May: Bide A Wee Farm

Published May 12, 2021



When I first started spinning wool, I knew that this is something that I will eventually take seriously. It was all just a matter of how quickly my passion will escalate. And in my first month of spinning, I definitely went down that rabbit hole faster than a sneeze. I’ve thought long and hard about the difference between a hobby and a career choice, because growing up, this was an issue that gave me so much internal conflict – the tug of war between Happiness and Career Success.


I dreamt of becoming either a teacher, a lawyer, or a missionary but my conservative, Asian parents believed that I needed a career choice that will not starve or disillusion me later on. That’s how I ended up earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, became a Registered Nurse in the Philippines, and went to Medical School.

Karen Lobb

While I enjoyed the experience of being a nursing and medical student (in a relational sense), I felt that it was something that did not resonate well with what I wanted to be. I can’t say that I’ve “pinned down” a specific career path, but I’ve looked at this conundrum as a journey that I should enjoy and allow to blossom.


From dreaming as a child to becoming a young adult, I have learned several things: (1) your degree choice in college does not dictate your actual future, (2) just because your life is not dictated by the degree you chose in college, it doesn’t mean that it all went to waste, (3) plans change and things will work out, (4) and true passion creates an equally unquenchable thirst for learning. Perhaps Divine Providence and the yarn of fate has led me to Karen Lobb (owner of Bide A Wee Farm).

 

Research and Finding Connection


Facebook’s ads algorithm are typically pesky and invasive, but it recommended me to a group called Weaving and Spinning for Beginners. I count this as one of the few opportunities to be thankful for ads traffic. Flipping through some posts, I found a woman who posted about Shave’Em to Save’Em (SE2SE). My curiosity led me to hunt for some stamps that are nearer my locale using the directory at The Livestock Conservancy website. SE2SE is a group sponsored by The Livestock Conservancy that focuses on encouraging fiber artists to support/learn about different Sheep/Ram breeds that range from Critically Endangered to Recovering and to connect them to farmers who are raising these heritage breeds to sustain this fragile ecosystem.

Bide A Wee Farm Logo


When you purchase “100% wool” from a yarn store, they do not usually tell you what exact kind of breed it originated from. Historically, wool was not easy to come by so wool was gathered from different breeds and blended into one wool. The homogenization of wool made it cheaper for regular folk to purchase because you can blend expensive wool with a cheaper wool without having to fully disclose breed specificity.


There is now a movement where fiber artists are encouraged to explore different breeds of sheep available in North America, understand the processes involved in creating yarn, learn its (the wool) specific purposes, and get a grasp on the complexity of texture and structure of their fibers. This movement has encouraged small-medium scale farmers to keep heritage sheep and rams from becoming extinct, creating a mutually beneficial relationship between man and domesticated sheep. It also creates a broader sense of accountability to prevent mass mono-agriculture and enhance biodiversity – which increases resilience and prevents disease.


After connecting with Karen, I prepared my husband to accompany me to their annual wool sale in Hillsboro, OR as a post-valentine date. My husband was sick during Valentine’s day thanks to the second dose of the COVID-19 Vaccine. It may not be the most “romantic date”, but I declare it to be my husband’s expression of love for me (and an unfortunate fuel to his disdain for anything yarn related). Despite arriving late, Karen graciously gave me a “brief” overview of her products and gave me pointers on spinning wool. There just had to be more information that I can get my hands on. What truly piqued my interest was the paradox of her being both vegetarian and an animal product seller. Though it sounds hypocritical at surface level, you will discover her sincerity and the profound ethos she has developed throughout years of homesteading. It is evident in her stories how she has struggled to find her ethical and moral stance and how solid of a foundation it has become to the life she is living today. Those brief moments I spent with her inspired me to get to know her better and share her beautiful soul with you today.

 
Did you know that the number 1 sheep predator in the US are coyotes and next to that are your farm neighbor's dogs? Since wild life predators have decreased due to habitat shrinkage and human population density, it is more likely for a guard dog to attack and kill your sheep than a bear.
 


Karen: Life on the Farm


Karen did not come from an established generation of farmers, neither did she take a degree in Agriculture. In fact, she has a degree majoring in English. However, she has in her a burning passion of making a difference in the world early on. She became a vegetarian and planned on raising animals that could benefit the environment. Sheep are known for their ability to eat noxious and poisonous weeds (for cows, dogs, and humans), preventing brush fires, and creating great fertilizer that doesn’t affect the ozone layer on a massive scale.



Doug Montgomery, Karen's husband feeding a lamb

What started with 5-7 sheep quickly rose in number to a rate that necessitated action. After further studying and a lot of mind wracking, she and her husband set strict rules and principles to live by to create a balanced relationship between her family, her animals, and the environment.


You can hear her passion for learning and for her farm in the way she freely shares knowledge to anyone who asks. People would come by at her stall or in her farm and would ask her questions on how she raises her animals and why she does what she does. And while most of her inquirers are curious onlookers and farmers market shoppers, she occasionally bumps into people who are hostile. Her philosophy in life is to act responsibly, honestly, and thoughtfully. She hopes to strike up meaningful conversations that opens room for critical though each opportunity she gets.