GRAND VIEW, Wis. – Some folks wish for luck. Others dream. But some folks make their own luck. Their dreams come true with hard work and optimism. A powerful patch of optimism can become an irresistible force.
A decade ago a woman from Minnesota and a man from Pennsylvania met by chance in Florida. He had served around the world in the U.S. Air Force. She was an artist with expertise in mycology, northern-European history, mythology and natural fiber. They fell in love and settled on 20 acres near Grand View. Their dream was to start a reindeer farm. But dreams are difficult to interpret. We think they mean one thing but they might lead in another direction.
Sonia and Adam Horowitz named their farm Amanita Acres.
“Amanita muscaria is one of my favorite mushrooms,” Sonia Horowitz said. “Mushroom mythology is my specialty. Amanita muscaria comes up in (mythology) a lot. It was one of the first mushrooms we found here on our farm. Amanita muscaria and reindeer pair up a lot in mythology; the reindeer like to eat them. (Humans) shouldn’t eat them, but reindeer do.”
Chronic wasting disease endangers reindeer in Wisconsin so the couple adjusted their dream.
“I contacted my friend at Whippoorwill Farms in Iron River (Wisconsin) because he had Icelandic sheep,” she said. “I asked if he would have any sheep for sale the next summer. He told me he had four pregnant ewes for sale – but right away.
“We built fires to melt snow and build an enclosure. We had our first lambs three weeks later. We sort of jumped in the deep end on that one. Now we have six ewes, a ram and three Angora goat wethers. Icelandic ewes tend to have twins so we should triple our flock size every spring.”
This past year they had nine lambs.
Horowitz has made her living as an artist.
“(So) if I was going to have sheep, it was for the fiber,” she said. “Growing your own art supplies sounds like a good deal to me. Icelandic sheep are a ‘triple threat’ breed – they are good for meat (and) fiber, and they are good milkers. This spring we will start milking. Our herd is big enough for personal and local fiber use, and milk and meat can be good trade items as we interact with other farmers.
“I hand-spin and dye yarn. I make shawls with my new triangle loom. I make ornamental animals and gnomes; I was surprised at their popularity. What we are most interested in is teaching about fiber. COVID-19 stopped that but by next winter I will have classes online. I will have classes and apprenticeships here (at Amanita Acres) once it’s possible again. It’s difficult to produce yarn yourself. It’s really best done as a community activity.
“Doing the processing by hand teaches you about the fiber. Our goal is education over production. We are preserving skill sets and tool sets. Most people don’t realize acrylic yarn is plastic. Our sheep are grass-fed so the sheep store carbon in their wool.”
Sheep manure fertilizes the flowers the couple sells with their wool-fiber art at farm markets.
“We had to wiggle around to find our niche,” she said.
Adam Horowitz said, “We came a long way from what we started, to being a flower and fiber farm. I acquired woodworking tools; I’m going to build some of the tools that are used for wool processing. A set of combs costs over $100 if you can find them. The demand is there and when Sonia has courses here I will have all of the needed tools available in a kit.”
Sonia Horowitz said, “I’m going to refurbish spinning wheels too. We can get old ones hanging in displays working again.”
Amanita Acres recently received a microloan from the Chequamegon Food Co-op in Ashland, Wisconsin. The loan was used to finance completion of a fiber studio as well as to purchase a spinning wheel and other fiber-handling equipment.
Adam and Sonia Horowitz are making their own luck at Amanita Acres, where hard work and infectious optimism make dreams come true.
Visit www.facebook.com/amanitaacres for more information.
Jason Maloney is an “elderly” farm boy from Marinette County, Wisconsin. He’s a retired educator, a retired soldier and a lifelong Wisconsin resident. He lives on the shore of Lake Superior with his wife, Cindy Dillenschneider, and Red, a sturdy loyal Australian Shepherd.