Wild and Wooly with Greta and Ruth Mathewson

Farmers’ markets across Nova Scotia are celebrating the second annual Farmers’ Market Week (3-10 August) – the only event of its kind in Canada. The festivities highlight the wonderful fresh food, artisan products and local crafts available at more than 40 markets province-wide. Rustik Magazine has teamed up with Farmers’ Markets of Nova Scotia to profile some of the vendors and producers that make up Nova Scotia’s vibrant markets.

wooliesGreta and Ruth Mathewson
Woolies Pure Wool Comforters and Gifts
Central North River, Nova Scotia
Facebook: Upperbrook Farm

1) What is your local farmers’ market and what do you most love about it?
Our local market is Truro Farmers’ Market and we love that it is so community-based. There is everything that one could want in a market and more, from produce, meats, cheeses, baking, flowers, plants, unique gifts of many sorts, and of course our own products.

2) What products do you sell and why?
We sell wool comforters (king size – crib size), blankets, sheepskins, hand knitted slippers, mittens, socks, sheepskin insoles, hand towels, aprons, dyed wool and yarn, felt, wool batting and roving. We have maintained a purebred sheep farm for over 40 years. Due to the rocky hillside of our farm, we have the same breed of sheep, North Country Cheviots, as my husband had in Scotland. The wool is often a byproduct of sheep production, and this was the impetus for making wool comforters and sharing a wonderful, natural, renewable, sustainable, healthy product.

3) What is your greatest design inspiration? (i.e. nature, person)?
Since the price of wool has not increased in decades, it is certainly an inspiration to utilize the wool from our farm, and due to the increase in interest in our product and the desire to further promote this material, we have established (in 2012) Nova Scotia’s only modern woolen mill, Harmeny Woolen Mill. This mill is both to fulfil the need on a larger scale than hobby production of our comforters but also to custom process the wool of other shepherds and fibre enthusiasts.

As for our jams and jellies, the farm came with an abundance of berries: black currants, red currants, gooseberries, chokecherries, blackberries and apples and we have added raspberries and Saskatoon berries. Locally we have sources for other no-spray fruit such as strawberries, blueberries and additional raspberries. This supply enables us to produce wonderfully tasty jams and jellies that have interesting combinations and a following amongst the customers of the market. They are now also available at the local Smitty’s. Our black currant juice is great as a mix with water, white wine or soft drinks for a refreshing sipping drink or mixed with warm/hot water and honey when a cold/flu sets in. With its many antioxidants, it will often cure what ails you.

woolies34) Does your product have a special personal or cultural meaning?
Being the wife of a Scotsman and visiting that country many times, the wool does have significant meaning. It has so many benefits and natural properties such as being: anti-static, antibacterial, breathable, moisture-wicking, natural, renewable and beautiful. Today there is a resurgence as wool is needle-felted into wall art or wet-felted into vessels such as bowls or dryer balls. Babies (and adults too) sleep better on wool as a mattress pad, comforter or pillow as it allows your skin and body to breathe. Also, it doesn’t attract dust mites as down does. And for those that are spiritual, apparently wool has the most energy of all the fibres, making it a favourite to meditate on. We love it and believe it shows in our products.

5) What are your ideas for future pieces and artisanal works?
Further plans include developing the felting line including rugs, insoles, mug cozies, tea cozies – and other functional items as well as our rug yarn and wool insulation. For the jams and jellies and juices, we are hoping to include haskap berries in our mix, which along with the currants are very high in antioxidants and benefit the well being of our customers.

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