Five Sisters Farm
I found Five Sisters Farm on Instagram and immediately started following them--the sheep and pastures are gorgeous and their yarn is pretty spectacular! As you might have guessed, Five Sisters Farm is a family affair: all five siblings raise and show sheep with mom and dad helping in the background. I was fortunate enough to interview Meg Falcone, mom, shepherdess, and veterinarian--yes, she does it all somehow! We met via Zoom so that I could learn more about their flock and family. Then, I got to briefly meet Ella--one of the two older daughters who is off at college--for a yarn delivery. And let me tell you, this Shetland yarn is beautifully squish-able and in so many pretty, all-natural colors.
I hope you enjoy getting to know Meg, her family, and their flock via this interview. We have several shades of Five Sisters Farm Yarn in the Flock Farm Yarn Shop--I even have sweater quantities, which is an awesome feat for a small-batch producer! Enjoy!
Interview with Meg Falcone
KTS: You've been raising Shetland sheep for over 15 years . . . so why did you choose them and what are your favorite things about their wool?
Meg: We started with Shetlands in an unplanned way. Our oldest daughter was desperate to keep sheep and be involved with 4-H. Having not grown up with 4-H, we asked questions and found out that she needed a registered purebred lamb or yearling. We had already lined up some mixed-breed lambs from a local farmer, knowing that sheep like being in a flock. We then started looking around for a purebred lamb of some type, and stumbled across someone with a Shetland lamb they were willing to sell. She named her first Shetland lamb Briar Rose, and got busy halter training her and learning everything she could about sheep. From there, we started to learn about wool and fiber arts, pasture rotation, breeding, and everything in-between.
We realized quickly that Shetland sheep are a great match for us . . . the small size of the sheep is perfect for kids, they have unique quirky personalities, they are hardy and easy to care for, and they have a wonderful variety of colors and patterns. We really fell hard for this breed!
KTS: Can you tell us a little bit about your five daughters and their involvement with the flock? And your own veterinary background?
Meg: Our five daughters range in age from 11-21, with the oldest two currently off at college. The farm started off as "Four Sisters Farm" . . . until the birth of daughter number five (who knows what our farm would be named if we'd had a boy!). The girls have been involved in all farm activities since day 1. There's a lot of work involved, from daily morning and evening chores, to fence moving and hay moving, to carrying water to the various sheds and pastures. They each have their own sheep within the flock, and some of these sheep are very attached to their personal shepherdess, to the point where they come when called, or stomp and fuss if they are handed off to someone else at a fair. The girls are very attentive and involved during lambing season; between checking on ewes throughout the night and watching over births to making sure babies get the hang of nursing.
Outside of farm life, the girls are active and busy with any number of activities, from sports to theatre to music. They enjoy being together and have fun going to fairs and helping each other in the show ring. We also have 3 dogs, 3 cats, and a lot of chickens. Our sheep at this point are limited to Shetlands (the girls have also dabbled in Romneys, Tunis, Shropshires, and market lambs), and we no longer have alpacas and pigs in an effort to keep things "manageable"! Our oldest daughter went to "shearing school" and learned the art of shearing, so she shears for friends and neighbors, and here and there for our own flock (we usually hire a professional shearer to get through our whole flock at once on a yearly basis).
I did not grow up on a farm but have always enjoyed animals and wanted to raise my children in a farm environment. I earned my veterinary degree at Cornell University, and initially worked as a mixed animal veterinarian. After a few years I shifted my day job to small animals, and now keep busy with our own sheep and pets when I'm "off the clock." My husband also did not grow up on a farm, but has been supportive and helpful from the beginning.
KTS: Are there any specific shepherd stories you'd like to share: something touching, funny, or just really indicative of life with sheep?
Meg: One of my favorite shepherd stories took place a number of years ago, on a day that went from "very snowy" to full-blown n'oreaster. My husband was away on a trip, I was at work, and the five girls were off from school and home on a snow day. It was also the middle of lambing season, and they were keeping a close eye on a ewe who had been restless and looking close to giving birth. They realized sometime in the late morning that something was terribly wrong with her and needed to get help. I was unable to get home, and arranged for our neighbor to drive up with his truck and bring her to the large animal vet just up the road. They did a C-section and handed off three tiny lambs to my oldest daughter, saying that they were sorry it didn't look like they would make it. She worked on those lambs, drying them and warming them and getting colostrum into them. Our neighbor helped bring the mama and babies back, and the girls set up the heat lamp and took shifts holding and feeding the triplets, moving mounds of snow in order to open the barn doors, and warming up in the house with hot chocolate. When I arrived home late that night, after a long drive and parking down at the neighbors to trudge up the hill in the deep snow, I found them exhausted and filthy but radiant that the babies were still alive and even improving. I could not have been prouder of my girls! Those triplets not only survived, but thrived, and went on to visit seniors in a continuing care community, cuddled and loved on. One of those babies, Violet, has gone on to birth her own healthy triplets every year!
KTS: I love naturally colored yarn and Shetland is know for all of it's beautiful hues and variations. How do you decide on the yarn blends/colors to raise in your flock?
Meg: It's interesting because Shetlands change color from season to season and year to year, so it would be pretty hard to make a plan ahead of time and stick with it. A lot of times, what you see on the outer fleece is not what is hidden below . . . shearing day is fun with all the "oohs and ahhs" and "look at that!"
We skirt the fleeces the day of shearing, and label the bags with sheep names. Later, on a nice sunny day, we pull out each fleece and do more skirting and picking, and have a better look at the colors. At that point a plan starts to form, looking at how much there is of similar colors, and what color some fleeces will be once carded (for example, a fleece can be copper-red at the outer tip and gray-blue near the skin . . . it can be difficult to figure out what that blends into!)
In terms of which sheep to select for breeding, it often comes down to personalities as much as fleece; we aren't at a point where we are selecting for colors or patterns, part of the fun of lambing season is finding out what we get! We do always select sheep for breeding that meet breed standards, with good body conformation (for example legs, tails, proper horns on rams). And we very carefully track lineages and maintain genetic diversity.
KTS: What are your plans for 2022 and/or the future? Anything new on the horizon?
Meg: We are excited about some ideas we're percolating for our spring 2022 shearing! It's taken us many years to get to the point where we have a good variety of DK, fingering, and light worsted weight yarns, and now a shop available online for knitters to access our Shetland yarns beyond NH. It was a lot of time and effort to get that all started; now we can branch out with more creative endeavors. We're finding that a good number of knitters are interested in patterns to use with their yarns so they don't wind up "stashed" until they make a plan. One idea is creating knit kits, but you'll have to check in and find out what we're up to at this time next year for more information! By the time the fleece has been made into yarn, and we sort through and discover what gorgeous natural colors we've ended up with, and create/organize kits, it will be a year from now when our shop gets updated and we send out exciting new selections to our followers. The sheep have been working on growing these fleeces for a whole year, so I guess a full year of processing and packaging seems only fair on our end.
KTS: Where can yarn-lovers find you online?
Our natural Shetland yarns and fibers can be found in our shop on the website