Liam, a Border Leicester/ Cheviot, is so big it makes me wonder how big he’d be if he were a ram instead of a whether.
He was the only lamb that had no trouble being born. We came home one day and Suzy was standing by the pole barn a little white lamb next to her.
He was full of himself from the beginning and Suzy watched over him like an Italian mother dotes on her only son. Liam’s ribs were broken by our donkey Simon who didn’t know what to make of him. For a few weeks, he walked around the farm with a bandage around his middle until he healed. Which he did quickly.
Although his father, a cheviot, was a gentle ram, I always had the feeling that if we didn’t castrate Liam he would have turned aggressive.
Now Liam is almost as big as the donkeys. He and his mother Suzy are still close, often sitting together. And he’s mostly gentle, even though he gave Red a hard time towards the end of Red’s life.
Without Red, it’s hard to get Liam to move when he’s laying down. He ignores Fate and is indifferent to Bud too.
Liam’s has a lot of wool and I usually mix it with the wool of the other white sheep. So it’s a mix of Border Leister, Cheviot, Karakul, and Romney. The last few shearings, I dyed all the white wool a couple of different colors.
Biddy is one of the sheep that we got from a neighbor, Donna, who rescued her and four other Romneys from a woman who couldn’t care for them anymore.
When Donna first told us about the sheep and their beautiful wool, we decided to take one of them. That was Izzy, (The Lone Sheep). But Izzy was such a good sheep, and I liked the idea of having some Romney wool (which is know to be lustrous and easy to spin) to sell, so we got the three other ewes that Donna had.
Donna also rescued a ram, but she didn’t want to give him away anymore than we wanted a ram on the farm.
Biddy was the friendliest of the Romneys and she’s distinctive because of the white markings on her nose. Her wool is a soft brownish/gray and I’ve mixed it with Suzy’s wool (Suzy is a Border Leicester) in the past.
The donkeys and sheep got used to each other quickly when we first got them. The Romney’s had been around horses and Fanny and Lulu have been around sheep since Jon got them about 15 years ago.
The only times the donkeys will sometimes get annoyed with the sheep is when food is involved. And then the donkeys just lower their heads or give the sheep a little nudge and the sheep get out of their way.
In the picture above the animals were all settling into the pole barn for the morning.
It’s that time of year when the sheep come in from grazing with all kinds of thing stuck in their wool. I try to keep Burdock from growing because its flowers are round balls, that stick like velcro. They are impossible to get out of the sheep’s wool.
Most of the plants the sheep pick up are easy to pull out, or will be gone by shearing time in October. But by the end of August I’ll close off the back pasture to make sure the wool stays as clean as possible.
I just paid off the down payment on the spring wool I’ll be getting back as yarn in the fall. But now I’m already beginning to think about the Fall shearing.
That seems to be the way of the farm. Always thinking ahead to the next season.
Socks is one of the first sheep I got. She came to the farm with Suzy and Tess (who died a few years ago). She’s a Border Leicester and twice a year she grows a good amount of dark gray wool. I usually mix her wool with the wool from my Romney, Izzy (The lone sheep).
When we bred the sheep five years ago, Socks gave birth to a boy who I named Pumpkin. Pumpkins father was a Cheviot (the same breed as my sheep Zelda) and because he was a white sheep, Pumpkin’s wool is a soft gray, lighter than Socks’. I mix his wool with my Romney, Biddy’s wool, which is also a light gray.
Pumpkin is a shy whether (a neutered ram) and he makes a very soft “baa” that makes it is easy to distinguish from the other sheep.
Deb was in the back room working the big machines that make wool into yarn when Jon and I got to the Vermont Fiber Mill yesterday morning. We went though the sample book of colors to dye the yarn, which is fun, but can be overwhelming too.
This was the first time in the five or so years I’ve been selling yarn that I had a good idea of what I wanted to do with my ten bags of wool.
I left Zelda’s and Suzy’s wool natural because I had a couple of people specifically ask for it.
I blended Kim’s white wool with Biddy’s gray wool. They’ll be twisted together to make a barber pole yarn. It’s the first time I’ve ever done that and it’s a more expensive to do, but I think it will be pretty special.
I blended the rest of the wool mixing Romney and Border Leicester or Romney and Cheviot for each batch.
I’m dying the rest of the white wool, from Liam and Rosemary, sage and a dusty pink.
I’m dying Socks and Izzy’s wool the same rich red and blue I did last time because I had people request those colors again too.
I’m keeping half of Pumpkin and Griselle’s wool natural gray and the rest I’m dying purple, which works really beautifully with the blue and red.
I should have the wool back as yarn in late September or early October. There was a lot of wool this year, so I’ll have a lot of yarn to sell.
I just made reservation at an Inn in Brandon Vermont. This year when we drop off the wool at Vermont Fiber Mill, in a couple of weeks, we’ll be making the trip a part of our ninth anniversary celebration.
We’ll stay overnight and have dinner at the French restaurant in town, where we usually have lunch.
I still have to make decisions about the wool. How much to dye and how much to leave natural. But I’ll figure out the colors when I get to the mill and look through the dye book that Deb has. There are so many colors to choose from, it’s always a little overwhelming, I so far, they’ve always turned out great, so I’m not as worried about it as I used to be.
The grain is working. Zelda and Griselle are fattening up.
They were so skinny just weeks ago. They’re both old and so not able to chew the hay as well (Zelda has only a couple of teeth left). They both lost a lot of weight over the winter. We couldn’t see how skinny they were till they were shorn.
Liz Willis, our shearer suggested giving them grain and seeing if that would help. And it has.
At first it was hard to separate Zelda and Griselle from the rest of the flock, but now they walk right into the barn when they see us in the afternoon.
The other sheep don’t follow them. We close the barn gates and let the two old sheep feast.
Griselle also stopped limping just a few days after Liz trimmed her hooves and cut out an infection.
You can see Fanny waiting outside the gate in the background. She was just a little annoyed that she wasn’t getting any grain.
After the sheep are shorn they sometimes don’t recognize each other. Biddy and Socks started bumping heads yesterday then Biddy started chasing Socks around the barn.
We usually keep all the sheep in the barn until they are all shorn. They prefer to be together and if we let them out one by one after they were shorn, we risk letting some of the sheep out who still need to be shorn.
But there were only two more sheep to shear when they started chasing each other around so we let all the sheep who had been shorn out of the barn. After that, it only took Biddy and Socks a few minutes to figure out that they knew each other.
The sheep often find themselves in strange positions when getting shorn. Sometimes they just look like a lump of wool.
When sheep are sat up or laid on their backs, they go limp. Most of ours stay that way till the shear is done and lets them up. Rosemary, Izzy, Pumpkin or Liam will sometimes give the shearer trouble, trying to get back on their feet again. But Biddy and Sock didn’t give Liz and Ian any trouble.
When the sheep are being shorn the other sheep mostly stay in one corner. Red holds them there. Fate hangs around, Jon takes pictures. I take pictures too and gather the wool in separate plastic bags, writing each sheep’s name on each bag.
Next Jon and I will skirt the wool, which means picking all the large pieces of organic debris from the fleece (like hay and sticks). Then I’ll figure out what I’ll do with the wool. Which fleeces I’ll mix, which I’ll dye and which I’ll keep natural.
After that Jon and I will drive to Brandon Vermont and drop to wool off at The Vermont Fiber Mill to be processed. I’ll get the wool back sometime in the fall and sell it in my Etsy Shop then.