Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Leading Sheep, Fleeces and Upcoming Hints

Hey! Who's that Handsome Shepherd with the Scottish Blackface cutie? Why.... it would be none other than DH, Dave, and ewe lamb Sweet Pea ready for the Lad's Lead at the Skagit County Fair. Don't they make a striking couple? ...don't tell Sweet Pea - his vest is made from Shetland wool!
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!!! "

They won First Place in their class!!! Congratulations, Sweetie!
A few classes later, Franna and Bossie the Gotland-Finn cross do the same thing. I'm wearing a vest made from Gotland sheep pelts over my pink blouse and black wool trousers. Bossie livened up her fleece with a pink silk scarf tied in a bow. We took Second Place. :-)
This was our writeup:
"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."
The Lads and Ladies Lead classes were Friday evening, August 10th, at the Skagit County Fair.
The next day the sheep show started at 9 am. The NW Washington Shetland breeders held our first Shetland show here this year. Tina T-P did a wonderful report of the show on her blog (See August 11 and 13 blogs). Thank you, Tina! Since we were handling sheepies, our camera didn't even make it out of the case on Saturday!
Also many thanks to Donna Schoonover who put together the Shetland show; to Linda and Don Jonasson who did a wonderful job of putting together the whole sheep and wool show, making sure the numbers were evenly spread, and making us feel very welcome; to Joyce Thomas and her granddaughter for helping us show sheep. And other helpers who I know were there. Also to Amy Wolf, the judge, who obviously had taken the time to read up on the various breeds of sheep that were shown - including the Shetlands and Scottish Blackface.
Before the show in the ring, the Shetland group - exhibitors and spectators - got to evaluate all of the Shetlands for Best Tail, Best Horns and Best Fleece on the Hoof. It was really fun! This was a very nice group of Shetlands, and gave me an appreciation for the difficult job of judging them! The winners were pretty evenly split among the three farms. (Tina posted the results in her blog.)
On to fleeces:
Following the sheep show, there were about 50 fleeces to be judged. Amy did a wonderful job of judging all of the classes, the groups, then the overall best. She talks about each fleece, it's merits and faults, the breed characteristics and what they mean to handspinners. It was very educational.
We had 6 fleeces entered - fleeces from a ewe and ewe lamb Shetland, a ewe and ewe lamb Finnsheep and a ewe and ewe lamb Scottish Blackface.
Our Shetland lamb fleece, from Lil' Country Val, won Best Shetland fleece, and went on into the final competition.
Our Blackie ewe fleece, from EverRanch Luna, won Best Scottish Blackface fleece, then won Best Commercial (white) fleece - the judge's comment on this was "how can you beat a nice commercial fleece that is also a wonderful handspinner's fleece?"
As the judging progressed, our Finn ewe lamb fleece from Triple L Spot, won over the adult Finn, then went on to win Best natural colored fleece. The judge was really impressed with the fineness and crimp of the fleece. One of her comments was "Merinos - eat your heart out! ... and we can raise these (Finnsheep) here!" (Franna's note - Merinos don't do well in our Maritime climate.)
In the final lineup of five fleeces, three were ours!!! Wowee! That would have been enough. After poking and comparing, Spot's fleece was selected as the Overall Champion fleece, with Val's fleece coming in second. That is really special! EverRanch fleeces have done really well over the last year. :-) So, here are some photos:
First - Reserve Ch. Shetland fleece - a gorgeous moorit from EverRanch Ovaltina. This was shorn last fall and is very, very clean.

It even includes the soft, crimpy neck fleece (lock on the top right).

This next photo is of Val's fleece. She's a fawn katmoget, so is mostly a very light cream with a few darker locks from the edges. She has a lot of crimp in her fleece and it has a wonderful soft handle. I will be sending her next fleece in for micron testing, hoping for the mid-20's that it feels like.

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?

- Franna


shepherdchik said...

Oh those scottish blackface are just adorable

Tina T-P said...

Great stories - no wonder you won the Lads & ladies leads - Wish I'd had your camera out since my batteries died. I'll post the rest of my pictures and the ones that Donna's stepdad took on Kodak Gallery in the next day or two, I need to get them organized a little better. I'll send you the link.

Congrats on your fleece wins - nice to see all those ribbons, huh? :-) T.

Franna said...

All lambs are cute, but we think the Scotties are the cutest! They have to make up in "cute" points what they don't have in "cuddly" points.
- Franna

Franna said...

It's great to have the exposure for the minor breed fleeces. This area grows such nice Romneys, they're hard to beat!
- Franna

Kathy L. said...

What wonderful commentary. It's like being there. I miss good fairs...ours is pittiful.

(Ooo...I need to talk to you about getting a SB fleece - to buy one from you. Next year we'll be doing the Celtic Festival here and I will have our guys there, but remembered reading this that the Scottish Blackface should be represented too! Is there a Breed Registry that would have some printed information on them Franna?)

Franna said...

We have Scottie fleeces. :-) They are unique to spin. I need to write up a description for our website. After the fairs I'll let you know what we have. The SBSBA puts out a little booklet on the breed. It's a very rustic Association, good people with good intentions and not much involvement anymore. SBF deserve more popularity than they have in North America - in my own very humble (hah!) opinion.

Kathy L. said...

Thanks, Franna - I do wish to buy one (fleece) from you if you have one to spare. I should really find more Celtic sheep breeds too, to be fair. ;) I'll have to see.

I'm trying to find something re: cheesemaking to make a copy for you. I have all this information and it's all down low or in drawers I can't get to at the moment. When our NZ relations get here, I know what they can help me with! Ha, ha!