Peg loom weaving is my personal favorite craft. It was easy to learn, relaxing to do, and I can knock out a beautiful hand woven rug in just a couple hours. I also like that it doesn’t require a lot of stuff, or bulky equipment. I can easily tuck my loom away in any corner or closet until I’m ready to use it again.
The art of peg loom weaving dates back to the viking age. Not only were vikings fierce warriors and sailors, they were also a farming culture. Not surprisingly, sheep were among their livestock a perfect fit for the harsh northern climate. The peg loom provided a simple tool to utilize wool and transform it into blankets or shawls.
All you need to get started with the peg loom, is the loom itself and whatever fiber you choose for your weft and warp. I recommend getting practice with yarn, but once you have the weaving process get as creative as you like with the materials used. I’ve even seen people weave plastic grocery bags to make a waterproof bed roll.
The peg loom is a board of varying lengths lined with holes. Each hole is fitted with a removable peg with a hole drilled towards the bottom of the peg.
The weft is the material you will be weaving around the pegs. This can be basically any type of material. My favorite to use is raw wool, but you can use roving, yarn, even scrap fabric cut into strips.
Warping is the structure or support of your creation and should be a spun fiber. I prefer to use actual warping, either cotton or wool. Tightly spun yarn will also work, as well as twine. Just be sure to choose something that the weft will fill in around and that can be finished at the ends without unraveling.
First you will want to determine the desired size of your finished project. Place pegs across the loom to your desired width. Length of the warping should be double your desired finished length plus 12 inches. For instance if you want a four foot long rug, measure the warping to nine feet. That is 4′ (desired length) x 2′ (for double warping) +1 (additional 12 inches, or 1′ added for finishing) = 9′ .
Thread the warping through the hole in each peg and tie off at the end, creating double warp off each peg. Now your ready to weave a heading.
There are two ways to create a heading. My preferred method is to use the warping material and weave through single warp strands for 10 to 15 rows depending on thickness of the warp. This creates a nice tight weave to lock in your weft, especially if using raw wool. This method also works well using your chosen weft material if it is a spun fiber.
Option two would be using the warp material or anther thin material around the pegs to create a weave around the double warp. For this option choose a fiber that will create a tighter weave than the weft that will be following the heading. Headings are intended to provide security to the weave to hold it together when your final project is in use.
Following the heading begin weaving the weft around each peg. Start a few pegs from the side to avoid having a loose end on the edge of your piece. To weave, pass the material through the every other peg. The ends should loop around the final peg, and continue with the same weaving pattern in the opposite direction.
When the pegs are full of material, pull the peg free out the top of the weave and replace in the loom hole pushing the completed weave down the warp strings. Continue this process until you have filled the warp to desired length.
Finish your project using the same heading technique that you used to start the project.
Lastly, you will cut your project free from the pegs, leaving at least a four-inch tail. You can tie the strings in bunches of three or four and leave the tassels free or braided. If you don’t want tassels, you can knot the strings for security then weave the loose ends back into the piece to create a clean edge.
Have fun getting creative with this simple weaving technique! I would love to see to your completed projects or answer any questions you have, just leave a comment below.
Leg of lamb is typically around five to six pounds and will feed about eight people. I wanted to share this roast leg of lamb with garlic and rosemary recipe with you. An excellent entree choice to impress your dinner guests!
Place seasoned lamb onto wire rack in a roasting pan with a cup of water in the bottom of the pan. Roast in the preheated oven uncovered for two and a half hours, basting every 20-30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to rest for fifteen minutes before serving.
Sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward. If you have followed along with us on social media since we moved to the farm at the end of 2018, you may have noticed that we have recently been cutting back on some of our homestead projects. I have made the choice to slow down, in order to grow with more intention. During this process of setting new intentions, I thought it would be fun to share a farm progress report to bring you up to where we are today.
I’ve shared numerous times about the history I have with this farm and how my husband and I ended up purchasing the land and building a home here, so I won’t get into all of that again. Instead, let’s talk about the progress since moving to the farm in November 2018.
In two and a half years we have fully embraced the homesteading lifestyle while working full time offsite. Reduced our grocery store purchases by establishing a garden, raising livestock for harvest, wild foraging, and learning various DIY skills and projects.
During that time we have also fully moved into our living space, and feel at home. We are still sorting and organizing the outbuildings to fit our changing needs and will continue to do so as we grow and adapt.
Landscaping is also an ongoing project. We have seeded grass three times without much success and I have plans for flower gardens, but the vegetable garden has been a priority thus far.
During the first spring at the farm, my bee gums were stored in our barn. An apiary was one of the projects I had planned for a later time as I wanted to create a special place for the hives out of the way of my husband (who is allergic to bees), with space for a bee garden nearby.
Surprisingly a wild swarm moved into the unset up hives in storage. Not exactly planned and definitely not in a convenient area, but they blessed us with a bountiful honey harvest that year. Since then, I have been able to get the occupied hive moved to a more suitable area outside of the barn.
Goats were the first livestock we introduced to the farm. I chose goats first and foremost to assist with pasture management. Years of only horses grazing the fields, had led to forbes and weeds taking over. Adding livestock diversity helps to keep balance within the pasture, and we all know goats are the best for weed control!
I started with three goats. Two nannies, and a wether. Things started off rocky with the goats. First was issues with loose dogs, and having to contain the goats in a small lot to keep them safe. Not the life I wanted for my goats, but their safety was priority. Then introduce Bruiser Joe, the billy.
Bruiser Joe destroyed the small lot within a week. The four goats were now free-range on the large pasture, but Bruiser would charge any dog within sight and proved to be a good protector. However, we lost our youngest nanny when she put her head through the fence and a dog got her from the other side.
Several weeks past and the presence of dogs entering the fields lessened. My guess is they became fearful of the goats because of Bruiser Joe’s strength and massive horns and learned to stay away. I’m grateful to Bruiser for that reason, but that leads to another problem. Bruiser wasn’t just aggressive with dogs. He was becoming increasingly aggressive with people as well. After a few close calls with Bruiser Joe, I made the decision to let him go back to his original owner.
Other projects went more smoothly than the goats. I raised quail for meat, from incubation to harvest. Although the hatch rate for quail isn’t as good as chicken, they were a joy to raise and an excellent source of meat. Rabbits also proved to be a reliable meat source, our family even requested rabbit stew for Christmas dinner.
The first year’s garden didn’t produce much more than a handful of beans and a couple undersized carrots. The following winter we amended the garden soil heavily with composted manure from the barn stalls that hadn’t been mucked out prior to purchasing the land. Our second year garden produced wonderfully. We were even able to share with family and offered up small quantities at our roadside pop up market.
I have to say, I am most excited about adding sheep to the farm. I grew up with horses, goats, cattle, pigs, chickens… okay you get the idea. But, sheep was completely new to me. Before getting sheep I joined a sheep and goat club and attended a lambing workshop put on by that group. My first hands on experience with sheep, I was hooked.
Sheep were the perfect addition to my farm. I was searching for a livestock option that I could raise on a slightly larger scale in order to serve my community. It had to be something that would fit into regenerative farming practices, something I could manage on my own as the sole farmer, and preferably multi-purpose. Sheep checked all those boxes.
During these first couple years at the farm, I have had the chance to get to know the land and experiment with a few projects. This time has helped me shape our future farm plan. With a clear picture of what we are raising and growing to provide for our own family versus what we can produce to serve our community.
Moving forward our community market will be focused around the sheep, providing meat, milk, and fiber. The flock will also play a key role in our pasture and land management around the farm. I’ll continue to diversify on a small scale to provide for my household and immediate family in ways that fits into a whole system approach with sheep at the center.
I like to think of the farm as its own little ecosystem and enjoy learning how one system can help sustain another. I’m very excited to continue on this path. This year, I have stepped back from some projects in order to make repairs to existing infrastructure and to grow our flock. Expanding what works, changing what doesn’t, finding connections for sustainability, and networking and finding our place in the community.
Here at the farm I am still in the process of repairing fences, out buildings and barns. One of my top priorities is to replace the old five strand wire fence with woven wire. Because there are still sections of fence needing replaced, I have used temporary sheep fencing to set up an easy rotational grazing system.
Before we get into how to set up a temporary fence system, I’d like to share some benefits of rotational grazing. Rotational grazing is a management system where a pasture is divided into smaller paddocks for livestock to be rotated through, grazing one paddock at a time allowing the others to rest.
Land quality is improved through rotational grazing by strengthening root systems and adding biomass to the soil structure. As well as, offering protection from over grazing and soil compaction. Pasture is allowed to rest and regrow, while another area is being grazed. Ideally each paddock will have four to six weeks rest, and only grazed seven days or less.
Rotating paddocks in this way keeps livestock on fresh pasture so they are not forced to graze near their waste, reducing exposure to parasites and will greatly improve land quality over time.
The system I use is a super simple electric netting fence from premier1. It is easy to set up and move on a daily or weekly basis. The electric system not only safely contains my flock, but also provides protection from loose dogs and coyotes. Here is a list of what you will need to set up your own system:
Premier1 offers an ElectroStop Plus Starter Kit, that contains every thing you need, except the ground rod, to get started with your set up. The kit comes with one 100′ roll of fence netting with the option to add additional rolls. One or two rolls would be fine for a small flock moved frequently. Ideally, I would use four to make set up and bracing corners easier.
Ground rods can be ordered separately from Premeir1 or picked up at practically any farm supply store. I am using a copper ground just because it’s what my local farm store had in stock. It has worked well for me, but since I have not used other options such as galvanized metal, I won’t speak to which is best.
During the initial set up of your fencing system you will need to ensure the energizer is properly connected and prep your site area. Then you are ready to set up your fence system.
If using a new energizer, note that they are sold with the battery disconnected. Sometimes the ground and charge cables are also disconnected. Typically, it is as simple as opening the unit, removing a tab placed between the “hot” connection (usually labeled with “remove before using”). Other units may have a quick connect cable that needs to be plugged in. You should follow the provided manufactures instructions for the specific brand you purchase for set up and initial charging.
Energizers can be solar or ac powered. I prefer the solar units, because there is greater flexibility to where I can set them up. If you’re using the starter kit I recommended from Premier1, it comes with a solar energizer. Set it in an area where it will get the maximum amount of sun. Drive the ground rod into the ground next to the energizer and connect the ground cable (typically black) to the rod.
To prep the site for installation of the fence, mow or weed eat tall grass along the strip where the fence will go. If the grass is already short, say less than six inches or so, you can skip this step.
Watch the video linked below for a quick explanation on setting up your electric netting.
Once the fence is in place connect your hot cable and turn on your energizer. Use the fence tester to ensure your system is working properly. Congratulations, your system is ready for your flock!
When you first introduce your flock to their new electric enclosure, observe how the animals react to touching the fence. They do learn very quickly after a couple shocks that they shouldn’t touch it, but you will want to be nearby just in case one reacts differently and runs into it and gets tangled. If that happens, you will need to quickly turn off the energizer and untangle the animal. As long as, the animals are calm when entering the enclosure you shouldn’t have an issue with this.
Allow the flock to graze the area until it starts to appear trampled down or up to a week, whichever happens first. It is time to move the flock to new pasture at this point. If after a week, the pasture is still lush and under grazed you know you need to reduce the size of the paddock or get more sheep! The frequency with which you rotate the flock will depend on how quickly the flock grazes or tramples down the forage. To extend grazing time, increase the paddock size but keep in mind some benefits are lost if grazed over a week at a time.
To move the fence system, I add an additional three rolls of ElectroStop netting. With the additional rolls, I set up a new enclosure using the fourth side from the existing enclosure. Move the energizer and ground rod to the new system if needed and open a gap for the flock to enter. The first time doing this you may need to coax the flock over with a little grain or gently herd them in. After a couple times they will know a new lot means fresh forage and they will go willingly. When time to move again, I simply take up my three rolls from the previous lot to create the new and continue rotating in this way each week.
This system has worked extremely well for me. I hope it helps with your fencing needs as well.
My flock quickly learned the routine and happily run to their new grazing strip each week. It has also added a much-needed level of protection against loose dogs in our rural area, and the coyote population.
Have you tried this or a familiar system with your flock? I would love hear how it worked for you.
So, you want to raise sheep? Starting a sheep farm can be as simple or complex as one chooses to make it. Two years ago when I was getting started with my farm I explored many management styles, as well as species before deciding pasture raised sheep was my future.
In this article I will share with you the basics of starting a sheep farm using the simple grazing system that I used to get started. There are many management styles, some more complex than others. Complex, or intensive management styles, are not necessarily bad and I encourage you to learn about those systems as well. There are benefits to the more complex systems, but do require more time commitment. As a beginner, let’s just look at the basic needs for now.
In my experience one of the most important components to keeping sheep is fencing. The little buggers will travel if they find a hole in the fence. Not only that, but predators can be a major issue. Take a look around your area, get to know it. Do you have quality pasture? How much space is available? Is there existing fence that will hold in your flock?
If you do not already have fencing, an easy low cost option is electric sheep netting. Premier1 puts out a great option for temporary electric net fencing. It is easy to put up, as well as to move which makes rotational grazing a breeze!
While getting to know your area, also find out if there are predator concerns. Not just wildlife, but stray or loose dogs are also a threat. The Premier1 fencing mentioned above serves well to protect against dogs and coyotes. However, if you’re in an area with larger predators or extreme pressure from coyotes you will want to consider a guard dog or donkey.
Now that your flock is contained and protected from predators, consider the elements. Sheep are very hardy when it comes to weather. I mean, they are wearing wool coats after all. Even hair breeds will grow a winter coat, which they shed in the spring. If you live in an area with mild seasonal weather, all they need is shelter from any precipitation and shade on hot days. A simple three sided run-in shelter will do just fine for both needs.
To what end are you keeping sheep? Are you keeping a flock for wool? Raising breeding livestock or meat? Are you starting a sheep dairy? I started with Katahdin sheep for the purpose of raising meat for my family. Katahdin’s’s are a hair breed and don’t need to be sheared. Starting this way gave me time to learn to care for sheep, while practicing fiber crafts with wool purchased from other small farmers. Now that I have had practice with both caring for sheep and processing wool, I’m transitioning to a multi-purpose breed.
Take some time thinking about what you want out of your sheep and research breeds. You will find that each breed has unique characteristics and I’m sure you will find several that fits your goals. Some breeds produce twins and triplets at higher rates, others are better foragers, each has unique fiber traits, varying sizes and so on. Once you narrow down your favorites, do a comparison of the identifying traits to make your final choice.
Once you get your flock home, you will need to be able to care for them. Wool breeds will need to be sheared once or twice per year. Hooves need occasional trimming, frequency depends on walking surface as well the individual animal. Moving animals between pastures or separating rams is also a common occurrence.
Understanding sheep behavior goes a long way in knowing how to move and handle them without stressing. Ask local sheep farmers, if you can spend some time with them observing or assisting as a learning experience. If hands on experience is not an option, watch videos.
The farmer you purchase your animals from should be willing to show you some basic care. Let them know that you are new to sheep and ask for them to show you how to trim hooves, how to give dewormers or medications, and how to flip or cradle sheep for proper restraint.
I cannot stress enough the importance of purchasing your first flock from a reputable farmer. When you are just getting started, you want to make sure you’re getting healthy animals. Plus the farmer can serve as mentor if you have any questions.
Do not buy animals from a sale barn. Many of the animals there will be culls. You don’t want to start your breeding stock with poor genetics or existing health issues. Even healthy animals that are taken to the sale will be at high risk of exposure to pest and disease, which can then be brought back to your farm. Once these issues are introduced to your land, they can be extremely hard to overcome. As a new shepherd it is very discouraging to deal with illness.
The last tip I leave you with is to never stop learning. Becoming a shepherd is a wonderful adventure full of opportunity. Make connections where you can to share knowledge and experiences. There are many management systems, as you learn and grow you will likely change your systems to best fit your unique situations and needs.
I wish you the best of luck with your new sheep farm. If you have questions please don’t hesitate to leave a comment.
Welcome to my home on the world wide web. I’m happy you stopped by for a visit and hope you take a moment to say hello and introduce yourself.
My name is Katie Burris, also known as Appalachian Shepherdess on social media. In 2019, I started a small grass fed sheep farm in my home town of Woodlawn, Virginia. Located in the beautiful Blueridge Mountains of rural Appalachia, raising katahdin hair sheep and homesteading I began reconnecting to the land and my cultural roots through regenerative sheep farming.
It all started when my husband and I purchased my late grandfather’s farm and set out on a mission to restore the aging buildings and rejuvenate the land. Beginning with hair sheep to enrich the pastures through rotational grazing, as well as to provide our family with ethical grass fed meat, I fell in love with sheep farming and regenerative agriculture.
Now that I have learned valuable shepherding skills with the simple care of hair sheep, I am transitioning to a multipurpose flock. Moving forward I will be choosing a heritage dual purpose breed to produce milk, meat, and fiber.
When I was getting started with my first flock, I made a fatal mistake. Luckily, I met a couple experienced shepherds who guided and encouraged me along the way. I wish to pay that kindness forward and mentor others as they get started with their new flocks. Learning shepherding skills is an exciting adventure and I love sharing that with others who share that passion.
I have learned a lot about caring for sheep, and am now venturing into the world of wool sheep. Please join me in this wonderful shepherd’s life as I continue to learn and hone my skills as a shepherdess. Here I will share my personal journey as well as the knowledge I have gleaned and I promise to be available to answer questions, support and encourage you along the way!
Appalachian Shepherdess (Katie)