Down the rabbit holePublished 9:49am Thursday, September 27, 2012
The fall edition of Southern Minnesota magazine comes out Friday.
CLARKS GROVE — Tucked away in a grove of trees north of Clarks Grove sits a red barn on what has been nicknamed Rabbit Hill.
In the barn, owned by Mary Lou Hubly and her husband, John, are about five dozen Angora rabbits, various colors and sizes, which are bred for their long, soft wool.
Angora rabbits, which originated in Turkey, are known for their silky coats, and some say their wool is softer than cashmere.
“For softness you can’t beat it,” said Hubly.
The rabbits were the inspiration for the Hublys’ business, Angora Gardens.
Every three months, the Hublys shear the wool from the rabbits and sent it off to a fiber mill where it is spun with wool from the family’s Corriedale sheep. After processing, the yarn is sold in skeins.
‘They started out almost as pets’
The endeavor began in 2005 when the Hublys bought two Corriedale sheep.
The next year while visiting Shepherd’s Harvest, a sheep and wool festival in Lake Elmo, they bought their first two purebred Angora rabbits — one buck and one doe.
Hubly said her daughters named the buck Pierre and the doe Maria.
“My daughters wanted a rabbit,” Hubly said. “They started out almost as pets.”
And it took off from there.
After a few years — with their rabbit population growing — Hubly said the family decided to blend the rabbits’ wool with the wool of their Corriedales.
The yarn is typically 40 percent Angora wool and 60 percent sheep wool.
Hubly said the yarn is not itchy like some wool and is soft on the skin. Because the family cross breeds their rabbits, the business has yarn to offer in white and different shades of gray and brown.
She said Angora Gardens is one of the only businesses in the area that sells Angora blends of yarn. The family takes their yarn to four sheep and wool fairs across the state. They also sell some of the rabbits themselves.
The skeins of Angora blend sell for somewhere between $25 and $29 each instead of the $3 to $7 cloth yarn you can find elsewhere, and the family also sells knitting patterns for items such as sweaters, gloves or mittens.
A family affair
Hubly said raising the rabbits and learning to spin and knit has become a part of her eight children’s lives.
From day one, at least one of the children has made it a priority to name each of the rabbits, and they take turns feeding and giving water to them. One son calls himself the barn manager, and her older daughters love the fiber fairs and have taken pride in selling their yarn and rabbits.
“They’ve always been mom’s helpers,” Hubly said. “They enjoy it as much as we do.”
She said the endeavor has taught the children many skills and life lessons.
“It’s excellent hands-on science, just the way a farm works,” she said. “And running a business, the kids have been exposed to it. For the most part, it’s been a really wonderful avenue for education for them.”
Hubly grew up in the Chicago suburbs and gained her own passion for knitting from her mother who taught her a little at a time. She has in turn taught the skill to her own children.
“This is an old world art taking old world time,” Hubly wrote on her website. “Spinning and knitting are very relaxing — and wonderful ways to make love tangible.”
Because of this passion, she also offers spinning and knitting lessons. She receives calls from people as far away as two hours to sign up for her classes.
To contact Angora Gardens, call 507-256-4806.
Address: 30564 780th Ave., Clarks Grove