Welcome to our online home! Click on the picture menus labeled “The Farm”, “The Wool” and so on to learn more about the farm and the related businesses…
The family business has been raising sheep on a small farm in eastern Nebraska for over 35 years.
The owners – a professional shepherd and a fiber artist – are committed to the production of quality fleece and lamb. The expantion of the flock in 2008 and the re- introduction of natural colored wool in 2009, with the emphasis on wool for the craft industry has proved successful. The foundation sires are of Corriedale and Columbia origins, and NCWGA registry of some.
In the spring of 2012, the opportunity came about to expand the farm. With the sheep numbers already on the rise, we all were ready for ‘new pastures’. An additional 17 acres adjoining us to the north will eventually mean a smorgasboard for the “Ewes’; in the meantime, a lot of work for ‘Us’. But it’s all welcome.
Visit my Etsy shop for handmade wool and felt art- http://EweAndUs.etsy.com
Visit my blog to keep up with happenings on the farm- – www.eweandus.blogspot.com
Questions may be directed to:
Ewe And Us
859 County Road 18
Wahoo, NE 68066
Our flock originates from Don’s family Registered Hampshire’s. When we moved to the farm in 1978, the ewes he had earned while in school were returned to him. Soon after, we chanced to come across a couple of natural colored ewe lambs, which of course the breeders would rather not recognize. Being a spinner, Rhonda jumped at the chance at a foundation for a natural colored flock. A couple years later, some colored Corriedale ewes and a ram made a significant addition to the number and fleece quality of the colored flock.
In 1980, with two small boys and a growing interest in wool related art, Rhonda made the ultimate sacrifice, and sold her horses. The money was reinvested in a flock of purebred Corriedale ewes, and the wool trade began in earnest.
Over the years, the primary purpose of the flock was adjusted to meet the current demands, and varied from fleece, custom market and 4-H lambs, and general profitable farm flock purposes. The natural colored flock diminished and finally, reluctantly, disappeared. In 2008, wool production was reestablished as a priority with the purchase of a group of Polypay ewes.
As the primary focus of the flock shifted to the production of wool for the spinning and hand craft trade, additional changes were made. In 2009 a Corriedale ram and a black NCWGA registered ram became the foundation Sires. Their influence was apparent with the lamb crop in the spring of 2010 with 8 colored lambs, and improvement in fleece quality and quantity of the white ewe lambs, many of which were kept for replacement ewes. In 2011, a second Colored stud ram was added. The next crop of lambs are sired by all 3, and each bloodline is made contributions to the overall quality of the wool and flock.
With a growing market for the finer grade fleeces, and Rhonda’s preference for the same, the flock continues to be managed for wool quality. In 2013, a Merino ram came to join the flock. The ewe lambs kept as replacements will be shorn soon (in March of 2015) and we are excited to see the fleeces.
Despite the size and outward appearance of the small family business, Ewe and Us (formerly known as Provident Sheep and Wool) has always been run as a commercial enterprise. In keeping with family farm tradition, everyone is expected to earn their keep, including the sheep.
The breeding flock has been selected and bred for practical traits for more than 30 years. The initial purebred flock was kept for a number of years, until economic factors swung the culling gate toward practicality. A loosely comprised scoring system developed. Ewes earned points awarded for quality, quantity, and color of fleece and lamb production. Ewes are expected to lamb on their own or with a minimum of assistance. Milk production, mothering ability, and thriftiness are expected. Mothers are required to raise at least one lamb to weaning weight, and preferably 2 or more. (The flock birth average is around 180 %.) Points are lost for poor mothering (i.e. tail biting), weak lambs, difficult birth, or bad udders, as well as flock behavior problems such as fence jumping. It may sound harsh, but the pencil is the bottom line, and those who conform lead a long life of green pastures and still waters.
Lambs are shipped when they reach market weight, around 120 lbs. They are generally sold direct to slaughter. That’s the purpose. Our sheep are a for profit enterprise. They are not pets. Our philosophy from the beginning has been clear. To keep it in focus, our policy is you never eat anything with a name. That’s why our sheep only have numbers. (Well, except for a select few – namely the colored and distinctly unique)
While we are not organic, chemical use on both the flock and the land is avoided as much as possible. However, the health of the animals is directly related to productivity, so common sense veterinary medicine and preventive practices are used as necessary.
Conservation practices are the norm. Throughout the season, limited grazing is on a rotational basis. The farm is divided into several small plots, and grazing is limited by time, which is fully adequate for a ruminant. In dry years, hay may be supplemented for short periods while the pastures recover. Most years, little purchased forage is used from late April until late October. Additional forage is ‘recycled’ to the flock from garden and yard waste, (i.e. all those giant zucchini), lawn clippings, kitchen peelings and the like. You’d be surprised at how much it adds up, and the ewes REALLY LOVE those windfall apples in the fall.
The Farmstead sits on land that was claimed by the United States of America and deeded to the Railroad by order of an Act of Congress dated Feb.23, 1871. It was then claimed by the Union Pacific Railroad on July 15, 1884. The original farm of 160 acres was then sold to John Nelson in 1885 for $865.34
Six others owned the property over the years until the homestead was sold as a 5 acre parcel to the McClure’s on Aug 1, 1978. Thus far, the McClure’s have become the longest residents at 35 years and counting.
It has always been our personal goal to retain as much of the original character of the period in which the original farm was established. Many improvements and additions have been made.
The house was added on to twice now by the McClures. The barn was renovated in 1994, and improvements to the other buildings have been made to return them to a functioning state. A garage and shop was built in 2003, and the latest and hopefully last major project of a sun room was added to the house in 2008.
The homestead has come to be identified by the American Gothic style portrait of Don and Rhonda on the Garden shed as seen from the road.
The McClure’s have always been gardeners. Even before they ‘settled’ on the farm. Just after they were married, the proceeds from the sale of a horse was re-invested in another – this time a shiny red ‘Horse’ model Troy built tiller. Borrowed and rented ground supported the first years of the family garden.
Rhonda’s college degree is actually in horticulture. The summer the farm was purchased, some tomato plants were the first to be moved, and the first residents, even before the humans. From then on, the large garden plot has been a seasonal workplace for the family from planting to harvest. Countless quarts and bushels and buckets have been filled, emptied and replenished from the ½ acre lot. Clearly visible from the road, it soon became known to the family that the summer garden had become somewhat of a local tourist attraction, with interested neighbors driving their visitors by for a glimpse of the sheep and the well manicured garden. (Of course, there were also rumors of ‘those new sheep people’ in the neighborhood – they even shear and spin their own wool!)
Conservation practices have always been a priority. With an antiquated well as the only source of water, irrigation was nearly impossible. Mulching was mandatory for any of the crops to make it through the hot and often dry Nebraska summers. Water was reason enough, but weed control was perhaps the primary reason before long. Experimentation was common. Straw, grass clippings, newspaper, no till methods, and other innovations were tested over the years with varying success. Finally use of commercial landscaping fabric weighted with a generous layer of straw was agreed upon as the most efficient means of managing to mulch nearly the entire garden area. Put down as soon as the plants are established and the soil is warmed, both water and weeds are controlled through the summer. Late in the fall, the straw is rolled off the fabric strips and the ground is tilled for the winter. Much of the straw is burned off or tilled in as a questionably effective method of controlling the #1 garden menaces – the squash bug. (Which is also the reason organic is not a reasonable consideration. The insects in this part of the country are resistant to anything but a boot heel.)
Despite the occasional infestations and natural disasters (wind and hail for the most part) over time a considerable collection of plant material and species has been established. Apricots, 3 varieties of grapes, raspberries, strawberries, and rhubarb provide makings for canning, deserts, and an abundance of jam. (which are then shared as gifts). From 2009 our abundant apple crop was still providing lunch apples from the storage in the garage in March of 2010. The pears were not as plentiful, but some made it into jars along with many of the apples.
The vegetable garden has always been a major source of the family food supply. The choice of its residents has changed slightly over the years with the family’s tastes and quantity demands. Selections were added, changed, and abandoned depending on success or failure, or just a lack of interest. The core staples remained for the most part, and the ultimate measure of any given season is measured by the number – of jars lining the shelves in the fruit room, and bags neatly stacked in the freezer.
The selection of table pickings on a summers day changes as produce comes into season, but is selected from the following:
Asparagus Beans – green & pole Beets Broccoli Cantaloupe Carrots Corn Cilantro Eggplant Onions Peas – snap Potatoes Peppers Tomatoes Squash – winter Sweet potatoes Zucchini
While the kids were eating at home, it was my goal every summer to have a minimum of 50 quarts each of beans and tomatoes, and 25 pints of carrots and beets safely tucked away in their jars. Now that it’s just the two of us, more emphasis is placed on variety rather than quantity, and the quart jars are more likely to be reserved for the apples and pears. Smaller quantities find themselves in the freezer or packed for long term storage in the spare garage refrigerator.
What we grow, we eat. Except for what we give away. Don’s passion and pride are his melons, and they have become an annual event. At the peak of the cantaloupe season, it is custom that we load the little blue Nissan truck with boxes and bags of melons and make a run through the neighborhood. A neighbor at home is likely to result in a single stop for that evening, as for some it is our only real chance to visit. No one at home means a quick stop, and a box left on the doorstop. No need to leave a note. They all know where it came from.
And so it Grows-
Then in the summer of 2010, a change was made. We realized that even though all the extra veggies were not really going to waste, there were probably people in our area who needed them more. So we signed up and were certified for the USDA certificate program, packed up our ‘extra’ produce, and took it to the local farmers market in Wahoo. While maybe not a get rich event, it was rewarding to see the tomatoes and melons and cucumbers being placed into eager hands. We continue to participate in 2012,with an expanded line of produce, home made jams, baked goods, and occasionally some craft items. The additional acres purchased now include the ‘annex’ garden, which nearly doubles the space, and room for sweet corn, pumpkins, squash, and ornamental corn and gourds for the Farmers Market.
While on a spiritual retreat many years ago, Rhonda was introduced to the labyrinth. Immediately attracted to the ancient practice, it wasn’t long until she knew she had to have one available, and that meant finding space and means. The space was the former play area of the yard, and the means was the lawn mower. The resulting Santa Rosa Labyrinth remains today, and has been a curiosity to visitors. It may not be walked as much these days, but it retains an air of sacred ground, and just maintaining it provides a sense of a deeper connection with the universe.
Don and Rhonda were married in 1975. Rhonda finished college, and son Rhett arrived the next year. They moved to the farm the summer of ’78 with 2 horses, a few sheep, and a cat and a dog. Second son Ryan, followed by daughter Allyn to complete the family.
Over the years, improvements were made to the buildings and land with the intent to preserve and restore the original farmstead. The house has been enlarged, but with care to maintain the character of the original structure, both inside and out. The barn and outbuildings also have been repaired and restored, while retaining the functional aspects of their original and present use. With countless hours, sweat and blisters later, we have begun to turn our focus and projects to those of choice rather than necessity.
The children are all grown, married, and making their own way, established in their own homes. Each of the 3 have given us a grandchild now. So Braydon, Aurora, and Harper join us at the family table. Count them in as products of the farm, and we can safely say we have prospered well on the land.
It has always been our philosophy to live a simple, productive lifestyle, always aware of our impact on the earth, and the legacy we leave behind.
For more than 35 years, Ewe And Us has been producing quality wool and sheep related and inspired items and artwork. We are happy to announce that with the children now grown and gone, we are once again making adjustments to the family farm business, and are refocusing on the production of fleece for the handspinning and felting market. Roughly 100 ewes, both colored and white now make up the flock.
The flock was expanded accordingly in 2008 with the purchase of 20 yearling Polypay ewes. The next year a Corriedale ram began adding length and weight to the fleeces on the replacement ewe lambs. A NCWGA registered ram was added, with the result of natural colored fleeces. Shearing takes place by the first of March, before the muddy season and lambing.
The Polypay is a composite breed developed in 1975 for selected desirable traits of each of the Finnsheep, Dorset, Targhee and Rambouillet breeds. (Wool quality is similar to Corriedale type.) Additions to the flock also provide for variety. Romney and Coopworth round out the selection for some long wools.
Because vegetable matter is a major problem, care is taken throughout the year to avoid as much contamination as is feasibly possible. A major advance was made in the fall of 2009 with the purchase of ‘Sheep suits’ (Made in Colorado) for most of the flock. The ewes, decked out in their new ‘outerwear’, are now protected from the dreaded hay leaves. Each year as shearing time approaches (Late Feb. ) we look forward to seeing the fresh crop of really clean fleeces.
Don does the shearing himself, and does his best to avoid second cuts on the underside of the fleece. All fleeces are shook clean, picked over, and skirted heavily before packaging separately. The weight, condition, length, crimp, and color of fleece is recorded for each ewe. I have been processing our fleeces myself for years, and with proper handling they are suitable for either spinning or felting purposes.
Prices for all fleeces vary according to fleece type and color, and amount of purchase. Arrangements for washed or dyed wool may be possible. Carded wool in bats, both white and colored are sometimes available.
The flock has grown considerably in recent years. With the addition of acres of pasture, the number of ewes has also. At the beginning of 2015, there are now 90 bred ewes, and 24 replacement yearling ewes in the flock.
Jean Claude is our Merino ram, and his fleece is 18 microns.
Buyers appreciate the clean fleeces, and some with unusual characteristics of curly crimp like 1145
At the Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival in 2014, we had both the Champion and Reverse Champion fleece. Grandma is a Corriedale, and the Reserve Champ was her ram lambs fleece,
Sonny. (his sire was Grandpa, a colored Corriedale ram)
Fleeces are usually available throughout the year. Feel free to contact us to inquire about availability and prices of fleeces. I like to match the buyer to the type of fleece preferred, and according to intended use. We highly prefer satisfied customers, and there are quite a few now.
Contact us soon for the best selection of your favorite type of fleece, grown right here in Nebraska. Washed and carded wool ready for spinning or felting, as well as small lots of dyed carded wool for needle felting are sometimes on hand. Samples are available with a SASE.
Rhonda and Don McClure
Ewe And Us
859 County Road 18
Wahoo, NE 68066
Dolly the Dog
We have always had a Farm dog. They have all been Border Collies. Despite the breed, none have been true sheep dogs. They were farm dogs. Not even pets really. A farm dog is there for a purpose. They would greet visitors and family, and serve as an effective deterrent to those who may not be welcome. They were always present and watchful at chore time. They kept coyotes away from the sheep pen, deer out of the garden, and occasionally salesmen in their vehicles. They played ball, kept the barn cats in line, and were protective of the family, especially the kids. All of our dogs through the years were valued members of the family and farm enterprise. And then there was Dolly.
Our last dog, Hank, was killed in a freak accident in the spring of 2008. We both missed having a dog, and the howling coyotes at night made us nervous with new lambs on the ground. But neither of us was willing to take on another puppy, (regardless of the cute factor). So we checked out the alternatives. I watched the listings at the local animal shelters, but very few farm suitable breeds were available, and no Border Collies. So, with some reservations, we filled out the paperwork and applied to the Nebraska Border Collie Rescue. And, while the process was intimidating, we soon found the people were not. We were approved, passed the inspection, and invited to look over the selection of dogs waiting for adoption. Impressed by the intention of placing the right dog with new families, we jumped at the chance to meet the first suggested candidate.
We brought Doilidh (aka Dolly) home on Fathers day. As predicted, she was a challenge. At 18 months, and having been confined all her life, and through unknown stressful circumstances – not to mention being a Border Collie – she was energetic to say the least. She had a few problems. But it was clear she was highly intelligent, and eager to please. She quickly learned some manners. We learned which behaviors to ignore, and they gradually disappeared. Six months later, she had effectively wagged, whined, and won her way into our hearts, and much to our kids’ astonishment, into our house! For the first time in over 30 years, we have a semi- house dog. She lies at our feet while we eat supper, and spends the evening on her couch – the specially designed original ‘Bark-o-lounger’. Until 8 or 9’clock, when she asks to be taken to ‘bed’ in the kennel. Yes, she really is a farm dog, and is still improving on her ‘Farm’ skills.
She is now a genuine part of ‘Us’ as a team member. While she will never be a ‘trial’ dog, she provides Don with invaluable assistance in moving the sheep, and unequaled company to Rhonda as she works in her shop and studio.
Dolly has been the inspiration for a line of new products. ‘Dolly Dogs’ are miniature replicas of dogs, mostly Border Collies of course, made of needle felted wool. ‘Mutton’ the fleece sheep is one of her favorite toys. And, of course, there is the Bark-o-lounger.
In the fall of 2010 Dolly’s story was included in “Lost Souls: Found”, a book of inspiring stories about dogs, published by Happy Tails Books. We are happy for this opportunity to share her story, and offer hope for other Border Collies in need of a happy herding home.
In March of 2011, Dolly was seriously injured. Don came home from work one day to find her side split open from shoulder to elbow. We are happy to report that thanks to a good vet, patience, lots of care and the incredible spirit of Dolly herself, she is once again well, happy, and herding. We are grateful to have our faithful companion fully with us again. You can’t keep a good Border Collie down, and you can’t be down long with a Border Collie around.
Rhonda always said as a child she was going to be an artist. But growing up in a rural area in the late 60’s, the possibility of ever making a living with art was slim, and highly discouraged. So she relented, and chose a related field of study. Then, when she married a shepherd, and was given a spinning wheel as a wedding gift, and went on to raise natural colored sheep herself, she discovered there was this whole vast category of art called fiber; and that the sewing, knitting, quilting, and other techniques she had been taught as a child, and was still learning and doing had been an art form all along.
Spinning and the business of selling fleeces gradually led to experimenting with dyes. Then watercolors led to painting on silk, and then to combining techniques of painting on silk with quilting. Over time, the lines separating one practice from another blurred into oblivion. The variety of media and techniques has since become a source of interchanging of ideas, and are often put to use in the contracting business.
Though life has been a distraction from the art at times, and the media has changed according to need, there has always been a project in the works. Recently with the farm returning to an emphasis on the sheep and wool, so has been the focus of the artwork.
The newly discovered needle technique has been combined with previous methods of wet felting and re-purposing of wool fabrics to open a whole new range of wool felted creations.
Many items are available for sale, as are custom orders. View current articles listed on the Etsy website in the EweAndUs shop.
Or contact the artist directly at :
or by phone at 402 443 5498
Examples of Rhonda’s wool and felt art.
Visit my Etsy shop to purchase handmade wool and felt art- http://EweAndUs.etsy.com
Visit my blog to keep up with happenings on the farm- – www.eweandus.blogspot.com
Questions may be directed to:
Ewe And Us
859 County Road 18
Wahoo, NE 68066