Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Visit to Thirteen Mile Lamb & Wool Co.

On our last afternoon in Montana -- actually on the way back to the airport -- we stopped in on a lark* at Thirteen Mile Lamb & Wool Company.  It's just north of Bozeman, in a gorgeously verdant valley, nestled against the foothills of the Bridger Mountains.

I've been reading about them for years. Their entire operation is sustainable and conscientious.  And damned hard work, I'm sure!  Their ranch is certified organic and predator friendly (meaning, they protect their sheep with fencing and guard animals rather than killing native predators like bears, wolves, and coyotes). 

Their yarn is processed with solar heat and power and dyed with natural dyes.  Here you can see the solar hot water panels on the south face of their barn roof.  The photovoltaic panels are free-standing  -- you can see them at left in the top photo.

Inside the 1930s-era barn are the machines for carding, drafting, spinning.  The "yarn shop" is tucked into one of the old horse stalls. 

One of the unexpected pleasures of the visit was that Becky has a background in earth sciences.  It turned out that the geochemical dating techniques that she was starting to use in her Antarctic research in the '80s are what Mountain Man uses in his research today.  It was an incredible coincidence. Really incredible.  They had a grand time talking about cosmogenic Beryllium-10 isotopes (!) while I picked out my yarn.

I got swept up in the moment, you can see. I brought home three skeins of their sportweight wool in "Roma Red." The color is a rich tomato red, and it was beautiful in this landscape, picking up the reds of old barns, farming equipment, farmhouse roofs. 

For eco-minded knitters, TML&WC is a mythical place. For years I'd been reading about them in books like Shear Spirit and The Natural Knitter, and theirs was the first organic, naturally dyed yarn on my Green Knitter website (back when it was active, circa 2007 or 2008). What a pleasure to finally visit, to have this mythical place made real for me. 

* P.S.  I really did just drop by and invite us in.  Their contact page says at the bottom: "if you are in the area, stop and see us." I interpreted this very liberally.  I called that morning, left a message, then just showed up!  Becky and Dave were very gracious about it.  But if you're a more courteous soul than I am, you should arrange a visit ahead of time.


gale (she shoots sheep shots) said...

Oh how great it is to see you at 13 Mile Lamb & Wool--I loved visiting them when we were working on Shear Spirit--and I am a huge fan of their yarn. becky must have been thrilled with the knitting/earth science passion all in one set of visitors! Thanks for sharing the visit.

Acorn to Oak said...

It looks and sounds like a wonderful place to visit and that your day was tons of fun! And, your new yarn is beautiful!

Bonnie K said...

Lovely photos! 13ML&W is my one of my favorites from Shear Spirit too! I'm a loooong way from Montana, but if I ever get out there, I would venture a stop. Love that tomato-red yarn! Eager to see what you knit it up into.

Rachel said...

Wow -- I hadn't heard of this place or their yarn. Quite fascinating (and inspiring) how they run their operation. What a great place to visit on your trip! Thanks for sharing!