Nestled in a valley by Valders is the Hidden Valley Farm & Woolen Mill. Five hundred and fifty head of sheep and lambs call Hidden Valley Farm their home. These are Coopworth sheep, developed in New Zealand. Originally imported into the United States because they were long wool sheep.
Carol Wagner explains how it all got started. She read an article about how the Coopworth sheep’s wool was wonderful for hand spinning. “So, of course, I had to get one,” she says. “We started out with one sheep and, you know, one sheep leads to another sheep, which leads to another and here we are at multiple sheep.”
With so many sheep, there’s a lot of wool. It so happened there was a little woolen mill about ten miles from Carol and her husband Paul’s farm. The owners were ready to retire and asked Carol is she knew anybody that wanted to buy it? She answered, “Well, I do.” She went home and told Paul that she bought a woolen mill.
The woolen mill is an 8-ton 1923 carding machine, which Paul is an expert at operating. He feeds the wool into the machine at a constant rate. The fiber is pulled and combed several times. Finally, it comes out as roving. A roving is a long and narrow bundle of fiber that hand spinners use to make yarn.
Carol and Paul sell their wool mostly through wool festivals and farmers’ markets. Paul says selling fiber “is a little bit different in the fact that people really want to feel it.” So Paul does the downtown Appleton farmers’ market while Carol does the downtown Green Bay farmers’ market. Carol says she goes to approximately ten fiber festivals throughout the Midwest. She laughs and says, “Have sheep. Will travel.”
Paul reflects on his and Carol’s life. “Our life has been a multitude of adventures. Some good, some bad, some indifferent but it has definitely not been dull,” he says. “And we have our sheep to thank for that,” adds Carol.