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fiber mill

Woolful Podcast

Episode 25: Mountain Meadow Wool – A bale of wool, Community support, Ranch wools and Learning from your mistakes

June 9, 2015

I’m very excited to share the twenty-fifth episode of the Woolful podcast. Today we get to meet a pair of ladies who have accomplished so much in the past several years and who are behind many incredible yarns you use…Karen Hostetler and Valerie Spanos of Mountain Meadow Wool, a fiber mill and yarn company in Buffalo Wyoming.

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Sponsor: I wanted to thank one of our sponsors for this week’s episode, Stash, a local yarn shop based in Corvallis Oregon. The owner, Sonia was a very early supporter and encourager of the podcast and it’s been so great to get to know her a bit and watch all the positive energy she puts into her shop and fiber community. If you’re in the Corvallis area or just passing through, make sure to visit and you can find more info and a list of classes at stashlocal.com. And you don’t want to miss a pretty special event coming up, Black Sheep Gathering, a fiber festival in Eugene Oregon June 19-21. Stash will be there with a selection of special yarns and fibers from some of their favorite PNW indie dyers. So make sure to mark this on your calendar and find Sonia and her gang of Stash Enhancers.

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Fiber folk: I first came across Mountain Meadow Wool a couple years back when I was researching eco friendly mills and sustainable wool processing. As you’ll hear, they’ve been involved in inventing and developing some pretty amazing processes and equipment that help them process fiber and make yarn in a responsible and sustainable way. They’re both mothers who have tackled this dream of their’s wholeheartedly and worked very hard to create a service and product they can and should be very proud of. You can find Karen and Valerie at mountainmeadowwool.com and on Instagram @mountainmeadowwool.

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Man on the street: For this week’s “Man on the Street” I asked the question, “Have you ever lost your fiber or knitting mojo, what inspires you to pick up your tools again? How do you reignite the spark?? We had some great answers from Kerry, @kerryrobb, Amy @urban_farm_wife, Maria @ninja.chickens, Kirsten @littlepennycress, andLeanne @leannecoppola.

Giveaway: The winner of last week’s giveaway, is Jessie Love! You’ve won 3 skeins of Hinterland yarn from my little shop, the Woolful Mercantile. Congratulations!

The giveaway this week is sponsored by Mountain Meadow Wool, and we’re giving away two skeins of their new yarn Powell, a 4ply worsted weight yarn made of 85% mountain merino and 15% alpaca. Check out this review and project from Courtney of Pink Brutus Knits. To enter this giveaway, leave a comment in the comment section at the bottom of the post page.

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Sponsor: I wanted to thank one of our sponsors of this week’s episode, Tin Can Knits. Alexa and Emily have created several endearing collections of modern, clearly written patterns that feature accessories and garments each sized for babies, all the way up to 4XL. I really love their Road Trip and Max and Bodhi’s Wardrobe collections, and hope to make the Fly Away blanket this Fall. They’ll be releasing the final pattern of the Max and Bodhi’s Wardrobe collection on June 11th, so make sure to find this and their other collections on Ravelry and to keep up with all the going ons visit tincanknits.com.

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Music by Jónsi.

Idaho Fiber Mill

Fiber Mill: A Spring update

April 6, 2015

This week I’ll be taking a break from the podcast to wrap up work projects, and get ready for two weeks away at our ranch. Next I’ll be back with episode 18, and another amazing guest who has such a great story and a unique pasture management approach I think you’ll love hearing about, as much as I did.

On another note, now that all the snow has melted, things are beginning to ramp up at the ranch, along with our plans for the mill. Although as I’m writing this I just received an update from my mom that it is indeed snowing again, haha. There’s so much ground work that must be done and my hope is to share as much of that here, because as boring as some of it might be, they’re critical steps in the process.

When we first began looking for property, our number one priority and requirement is that it must have excellent water sources. We had heard far too many stories from farmers and friends who hadn’t considered the importance of such and it had cost them at one point or another. We are so blessed that we have multiple water sources across the property which will create great opportunities for the mill, our homes, animals and growing. The well that currently exists is a hand dug, shallow well, created by the original owner. Because the land sat vacant for a good amount of time, the well was often used by wildlife and has a number of contaminants in it. The water is perfectly suitable for showering and doing dishes, but must be heavily filtered for drinking and cooking. It’s also quite small and the flow and reservoir are not sufficient for anything more than two people, let alone a fiber mill. In November of last year we had someone come out and locate a better water source on the property and in the next month or so we’ll finally be able to drill the new well now that the ground is no longer frozen. There are many factors that go into drilling a well and this is my first time being a part of this process so my knowledge is limited, however it is expensive and the deeper you have to go, the more it costs. Our land is riddled with rocks and boulders, so this should be a fun challenge. After the well is drilled, it then needs to be completed to enable its use for in the home, mill and shop.

The other big project we’re beginning work on at the ranch is for a shop. We’ll be building (mostly ourselves) a shop with an apartment on top which will serve as our home while we setup the mill and until we eventually build our own home. We imagine we’ll live there for several years, so we’re doing our best to plan for what that looks like in terms of space and our family. This too is new for us and will be a great learning experience in building and help us plan better for the type of structure we plan for the mill building. The shop will also allow us to get work done during the cold and long Winter months, with a warm place to work on projects and temporarily house animals that need it until we have a barn someday.

As for mill specific updates, we’ve finally come to the decision to pursue a large loan for the mill equipment and setup. Our original intention was to explore more grants, but for a number of reasons we’ve decided to limit the grants for certain things and use a loan for the bulk of it. This decision was made after many conversations with mill owners, other agricultural business owners, advisors and our gut. We hope this will allow us to move a little more quickly…and by quickly I mean 2 instead of 5. 🙂 The mill will not be a cottage or mini mill, but a medium sized one that can handle a larger output. A mill of this size requires additional planning around the business and operational sides. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to launch with solar power, but that is our eventual goal. We’re also exploring more conservative and renewable scouring systems that will help, along with a grey water system. When I sit and think about all the moving pieces, I’ll be honest, it’s quite overwhelming and a bit nerve wreaking, but what dream becoming reality isn’t?!

Lastly, farm updates. We are very excited to begin getting animals on the land. Currently we have 30+ chickens, a few barn cats and a very sweet, yet wimpy house dog. When we’re there this next week one of our goals is to build a three sided shelter in one of the pastures so we can bring a small flock to the ranch sometime later this year. We’ve been talking with a farmer whom we’ve gotten to know very well and if all goes as planned, we’ll be getting our starter flock from them.

One of the challenges here is predators…wolves, bears, mountain lions, coyotes, etc. Our area is the perfect paradise for them and we have to have several types of protection in order to introduce more animals. We’ll be starting with a couple LGDs (Live stock guardian dogs) called Maremma’s and a yak. Yaks are great guard animals, have multiple purposes and are less resource intensive than cattle. We went and met a breeder a few months back and although we’ll start with one yak, the hope is to eventually have several. Another important part, if not the most important part of getting animals is fencing. We have adequate perimeter and separate pasture fencing with a few spots that need repair, however no electric fencing has been installed…so this will be a big job and expense. We’ll start small and work our way from there.

And who am I referring to when I say “we”? David and I, along with my parents who live at the property. You can catch up on what I’ve shared of our journey thus far, HERE.

So what does this all mean? We’ve got a very busy Spring and Summer ahead of us! This, along with some fun updates I’ll be sharing more about in the coming months has us grappling for more time…as always. I’ve been thinking long and hard about how to continue to grow the Woolful podcast while allowing time for building the mill. I’ll be making some small updates, starting with one next week. Most episodes will now begin featuring one guest, along with the Man on the Street segment, episode sponsors and some new segments I’ll be introducing soon. I did this for a few reasons, but the main reason being that I’m learning! I’d love for the episodes to be a length of time that is better for everyone, so this will bring them to just under an hour or so. It also enables me to spread out my interviewing schedule a bit more, taking less of my precious weekend time with my family. I’d like to give more individual spotlights to each guest, and while I have loved the format thus far, this new format allows more for that. And lastly, as the podcast continues to grow, having shorter episodes allows for better scalability, say if in the future I am able to do this more as a side job and produce a couple episodes a week. Like I’ve said before, I really hadn’t expected things to grow this fast, and while I’m eternally grateful for all of your support, I realized I better figure out the next big steps sooner rather than later!

Thank you for allowing me to share all of this, I hope it is as cohesive as it seems to me at this late hour that I’m writing it. 🙂 Can’t wait to post updates during out time in Idaho, when we’ll be working on the dyeing for the Spring Natural Dye Club and all of our other projects! xoxo -ash

Woolful Podcast

Episode 16: Michael Hampton and Tamara White – Vermont fiber farming and milling, Shetland sheep and overcoming fear

March 24, 2015

I’m very excited to share the sixteenth episode of the Woolful podcast. Today we get to meet two very enthusiastic fiber folks from Vermont, both of whom have had quite the journey to where they are today…Michael Hampton of Hampton Fiber Mill and Tamara White of Wing and a Prayer Farm.

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Sponsor: This episode is sponsored by Taproot Magazine, a quarterly print magazine full of delightful stories and photos written by and for people living fuller and digging deeper. Each issue is created around a subtle theme, featuring amazing recipes, crafts, and tales, all with the intention of inspiring people who are interested in deepening their connections to their families, communities, and themselves as they strive to live locally and closer to the ground. You can visit Taproot Magazine online at Taprootmag.com and on Instagram @taprootmag.

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Fiber folk 1: Michael is a passionate knitter, spinner, and fiber mill entrepreneur. He’s been on an exciting journey from engineer to now building and operating a fiber mill in Richmond, Vermont where he mills a very exhaustive list of wools and fibers, including our second guest Tamara’s beautiful yarn. His enthusiasm and excitement for fiber and helping bring something back to this community and industry is a really wonderful thing. You can find him at Hamptonfibermill.com and on Instagram @hamptonfibermill.

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For this week’s “Man on the Street” I asked a handful of fiber enthusiasts to answer a question, shared by Samantha in our Raverly group. “Is there a project that inspired you to improve your skills?” We had some amazing replies from Nikki @woolenviolet and Leanne @leannecoppola.

Fiber folk 2: Our next guest, Tamara is a gem among farmers, fiber folks and friends. We were lucky enough to have her and her daughters SJ and Char, stay for a visit last week at our home. Our time together was filled with laughter, good food, Vermont maple syrup and plenty of farm stories and it was great to be able to talk and record our chat in person as we all sat on the living room floor. She is a true testament of strength, compassion and her love of fiber farming and her animals is infectious. You can find her at wingandaprayerfarm.com and on Instagram @wingandaprayerfarm.

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The winner of last week’s giveaway, is Jessica from Mittens and Mason Jars! You’ve won 5 skeins of the Westcountry Tweed yarn from Blacker Yarns. Congratulations!

This week’s giveaway is sponsored by Taproot Magazine, and we’re giving away a two year subscription to this wonderful publication that brings so much to this community. To enter this giveaway, leave a comment below.

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We’ve got an exciting shop update this week. Tamara, our second guest has worked very hard to create some beautiful yarns, all carefully and skillfully milled by our first guest Michael. Her latest yarns include a bulky white Shetland and Mohair blend, and two aran weight yarns, a warm brownish grey Shetland and Mohair, and a dark rich grey Merino, Shetland and Mohair. You can now find all three yarns exclusively in the Woolful Mercantile and woolfulmercantile.com

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Music by Jónsi

Transcription to follow shortly…