Visiting Liz and Two New Sheep For Bedlam Farm

As soon as we began walking towards the fence where the sheep were they started talking.  Two Romney lambs walked up to the fence, their wooly faces looked like little stuffed animals.

We were visiting Liz’s sheep farm.

In a valley surrounded by mountains, the sheep had lots of pastures to graze.  An Osprey flew overhead landing in her nest on an electrical pole.  Liz showed us the field where she wants to plant Lavander. Her plan is to have Lavander fields where people can  walk.   It’s her dream to someday be able to farm full time.

Right now, Liz has a desk job with the town, raises and shears sheep, and is always trying to figure out how to best use the 40 acres of her farm.

Liz is our shearer.

Last year she gave us Asher and Issachar, twin wethers that she bottle-fed when their mother wouldn’t nurse them.  She didn’t have the heart to send them to market.  This year she had so many lambs she was looking to find homes for a few of her older ewes and younger wethers.

Getting another sheep was in the back of my mind when we went to visit Liz today. Zelda, Izzy and Griselle, three of my older sheep, died in the past year.

For years I’ve had ten sheep and that feels like a good number for the farm. Their wool has become popular and sells quickly.   With the twins, I have nine sheep so I liked the idea of having one more.

Also, I only have two Romneys now and I’ve found that mixing their wool with the Border Leicester and Cheviot, makes a stronger and softer yarn.

So when Liz told me about two of her older ewes that she wouldn’t be breeding anymore, I was intrigued.

Liz pointed them out to me, a white one and a gray one, both with beautiful fleeces even shorn.  She told me their names (Liz knows the names and lineage of all forty of her sheep) and their breeds, both Romney mixes, but now I can’t remember them, she told me the names of so many of her sheep.

It was hard to choose between the two and I like the idea of them having each other for company until they get used to my sheep.  So I decided to take them both.  Sometimes between now and the Fall, I’ll have two new sheep on the farm.  And a new mix of wool for next year.

Jon made quick friends with Liz’s two Border collies.  While Liz and I talked sheep, he threw a frisbee for the dogs.  I saw Jon’s face light up when he saw them.  I could see the connection between them in the gleam in their eyes.

Liz gave us a bunch of Lavander when we left.  I felt like it was a sign of things to come.  It’s exciting to see someone like Liz try to realize her dreams.  Liz is smart and determined and has as much energy as her Border Collies, I have no doubt she’ll get there.

Liz has four handsome Rams (above is three of them) that she uses for breeding. I haven’t seen a lot of rams and was intrigued by the wrinkles on their noses.

 

At The Vermont Fiber Mill

Deb and Jon and my wool, at the Vermont Fiber Mill

Jon and I dropped the bags of wool on the porch and Deb arranged some chairs for us to sit on.  She handed me her book of dye colors.  We all wore masks.

I told Deb about my two new sheep and she pulled a strand of Asher’s wool out of the bag.  She ran the wool between two fingers.  “Nice, she said, “we’ll have to run this through the wash a few times, it’s very greasy.” (That means it has a lot of lanolin in it)  Then she told me it was long enough to make into roving.

I chose the colors while we all told stories about our lives during the pandemic.  The last time we saw each other it was something that was about to happen and we had no idea what to expect.

I combined all my gray wool together and will have it dyed teal, red, and orange.  I also combined all the white wool together and am leaving a third of it natural then dying the rest coral and green.  Issachar and Asher’s wool I kept natural.  I’m curious to see their true color and know what the wool feels like.

We talked with Deb longer than usual.  Even though it was the same amount of time since we last saw each other so much had changed since then.  But not thankfully not enough that we still were able to have our sheep shorn and their wool processed as always.

Dropping Off Wool

In a little while I’ll load up the 9 bags of wool into the car and Jon and I will drive to Brandon Vermont to the Vermont Fiber Mill.

Our trip will be different this time.  We won’t stop at the Wooden Soldier diner for breakfast, we’re not even sure if they’re open.   I’ll meet Deb outside the mill on her porch to go over the colors I’ve chosen to dye my wool.  I’m using most of the same colors as last Fall’s batch to keep things simple.

After dropping off the wool we’ll visit Liz Willis, our shearer, at her farm.  I’m hoping to see Asher and Issachar’s mother who gave birth again this past spring.

 

Skirting Wool In The Company Of Dogs

Bud and Fate in my studio

As soon as I laid the blanket out on my studio floor and started skirting my wool, Bud came running in from outside.

Maybe it was the smell of the wool that pulled him away from his post in front of the big maple obsessively watching for the chipmunk to appear.  Whatever it was, he didn’t stay long, and soon he was at his alternative post at the gate outside my door.

After skirting Kim’s wool I found it was cool enough to move outside.  So I hung my speaker from the doorknob and Krishna Das sang while I chanted along and shook and pulled debris from the wool.

At some point, Jon let Zinnia out and the three dogs surrounded me, Bud at his post by the gate, Fate laying next to me on the blanket chewing on the stray piece of wool and Zinnia dozing between the two.

Most of the wool was clean but Asher and Issachar’s wool is thick and sticky with lanolin.  It’s the first time I’ve had them shorn and it was impossible to get all the tiny pieces of hay and dirt out of it.

I was seriously thinking of getting coats for them.  I’ll have to see if Deb at the Vermont Fiber Mill thinks the wool is clean enough.

Asher’s wool was a lot shorter than Issachars.  I think I’m going to make his wool into roving (it’s easier to do with short wool) and maybe I’ll keep half of Issachar’s plain and do a barber pole twist with white for the other half.

We’ll be dropping the wool off on Sunday.

We’ll meet Deb on the porch at the Mill (we won’t be going inside) and we’ll wear masks.  Because we want to keep our visit as short as possible I’ll use some of the same colors as I did in the fall to dye the white and gray wool.

I haven’t made those final decisions yet, but will have it all figured out by Sunday.

After going to the Mill we’re going to visit our shearer Liz Willis who lives close by.  For the past couple of years we’ve talked about visiting her farm and are finally doing it.

Liz has over 40 sheep and lambs and I’m looking forward to seeing them and maybe meeting Asher and Issachar’s mom too.

Skirting my wool outside my studio in good company

 

Solar… Sheep

The sheep are always a little confused after being shorn.   Socks and Biddy kept bumping heads, getting to know each other again.  But once I let them out into the pasture to graze they all settled down.

And as you can see in this picture, they didn’t seem bother by the new solar panels at all.  Liam was even eating under it, no doubt enjoying the shade it gave.

Shearing Time

Pumpkin

Pumpkin leaned into Liz as she sheared him.  He’s a big wether (neutered male sheep) but didn’t give her a moment’s trouble.

Biddy

Biddy who is much smaller than Pumpkin was easy too.  Once the sheep are turned on their back they go dormant.  But sometimes it’s not so easy to get them on their backs.

Rosemary

Rosemary gave Liz the most trouble.  Liz is very good at catching the sheep and getting them to the shearing board, but Rosemary didn’t want to go.  Even once Liz had her on her back she protested by baaing.  I’ve never seen any of my sheep do that before.  Eventually, she gave in.

Suzy’s hoof

Liz trims all the sheep’s hooves and checked Suzy’s to make sure it wasn’t the reason she was limping.  She couldn’t find anything wrong with her hoof, so I’m sure it’s as I assumed that Suzy twisted her foot while running.  It will heal by itself.

Kim with Fate paying close attention to Liz.

Liz also checks the sheep’s teeth and eyes.  She said that Socks’ teeth are showing signs of wear but she otherwise looked healthy.  She said that Kim, who is about 8 years old looked great.

Shearing Asher and Issachar

Liz shearing Issachar

When Issachar and Asher first came to the farm last fall they had just been shorn and their wool was black (Issachar’s wool a bit darker than Ashers).    Over the past six months the sun bleached the exposed wool and it turned brown.

When Liz sheared both sheep today you could see the true color of their wool the closer it was to bodies.

Liz and Asher Meet Again

Asher and Liz

Liz laid down the worn piece of plywood, got out her clippers and hoof cutters then put on her shearing shoes.  As she did Asher came over to her to say hello.  He was a little shy at first but soon had his head in Liz’s hand.

It was Liz who bottle-fed both Asher and his twin brother Issachar.  And it was last fall that she gave the two brothers to me.  Like most farmers she only keeps the female lambs, the males go to market.  But she got attached to the twin and couldn’t bear to send them off.

When she offered them to me I only hesitated a little before taking them.  Since then three of my older sheep have died, so I’m especially glad to have the boys as part of my flock.

I have no doubt that both Asher and Issachar recognized Liz.

Full Moon Fiber Art