The sun is shining, and the road and surrounding landscape are covered with snow. The white branches of the trees are glittering in the sun and we read -9,5ºC on the dashboard in the car. Me and my sister are on our way to meet Erika and Johan Winterlia, a young couple that lives close to Laxviken in Jämtland county.
I have been talking to them on the phone many times about their sheep and the lambswool I will buy from them. They have about 57 Jämtland sheep and in total about 200 sheep. 181 ewes and some studs. Most of their sheep are different old Swedish breeds that together are called Allmoge sheep. They also have some Götland sheep and cattle.
As we drive up to their house, Erika comes out to greet us with a fluffy cat in her arms. Her daughter Teyla is sleeping in the pram outside the house, and Johan is out hunting moose. We get dressed and go to see the sheep. Erika shows us the lambs that now are a couple of months old and have very short fleece after the sheering last week. She says that when they shear so late after summer they might be a little bit cold for a couple of days, but their fleece grow relatively fast and will keep them warm all winter.
The sheep are all inside now that it is snow on the ground. They could be outside and very well manage the temperature, but with the ground frozen and covered with snow, the sheep can’t get enough food. That is why almost all farmers in the north of Sweden have their sheep inside in winter. Its good to have open buildings when the sheep are inside so the air can get through, and the temperatures are still as outside.
We continue inside the old stable to meet the other breeds that have fluffy fleece in all brown, black and grey colours. They curiously look up from their food as we enter. Erika tells us that their farm is following the criteria for an organic farm, but they don’t have the certificate Organic. To get that they need to pay a lot of money. They didn’t have this farm for a very long time, all sheep were bought from another farm that wanted to sell them. They all arrived the same day as we came home with Teyla from the hospital after giving birth, Erika says with a smile. We got some help in the beginning but now we take care of them ourself, she continues.
Johan comes home from the moose hunt and curiously talks to us about our Swedish wool project. Erika and Johan are opening a small shop on their farm where they will sell sheep skin, yarn made from their wool, felted shoe soles, home-made sausage and their wooden one-time plates. The plates was something Johans father started with, he did not like bringing plastic out in the forest when he was hunting or hiking. Instead he made a thin wooden plate that you can leave in the forest after eating on it, without having a bad conscience.
Felting and hand-spinning are techniques that Erika have worked with for a long time. Since 2012 they have had some sheep and she always worked with their fleece. When I ask Erika why she has so many different sheep breeds she smiles and says “I just love wool!"