Sunday, April 19, 2015

how to blade shear a sheep

A couple months ago I bought Burgon and Ball sheep shears at the local feed store for a hefty price, and ordered a blade sharpener off of ebay. I had it in my head after reading our sheep book and looking at the drawings of how to hold a sheep for shearing, that my 128 lb. self was actually going to be able to hold a 100 lb. sheep in those positions. HaHa!

Well I got my shears, piece of plywood to shear on, a broom, plastic bags, and a cart to set the wool in. My Mom joined me in this venture to assist me, and we both quickly found out I am NOT strong enough to hold a 100 lb. sheep in any sort of position, but laying it on its side.

My Mom helped hold the sheep down, while I sheared. It took us about 2 1/2 hours to get her done, but I didn't cut her once, and I had very little second cuts (undesirable short cuts of fiber from shearing over the same spot twice). Her fleece is beautiful. We had thought that these two ewes we have were some sort of Suffolk cross, but we got to looking through our fleece book and the breed that they resemble the closest is the Dorset Down, both in body and fleece. Which is really funny that they are identical because they came from two separate breeders.

 What happened to you?
We also noticed after shearing these girls, that they were not pregnant. So I guess we won't be getting any lambs from them till next year, but as to why they didn't conceive? I don't know. Maybe they were to young. I didn't ever notice them to come into heat, but I did see the ram breed them. So thought we would be getting lambs. Oh well. There is always next year. 

Isn't that some gorgeous crimp?

I washed some of the fiber, dyed it with food coloring, and set it out to dry on a rack on the lawn.

Then I spun some of it into a thick and thin crazy colored yarn.


Friday, March 27, 2015

28 and counting!

We have had quite the eventful year in kidding with 28 kids born, and split even on bucklings and doelings. We only have one doe left to kid, but she's not due till July.

 This no name doe had her kids out in the back of the pasture on a beautiful day. They were already up and nursing when we discovered them.

 Jubilee checking on her kids.

 The First two kids born playing "sliding down the shed".

 Dolly, our spoiled bottle baby, lounging on the couch. She was born with severely contracted tendons (caused by lack of room in the womb) in her front legs. We have been splinting them, and it is working to stretch them out. She was also born with a waddle on her right ear, so cute.

 27 kids playing before the sun goes down. My favorite time of day to watch them.  There is a large hole in the ground from the squirrels, and they have turned it into a play spot. Kids will play with anything.

 Black twin doelings from Henna. Both turned out polled, and oh so gorgeous.

 My little buddy. Everywhere I go in the pasture he is right at my side or jumping on my leg trying to get me it pet him. He is soooo sweet, I hope we can find him a home as a breeder. I would hate to see him go for meat.
One more picture of everyone romping.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Just Some February Randomness

1. I found some brand new paperback Elsie books by Martha Finley for sale at the library. I didn't know what they were, but they looked interesting. They had books 6-9. When I got home I called my Sister and told her about my find. It turned out she has the whole series and loves them. She just so happened to have extra's of books 1-5 in hardcover. Lucky me!

2. Our Library bookstore had all the Daphne Du Maurier books for $0.50 each. I have only listened to her book Rebecca on tape a few years back. I loved it, then got the film and was disappointed. I hate it when they ruin books trying to making them into a movie. I think I will have lot's of books to read during the hot time of day this Summer.

3 & 4. Dandelion. This is how I get greeted every time I walk out to the pasture. 

5. Merlot. His lazy self. In one of his usual lounging spots. He's 15 years old, and I have never gotten a good picture of him. If I point the camera at his face, he will close his eyes.


Just Kidding

Jetta's Daughter (we never named her) decided to surprise us with a darling little girl. We knew she was pregnant, we just didn't realize that she was due yet. When I was out doing the evening feeding, I was watching them eat their grain, when I spotted something inside one of the pallets lining the fence (make do or do without). I saw black with a white stripe down the center. It's a baby skunk! I called my Dad over to come look at it.Then I noticed something just didn't look right, and thought "I wonder if one of the goats had a baby?". My Dad had called my Mom on his cell to ask if she wanted to come look at a cute baby skunk asleep in the pallet. I scanned the backsides of the does, and sure enough Jetta's Daughter had just had a baby. I squealed "It's a baby!". I was so loud that my Mom heard me, hung up the phone, and by the time I got into the pen and pulled the little one out from behind the pallet, she was standing at the fence admiring the gorgeous markings. We were all so happy to find out it was a little girl. She was quite a nice surprise.

A few days later Joyful (finally named Joys Daughter) had a big black and white boy. So Jetta's Daughter's Daughter : ) now has someone to play with. We really need to name that goat, its getting too confusing.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Rooing Puddin

One of the great things about Shetland Sheep is that they were bred to release their wool naturally by shedding. A lot of breeders have bred out this trait, since it is faster to shear a sheep than to roo it (pluck the wool). I was so happy when I discovered that Puddin was shedding her hair.

I started out with her on this plywood, but there was a breeze wanting to blow the wool into the dirt, and a bit hard on my legs trying to get down to her level. So I moved her to the stanchion. I never locked her head in the stanchion (she's to short), instead I tied her lead to the headpiece. She stood still, and seemed to really enjoy the process. I think it must have felt good.

There are 3 types of Shetland fleece. Her type is called Kindly. It means she has a fine, single coat with no guard hairs.

Although she looks like she has bald spots in the picture, she doesn't, it's just the way the sun shone through her wool in the picture.

She was left with a short fuzzy coat, but not as short as if she had been sheared.

My hands got a very heavy bath in lanolin. Sheep shears must have really soft hands.

The result was 2 cartloads of her beautiful fleece for me to play with (I think it weighed about 2 1/2 pounds), and a much more comfortable Puddin.

To find out more about Shetland Sheep go to the North American Shetland Sheepbreeders Association website.


Sunday, January 18, 2015


That's not exactly what I had planned for a header, but after struggling with this stuff all evening its going to stay till I can fix it. Why does everything that looks so easy turn out to be so frustrating?

From Goat To Yarn

This is Bogart. He will be 12 in March. He's basically ancient, sterile, and I'm really surprised he's still around. He was the first buck I ever owned, and I was quite scared of him when I bought him. He was 2 1/2 years old, smaller, and his horns were half the length they are now The lady I bought him from assured me that he was not aggressive, and that Angora bucks are not aggressive in general, but I just couldn't get all those stories about nasty bucks out of my head. So I was very careful, and he was extremely skittish, so he actually wouldn't let me get near him. Then one morning I found him with his leg caught in a old piece of electric fencing. It had formed a slip knot on the end, and I thought how in the world am I going to free him without getting rammed or him getting hurt trying to get away. So a slowly approached him and squatted down by him prepared to bolt if he swung his horns at me. He looked at me with this sad look in his eyes "Please help me, my leg has gone numb."  He just stood there watching me as I loosened the wire, and slipped it off his leg. He had no injuries, just a numb lower leg. When he was free he started to limpingly trot away towards his does. He got about 15 feet away, and then he stopped, turned around, and looked back at me like he was saying "thank you". Then he turned back and joined up with the does. That was when I lost my fear of him.  

Over the years he has mellowed out and is no longer skittish. Anyone can walk right up and pet him. We have never had to worry about children playing in the pasture with him. And boy is he a sucker for fig leaves and oranges, but you have to cut the oranges up for him now. He can no longer bit into them
because he only has 1 whole and 2 half teeth left in the front. Goats and all ruminant animals only have teeth on the bottom in the front of their mouth. They have plenty in the back for chewing their cud, but they only have the set in the front for biting off grass, and scraping bark off tree's. That's why I think its funny how people are always worried they are going to get bit. They can't do any damage if they bite against their gums. 

In all the years I have had Bogart I never used his fiber. He was usually the last animal to get sheared, so he had either gotten matted, or in the Fall he was stinky. Normally I put my goat in a stanchion to shear, but because of his large horns he needs to be laid on the ground to shear with my Mom helping me hold him. This results in his hair being filled with lots of junk, because of where we had to shear him at (wherever we can find shade). One thing you do not want to do is take a goat down in the field with all their pasture mates, because they will all want to take a swing at the down animal while you are working on them. That's just animal behavior. So I usually just tossed his fiber, because I had lots from my does. This last year when we sheared him I was surprised at just how soft his fiber still was, and saved all I could from his sides (the prime), that wasn't full of junk. I finally got around to spinning it, and am extremely happy with how it turned out.
It has soooooo much sheen. I love it. 

I have been reading about dying fiber naturally. This was always something that interested me, but I didn't have the mordants required. Recently I found a new book I love called Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes by Rebecca Burgess. Some of the fiber was dyed without a mordant. I got to wondering what color our redwood trees would produce, so decided to give it a try. I clipped a bunch of branches with there redwood cones attached and cooked them in a pot of water for 24 hours on the wood stove. Strained it, then added some white alpaca, and white wool. Simmered for several hours and drained, cooled to warm, and washed. It's sort of looked a purplish brown, but when I spun the alpaca it looked more brown. I will save the wool for needle felting.

This is the dyes gone wild Romney fiber I found in my stash all spun up. I am really happy with how it turned out.

I knitted this alpaca scarf as a thank you for our neighbor that lets us keep our goats, and Snooki the cow on their property. Its the first real knitted item I have made. I crocheted a wool hat for the Husband.

It took me a week to make. It had some mistakes, but it was a learning experience.

AND this is a slouchy hat that I made for my Niece Jolie. I spun it from half of the grab bag I had stashed away.

Its made of wool, silk, cotton, tinsel, and some other fibers that I'm not sure of like Cashmere or Pygora or something.