Bringing Issachar and Asher, our two new sheep to the farm on Sunday felt like a renewal worthy of the springtime. Yet here it is fall and somehow just as fitting.
One of the concerns that Jon had about getting the new sheep was where he is in his life now. He worried about him getting older and even dying and leaving me with too many animals.
But this autumn renewal is also about Jon writing a new book. Feeling fulfilled and satisfied with the work he is doing on his blog, with the elderly at The Mansion and with the young people at Bishop Maginn High School, Jon was ready to let go of book writing.
But yesterday, after the new sheep came, he sent off a book proposal to his agent.
Like shearing the sheep, we’ve let go of some of the old to open ourselves up to something new. And with the new sheep and the possibility of Jon’s new book, we also found a new friend this weekend in our shearer Liz Willis.
It will be a while before I can easily tell our new sheep Asher and Issachar apart. But one does have darker wool and a white streak on his nose.
When we opened the gate and let the sheep out of the pole barn after shearing, Asher and Issachar seemed like they had always been on the farm.
Asher and Issachar are a mix of Cormo/Romney and Blue Face Leicester. They’re smaller than the Romneys we have. They’re only two years old so they’ll probably fill out a little more, but right now they have long legs that make them almost more like deer than sheep.
See them join the flock (with my newly shorn sheep) for the first time in the video below…
When Liz is done shearing the sheep she trims their hooves checking them to make sure they’re in good condition. Liam and Izzy both had small cracks in their hooves. Liz trimmed them to keep them from getting infected.
Liam was limping a few weeks ago but only for a short time. Now whatever problem he was having is sure to heal for good.
Liz also checks the sheep’s teeth and eyes. She found two ticks on Sock which she pulled of and I squashed under my boot.
You can watch Liz do all of this in the video below.
The way a good dancer makes it look like what she is doing is easy, Liz does the same when shearing sheep.
Sheep go still when turned on their backs, but even before Liz gets them into position for shearing, they are calm around her. Unless they’re trained (and our sheep aren’t) it’s not easy to get a sheep to go where you want it to. But as you can see in the video below, Liz gently leads Griselle to the board and seemingly effortlessly turns her on her back for shearing.
Liz makes it look easy, but it isn’t. I’ve seen many shearers struggle to catch the sheep and turn them on their backs.
Liz learned how to shear sheep when she was 8 years old from our shearer, Jim McCrea. Now she’s taken over his business. And soon she’ll be shearing and farming full time. She has plans to expand her wool business online and also grow lavender and other crops to sell.
Jon and I plan on visiting Liz at her farm when we bring the wool to the mill in Vermont.
Liz, our shearer showed up at 8:30 this morning with her mom Barb. In the back of her truck were our two new sheep. Liz told us their story.
Towards the end of their mother’s pregnancy, she laid down and wouldn’t get up again. Liz called her vet who told her she had two choices. She could shoot the ewe or do a cesarean. Liz said she couldn’t shoot a pregnant sheep so she watched as the Vet pulled one boy lamb after another out of the small incision. There were triplets. Liz, her mother and aunt bottle fed all three. One of them died and the three women became attached to the sheep.
But this year, because of some unexpected pregnancies, Liz found herself with 36 sheep. Usually, she sends her male lambs to slaughter, but she couldn’t bring herself to send the twins away. That’s when she thought to asked me if I wanted them.
Because they were bottle-fed, the twins are very friendly toward people. They came right up to me once the jumped out of the truck.
My sheep were all in the pole barn waiting to be shorn and the twins went right to the gate, seeming to want to be around the other sheep. Halfway through the shearing, they started to wander around and at one point they noticed the donkeys.
They did some sniffing, and followed each other around a bit then seemed to lose interest in each other.
We’re naming the sheep Asher and Issachar after the twin refugee boy from Afganastan that Jon and I got to know over the summer, who go to Bishop Maginn School. Like the boys, the sheep are gentle and kind.
I just ordered a new sticker, this one has my sheep Rosemary on it. I can’t resist the special sticker deals that StickerMule (a company based not far from me in Amsterdam NY) has and how quick and easy it is to make and get them.
I already have stickers with my Flying Vulva and one of my Goddess’ on them. I like to put these on some of the packages that I mail out. Since I’m getting two new sheep on Sunday, I thought this photo of Rosemary on a sticker was timely.
Rosemary will be the perfect ambassador to put on next springs wool packages.
“Jon’s biggest worry is that he’ll die and leave me with a bunch of animals to take care of”, I told Suzy. “Mine is that I’ll have too much wool.”
Suzy and I have only talked on the phone a few times. Mostly we text each other. But I needed someone to talk to who knows about wool so after she texted me a video of the mohair fleece from one of her goats this afternoon we got on the phone.
Suzy (who my sheep Suzy is named after) is a spinner and a knitter. She’s sold many shawls, hats and fingerless mittens at the Bedlam Farm Open houses, some of them made with my wool.
We talked for a while about the different ways to process and sell wool.
A couple of weeks ago I met a felter at the Adirondack Fiber Festival who was interested in Rosemary’s fleece. This is the easiest way and least expensive way to sell wool. It’s how Liz our shearer sells most of her wool.
The other way, of course, is just what I’ve been doing. Making my wool into yarn. My yarn sold really quickly this year. I only have three skeins still available in my Etsy Shop. The dyed wool sells best but it’s also more expensive to process.
Then there’s roving. (see the photo above)
Roving is used by spinners and felters. It’s the wool cleaned and strung into long ropes that can then be hand-spun into yarn or made into anything from a scarf to a sculpture by felters. It’s less expensive than yarn to process, but the last time I had roving made it didn’t sell well.
Suzy sent me the photo above of a friend’s roving that she just bought, dyed in three different colors, periwinkle, purple and chartreuse. When I saw it I thought that if I had people on my blog who were spinners or felters, I’d have no problem selling dyed roving.
I know I have people on my blog who want my wool, but I don’t know how many spinners and felters are out there. That’s when Suzy told me to ask my blog.
And of course she’s right.
So I’m asking.
Liz is coming on Sunday to shear our sheep. So if anyone out there is interested in a whole fleece email me here at [email protected] with any me questions or thoughts. I have Romneys, Border Leicester, Border Leicester/Cheviot and Karakul sheep. I still don’t know how to price it yet, but there’s time to figure that all out.
And if there are any spinners or felters who would be interested in dyed roving, you can also email me here. I haven’t chosen any colors yet, but will also begin figuring that out.
“Now I’m rethinking the fiber I was working on this afternoon all because of our conversation” Suzy texted me later in the day.
Our conversation got us both thinking creatively. And it all started with Liz offering me two new sheep.