Sunday, August 26, 2007
My conscience says - What did you do all day???
My defense says - see these four (five now) beautiful blogs? See those neat photos? The comments to comments? Don't forget to see the updated webpages and Shetland sales listings. See the laundry? See Bits yarn sample? See the Finn and Shetland paperwork ready to go in? Hah! - take that conscience!
This time of year I usually have a bunch of skeins and projects ready to enter in the Puyallup Fair Home Arts competition. I really enjoy seeing what other people enter, and have fun seeing the comments on my entries. This year, though, I entered nothing! Zip, nada, zero. Not that I didn't complete anything, or start a bunch of things. A really neat pair of socks went to Mom, several skeins of yarn went into socks for a couple raffles, and some things are still UFO's. Here are a few of the "started" objects. I'm not quite ready to call them UFO's.
First is some luscious Icelandic wool. This is from a lamb named "Cream" that we bought several years ago. Cream is long gone - she was a total flake! - and her fleece has been waiting patiently for me to finish it. This is a fleece that I did all the processing on - shearing, skirting, scouring, carding, and now on to spinning. I did several samples before deciding to blend in some streaks of red and black mohair, then spin a Lopi style yarn for? mittens? a hat? hat and mittens? maybe a vest? several hats? I'm spinning it on my first spinning wheel, an Ashford Traveler. I added a Wooley Winder to the Traveler and love it! The photo below shows part of a batt, part of a spun bobbin, and my sample. If you look closely, you can see the sample is a two ply - one ply with the mohair and one ply of straight Cream. I could still decide to do a 2 ply. :-)
On the Majacraft Saxony - my newest wheel - is white Finn wool. This is from top that I bought from the Copper Moose. Oh my! It is lovely stuff. I bought it before we sheared any of our Finns and just love the fiber. This is wonderfully prepared and spins so easily. It's going to be sport weight and I'm not sure what it'll be after it's spun. Maybe a touchy-feelie skein for our fair display before it gets knitted or woven into something.
This is the most exciting "project". I spin little samples of the fleeces before trying to decide what to do with them, and to evaluate new fleeces. This photo shows three yarns from our sheep. On top is the first bit I've spun from our Gotland cross sheep. It is from "Bits", the white ewe lamb. I coated her at weaning, so her first fleece is marvelously clean. I took some skirtings (yes, coated fleeces have skirtings - the coats don't cover everything, and sometimes there are some cotted places at the edges of the coat). This yarn has unbelievable luster! Just look at the shine. For a so very soft yarn, the luster is wonderful. The next one is from Lindy - a white BlueFaced Leicester and Border Leicester cross 4 year old ewe. This fleece was coated, and this sample is from the skirtings. Lindy, too, has a very lustrous fleece, but notice that Bits has more shine! Lindy's fleece is not soft. It has great handle, but it isn't soft. Someday I'll have it micron tested, but for now, I guess it's around 33 micron average.
The lower part of the knitted sample is from fawn katmoget Shetland, Val's fleece - again taken from skirtings. These were in her neck and had a lot of VM. I washed then combed the locks, spun them on my Cascade spindle and knitted it into this sample. Compared to Lindy, it is much drapier, softer and fuzzier. It will be very nice knitted up into "something". This is the fleece that won Reserve to Spot's Best in Show at Skagit County Fair.
Last but not least, the sock yarn is still sitting on my computer table. Top is the silk/merino, left is wool/nylon and the third is BFL. The sock dyeing project is still on my "list". I have ideas - some I need to know how much yardage my size 9 narrow foot needs, some I can do with a general idea of yardage. I hear next week will have some hot days - perfect for drying dyed yarns. :-)
The first steps are getting water, getting electricity, putting in a drain system, a driveway, and concrete slab for the RV, not necessarily in that order. Last week I met with a well drilling company. Ouch! Wells are expensive. I suspect that the rest will be expensive, too. Welp, in for a dime, in for a dollar, right? Multiply that many thousands of times.
Here's a photo of ERN looking NNW:
The buildings belong to friends Julie and George Gorveatt. They got us into this land thing by inviting us to help with several 4H Workshops at their farm. They just happened to mention that this property was for sale. Almost 2 years later it was ours! Almost 2 years after that, we're finally starting forward. :-) The house, orchard, arena and assorted other buildings will be in the trees on the upper left.
I located ERN on Google Earth. Wowee! If you haven't tried Google Earth, do it. Do it when you have lots of time to look, and look, and look. If you don't have high speed internet, go to a connected friend's house or go to the library. Prepare to be amazed.
Google Earth's view shows ERN in the dark lines (dark lines courtesy of Paint Shop, not Google Earth). This view is looking North. Gorveatt's farm is on the upper left. This parcel is 20 acres! Enough for a lot of sheep. Plus!
Now, this was fun. We layed out the farm on paper for our Farm Business Plan. I then layed it out in AutoCAD (whee!) and saved it as a jpeg file. Playing with the Google Earth images in Paint Shop (layer properties, cut, paste, more layer property adjustment, more cut and paste), then adjusting the image sizes and merging yielded this beauty! It's now oriented with the house and outbuildings in the upper left (SW corner). There is a main barn and 6 satellite barns, each in its own 2.5 acre pasture. The driveway goes full length of the property in the middle. Up near the house are the arena, shop/studio (and first temporary residence), paddocks for quarantine, lambs and special care animals. Dream big, eh?
How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.
How do you build a farm?
One step at a time.
Yesterday, we completed a trade of Finnsheep. Eino and Spot got gussied up for traveling and went to Leanne Hughes' Triple L Finnsheep flock in West Richland (in Eastern Washington). We originally bought Spot from Leanne, and when Spot didn't settle, Leanne offered to trade her for another ewe. Leanne was interested in Eino to enhance her brown line of Finnsheep, and agreed to trade him for another ewe.
Last year we decided to use Finnsheep as our major foundation for the Gotland flock. Not only are Finnsheep very prolific, they seem to be the breed most closely resembling Gotlands in North America. Earlier this year, the Gotland Association decided to limit registration to grey animals only. It turns out that using white sheep to breed up is one of the only ways to assure a homozygous Gotland grey line. (Other distinct patterns - katmoget, gulmoget, English blue - can also be used to "filter" the grey color.)
So last year, when the Association was contemplating allowing any solid colors, we chose to use colored Finnsheep. This year with only grey in our Gotland future, we are focusing more on white foundation animals. To that end, we arranged with Leanne to trade two proven, white ewes for Eino and Spot. Yesterday was trading day.
We left Auburn under cloudy skies at 7-ish and arrived in West Richland in sunshine and 88 degree heat before noon. I think Leanne was impressed at how easily Eino and Spot led on their pretty green and red halters. Eino went into his own pasture and met the ram lambs through the fence. He was calmly checking out his digs when we left him. Spot went right into the familiar creep area expecting to find goodies. Was she surprised to find she no longer fit! I felt good for Spot's future when Leanne said that she'd regretted selling her last year. She was originally not for sale, but I kept coming back to her while we were choosing ewe lambs. Leanne decided to repeat the breeding and get "another" Spot. The only problem with that was that the repeat breeding produced five ram lambs!!! So, Leanne was glad when Spot came "home".
We went through the ewes and checked out 5-55 and 6-68, our chosen trade ewes. As expected, they are nice ewes, so we got down to the business of haltering and coercing them into our trailer. Between 4 of us, we got them loaded - it was kind of like Daphne's death march ;-)
As we drove away, we looked back - never look back. Spot was standing at the gate watching us leave. She kept standing there watching as long as we were in sight. Awwwwwwwwwwwww....
It was a faster drive home. We made it (in the sunshine on the East side, and in the rain on the West side) by 4:30. This is our sheep traveling rig - classy truck and funky trailer. ;-)
There was plenty of room for the two new sheep.
They came out more easily than they went in, but they're none too sure. After a while, Red halter ate some grain out of our hands. Blue Halter never did. But she did follow Red Halter.
DH gallantly killed the 2 wasp nests in their little house while I trimmed the few persistent thistles in their enclosure. Then, after (more!!) foot trimming, the new girls got to enjoy their new digs. They tested the electronet and weren't thrilled. They baa'ed at the Hilton sheep, and the Hilton sheep baa'ed back. They noticed but weren't impressed with the armload of hay and bin of alfalfa pellets. They spent a lot of time looking.
"Red Halter/6-68" (on the right) already has a new name - Pinky. She is strikingly pink around her nose and eyes with very little dark pigmentation. I like easy names. :-) Pinky is a yearling who had twins this spring.
"Blue Halter/5-55" (on the left) still needs a name. Suggestions? She was a small lamb her first winter, so wasn't bred. She had triplets this spring as a two year old, was extremely milky, and Leanne is keeping one of her triplets.
I think they'll have gorgeous Gotland babies.
Eino was featured in the last blog. Bits, the white Gotland-Finn ewe lamb has been coated since weaning, and I just couldn't wait any more! I sheared her a week ago and prepared her fleece for the fair. Wow! Wow! Wow!!! She has the most wonderfully soft, shiny, lustrous lamb fleece. I saved every piece I could. I even saved her belly wool. :-)
It doesn't look very impressive in the bowl, but it feels so very soft. Reportedly the Shetland Islanders used Shetland belly wool for some of their soft shawls. That's what I have planned for Bits' belly wool. So far it is washed.
Spot the Finnsheep has been coated since her first shearing in February. She was the only ewe who didn't get pregnant last fall. I figured if she wasn't going to raise a lamb, she'd better at least grow a really nice fleece. ;-) Ideally, she'd have 8 months growth or so, but she's leaving, so it's now or never to get this fleece. Here she is ready on the stand.
Under the coat - very clean!
On closer inspection - lots of crimp and color!
And even closer - YUMMY!
Spot's first fleece is the one that won Best in Show at the Skagit County Fair. This one is even nicer!
And Spot is ready to start growing another award winning fleece!
Spot is another "corrugated" sheep. Her fleece "lines" look like a topographic map. These are not wrinkles. This is how the fleece lays when she's freshly sheared. It seems to be a characteristic of our finer fleeced sheep. Buddy and Eino had the same patterns after they were sheared. If you have any clues or theories on this patterning, please let me know.
Fancy was next after Spot. Fancy is going to Canada next month, and I just couldn't let her go with all the sticky tips left on her fleece. She grows fleece fast, so will still have a nice spring fleece.
Fancy is holding her very dark katmoget points well. She earned the name "Fancy Pants" because of the dark color extending well up toward her hip.
One of the sheep that got "missed" during spring shearing was Daphne. She had sticky tips and matted wool covering the nice new underneath growth. In order to save a lot of the nice new growth, I scissored off the wool that should have been sheared in March!
Here's Daphne after the task.
It's not quite as neat a job as the clippers do, but Daphne doesn't care. In a few weeks, the tips will grow out some and make her look more "normal". I noticed that she has a lot more phaeomelanin that I thought. See the tan color on her legs. Her 2006 katmoget ewe lambs had a lot of phaeo coloring. Looks like they got from mom!
Poor Daphne wasn't done until she endured the sheepie torture chamber. I was tired of trimming sheep feet and tired of fighting to hold sheep legs to trim sheep feet. Daphne wasn't making it easy. Instead of continuing to fight her and putting my fingers in the way of those pointy foot trimming shears with a jumping bean of a sheep, I led her to the sheep squeeze/turning table. It was like a death march. Daphne wasn't halter trained as a lamb, and, indeed, was a very wild wooly when she came to us. Just being able to lead her at all was a huge accomplishment. We went step by slow step up to the table. You'd think she had a premonition of what was to come.
We bought the sheep table several years ago thinking it would make it easier to trim sheep feet, give shots, and in general work the sheep. For several weeks, the sheep got to get used to the table being in their pastures and walking through it to get hay and grain. We found out that Scottish Blackface horns (get caught and don't fit "squeeze" well) and Shetland size (they squirm right out between the bars!) don't work well with the (big sheep size) turn table. So there it sat. Until Daphne ran me out of patience with her feet.
After clearing off dirt and rocks, and making sure it still worked (and reminding me *how* it worked), I positioned Daphne inside. Then squeezed and turned! Just like that Daphne was on her side... no, wait!, she was halfway on her side, and halfway turned with her back feet outside the end of the bars. hmmmmm. I turned her back and repositioned her farther inside the cage, and over again. This time I got hold of the troublesome back foot and got it trimmed! However, Daphne is making funny noises and acting very stressed. hmmmm, again. Looking more closely, one bar was very tight against her shoulder, the next one tight just behind her ribs. Now worried that I might really be hurting her, I rotated her back again, repositioned her again so the bars would hit over ribs and pelvic area, and back over on her side. This time she seemed more comfortable - that's relative. She really wasn't comfortable at all!
I quickly finished her manicure - the table was indeed effective at making feet available - and released her. She was a changed sheep. Daphne meekly led back to her pen with the other Hilton sheep. hmmmmm, I'm thinking. She's very stressed, so I watch her for several minutes as she just stands and endures the other sheep pushing in to see who the "new" sheep is. After a while, though, she starts walking around, sampling the grass, drinking water and generally being a sheep. Phew! So, did the squeeze really hurt her? Was she just really stressed about not being able to fight me? I won't really know, and Daphne's not telling. At least her feet should feel better.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
It's mid-August and unshorn sheep get to looking pretty scruffy. Here's a scruffy looking ruffian about to be transformed! ... the one with the grey muzzle. No, not that grey muzzle - the one without the hat... on the left. ;-)
This is Wee Croft Eino, our Finnsheep Ram. He looked pretty good in March when we sheared everyone else.
Eino stood patiently for his shearing and nail trim, even dozing during the process.
What a mug!
Now here's the man "undressed". Isn't he a handsome dude? At 6 years old, Eino has a great topline, good teeth, good feet, a fantastic attitude...
His fleece is soft and fine. I've only seen ridges form like this on one other sheep - our Shetland Buddy. Buddy's fleece is very fine also. Both boys have skin that is soft and easily rolled between your fingers. Is this the "famous" soft rolling skin?
And the fleece?
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
They walk 'round and 'round the show ring while the announcer reads their story. Each competitor writes up their own story - something about themselves, their sheep and their wool clothing. Here is what Dave wrote:
"Hi, my name is Dave Lawniczak and this is my Scottish Blackface ewe lamb, Sweetpea. We are from EverRanch Farm in Auburn, Washington. Sweet Pea is just 4 months old, and this is her first trip off of our farm. This is also the first time that either of us has been to the Skagit county Fair.""The Scottish Blackface Sheep breed originated in the highlands of Scotland. Their long, coarse fleece provices them excellent protection from rain, wind, and other elements. The Scottish Blackface is the most numerous breed of sheep in the British Isles, but is not very common in North America.""Today, Sweet Pea and I are showcasing the good looks one can achieve by wearing wool. Sweet Pea is looking stylish in her 100% pure lamb wool fleece. This is accented with a wool scarf in a tartan pattern, and finished with a Scottish Clan Pin. I am wearing 100% wool slacks, a stylish 100% wool Pendleton hat and a lovely 100% wool handmade sweater vest that was a Christmas present from my lovely wife, Franna. She sheared, washed, carded, spun, plied and knit this for me. I offered input and suggestions as I thought is was to be a gift for someone else!! We would like to thank you for dropping by and watching the show. Feel free to drop by and say hello to Sweet Pea, and all the other EverRanch Sheep. Have fun at the Skagit County Fair!!! "
"Franna and Bossie thank you for attending the 2007 Skagit County Fair. We are wearing our wool clothing for a comfortable evening at the Fair. Franna is a native Washingtonian and Bossie is a Gotland-Finnsheep cross ewe lamb. They both live at EverRanch Farm in Auburn, Washington.""Gotland sheep are a medium size, short tailed, luster longwool breed of sheep who come in all shades of grey. They were developed in Sweden primarily as a peltsheep, and now provide wool and meat as well as pelts. The elven cloaks in the Lord of the Rings movies were made from Gotland type wool. Gotland sheep are being introduced to North America through the use of imported semen from pure Gotland rams in the UK and Sweden. Nine different foundation ewe breeds are accepted in the upbreeding program.""Franna's pure Gotland wool vest is an example of the use of Gotland pelts. Bossie shows off her natural grey coat in Gotland-Finnsheep wool. Franna's all wool slacks are comfortable all year and never need shearing. Their pink accessories show off the richness of the natural grey Gotland wool.""Please visit us in the sheep barn to find out more about the wonderful qualities of natural wool."
It even includes the soft, crimpy neck fleece (lock on the top right).
Luna's fleece is very nice for a Blackie. She has very long staple - almost to the ground in full fleece, less kemp than a lot of Blackies and a nice handle.
Typical of Scottish Blackface, Luna's fleece is dramatically double coated. The outer fibers are the long ones, and are very coarse - 40-ish micron? I need to test it someday. The inner coat is surprisingly soft, and quite long as well. These locks are shown, top to bottom, inner coat, outer coat and both together. It washes up much whiter than shown here!
Yes, I saved the "best" for last. Here is Spot's fleece. It is very dark with a bit of sunbleaching on the tips. If you look closely, there is a white "dust" look on the cut ends. Spot is now grey, and at shearing was just turning grey. The very ends of the staples are grey. Very unique.This is one of the staples showing fineness and crimp structure. The judge kept a lock closeby and used it to compare to the other fleeces. Handspinners - if you can find nice Finn fleeces, don't pass them by!
Well. What do shepherds do once they get home from the show with their sheep and all the paraphernalia? We start practicing for the NEXT show of course.... Below, friend Clarissa, takes Bossie for a walk.
Then they pose for the camera. Don't you think they make a great pair of "ewe lambs" for the Ladie's Lead?
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
These are those Herculean bales that even the muscle bound, young Adonises break a sweat over. Of course, they bench press the bales to break a sweat, and move them in minutes, tossing them like salad into the horse trailer. I, on the other hand, definately do not bench press 100+ lb bales, and it takes me more like an hour to get it all out of the trailer and stacked in the garage.
I, being the consumate Engineer, use all the Engineering principles I can find to help - levers and wheels, friction and fulcrums. I, also being woman, use every finesse technique possible to move gargantuan hay bales - one layer at a time, tip them out of the trailer onto the hand truck, tip them off the hand truck onto the pile - use the hand truck!
Every bale had to come out of the horse trailer, some higher, some lower, some right at the door, some way back up in the tack area. Knock 'em down, drag them back, tip them out, tip them up onto the hand truck. That's Once.
Next they're trucked across the garage from front, where the horse trailer is, to the back, where the haystack is. That involves tipping the hand truck, rolling the hand truck keeping the bale stabilized, rolling into place at the haystack, then tipping them off the hand truck. That's Twice.
Now they get stacked. The first ones are easy, just tip them off. The last ones are hard - they go up. The first ones are easy... but not too easy. They have to be positioned, scooted, tipped, pushed, pulled. And they're lowwwwww on the floor. Ugh. After a few are in the first layer, I use those as a platform to lever the next ones up. Tip a bale against one on the bottom layer, remove the hand truck, push on the upside to get it horizontal enough to push - push it into place. Repeat. Repeat. Third layer? Lever it on up from the floor to the first layer to the second layer, then finally the third. Three layers is enough! That has to count for two times... Three and Four.
Twenty five 100+ pound bales of hay moved four times is 10, 000 lb of hay. And, there was "stuff" in the way, so it had to be moved first - lawn mowers and pallets and bags of alfalfa pellets and sheep feed. I didn't count that this time. ;-)
Those sheep better appreciate all this!
Monday, August 06, 2007
All of the Fair Sheep got walked on a halter. All 16 of them. Plus an extra. Plus Pixie the Shetland (above), who is going to her new home on Friday. The all got their feet trimmed. Several got thistles and burrs removed and the Gotlands got bits of cotted wool teased out. That was my day. Plus feed and water for everyone.
The 4 sheep that got introduced to the halter on Saturday did quite well - Captain (White Ears), Bunny, Franjean and Elora. They all remembered the nice treats they get when they behave. Everyone else had to figure it out.Captain and Charcoal (both GotlandxFinnsheep) were "walking" partners. They're shown below at the "stationary" station. After introducing them to walking and treats, I tied them to the fence for a bit. Here they got more treats, got their feet trimmed and preliminary grooming. I was amazed, everyone stood (with some patience on my part) to have their feet trimmed. After that, they walked in tandem to the pasture.
I don't have many good photos of Charcoal. She let me put her feet in place and stood there for this one. For some reason, she's finally decided I'm okay after months of skittishness. She was an exemplary student during haltering lessons. Charcoal has wonderful wool! It is soft and silky and lustrous charcoal grey. I can't wait to spin some!