wool2"These are our Maremma sheepdogs, Fritz, Ernst, and Bertie, who guard the ranch--they're part of our family in a big way. Every morning we take a perimeter walk, familiarizing them with the land."

Fiber Rancher Ashley Yousling shows us what life is like on her North Idaho Farm

A lot of 9-5ers daydream about ditching the cubicle and moving to a farm—but Ashley Yousling actually did it. After a year of preparation, in August, the fiber-focused blogger, podcaster, and yarn purveyor behind the Woolful brand traded her small apartment in San Francisco for a yurt on 40 acres of north Idaho land, so she could start realizing her dream of owning an ethical, eco-conscious fiber mill. Now, the 30-year-old entrepreneur, who still works remotely as the creative director of a smartphone startup, lives on the property with her photographer husband David, their two-year-old son Coltrane, her parents (who live in the ranch’s rustic cabin), and a menagerie of animals. For Yousling, what started as a love of knitting became an obsession with wool, inspiring her to launch her podcast, which features chats with fiber folks like sheep breeders, yarn dyers, and expert knitters; sell small-batch yarn from her online store, woolfulmercantile.com; and soon produce and process fiber herself. Now You-sling’s days of emails and tech-oriented design work are interspersed with farm duties like splitting logs, feeding her flocks, and foraging for dye materials, which is just the way she likes it. With this show-and-tell, she walks us through a week in the life of Woolful.

woolful
"Getting our Icelandic ewes--named Ethel, Lucy, Alice, and Louise--plus Henry, a very exuberant ram, was the first step toward producing my own wool. This photo may look serene, but the truth is that the pups took off to explore, leaving me to run the sheep back to their paddock alone at the end of the day."

wool3"Thanks to a neighbor who didn't know what to do with them, we now have six alpacas: Martha, Mary, Madge, Margaret, Mabel, and Millicent. Every day I hand deliver their hay in secret, because Lulu, our cow, thinks all hay is her hay. My hope is to blend their fiber with our sheep's, creating a juxtaposition of rustic wool and luxurious alpaca."

wool4"Between my parents' house and our own home we've got two cook stoves burning wood nearly 24/7 during the fall and winter. Thankfully, we have a wood splitter and many piles of stacked logs through the property that the original owners from the '50s cut whenever a tree fell."

wool5"I spend most weekdays upstairs at a local cafe, utilizing the fast Internet and quiet, uninterrupted space to get some work done for the company where I lead design. I travel to San Francisco one week a month to work with my team, but this is my new makeshift office."

wool6"While I love sheep, I may love Lulu even more. She's our year-and-a-half-old Dexter cow, a smaller heritage breed. She's expecting, so come next spring, we'll have fresh milk and a calf. I can't wait!"

wool7wool8wool9

 

"I spend a lot of time gathering plant material, barks, and flowers to naturally dye yarn for [my] online shop. It's pretty magical to take a long walk and collect all these unassuming plants--cedar, tamarack, birch, bracken, walnut--to find the amazing hues they reveal."

wool10"Colors shift with the seasons, but I'm always sure to come away with a nice gradient of reddish browns, golden yellows, and rich greens."

wool11"We transformed an old milking parlor into my studio where I cook dye baths, color the yarn, and get it ready for the shop. I hope to install a little potbelly stove soon so I can spend more time working out here."

wool12"Knitting is very much part of who I am. It balances the tactile and digital parts of my life, allowing me to re-center. Each sweater or shawl I knit has carried me through a time in my life and there are a lot of memories held in those stitches. Even if it's only a couple of rows, I try to knit each day."

 

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Photographed by David Klayton

This article originally appeared in the February/March print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today


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