Our Story

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The Farmers

Meet Ken & Nan

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Nan is a fiber artist, dyer and designer who works with natural fibers including wool from the farm’s sheep.  Starting out many years ago as a spinner and weaver, Nan currently produces unique one of a kind hand dyed wearables and art pieces using a variety of surface design techniques.  When not in the studio and surrounding gardens she is all in and passionate about these long wool breeds of sheep, their beauty, their fiber and their character.  Studying their family lines to ensure genetic diversity and therefore hardiness gives her great satisfaction.  

Ken has been practicing veterinary medicine for over 40 years — both large and small animals. Especially with his extensive large animal experience, he is essential with caring for the flock.  Having ready access to medicines when they are needed, which is actually not that often, is priceless.  He does the veterinary work and a lot of the behind the scenes day in and day out animal care and maintenance of the farm.  Beyond being a veterinarian, however, is just being observant - just like a lot of other sheep owners. One gets to be able to read them.  What's normal - what’s abnormal.  Especially enjoyable is lambing season and helping ewes and lambs thrive.  Lambing, although involving long days and nights, never gets old.  

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Producing something that has fundamental quality and utility is something that gives us ongoing pleasure. Some people are “animal” people and we know we are . We love our sheep and their wool is beautiful. On a small sustainable farm they keep our pastures clipped and they produce amazing compost for our gardens. We want to see it all continue as a real sustainable business.  Living close to the land and grounding ourselves in the outdoors sustains us as we care for our land and animals.

We hope that people appreciate knowing where their wool, yarn, blanket , animal comes from. Their skein of yarn comes from Lisbeth, or Pearl or Snow or Amalfi or Rosebud; that the animals are well cared for and loved. We hope that people understand how real it all is, that it is family operated. That they can feel and see the quality literally.  But mainly we hope people appreciate these amazing creatures and their products for what they are. Not to mention the lambs are incredibly cute, people like lambs and sheep in general.  It’s just a fact.  They are cuddly, soft and very cute, and to watch sheep graze in the pasture offers a sense of calm and relaxation.

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History of The Brand

How Wild Rose Farm Came to Be

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Nan’s first flock in her early 20’s was not really a  flock, but 2 or 3 run-of-the-mill grade wool ewes and probably bred for meat. She only knew she had to have sheep.  The sheep came in the beginning as a necessary component of having land. What better forager, ruminant than a sheep. They will keep things mowed and trimmed and will give unbelievable by-products.  She really enjoyed working with wool, but the wool had to be a quality product, and cleanliness and lustre was always at the top of the list, along with strength of both wool and care of the animals.

 

Nan and Ken working together, the next flock came  in the mid 80’s with a small group of high quality Lincolns, some Romney’s and Border Leicesters along with a nice Lincoln ram. Breeding seemed like the natural progression at the time and we have always lived rurally and are animal people.  Breeding made sense to us and encouraged us to spend time outdoors.  

In 2008 we purchased a modest group of registered Wensleydales - a beautiful large longwool English heritage breed. Their wool is curly, lustrous and is prized by fiber artists. We became involved with a “breed-up” program in that some ewes are inseminated with imported semen from English rams. For example, a 92% ewe AI’d (artificially inseminated) from a 100% English ram would produce 96% offspring, ie. (92+100) / 2.

 

Our flock now numbers approximately 150 with 60% being Wensleydales, 20% Teeswaters) and 20% purebred Valais Blacknose (along with our Pure Valais partners in Oregon which is a whole other story).  In fact, the Wensleydale breed was the result of crossing Teeswaters with English Leicesters in the early 1800’s in England.

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The Guardians

Meet the Animals

Our sheep live with their guardians: “Cuzi”, the llama, with moms and lambs;  “Iwin’, the llama, with the general population in another set of pastures; “Ernie”, the llama, with another set of ewes and wethers on 20 acres at one of our daughters.  “Bonnieux” (French for good eyes) our Great Pyrenees overseeing it all - nodding approval. He is a very good dog. “Rocky” our border collie who is in training and also a good dog. 

The Gardens

Explore the Grounds

We bought property on Whidbey Island in  the late 1980’s. We finished a house the early 90’s and started adding barns and outbuildings. 

 

Dogwoods, oaks, maples (Japanese, Vine and big leaf), magnolias, lilacs, redbud, perotia, juniper, beech, cherry, apples, peach, flowering cherry, katsura, are some tree examples. 

 

Flowers include bush and tree peonies,  roses, hydrangeas, clematis and various bulbs.  Viburnums, wisteria, smokebush, augusteria, elderberry all add other dimensions. It's a work in progress and an ongoing show that we love.