Yankee Rock: Shearing, Shepherding, and Millspun Yarns

Meet Siri and Colin, first generation shepherds chasing big, wooly dreams.

Debbie Blair Jun 17, 2024 - 12 min read

Yankee Rock: Shearing, Shepherding, and Millspun Yarns Primary Image

Siri and Colin share a passion for shepherding and shearing. Photo by Bekah Parent

Meet Siri Swanson and Colin Siegmund, shepherds with a passion for raising sheep and a love for the craft of shearing. As children, Siri and Colin began raising animals as members of their respective 4-H clubs and now own Yankee Rock Farm and Yankee Clippers Shearing in western Vermont. Abiding by Yankee Rock’s mission statement—serving sheep, land, and community—they take pride in raising their registered purebred Finns and Border Leicesters; selling their fleeces, roving, and yarn; and traveling the country to shear sheep.

We sat down with Siri to learn more about Yankee Rock’s breeds of sheep, the fleeces and yarn they produce, and how they took on the tough job of shearing.

Left: Finn and Cheviot graze side-by-side; photo by Bekah Parent. Right: Colored Border Leicester lambs (front) next to a white Finn lamb (back); photo by Siri Swanson

Farm & Fiber Knits: How did you each get started raising sheep? How did you pick your breeds?

Yankee Rock Farm: We both got started with sheep thanks to 4-H. If you don’t know about 4-H, I encourage you to look into it! Neither Colin nor I grew up on a farm, and none of our parents had connections to agriculture. But we were both kids who loved animals and found our way into local 4-H clubs at a young age. Colin actually started with rabbits, and I did a few chicken projects. It’s amazing how parallel our stories are! Then, both of our 4-H clubs took a turn toward sheep—and that was that! We both had an interest in dairy cattle, too, but it’s easier to convince your parents to let you keep a couple of sheep in the backyard than a milk cow.


Since then, we each worked with a wide variety of terminal and maternal breeds—Cheviot, Oxford, Tunis, Romney, Karakul, Lincoln, Hampshire, Southdown, and others—which helped us tremendously in figuring out what kind of sheep worked for us. Colin has had Border Leicesters since 2006 thanks to the influence of Polly Hopkins of Maybe Tomorrow Farm. He was drawn to them for their size and temperament, along with their distinctive look. I settled on the Finns because of their prolificacy. As a young entrepreneur, I knew I could only keep four or five breeding ewes in my parent’s backyard—and I figured with Finns producing three or more lambs per lambing, I’d make out pretty well.

Siri with newborn Border Leicester lambs. Courtesy of Siri Swanson

FFK: When did you both learn to shear? Did you go to shearing school?

YRF: Colin was a shearer before me. Around 14, he got tired of bagging wool on shearing day, so he figured he’d learn the shearing part. I didn’t pick it up until I was 17. We both showed sheep as kids, and showing gets you familiar with basic shearing equipment and sheep anatomy—so I sheared my own sheep for several years because that was just the kind of kid I was. Neither of us attended shearing school to start; we leaned heavily into our sheep community and benefited from an immense amount of knowledge and a few good mentors to guide us. Shearing schools are a great place to start, especially without the background we had, but it really takes some form of apprenticeship to develop the skills.

Get a closer look! Click the video or any image in the gallery below to open it in full-screen mode.

Clockwise from top left: A Finn ewe named Finch with her lambs; a time-lapse of Siri shearing lambs in Connecticut; a Cheviot/Border Leicester-cross lamb; Jane the farm dog keeps careful watch. Photos and video by Siri Swanson

FFK: Where does your shearing work take you? How many sheep does Yankee Clippers shear per year?

YRF: We travel all around New England and serve states from New York to Iowa. But most of the sheep we shear are in New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Colin and I don’t shear together most days, unless someone has 100 or more head, but our combined annual total is around 12,000 sheep and a couple hundred goats.

Colin and Siri provide a much-needed service throughout a number of states, always with this goal: “to leave sheep and shepherd happier than when we showed up.” Photo by Ryan Langmaid

FFK: From your website, it sounds like you have about 40 sheep between the two breeds. Is that as large as you intend to grow your flock?

YRF: We’re actually working on a big update to our website. We have closer to 50 ewes right now, plus rams and the spring lamb crop. And we just bought a farm! We have another 120 ewes coming later this summer. We plan to grow the flock from there, with projections to reach over 1,000 head in eight years or so. That’s a whole other can of worms, but those numbers are designed to fit our land and labor resources. We didn’t just pick a number and hope for the best!

Yankee Rock's Border Leicesters at pasture. Photo by Siri Swanson

FFK: Do your Border Leicesters and Finns live together on the farm now, or do you keep them separate? Do they get along?

YRF: They sure do! We have a couple of Cheviot ewes in the group as well. We’re very much of the mindset to not create extra work for ourselves, so we wouldn’t keep sheep that can’t run with the main flock. We do keep rams and ewes separate outside of breeding season, and we create separate breeding groups so that we have intentional mating—mostly purebred, but some crossbreeding as well. Most of the new ewes we’re buying in are Cheviot-type commercial ewes.

FFK: Can you tell us a bit about your flock’s fleeces?

YRF: The Border Leicester is a longwool breed that should produce a long-stapled, lustrous pencil lock with a pearled tip. Within our flock specifically, we emphasize fleeces with bright, bold character. The Finn fleeces are tougher to generalize. The breed as a whole has very little uniformity. Finns are supposed to have a medium wool, but many have a more longwool-type lock structure. We try for a tighter crimp that still has more of a longwool luster. The handle is extremely soft, and the fleeces are also very lightweight and high-yielding.

Get a closer look! Click on any image in the gallery below to open it in full-screen mode.

Clockwise from top left: Skeins of 2-ply Border Leicester (left) and 3-ply Finnsheep (right); fleece from the Border Leicester shows long, lustrous locks; knitted sample using Finn; Colin crochets using his beloved Border Leicester yarn. Photos by Siri Swanson

FFK: What types of yarns have you produced from your flock? Do you use your own yarn?

YRF: Our yarns are semi-worsted spun, with a 2-ply sport and DK in Border Leicester and a 3-ply worsted in Finn. Colin has crocheted quite a bit with both, and the Border Leicester is a favorite of mine and Colin’s. The luster always comes through, and the drape and stitch definition are magnificent. I spin more than anything and love working with both. Can I admit something? Cheviot is actually my favorite wool to work with!

FFK: How do you choose the weights of yarn to have spun?

YRF: I’ll be honest, we are both novice fiber artists. We’re experts in sheep and wool production and know a whole lot about raw wool. But when it comes to processing and marketing, we’ve relied heavily on the advice of the folks in the mills we work with. We want whatever will make our wool look its best, and we’ve left it up to the experts in that field to guide us. We also buy and sell a lot of the wool we shear, and last year I had several hundred pounds of the most gorgeous Polypay wool to play around with. I had most of it spun into worsted and a high-twist sock yarn (per others’ recommendations), but I also had about 15% of it spun into a bulky yarn, just because that’s what I like to knit with!

Siri with Eleven at The Big E, formally known as The Eastern States Exposition, an annual fair in Massachusetts. Photo by KAK Images

FFK: Do you have a favorite or special sheep from your own flock that you’d like to tell us about?

YRF: There are a few that come to mind. Since Colin and I have had our own flocks since we were about 12 years old, we have had a few sheep that taught us some big lessons.

Eleven, a natural-colored Border Leicester, is the most famous! She was a runty little triplet born the first winter Colin and I started farming together. I took a special liking to her, but she refused to take a bottle when she was young and poor looking (we sometimes supplement struggling lambs with extra milk). Despite that, she developed the personality of a bottle lamb and flourished as a yearling. Eleven was the sheep I showed in my last showmanship class before aging out, and the result (making it to the top five in a very competitive class) is one of my proudest accomplishments in the show ring. She’s just a great ewe all around.

Find Yankee Rock Farm on the web at or on social media:
Instagram: @yankeerockfarm
Facebook: Yankee Rock Farm

Starting in July, yarn will be available through the Yankee Rock Farm online shop at

Debbie Blair is the associate editor of Spin Off magazine. A lifelong crafter and avid reader, she finds her happy place reading and relaxing next to a mountain stream.