Nestled on a hill top allowing them to see them to see the whole valley of Chewelah, Mantis Farms brings to mind a different time in American, when the west was not a manufacturing powerhouse but a series of cottage industries that connected the community together. Ann of Mantis Farms paints a stunning picture of her home. With meadows sheltered by trees of Evergreen and Tamarack the slopes of the hill protecting them, and they work with the land not against it, the farm calls to mind the heritage of the farms that built America.
You might be surprised to find the Kevin and Ann have only been there for 3 year, before they moved from Colorado, to Chewelah the land that sounds so lovely was an abandoned dairy that had been used for dumping trash and was falling apart. But Keven and Ann saw something beautiful in the property. After removing truckloads full of trash, they worked to update the building, improve the water conservations systems, and install solar elements. All with the goal to create a self-sustaining farm. Holding to the basic tenants and ideologies of Biodynamic farming they are working to create a farm that functions as a self-sustaining organic ecosystem.
Biodynamic farming is “holistic understating of the agricultural processes.” It acknowledges basic facts about farming and asks the farmer be aware of them as they address everyday issues. It requires integrated farming, no monoculture approaches to any crops but rather, a connection between livestock and crop productions as an integrated bio-system. It is a step beyond organic farming, it suggests that you likewise have to support your land for your land to support your crop and you. It uses classic farming practices such as wet composting, that improves soil quality and increases the quality of the crops. The issue that most people consider is the uses of organic solutions to pests and weeds known as biological pest control.
Ann told me that this year they are suffering from a grasshopper infestation that is causing problems for their kale and lettuce, which is regularly controlled by their heritage turkeys and geese. Their goal is to control weeds with seasonal planting plans where productive plants planted in the right season will out produce and kill weeds. They also accept an amount of loss, sometimes, some years they will not get a 100% yield from the crop but that mean is goes back into the soil for the next year.
Mantis Farms as some other nifty structures on the premise with a 30 foot yurt they have gatherings in and a brand new 70 foot hoop house style green house with the goal of year round greens heated with their wet compost system so they can have fresh greens in winter.
To The Fiber!
Kevin and Ann admitted when they got sheep they weren’t sure what they really wanted so they currently have a diverse flock they are shifting over to dual or fiber only breeds. Their diversity gives us the chance to experience fiber combinations that we may never have considered like a Tarhgee Merino, which is super springy while soft with a lovely uniform crimp. I would never have thought of that cross. Overall they hope to shift over to Border Leicesters. These sheep are long-wooled robust sheep, with a great fleece and they are rather cute.
Organically raised sheep means organic fibers and with about 45 head Mantis fibers add a luscious and unique fiber to our local collection here. My favorite that they have brought in is the fibers from their pure breed Border Leicesters. The fleece is stunning, with natural coloring multi-toned greys Border Leicester. With a five to six inch staple length and thick, tight locks but not true curls and has a uniform crimp pattern. Wonderful for texture spins, it is ideally used as picked and flick carded washed locks. Their Border Leicester is a high luster fiber with dense and thicker fibers. It has a micron range of 30-32. It is a dark grey with some sun-bleaching on
Kevin and Ann are really trying to make something sustainable and that will take time. They do the best they can and we are really thrilled to support them in their goals. There are so few people who are willing to take and chance and change the world so that they come along and have excellent fiber we are happy to actively support local and organic fibers!