Sarah Jane Humke

The life of a traveling, reading, writing, spining and knitting shepherdess.

Thrum-roll Please January 14, 2018

So yeah, I made another pair of thrummed mittens.  I bought a new coat and needed some mittens that matched them better than my old ones.  I also wanted to make a few changes to how I made the mittens to make them work better for me.

The first pair that I made a few years ago were too short, both for the length of my hand and the wrist.  I was perpetually getting icy wrists and cold fingertips.  So I made this pair longer in both directions.

I also added neon yellow.


The mitten on the right is turned inside-out so that you can see the safety-yellow thrums. The mitten on the left is how it will look on my hands.

The roving is from Yarn Geek Fibers and is 22 micron Polwarth. The yarn is from Fiber Curio and Sundries and is and 80/20 Corriedale/Tencel DK weight that I held double to make it thicker (I wanted these puppies to be really warm!)

If you are looking for a thrummed mitten pattern, there are a number of them online for free.  These were sort-of Frankenknit using the parts of several patterns that I liked various aspects of.


The Return of the Rental Ram January 7, 2018

Technically, he was a leased ram, but rental ram just has a sound to it doesn’t it?

The rental ram in question is the same one that I used last year, the lovely Nuuk from Sommarang Farm.  He won Yearling Ram at this years MSSBA show at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival.  Last year he was just a ram lamb and I was a little, um, dubious as to if he was up to the job of taking care of my ladies, but he did just fine.  This year, as a full-grown ram, there was no question from the get-go as to his ability to handle the job he was being hired for.

I picked Nuuk up at the beginning of December and I returned him this weekend in the back of my Honda Fit.  It’s about a four-hour drive from here in Iowa to his home in Wisconsin.  This year I took Dusty with me to keep me company, so this was my company driving up there.



Yep, two snoozing boys.  I think that Nuuk was just worn-out from his job the past month combined with the warm car and he was out for most of the trip like a light.  Dusty is usually out like a light in the car so long as he doesn’t think that we are going to the vet.

Most of the time my view was something like this:





Not the most exciting landscape, especially in the winter.  But Wisconsin still yields great barn watching opportunities and it was a pretty nice, though cold, day to be driving up there.

On the way home I always try to stop at The Cat and Crow in Mt. Horeb, WI.


It is such a lovely shop to peruse.  The ladies that run it are just lovely to talk to and they really do a great job of supplying locally produced yarns and fibers.  If you are ever in the area, I strongly suggest that you stop by and check out their wonderfully curated selection!




Getting Ready January 1, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 4:34 pm

I leave for a three week trip on the 16th of January.  Those that know me know that packing is a major thing with me.  I like to shop while I am traveling and usually I am visiting people that I know and love so I have gifts.  This trip is no exception.  However, due to the nature of my travels, I have to be very limited inn my packing.  I’m allowed one checked bag up to 23 kg (50 pounds), one carry-on bag at 8 kg (about 18 pounds) and a purse.  So, I am using my trusty 29″ eBags rolling duffle bag as my checked bag.  Since I am taking rather a lot of trains and buses on this trip, I didn’t really want a second rolling suitcase as my carry-on.  It’s often difficult enough to get one thing rolling on cobblestones and in the snow, let alone two.  So I’m trying a new bag, the eBags Motherlode Weekender Convertible Junior as my carry-on.  It can be either a backpack or an over-the-shoulder type of bag.  I’m planning on carrying nearly all my clothes in this as I am staying at a lot of friends houses on this trip and I can do laundry pretty easily.  Then my purse/personal item will be my Tom Bihn Makers Bag (which is my everyday purse).

For me, this is traveling light.  Normally I would have a full second suitcase.  But the airlines are getting tougher and tougher on people traveling with two suitcases and I am also flying on a couple of the low-cost European airlines while I am over there, where you pay for even one checked bag.

However, it’s not just packing that I have to do.  Because I have a flock of sheep and a flock of chickens (along with a small pack of dogs), I have to arrange a sitter for them.  Basically someone to do chores while I am gone.  Since it’s winter, they are oddly not as big of a deal as they are in the summer.  Check water, collect eggs and check chicken feed, check minerals and protein tubs, and make sure that the sheep have enough hay.  Honestly, usually about ten minutes.  In the summer, there is a lot of moving fences and electrical cords and so on.  I’m lucky that I have some lovely people that are coming out to do the chores for me while I am gone.  I still need to write-up an instruction sheet for them with all the numbers that they will possibly need in case of emergency.

The other things that I need to do are finish the knitting project on the needles as I plan on wearing it a lot (it’s a large hap shawl and I am knitting on the edging and it’s big and the edging is black and taking forever!), knit my mittens and hat (ahem), and figure out a knitting project to keep me occupied on my many flights.  I’m thinking lace, just for weight and space requirements.  However, I need something complex enough to keep me from getting insanely bored but isn’t all active pattern as I will be traveling and not having 100% concentration to give.  I’m thinking about Sylvia McFadden’s A Joyful Thread as travel knitting.  Has anyone made it??

So you might be curious as to where all I am going.  First I am spending a day in Amsterdam as I have not gotten to really see the Rijksmuseum in all the times that I have been there (they were completely closed or mostly closed for a ten year renovation of the museum).  Then I am traveling by train to Helmond to visit my friend Marleen and her family for a few days.  Then I am flying into Hamburg to visit my friend Tini and her family for a few days.  Then from Hamburg, I will fly to Vilnius, Lithuania where I am meeting up with my friend Veronica and we are going to explore that city for 2 days.  Then Veronica and I are taking a bus to Riga, Latvia to explore that city for a couple of days and then by bus again to Tallinn, where I am meeting-up with some more friends for my 40th birthday!  Yay!  Then from Tallinn, I will ferry to Helsinki with my friend Malin and take the train to my friend Barbro’s where I will spend a few days.  Barbro and her husband will drive me to Malin’s house where I will spend a few more days before flying home from Helsinki.  It’s going to be a busy few weeks and I am really excited to get to see my friends again.  I do plan on blogging about it but I am not promising anything at this point!




Baby It’s Cold Outside

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 10:07 am

Right at this moment it’s -16 degrees Fahrenheit (-26.6 Celsius for the rest of the world) outside.  I’ll be honest with you and say that I can’t really tell a lot of difference between -16 and -9 degrees except when I have to take my glove off for fine motor skill functions, then my hand gets dangerously cold just a little bit faster.

When it’s this cold out, most of my day is spent inside, trying to defrost from my last outing, making sure that the sheep and chickens have non-frozen water available to them and plenty of food.  It takes a lot more energy for the sheep and chickens to stay warm in this weather even with wool and down.  I take suet cakes to the chickens to give them energy boosts and the sheep get some of their “treat feed” at least once a day in this weather.  The chickens are all inside all day as it’s just too dangerously cold for them to be free-ranging it today.  They don’t seem to mind honestly.  The sheep all have shelter from the wind and plenty of food and they all just cuddle-up with one another and sit in a sunny spot and chew their cud.

I took this photo of me for my friend Barbro because she made the scarf I am wearing and I thought that she would enjoy seeing it frost encrusted with pieces of hay stuck to it.IMG_2193You see, most knitters love to see their knitted gifts being worn and used.  Bonus if it’s being worn and used to feed other sheep that are going to go on to make nice wool for knitters to eventually use.  So if you received a hand crafted gift this year and aren’t sure if you should use that scarf or save it for special, use it.  Seriously.  And maybe take a photo and send it to the crafter.  It’s the best thank you that you could send us….


Herbert Has a Come to Jesus Moment December 31, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 1:07 pm
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Literally.  Baby Jesus that is.

Every year our neighbors host a live nativity at their farm.  I’ve never gotten to go to it in the past as there has always been something else going on that night.  This year they asked if they could borrow some sheep for it and I agreed.
So of course I sent Herbert, Mr. Social himself, along with a couple of the wethered lambs.  Herbert is always a crowd-pleaser and the wethered lambs are still small enough that they look like lambs.

Since I didn’t have anything going on that evening, I went to see the live nativity.  Now, most live nativities in this area simply that, usually a bunch of people in costume standing around with a bunch of animals around them.  Sometimes there’s a real baby, often it depends on how cold it is (this is Iowa after all).  There’s usually some sheep, a donkey or two, and if they go all out, a few camels (camels get crazy popular around here this time of the year!)


This wasn’t that kind of nativity.  I would actually call this a pageant.  Everyone came in and sat-down on benches in the barn.  There were singers and actors and readers and a full-on sound system.  There was a donkey that reluctantly carried Mary in on it’s back.  There was a whole flock of little angels in costume complete with tinsel halos.  There was a King Harold complete with lit-up throne.  There was a person in the rafters of the barn shining very bright flashlights on the actors as the lighting department.  There was an angel (child) that was hung-out on cables and reeled back in after saying his lines. I mean, this was a full-on production.image

It was wonderful and touching and completely homemade.  There wasn’t a touch of the commercial about it.  It was simply my neighbors with their family and friends putting on this wonderful show for the rest of the neighbors and friends and anyone who happened to drive by and see the sign.  And in the midst of all of this, were Herbert and the lambs.


You can see the sheep down below King Herod (in purple).  Sorry about the fuzzy, I didn’t really want to use a flash during a production.

The little flock did well.  The lambs were more nervous than Herbert as this was their first outing away from the farm.  Herbert, however, was his usual calm and friendly self.  The only time that he got a little nervous was when all 100 plus people in the barn started singing “Silent Night”.  He’s not exactly used to group singing as we didn’t really serenade him at the Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival last June (though that is an interesting idea….).  He received lots of head scratches after the program was over from the kids and adults that were in attendance.


If the neighbors ask to borrow the sheep next year, I think that I will try to take part a little more.  I can walk Herbert around for people to pet before hand and probably keep him on his lead so that the shepherds can “shepherd” at least one sheep in with them.  Also, I will let them borrow my shepherd’s crook, for authenticity of course.


2017 Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival April 18, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 9:26 am

I have been volunteering to help with the 2017 Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival quite a lot this year.  I’m really excited to be working on the line-up of classes.  We have a bunch of new ideas that we are implementing this year.  Our Shepherding 101 classes are designed for the beginning shepherd (or anyone who just wants to go over the basics!) and feature things like fecal test counts, FAMACHA scoring, and marketing fleeces.  We have an entire Children’s Corner with classes of fibery fun just for kids.  There is a whole series of in-depth producer education on Saturday.  And of course, we have a wide selection of fiber artistry classes for all skill levels!

I am also going to be taking a few of my Shetland flock to represent in the Hall of Breeds.  We’re really excited about how many breeds are going to be represented this year.  I haven’t decided which of the monsters I am going to be taking, but I’m sure that Herbert will be in the mix!

In a twist, I am going to be one of the instructors at the IS&WF this year.  I’m going to be teaching an introductory lace course.  I’m really looking forward to getting a new crop of lace knitters excited about my favorite form of knitting!  I’m planning on doing a brief “tour” of lace knitting around the world for inspiration.




Getting to Know You (all over again) July 2, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 8:00 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Right now I am having to get to relearn my entire flock.  After shearing, all the animals look completely different.  Like, I can’t tell who they are without reading their eartags.  A few I can tell, of course.  The boys; Herbert, Greyson, and Buddy all have horns and (now) all have bells.  When we change to fresh grass, it sounds like a demented windchime being tossed in a storm.

getting 1

Buddy giving me the, “Are you really going to photograph me in the nude?!” look

getting 6

Herbert is back in jail for too many escape attempts.

But the ladies are more difficult, as many of them look very similar to one another without their big coats of wool.  One way I can tell is, ironically, by their lambs.

getting 4

Others I just have to try to read their name tags.  I really wish I had taken a photo of each sheep just prior to shearing so that you could see the shocking difference in coloring that is under those big balls of wool.

getting 5

getting 2

This is Jolly.  I can tell by the coloration on her face and belly. Before shearing she was a reddish color, now she appears to be brown with a white belly.

Even the lambs are in on this color changing thing.  About half of them are starting to clearly change colors from those they were born with.  The ones born the same colors as their mama’s seem to be keeping those colors, especially the black lambs born to black ewes.  This lamb isn’t a particularly good example of this, but does show another new thing in the flock.  The lambs are now all eating grass and looking adorable as they chew their cud!

getting 3