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.
Our Shearer Liz Willis brought some help with her today.
Ian is the grandson of Jim McRae, who used to be our shearer. When she was 8 years old Jim taught Liz to shear sheep. That was when she began her own flock of sheep too. Now Liz has taken over for Jim after he retired and Ian is helping Liz.
Liz not only shears the sheep, but she clips and checks their hooves and the teeth of the older sheep. Griselle has been limping for a few days and Liz found a but of an infection in one of her hooves. She trimmed the hoof back and we sprayed it with peroxide. She said Griselle would limp for a few days but would heal.
Zelda and Griselle are both too skinny. They are both old, Zelda at least nine or ten. Griselle still has all her teeth, but Zelda only has a couple of front teeth left. That means she had a hard time eating hay and grass.
We’ll feed them both grain. Griselle should gain some weight back, but it will be harder for Zelda without her teeth. I’m thinking that after this summer it will be best to put Zelda down before the winter comes. I certainly don’t want her starving to death or suffering unnecessarily.
Both Jon and Liz agreed that it would be best for her. I’ll see what feels right when the winter comes.
All the other sheep are healthy and have grown some beautiful wool.
I’ll post more pictures and video later today and tomorrow.
It seems like she was just here, but it was six months ago. I love to watch Liz work because she does such a good job and the sheep are so calm around her. This time all the sheep are getting shorn. I’ll dye some of it and leave some natural.
I’ll get the wool back from the Vermont Fiber Mill in the fall, around the time to have the sheep shorn again.
We finally figured out that when we want to get in touch with our new shearer, Liz Willis, we have to email her, not call her.
The mailbox on her phone is always full, but she returns an email within the day.
So Liz will be coming to shear the sheep sometime in April. She’ll get in touch with some of her other customers in our area and visit a few different farms in one day. I doesn’t make sense for her to make a trip to just our farm to shear ten sheep.
It’s earlier than we usually have them shorn, but the sheep are ready.
I didn’t shear Zelda, Socks, Griselle and Biddy in the fall, because they were shorn in late June so their wool wasn’t long enough in October. But now they have a full coat. And Suzy, Rosemary, Liam, Kim, Izzy and Pumpkin’s wool grows so fast and thick, theirs will be ready in another month.
Once again, I’ll keep some of the wool natural and dye some. I’m also thinking of combining some of the white wool with one of the darker colors to make a barber pole yarn (looks just like what it sounds like).
I’m on a schedule with the Vermont Fiber Mill, so even though I’ll have the sheep shorn early, it won’t be processed until July.
That means the next batch of Bedlam Farm wool will be available sometime in the fall. I know that’s two whole seasons away and I don’t want to be thinking about the fall when it just turned spring, but that’s the nature of the farm.
When we first got Kim about five years ago, we noticed how much she looks like the puppet Lambchop. Although she has been known to stomp her foot at the Fate and Bud, to try and chase them away, she has a really sweet face
She’s a Karakul, an Asian sheep who stores water in her tail. Most farmers dock the tails of lambs a few days after they’re born. It’s done for health reasons, because the sheeps tails can collect feces.
We bought Kim from the farmer, Daryl, who gave me my first sheep, Tess, Socks, Suzy and Zelda.
Daryl’s daughter raises Karakuls. They’re pretty unusual where we live. Their wool is especially good for rug making and felting. I usually mix Kim’s wool with the wool of my other white sheep when I have it processed into yarn.