5 Minutes with… Jayne Dryden
We sat down with Jayne Dryden, shepherdess and owner of Home Farm Wensleydales
Home Farm is steeped in over 900 years of history – how did you come to run the farm?
For many years, Home Farm was a dairy farm but by 2006 was derelict. When I moved in, I never thought a decade later I would be the shepherdess of the largest flock of Wensleydale Longwool sheep in the world! We started off with a few sheep that moved in before us. We looked after them as pets, and feeding them every day got them in good shape – so much so we were shocked one morning to find some of the larger girls with lambs. From then on, we became smallholders!
With over 900 breeds of sheep, what draws you to Wensleydales in particular?
Aside from their charming personalities, Wensleydales provide an excellent fleece. The wool has a fine lustre without any kemp, with each sheep giving a staple length up to 35cm, and fleece weighing up to 5kg. Lambing Wensleydales is difficult as they don’t tolerate the cold and wet well, but having raised several different breeds, I find my ewes are consistently the best mothers. In the last few years we’ve increased lambing and will continue our focus on Wensleydales going forward.
Can you tell us about the process of wool going from sheep to skein?
The process starts from birth with lambs being fed premium food every day for their first year. They are pasture fed from spring to autumn thereafter. During the winter we feed highly nutritional haylage and hay, grown on the farm to ensure quality. Once sheared in early June, I hand sort the fleece and send it to Yorkshire for washing and worsted spinning. The wool returns seven months later for sorting and selling. The entire process is quite demanding and takes two years to get to skein.
You pride yourself on high levels of care and nutrition given to your flock – what benefit does this have?
The quality that sets us apart only comes with the hard work put into our online store, at craft shows, and most importantly the flock. We routinely vaccinate against all diseases, rotate our fields, monitor the quality of our grass and ensure our sheep are free from contamination. Anyone working with our wool can immediately tell the benefit this care has on the quality. Those who prefer locks will enjoy their length, knitters will notice the lustre and anyone completing a yarn project will admire its condition. We enjoy hearing how impressed people are and even experienced knitters tell us once they’ve tried Home Farm Wensleydale wool, they can’t go back to more generic options!
What else can we expect from Home Farm throughout the rest of the year?
We’re constantly updating stock and finding innovative ways of using our wool. This year we added Lemon and Soft Grey colours to our 4-ply, DK and Big Wool collections. We’re also crafting a range of hand-spun, hand-dyed Art Yarn, to add to the possibilities available! You will also find us at many craft and country shows. Come say hi, or find us online at www.homefarmwensleydales.com