Monday, April 14, 2008

BabyDoll SouthDown Sheep

Dave, our shearer, sheared our 6 sheep a week ago. This was another first for us. I have a great deal of admiration and respect for sheep shearers now. The shearer tips the sheep over backwards onto its butte onto the shearer's lap and legs, and while holding the sheep head to the side, leans over and shears. You need to visualize what a long reach this is. These sheep are only 24 inches high.
For some reason most sheep don't struggle and fight much in this position, but our two pregnant ewes, Cardigan and Jenny, protested greatly. Beth, Smitty, and I tried to help, but it was mainly Dave's job. Granddaughter Meredith was holding a flashlight because it was getting dark.
Above is the fleece from Maddy, pictured below, she looks so brown in the picture, but her fiber spun up quite black.

This is our white lamb Phoebe, in her new coat. Everyone will be wearing coats this year to keep the fiber clean. Phoebe's fiber seems to be finer than Maddy's but has more lanolin in it. I have washed up these two fleeces and listed them in my Etsy shop.
I'm very encouraged that we have some nice sheep after my friend, Cary, a long time sheep breeder, evaluated and likes our fiber. She talks about Maddy's fiber in her blog here.
Washing this stuff has been challenging. I soak the fiber in a big mesh bag that goes over the spinner in our washing machine (don't worry - I don't agitate), and then I spin it out.
Cary has a very good tutorial on her farm site if you want to learn how to wash fleece. I'm learning that the vinegar rinse is quite crucial to removing the grease.
I'm anxious to try blending our sheep with our alpaca. Cary suggested using close to the same staple length when combining. After I play with it a while and after we shear alpacas in May, I will probably send some combinations off to the mill. I have already sold two of the fleeces (from the naughty girls mentioned above) so have 2 whites and 2 blacks to experiment with.
Ain't Life Grand!
Marie asked in the comments if we coated the alpacas. No, Marie, we really don't need to. Because the fiber is dry (no lanolin) it doesn't seem to attract the VM like the sheep. Many breeders blow out the fiber with vacuums before they shear, but we just hand pick the big stuff out. We don't get much trash in their coats probably because our indoor pens are lined with rubber mats instead of straw. They don't need bedding to stay warm because of all that lovely fiber. Another thing is that unlike sheep who poop and pee anywhere, alpacas are very clean and have a communal poop site. It's very easy for me to sweep their pens daily.