I can almost hear the sheep baaaaaing! And we have yarn!!!
The new alpaca have been settling in wonderfully! They don’t have names yet, but I haven’t really thought about it much. I’ll have to work on that. The white female has taken over as leader of the herd. I was with them this afternoon and she was talking to the others telling them she gets grain first! I‘ll have to get her a trough away from the others so they can actually get the feed. The black male is so sweet and so soft. Hopefully a year from now we’ll have a few adorable cria to snuggle! I just wish I had his fleece from this year to work with. Lily the llama has been sulking since the new arrivals and had joined the cows for a bit laying by the pond. She’s now hanging by herself lounging in the shade. Poor Lily!
The sheep are growing their wool! It‘s already noticeably longer than when we sheared. Of course you know it’s growing! But one day you visit them and think - it’s so long already! Yay! The three babies are fast becoming favorites in the flock. Aelin is so bold and confident, will now each out of my hand and come for a scratch. Carson is becoming more assertive everyday and comes right up to see what’s going on. And Aria follows those two everywhere. Everyone is happy and healthy! We’ve had a few visitors to the farm and the sheep love the feed that they don‘t get as much of this time of year. So they obnoxiously crowed you! You would think Dora (Has a white spot on her back) was bottle baby the way she jumps up for the bucket. Koda (the ram that injured his ear earlier this year) is finally coming close again! I was his mean shepherdess that cleaned his ear twice a day which I’m sure was painful. So all is well with the animals!
The Tour de Fleece was a fun experience! I wasn’t able to spin as much and I would have liked since Chase and I both came down with strep throat (ick), but I did get a few skeins finished! I spun a few 100% alpaca, 100% Romney, and a blend of both that is my favorite! I made it through about half the batts I pre-made for the TDF, but made a few that were blends during the event. It hasn’t ended yet so I’ll try and get a bit more in before the cut off tonight! During the Tour I choose to only work with our fleece from this year. I’m so glad that I did! I learned so much about the characteristics of our wool and improvements for washing/shearing for next year.
Next shearing I‘ll be doing a MUCH better job of onsite skirting!!! In my hurry to get the wool bagged before the next sheep, I gathered third cuts, second cuts, poop!, leaves, sticks, and even a plastic water cap! And I thought I was pulling bad/unwanted things out as I bagged. It all was sorted when I got to the house to wash the fleece, but so much time would have been saved if I’d just been more careful to start with. By the end of shearing the sheep my strokes with the electric shears were much more consistent and I can tell washing and spinning those fleeces. Obviously longer staple length, less second cuts, and locks stayed nicely together for easy sorting. The locks are much easier to card or comb instead of trying to force a cloud of fiber to behave. The batts from those fiber clouds had so many nappy pieces, clumpy lock tips, vegetable matter that didn’t fall out, and just short fibers that it took the joy out of spinning a little bit having to stop and pull something out ever 5 seconds. The batts are now compacted with the perfect amount of fiber to draft easier when spinning. Spinning so much Romney the last few weeks made me love the breed even more! The fiber drafts like a dream. Blending the alpaca with the Romney makes it skin soft and so lofty! The alpaca - there’s nothing really to say about their fleece - it’s so so so soft, lofty, silky, etc etc. AMAZING! But it was an adjustment to spin. I was spinning from a batt and then from a cloud of finer and the fibers don’t pull each other along like wool does as easily. Took me a few minutes to learn the feel of the fine fiber and how to draft it to work with me. I love it! Luna’s (the original white alpaca) fleece is the only one that I worked with that last few weeks but I washed a black fleece and will blend with it soon.
The barn is almost done! We lined the metal walls with wood this weekend so the sheep can’t push it out or dent it. Plus it’ll be warmer in the winter to lean on the wood for them. We put manufactured sand as the floor base of the barn to help with drainage and will add hay on top of it. Thank you Betsy, for helping me with my 1,001 questions about your sand and setup! We put used concrete pads under the water spicket, around the building for rain run off, and under the old freezer I’ll use to put feed in. The three perimeter gates are hung and look amazing! Chase did such a great job on them. We just need to add wire to the gates to keep predators out and sheep in. I don’t even remember all the things that we’ve done In the last few weeks. We cut the grass in the paddocks, started the electrical, water running at the barn, metal roof is on and sheet metal sides, gates finished and hung and more started, sprayed the weeds along the fence line, and more....
Mason has had so much fun on the farm! Yesterday he was content putting the sand floor into his dump truck over and over while Chase and I put up the walls. Then took an empty screw container and put sand in it! Played in the water spicket to cool off and chased Ronin through the fields. It’s been cooler here the last few days making a nice break from the humid NC summer. I‘m so incredibly grateful that we have the opportunity to build this farm as a family. Grateful that Mason will grow up with the animals and learn responsibility, accountability, work ethic, empathy, love and respect from everything we are doing.
What do you give as early birthday presents to a fiber farm enthusiast? A wheel barrow, clamps to hold my drum carder in place and books on fiber!!! My grandfather even gave me a very old poster on sheep breeds and their wool. He had a flock of Cheviots years ago. Thank you everyone!!
Interesting side story - I’m reading about The Family Milk Cow. There’s two books I’m reading - The Family Milk Cow by Joann Grohman. And Devil in the Milk by Keith Woodford. My grandfather tells the story of how growing up on their farm in the 1920s (he just turned 100 last month!!) and milking their Holstein dairy cows. He and his 2 brothers always wanted a Jersey for the family, but his father told them that they would over feed and kill it! He always jokes about not being able to have that delicious cream that Holsteins don’t have much of. He would get it from a neighboring farm that had a family Jersey. We were talking one time about how my generation doesn’t know what real milk tastes like. That the milk we drink tastes nothing like the milk they had growing up. Ive been doing a lot of research on the family cow, the benefits, the commitment of milking every single day! The A1/A2 debate, the chemicals in our milk, pasteurizing milk, the farmers that have no say in the milk from their farm are all fascinating in a scary way! In our household we drink probably a gallon of milk a week and that’s only going to increase as Mason grows. I’m not saying we’re going to have a calf here tomorrow, but I’m 100% sold on the benefits of having a family cow that provides you (and family and friends) with milk, cream, yogurt, butter, buttermilk, whey, cottage cheese, and cheese. A cow that you feed, milk, sanitize, and care for as a family pet that gives so much back to you. I hope that in our farms future there is a beautiful Jersey in the pasture