I’ve become super excited about this coming season’s shearing! This week I was out changing up coats on the flock to keep ahead of growing wool and got to see and feel their fleeces – up close and personal. They so impressed me that I’ve decided to enter a number in the fleece competition at Shepherds’ Harvest fiber festival this May. If all goes as planned, here is the line-up:
Olivia Purebred Medium Babydoll Southdown
Adrien Purebred Medium Babydoll Southdown
Becka Colored Medium? Babydoll Southdown X Finnsheep
Bro White Medium? Babydoll Southdown X Finnsheep
Below are a few close-up images of the wool beneath the coats. Nina’s fleece is always longer than most, but she was only coated since November, so Olivia’s, who also trends longer, will be entered. She’s been coated since last shearing. The Finnsheep crosses may be fine enough that the judges will move them to the fine category. There they would be up against Merinos who have very fine textured wool. Since cleanliness is highly weighted, I’m thinking they should do fine anyway. I am planning – time permitting – to post pictures/ weights of fleeces and offer for sale on this website. The fleeces exhibited at Shepherds Harvest will be auctioned off there (unless I get an “offer I cannot refuse” 😉 ). I am also planning a shearing day open house (March 18th) where newly shorn fleeces can be purchased. My coat provider, Rocky, was telling me that it’s been a good wool growing year with some flocks growing into sizes of coats they’ve never had to use before. Click on each image for a close up look at their crimp!
It’s not ALL work with the farm. I had a mini-vacation earlier this month to play with fleece. I had long wanted to learn needle felting from Stacy Dreckhan of Beelighted fiber shop and Artify consignment art store in Zumbrota. The opportunity presented itself and I made the voyage for a private lesson, no less! It was great fun and I was quite satisfied with the resulting gnome. The sheep is, I believe, a product of Nancy Ellison’s daughter, but is something I am interested in emulating.
The woolly ones are often foremost on my mind as lambing time nears. I’ve been doing some updates to their accommodations to keep them comfortable and healthy.
The feed bunkers improve things in 3 ways – greater space (shoulder room) to feed grain, hay not eaten off of ground (less loss of fines and fewer parasites ingested), and, (when 4″ x 4″ fence grid in place), less neck wool contamination. Although this is mainly for the new mothers come late March – here the wethers are vying for some choice bits. Bashful hangs out in the background.
Second feed bunker modified to prevent through passage in first use.
This shows the reroofing of a shed that was partially deconstructed a while back. The white metal was saved from remodel of my house. At least a part of the non-pregnant sheep will have shelter here for the next couple of months – depending on how well the rams get along. …Or bratty Moonshadow vs. little Bucko.
As the ewes grow in girth – mostly from wool at this point – I’m envisioning their little lambs bouncing around the pens come late March. This year all their names will begin with a “C” and I’m curious to know if readers of this post might have some additional options to present. I’m needing a surplus for each gender since, from past experience, I know the sex ratio can vary considerably. In 2014, for instance, I had 7 ewes out of 9 lambs! (This was great for my flock growth, I might add.) I’ve listed the names I’ve come up with so far in the list below. Some are barrowed from humans, some from plant names (surprise, surprise) and some are whimsical/nonsensical, but just sound fun. I name the lambs in alphabetical order (mostly) and try to pair twins with the same starting letters. (I need memory aids at this point to remember who is who.) I’m expecting up to 20 lambs: 16 Babydoll and 4 3/4 Babydoll x 1/4 Finnsheep.
It seems there’s been more than the usual census of wildlife showing up on the farm this summer. In addition to the doe and her twins that frequent the lower pasture, previously an alfalfa field, there have been quite a few of what might be called fur bearing animals. Here are a few I caught both literally and figuratively.
Michael Goulet and an assistant made a bit of a splash at the Benton County Fair this week showing Bella and Bliss in the March Lamb division. This is the first time Babydolls had been exhibited at in that county’s fair. Bella landed a second place award and Bliss came in right behind her in third place. Congratulations to Michael for his showmanship and thanks to his mom, Connie, for the image!
Michael with Bliss and assistant with Bella in the show ring.
As the season shifts into summer, I still need to do some tweaking of the fiber flock’s composition – selling some to enable the purchase of additonal blood lines. I have 3 ewe lambs from this year, one yearling ewe, and my ram from the previous 2 seasons for sale. They are all registered and all with RR genes for the Scrapies susceptibility gene site. Ewes sell for $400 and ram for $300. Slight discount for multiple animal purchases.
Babette (rear left), Bashfull (not!) (front) and a glimpse of Hattie’s rump (right rear).
Babette and Bashful are twins born 3/19/16.
Babette – sale pending 7/12/16, Bashful will be kept at Prairie Plum Farm.
Bonita with her mom, Olivia.
Bonita was born a twin on 4/3/16. Super cute with distinctive buff-colored stockings. Sale pending 7/12/16.
Abigail has a clear face and smallish head.
Abigail was born a twin on 3/24/15. She gave birth to a single this spring. Sale pending 7/12/16.
Winslow shortly after shearing this spring.
Winslow bred 1/3 of my ewes last year and 2/3 this year and has produced some very nice offspring. He’s 23″ at the shoulder and is not aggressive.
Interested parties should contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (715) 220-1183 – also read the page on reserving a lamb/adult sheep. I’d love to help you start a flock or enrich one you already have! Babydolls are the BEST!
The traditional frost free date for this area is still a couple weeks away, but garden installation has already begun. The kohl crops are shown here protected from cabbage loopers by a row cover. Part of the process is improving the fertility and soil structure of the site. Organic dairy compost (Cowsmos) and some aged sheep manure haved been added to the beds. In the back is a tarp intended to keep weeds to a minimum. It provides heat to make them germinate, now if it will just stay in place so they will be killed by even higher temperatures under the black surface.
I’m looking forward to this Saturday’s Spin-In in Decorah, IA. The Oneota Weavers are hosting the Iowa Federation of Weavers and Spinners Conference at the Winneshiek Co. Fairgrounds. I’ll be vending my Babydolls’ wool as raw fleece, rovings, top, batts (quilt and craft sizes), sport yarn, and felting 4-packs. There are sessions most of the day for Federation members, but the vendor building will be open to the public from 11:30 to 1:30. Any Fiber Fiends among you are invited!
NABSSAR has amended its registration requirements to include hard copy photos of sheep to be registered showing their head and ID tags – preferably the Scrapies farm tags. Taking these gives me a chance to show you-all the cute faces of this season’s lambs.