A little about us
We are a small gentleman's farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. While we (Gary and Melanie) both have jobs outside of the farm, we raise a few animals, garden and enjoy the pleasures that the farm life offers. This site is to show off our Leicester Longwool sheep and the products they produce. It is always our goal to be productive, be healthy in what we do and respect the nature of our surroundings, above all, with good humor.
May 2013: It's been a while! We are entering into a glorious spring. Our breeding season was terribly late last winter and we are just now expecting lambs. We are hoping to start lambing around the middle of May and looking forward to a healthy 2013 season. I just came back from the Maryland Sheep and Wool show and am motivated and inspired in all things sheep. We had our bi-annual LLSBA meeting and it is an enthusiastic and talented group of shepherds and fiber artists. I am so grateful for having the backing of Elaine Shirley and Colonial Williamsburg as a foundation support for our breed group. We are a group that ranges from well-seasoned shepherds to those who have chosen the Leicester Longwool as their first flock.
We've had some wonderful feedback from recent buyers this year. We've gotten good news about our babies having babies and what wonderful mothers they've been and their lambs are healthy and vigorous. This is a very good feeling. It helps to know that the care and time you put into your flock can perpetuate into future generations of Leicester Longwool Sheep.
We've done several fiber shows over the past few months. Ann and I did the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival, the Montpelier Fall Fiber Festival, both last fall and just wrapped up the Powattan Festival of Fiber in late April. While its a very good time to set up and sell our wares, fun to talk to other fiber artists and shepherds, it remains a bit of a struggle to sell our yarns. There are many people who don't understand all that goes into having fiber products made from a small fiber flock. We put a lot of time, effort and expense into having our products produced. We remain true to our product and hope more and more folks will seek us out as the word spreads about our wonderful, strong, glossy fibers.
Sheep buyers, please be aware that you are looking at a rare breed animal. The Leicester Longwool take a bit more care than your average sheep. They cost a bit more than your average sheep. The rewards are great. The LL is a strong, sturdy and docile sheep and truly a pleasure to raise. Please keep an eye on our Leicester Lambs page for updates on this years lambing.
August 2012: It's an amazing lush green August in the Shenandoah Valley. We have been blessed with good rain and the pastures are beautiful. Our sheep are all doing well, looking healthy and happy.We have the lambs weaned and the two colored ewe lambs sold very quickly. We have three white lambs available and you can find out more about them on our Lambs page. As the lambing chores wind down, the preparations for the fall fiber shows amp up.
Ann Vonnegut (Autumn Vista Farm, Standardsville, VA) and I (Leicester Longwool Ladies) are working together again this year. We are eager to show and sell our wares! This year we are participating in the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival in Berryville, September 29–30 for our second year. And, the Montpelier Fall Fiber Festival, October 6–7 for our third year. We welcome all new customers as well as those who have purchased from us before. And, we love to talk about our Leicester Longwool sheep. If you mention that you read about Row House Farm on my website, I will have a free gift for you. We like to think that we have something for every fiber or sheep enthusiast.
April 2012: We have lambs and are off and running with lamb chores! It has been a beautiful spring and we are happy to have healthy and vigorous new arrivals. Every year brings something new to the table – you can find out more about the lambs on the Leicester Lambs page. The pastures are ripe and green and everyone is settling down into a good routine. The early garden is in and we are mowing grass like crazy. Can't complain about being green!
I had the opportunity to do a weaving demonstration for the JMU Fiber Arts classes a couple weeks ago. It was great fun and I am always glad to be a part of continuing education for young minds. Part of the demonstration was about weaving with natural fibers straight from the animal. The professor had been gifted several bags of LLama and why not make rugs? It was fun and the students were most interested in natural fibers. Good experience for both them and myself to continue spreading the word about natural fibers.
If you are interested in learning more about Leicester Longwool sheep and/or coming for a farm visit, we would love to hear from you! You can find out how and where on the Contact Us page.
October 2011: Whew again! I feel like we've worked so hard this year! It's been a very good year at Row House Farm. As we move into fall I think we are caught up with the farm chores. We've been fortunate to sell all our spring ewe lambs over the summer and are very pleased with the homes the've gone to. The pasture is overseeded, the garden is just about finished and I am almost done washing all the new yarns. I'm looking forward to early evenings and some time to weave and practice felting. I have updated lots of things on our website, so I invite you to spend a few minutes looking around and hope you find some new information that will interest you.
Ann and I had a really good time working at our fiber shows this fall. As the word gets out, we're pleased to welcome customers who are indeed looking for local 100% wool fibers and sometimes even clarify that they'd come for the Leicester Longwool. Thrilling to be a part of expanding this wonderful breed, both in word and in fiber.
Speaking of spreading the word: Row House Farm has Leicester Longwool photos, fibers and information coming out in a couple of publications you might want to check out. Our yarns are shown in the newly released book The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook: More than 200 Fibers, from Animal to Spun Yarn by Carol Ekarius and Debra Robson (June 2011). Carol had contacted me over a year ago to request some yarns to compare and critique for the book. We're very excited to see the release of this beautiful book. The second publication is the November/December 2011 issue of Interweave's PieceWork magazine. One of the writers, Deb Robson, has written an article about four rare breeds and their fibers. We were contacted to provide yarns, information and photos and the yarns were used by a professional crochet artist to produce a pattern for a pillow cover. We will have our fibers as well as some photos of our sheep featured in this article.
Please take a look at the Wool/Yarn/Soap for Sale page to see some of the new additions to the yarns available – we have some exciting new additions to challenge your creativity. I am in the process of adding in some photos and sales information of the gorgeous rugs I have been weaving and selling locally.
We'll begin planning our breeding our season soon. If you are interested in a Leicester Longwool breeding flock, a couple of sweet ewe lambs or a handsome wether please let us know. We'll are establishing a list of people to contact when our lambs arrive in early April.
August 2011: Whew! It is a busy time. The garden is coming in, preserving is frantic, gorgeous yarns are arriving from the various mills we've used, the lambs are weaned and ready for new homes, plus work – got to pay for all these habits. Please take a look at our Leicester Lambs page to see some photos and learn just a bit more about the ewe lambs we have for sale. You also might want to check out the Wool/Yarn/Soap for Sale page to get a glimpse of the new yarns we have coming in.
Ann Vonnegut (Standardsville, VA) and I (Leicester Longwool Ladies) will be participating in two fall fiber shows this year. We will be selling at the Shenenandoah Valley Fiber Festival on September 24-25 and also the Fall Fiber Festival and Montpelier Sheep Dog Trials on October 1-2. We hope that you will come see us and check out our Leicester Longwool wares and talk some sheep. If you mention that you've looked at our website, there might be a little someting special for you.
We want to extend our very best wishes to our beloved Margi – sheep handler extraordinaire. Margi is embarking on a new phase in her life as she enters the Veterinary Program at Kansas State University. She will be dearly missed, but we are so very happy that she has achieved this goal in her life and will become the excellent veterinarian that she truly deserves to be. Margi is the star of the show in the Sheep go to JMU photos in September 2010 below.
May 2011: We have had a wonderful lambing season. Our three breeding ewes have all had twin ewe lambs. We have six beautiful new ewe lambs. If you are interested in Leicester Longwool Sheep it is a wonderful time to come to the farm. The pastures are green and vibrant. The rams are calm and relaxed, the mother's are content and the babies are adorable. We welcome your farm visit! If you can't come, please check out our photos on the Leicester Lambs page and feel free to request more of any lambs you might be interested in.
Spring 2011: We have been so busy doing spring farm chores! This year we raked the pastures and overseeded with an organic pasture mix. We've had good rain and good sun and are hoping to rejuvenate. Next is to clean out the lambing shed to be ready for new lambs, due any time after April 1. Stay tuned.
LLSBA Newsletter: I have offered my services to our Leicester Longwool Sheep Breeders Association to design and publish an LLSBA Newsletter. We are working hard on articles and hope to release the newsletter to all association members somewhere around the end of April. If you are not yet a member, please go to the LLSBA website and apply for membership.
For Sale: I am really happy to say that I have figured out how to allow my customers to use Pay Pal to purchase items on our Wool/Yarn/Soap for Sale page. If you have a Row House Farm product that you'd like to order, you can now pay with check, money order or Pay Pal. I'm glad to be able to offer this purchase option and it allows a credit opportunity to those of you who prefer to shop online with Pay Pal.
January 2011: I was able to attend the 2011 Virginia-North Carolina Shepherd's Symposium presented by the Virginia Sheep Producers Association. I listened to the following lectures:
"Implications of the Chesapeake Bay – What Lifestock Producers Need to Know" lecture by Mr. Dale Gardner, our local Chesapeake Agricultural Program Coordinator. This really affects many of us - large or small farm and greatly encourages us to be aware and environmentally concious of the waste and run-off that our farms produce.
"Managing Parasites - Keys to Success" Dr. Ann Zajac spoke on how to best use your medications, utilize pasture rotation and consider doing fecal slides and FAMACHA rather than automatically using parasite control.
"Experiences with Parasite Control in Sheep and Goats" Dr. Will Getz expanded on Dr. Zajacs lecture and also included information about introducing herbal forage – Sericea Lespedeza as an organic alternative to pasture grasses that offers a very condensed tannin and increases the health of the sheep and reduces the effects of internal parasites.
Both Dr. Zajac and Dr. Getz refered often to the Southern Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control and their website www.scsrpc.org as an excellent source of information and methodology on parasite control for your flock.
September 2010: Margi (our trusted sheep shearer) and I took 3 sheep to James Madison University for a shearing demonstration at the end of September. JMU International Programs hosts an International Week Festival every year and this year's world destination was Oceania. Leicester Longwools have populations in New Zealand and Tasmania, and as you may know, shepherding is a very big way of life in these countries. You can check out I-Week shearing photos here:
October 2010: We joined together with two other Leicester Longwool breeders in October to sell our fiber wares at the Montpelier Fall Fiber Festival. Ann Vonnegut (Standardsville, VA) and Ann Brown (Mt. Sterling, KY) and I set up a booth and sold our fiber, roving, yarn, soap Ann Brown's book The Shepherd's Rug, and our woven and braided rugs. Paula Bittinger (Bent Mountain) came up to help with questions and information in the Animal Tent.
October 2009: We went to the New York Sheep and Wool show in October 2009. It was a wonderful gathering of shepherds and fiber craftspeople. The Leicester Longwool was the selected breed of the year and as part of that honor, The Leicester Longwool Sheep Breeders Association worked hard to feature the sheep, including a card grading demonstration that brought in judges Brenton Heazlewood from Tasmania, Lee Parsons from the U.K., and Phil Sponenburg, from Virginia Tech.
Gary had the opportunity to assist the judges and really learned a lot about what features are sought after in the breed. Richard Larson wrote a terrific article about the genetic excellence of the breed that you can read at:
Gary is seen in the photos handling the sheep as the judges review. We came home pleased to look over our flock and think we're doing pretty well.