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Shearing 2020

Shearing!

We had the sheep shorn today. Though it feels early in the year, we know we need to have the sheep shorn before lambs are due. The forecasts calls for continuing mild weather, so we aren’t concerned about cold or wind for now. The ewes were eager to itch all of the itchy places they couldn’t reach beneath their fleece. We watched each of them craning their necks around to reach that One Spot and then shaking in relief.

Mary Lake at CanDoShearing shears our sheep. Mary and I have parallel sheep journeys. We were housemates back in 2012 and 2013. She had just finished an internship on a sheep farm when I was in the middle of my goat-milking years. We were both struggling doing hard jobs under challenging circumstances. Mary has always been helpful and deeply honest about my sheepraising, so it felt wonderful to be able to show her a flock of healthy, chubby ewes with great wool. I am endlessly grateful to Mary’s patience and wisdom through all of these years.

Enjoy these naked ladies prancing around on our farm! We were thrilled to see how plump and ready for lambs our flock is. 51 sheep shorn today – the only ones still wearing wool are the Two Old Ladies – we think they’ll do better with a bit more wool on.

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Fleece Finding Mission

Bobolink Yarns moved along towards realization today.

I had checked with my neighbor Maria Schumann about wool recently.  Maria and her husband Josh Karp own Cate Hill Orchard.  There, they raise sheep for meat and dairy, cultivate apples, and run a wide variety of small enterprises.  I am continuously amazed by their ingenuity and creativity developing new products.  Maria’s family founded Bread and Puppet Theater, a famous Vermont puppetry theater.  To me, she’s local royalty.

As much as Maria loves beautiful fiber, the effort to mill and market their wool has gotten away from them.  Two year’s worth of wool awaited me in Maria’s old, charming barn.  Walking through the barn, I saw old mirrors, toys, spare wood, cob webs, and every other spare tidbit and old tool that old barns contain.  Sometimes I wish our tube and canvas barn had some spare corners where old wonders might accumulate.

The wool is truly beautiful – clean and long-stapled.  Since East Friesian dairy sheep are typically selected for their milking ability and not their fleece quality, the fleeces do vary between individuals more than you’ll find with other breeds.  I don’t think that variety is going to hurt, though.  The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook suggests that variation in fibers ranges from 26 to 37 microns, meaning that the fiber can range from near-skin soft to outerwear-only.  By comparison, my BFL sheep probably only range from 23-28 microns flockwide.

So now, we just need to decide exactly what to spin from it.

Images from my trip- these are Maria’s lovely sheep and her wool coming home, all piled up in the back of the truck.  Looks like perhaps 150 lbs.