syne

December 31, 2015

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne.

What a year. A year that has held so much, both heartache and joy.

Woolful started as a blog, and it began as a very personal place. A place for me to share my love of fiber, but also to share our journey, my journey, however it touched our lives and wherever it took us…in the hopes it would encourage, inspire and help inform. In many ways it has done that, especially with the podcast, however with the podcast I intentionally do my best to focus on the guests and less on me. And while it has/is great fun, it hasn’t gone unnoticed by me that this blog’s focus has become very much the podcast and less about personal journey and things we’re learning and going through. So, that’s a long winded way of saying that I want to keep myself accountable to my initial reasons for starting this blog and dedicate more time to sharing where we’re at and what’s going on. So all the folks that come here for the podcast might be surprised by some of these posts because they will be very much intertwined with Woolful…and that’s because ALL of this is Woolful.

As many of you know, in 2014 we bought a ranch in North Idaho. At the time we were living in San Francisco for my work, having moved from Seattle where we’re both originally from. We had moved to SF for a great opportunity and while it all seemed to make sense, it didn’t take long (a few weeks) to realize it was not our home nor our place. We spent the following two years discovering new things about ourselves…our interest in farming, fiber, self-sustainability and we were surprised to find a lot of that in the Bay Area and meet some incredible people who encouraged us as we began realizing our dreams of buying property and doing something awesome with it. I’m really not sure how everything fell into place like it did, I guess you could call it providence, but last year we were able to buy our ranch, along with my parents who we split this amazing place with. As you can imagine, since that time it became increasingly more difficult to balance these two lives…the Idaho farming life and my career driven SF life, but manage it we did for a little over a year. We continued to focus on gaining more skills, learning as much as we could and preparing a place and a life for us here (Idaho).

You can’t really prepare for life though. In April this year, while on one of our trips to the ranch I had a late miscarriage. It’s a strange thing to talk about and I still feel uncomfortable sharing, however I’ve learned some about grieving and I see many women through an entirely new lens…a much softer lens. You don’t know what someone is/has gone through and grace is key. This is all so very fresh in our lives and something we’re processing each day.

Through my own experience I had a new realization of what my values were and the next few months were spent in deep conversation and prayer as David and I began to feel it was time for us to make our move to the ranch permanent. But as with many big decisions, we put it off and kept telling ourselves that financial security was most important…and although it is important, it’s not the only factor and definitely not the most important one. We did however begin to figure out our living situation, where we would live when we did make the move. We have grand plans of building a stone masonry home on the property, but we know that will be a ways off, especially since we plan to build it ourselves. We had given the existing house on the property to my parents who moved here soon after we bought the ranch, so where were we going to live?

This past Summer, we bought a yurt. Again by only what I can call providence, we found an incredible deal on Craigslist for a yurt that just happened to be 2.5hrs from us. It was around this time that I found out I was pregnant again. Happy, so nervous, but hopeful. Unfortunately a few weeks later I miscarried again and while it was far less physically traumatic, it changes you. It was through this and several other things that happened over the course of the Summer that we realized it was time for us to make the move. I remember one night sitting on the floor of our apartment in SF and feeling this complete peace about the decision. I hadn’t yet talked to my boss at work, but I knew somehow it would all work out one way or another, either how we hoped it would or in another way completely. So I went in that following Monday and sat down with my boss and told him that we were moving and asked if he’d allow me to work remotely. We agreed to give it a go and so far it’s been pretty great. I travel to SF once a month to spend time with the team and be present. It’s been a bit of deja vu back to a previous life where I traveled frequently for work, funny how life goes in circles sometimes. And it’s also been revealing of how much I’ve changed since that time. I have major workaholic tendencies, something I try very much on a daily level to maintain, and with the recent launch of our product and new routine of working remotely, I’m struggling with this work life balance, but learning everyday how to adjust and maintain.

So we’re here at the ranch now and it’s more than we could ever imagine. David’s been working day and night to get the yurt platform built and yurt comfortable. We’re on the final stretch of installing the wool insulation (yes, wool! More to come on that. ). We picked out a gorgeous spot nestled in a small pasture surrounded by cedars, birch and tamaracks, with a beautiful view of the Western pasture. I can’t wait to sit in front of the window next to the fire, knit and watch the snow fall on the pasture…that will be a dream come true. We did have a slight setback with the yurt platform setup, which we plan on doing an extensive post about to help others who may be building a yurt in cold climates. We spent our first night in the yurt last week and while it’s pretty cold still, we’re happy as can be…clad in wool from head to toe.

And have I mentioned firewood? Holy smokes..literally. Thankfully we have a splitter so that is helping things drastically, but there is A LOT of splitting we still need to do for this Winter and next Winter in order to allow the wood to season. With two stoves on the property that will be run full time during the cold weather, it’s a lot of wood. One really cool thing we found while exploring the property is many seemingly random firewood stacks. It would appear that when a tree fell, the previous owners back in the 60s and 70s would cut and stack the rounds under a cluster of trees, and surprisingly much of it is still good.

As for the animals, those too have been a great learning experience. We learned this past Summer that our ewes were indeed not pregnant, but just getting woolier and maybe a tad fat. So they were on a diet and we hope they will lamb this coming Spring. Which brings us to the newest addition to the farm, a ram! We welcomed Henry a couple months back and he’s figuring out what his job is. Our plan is to steadily grow our flock and I’ve been speaking to some local women who milk their Icelandics…oh man, don’t even get me started. We also recently welcomed our Dexter dairy cow Lulu and 6 Alpacas to the farm…Mary, Martha, Madge, Margaret, Millicent and Mabel. In the Spring we be adding hogs to the farm, we can’t wait to pick them up!

Most days I drive into town and work from a little space I found and my mom and David split taking care of Coltrane. During the days I work from the ranch, it’s pretty great to share lunch or snacks with my little guy, something I’ve missed so much and every now and then I sneak in to put him down for his nap which is even more wonderful.

I’m learning to get back to taking care of myself with intention. Taking time that’s needed for whatever the task is at hand. Learning more of what I value most and how I can set a better example of pursuing these values. I’m excited to explore Woolful more and see what the podcast has in store this next year. I can’t wait to take an herbal course and to make more. To start our homeschool journey. And, I’m looking forward to being present for all the seasons here on the ranch…becoming a more experienced farmer and welcoming all sorts of new critters to our ranch.

There’s so much more to share, about the mill, other exciting plans, yurt ‘stuff’ and some farm lessons we’ve recently learned…and I’m looking forward to sharing more of this, more often this next year with you.

I am so thankful and grateful for this year and all that it has held and for what it’s taught me about myself. All the parts of my life, being a wife, a mother, a career woman, a podcaster, a burgeoning farmer and homesteader, a daughter and a sister…they’ve all come together somehow and for that I’m a bit in awe, but so very grateful…to so many for their grace, encouragement and guidance, but most of all to my Father in Heaven.



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Idaho Fiber Mill Life Woolful Podcast

Woolful Podcast: Reflections and where next

February 4, 2015
ashley yousling woolful podcast

I’ve been writing this post in my head for about a week now, unsure how to share what I would like to share…in the most genuine and humble way possible, but also with complete gratitude. You see, this past week the Woolful Podcast reached it’s 100,000 download, with it now being close to 122k after yesterday’s episode. When I see these numbers I see a community, a tribe 10,000 strong all with a common interest, a love of fiber. You should all feel so very encouraged. Encouraged to pursue your fiber dreams, as makers, farmers, proprietors, or wherever your hearts desires lie. I sure am.

When I had the idea to start this podcast, I had hoped there would be others who felt the same way I did, but I never imagined the response or the impact it would have in such a short time. Thank you for writing, for commenting and sharing with me, you really have no idea how encouraging it is and I do my best to pass this on to the different guests in one way or another…because their journeys are truly the remarkable things here.

Each Monday night as I wrap up the podcast for the week and stare bleary eyed at the screen as I wait to upload it, usually around 12 or 1am, a small voice says “how long are you going to keep this up?”.  And my answer is always, “for a very long time”. Anyone who has worked on a passion project understands the degree to which you’ll put energy into something simply because of that, passion. But passion only carries you so far. Encouragement and support from those around you sure goes a hell of a long way to remind you why you’re doing this. So thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Since the beginning of the podcast, each episode has had sponsors. It’s been wonderful because it’s given a unique marketing opportunity for different shops and brands, and a way for them to be involved. It’s also helped cover operating costs and compensate for a small bit of the time spent on bringing each episode to life. I’d love to have more companies, both big and small involved as sponsors, you can find more info here.

So where next? Well, there are a lot of really exciting things in store for Woolful and this community in 2015. You’ll see these announcements role out here and there, the first being in March…so stay tuned. But, to be perfectly honest and I’m bearing my soul a bit here…I would really love to see Woolful grow to the point where I can someday spend more time at home with my son and family, focusing on our fiber dreams of building a mill in Idaho. This seems lofty, though, everyone has a dream and should strive towards it, while staying true to their mission and vision.

And without sounding like a broken record, thank you again. You’ve made one of my dreams come true. Don’t ever underestimate your own dreams. xoxo -Ashley


Idaho Fiber Mill Life

Fiber mill: Where we’re at now

January 2, 2015

*Note. This post was written over the course of 3 days worth of nap-times. Obviously my son felt the need to sleep little, hence the reason this post is dated Jan 2nd instead of Dec 31st. 😉

What a year. A lot has been going on and each step of the way I’ve thought to myself “I need to write a post and update everyone”, but then in the wee hours of the night I find myself editing a podcast, replying to emails or working on patterns instead of writing this. But now I sit here, in our little cabin in Idaho, with hopefully about an hour of peace and warmth in front of the fire to share with you, where we’re at now.

I have always been one to jump in head first, take on what some might say far too much and work as hard as I can to execute said work with both intention and determination. Passion is one of the drivers, but more than that, is my family. Balance has never been a strong suit of mine, however as I’ve taken more on with my career as a designer, and with Woolful, I’ve tried to be cognizant of the fact that my first love and desires belong to my family.

When I started Woolful in April, I had no idea where it would lead me or what it would become, and I still don’t really, but I have gotten a glimpse of where it’s going and I’m excited…and humbled. I didn’t expect to start a shop, but it just kind of came to be after spending time with these amazing fiber folks for the podcast. I hope in some small way I can help bring light to what they were doing and inspire fiber enthusiasts to take a closer look at and create a connection with the material they are using and creating. In the same vein, I launched a podcast which focuses on helping build that same connection, sharing fiber journey’s of some of the most dedicated, loving and passionate people I know.

And the mill. In September we closed on our 40 acre ranch in Idaho, with the plan (and dreams) to build a fiber mill. My parents and David and I bought the property together, with hopes to build a legacy for our family there. My parents live in the cute little cabin, which has it’s fair share of rough spots that we’re working through. Busted pipes, rotting subfloor, janky staircase, drafty walls and windows, etc. But it doesn’t really matter. You work through it as you do with anything in life and you come out on the other side, better (and hopefully more skilled) because of it. The truth is, we didn’t buy the ranch for the cabin, we bought it for the land it sits on. 40 acres of breathtakingly beautiful timber and pasture. Our field of dreams.


We’re up in Idaho now, and each time we are, it’s both restorative and agonizing. Restorative for the obvious reasons, agonizing because we long so badly to be here permanently, to raise our son and future kids in the fresh air and open land instead of the big city. But all in time, and there is a plan, albeit one that could very well change as many plans do. The plan is to save for the next several months and then buy a yurt. Spend next Summer building the platform for the yurt, then setting up the yurt itself and building other things such as an outhouse (a nice one, don’t worry we have expert outhouse builders guiding us 😉 and possibly a mud room. This will most definitely take more time than we anticipate, but our goal is to have it complete by the end of 2015. At what point we move and live in the yurt permanently is yet to be decided…could be a year, could be 2 or more. I’m learning to go with the flow and be flexible.

Meanwhile, we have begun the grant research and writing process for a variety of grants that will help us build the fiber mill and business. This stuff is a lot of work, and something we’re considering hiring a grant writer for, we’ll let you know what we decide. 🙂 The other thing we are working on is deciding funding. Our goal is to do this without loans. A lofty goal we know, but one we’re confident we can achieve with the support of our community, grants and lots of penny pinching. I’ll write about each of these things in more detail as we progress through the process and have helpful information to share.

We picked the site for the mill on the property! It’s a beautiful spot with great access to water and power, it sits right next to a wide creek with wide spread wooded views. When I stand outside I can see everything. The stone and log wood structure, with windows lining each side. A small front area that welcomes guests with it’s pot belly stove and rockers, baskets full of yarn and fiber ready to knit and spin. Then you walk through large french doors that lead to the milling machines. A picker, carder, pin drafter, spinning frame and more. Large canvas laundry carts on wheels helping move the fiber along through each step. In the back we’ll have a special enclosed area where all the fiber is scoured using sustainable methods, including a greywater system. Then you step out the back to a porch that overlooks the creek. Here is where the evenings end and future dreams (of sheep) will be discussed. Like I said, I can see it, can you? 😉

One of the exciting things that’s happened since we got the property is we converted an old milking parlor into a natural dye studio. We’re slowly setting it up, and by Summer it’ll be in full swing. I’ve been dyeing it in non-stop for the Natural Dye Yarn Club and it’s been wonderful, but I’m excited about some improvements we have planned, such as a small wood stove. I’ve been dyeing this whole past week in sub zero temperatures and it’s been interesting. More on that adventure in a separate post…I have lots of great photos and notes to share.

dye studio


natural dyeing

Lastly, I wanted you guys to know how incredibly supported we’ve felt this year, through all of our ambitious endeavors. Naturally I’m a bit of an introvert, but I realized quickly in life that if I want to help build awareness, connections, advocacy, relationships, etc…I needed to put myself out there in some way and you all have greeted me with encouragement and grace. I appreciate it more than you will ever know. And as always, please please never hesitate to reach out here or by email or wherever. I may not have the chance to reply in a timely fashion (I’m trying!) but I read everything and it keeps me humble and full of thanks.

Much love in this new year, 2015 is going to be magical. 

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