I enjoy displaying my drop spindles, and I also enjoy using them.
I have always found it awkward to wind off from a spindle. There are some beautiful, but expensive spindle lazy kates out there, but I'm always looking for ways to repurpose things and do with what I have.
What about a fishing swivel...
The spindle can still hang, and the swivel allows it to turn effortlessly.
Haven't been able to afford a fishing license for years now, but knew that fishing gear would come in handy!
My friend, Janet, asked me how long it takes to skirt a fleece (remove undesirable wool). I conservatively and ridiculously replied, "10 or 15 minutes, depending."
I skirted 3 fleeces yesterday, and each one took no less than a half hour, and these were clean fleeces! Sometimes it takes longer if there is considerable vm (vegetable matter-hay bits, leaves, burrs), or if I get interrupted by the cry of a new lamb who has lost her mom :-/
First, I lay out the fleece, cut-side down on the skirting table, neck to tail. This is Sherpa, one of my breeding rams.
I pull out sample locks of both the white and the color, lilac in this case, and photograph them to display character and staple length. Sherpa's white shows a tight crimp; his lilac is open and springy.
I make two trips around the edges of the fleece, pulling off unusable wool, like this britch wool (the coarse hair fiber from the tail end and lower thigh), wool with dung and any matted wool, from the sheep rubbing against fence posts or the shed wall.
Some of the britch wool is usable, especially for felting, but I also have to pick off second cuts, where the shearer had to go back and cut again, closer to the skin. Here is a second cut easy to spot, white on white.
The dark on white second cuts are easier to spot, and harder to remove. I make a round about the fleece, first shaking it to remove second cuts and loose vm, then two more rounds rolling back the fleece and picking out what I find.
Sherpa's fleece was pretty clean, not much vm, but I did need to shake and pick out some kemp (short, brittle, weak fibers) that had migrated into the best wool.
After skirting, I find a good cut-side area to photograph, showing off the color variation and character of the wool.
Then, I fold the sides into the center and roll the fleece from tail-end to neck-end for storage.
And back in the bag it goes! Bags are labeled with the sheep's name, and now I can mark this one "sk14"--skirted 2014. I will probably use Sherpa's fleece for my Shear Bliss products, but if I were going to sell this fleece I would next go weigh it so that I could determine selling price.
Seventeen more bags await me...
Mother's Day began with warm and lively phone conversations with all three kids (shown here at Alyssa's wedding, already 3 years ago!).
The bonus was spending the afternoon in the sheep shed with Nara, who had shown signs of labor early in the day. I got lots of spindling done.
And I watched the other new mothers with their babies.
Even some of last year's lambs still hang out with their moms. This is Shiva, resting on his mom, Shyla.
And Onslo, Nara's ram lamb from last year, came in to check on his mom.
When at last Nara started actually pushing at 2:30, I knew we would have Mother's Day lambs (I thought there must be 2 in there...).
Nara has had lambs four times before this, so I didn't worry until an hour had gone by with no progress. Had to help her deliver; thankfully the lamb, though big (8lb 6oz), was in the right position.
At first sight, the wool was so long on this lamb I thought I saw a scrotum and sighed, "Another ram." But when I cut and iodined the umbilical cord, to my amazement I saw it was a GIRL! Yay, Nara had a ewe lamb for Mother's Day! Six lambs this year: 5 rams, one ewe. We have previously sold all of Nara's ewe offspring, so I am ecstatic to be keeping Oona.
Oona is a strong one; up in 20 minutes, nursing right away.
Many of us here at the farm are grateful for being mothers!
What an adventure raising sheep is! There's the joy of watching new lambs have their first venture outside.
Then, the anxious moments watching them encounter the rest of the flock, and trying to keep track of their moms. As shepherdess, I especially worried about Lindyhop, as a new mom, being able to keep Reggae and Disco with her.
Meanwhile, the older lambs (by a mere 3 days), Tucker and Twain are already kicked back with Tehya, like old hands at the sheep thing.
Shearing day is always a stressful day and a blur: the preparation of syringes (for vaccinations) and labeling of fleece bags, and listening to all the sheep hollering because I don't let them out and feed them that morning, and the rams bloodying each other in nervous anticipation, and the shearing seeming to take forever and then suddenly being done.
Yahtzee, the last in the ram group and last of the day to get shorn didn't fare so well. In trying to escape being caught and taken to the shearing tarp, somehow he broke his foot. This was a first for us. The vet came the next day, and under Valium Yahtzee got his foot repositioned and splinted. He's got his own suite in the lambing shed, which he didn't fully appreciate until Gene put up some extra two-by-fours to hold him in...
Gene and I got to monitor both Yahtzee and Chenoa this morning. Chenoa presented us with a hefty ram lamb, probably born about 2 a.m. When I came in from checking and feeding sheep this morning and told Gene we had another ram lamb, he said, "Pop the champagne cork!" in jest. But thus, Champagne earned his name. Nine pounds, two ounces!
What next? One more ewe left to lamb...
It has been a formidable twenty-four hours...
At five-days-old, it was time to bring Tucker and Twain down from the lambing shed to meet the rest of the flock. I try to hold my anxiety in check, but I always worry about sheep with horns greeting small lambs. However, comic curiosity instead of aggressiveness was the tone.
The sheep flock was mildly interested, but Freya was astonished and wanted a closer look.
Freya was encountering all sorts of surprises; I took a spindle out while I was supervising and she had to sniff it, just like the sheep do.
Tehya's lambs did fine in the sheep shed during the night. I expected to need to protect them this morning so they wouldn't get trampled as I let out the flock, but instead I was greeted by the familiar sound of a ewe nickering and a wee lambie cry.
Lindyhop, a first-time mom, had a ram lamb she was cleaning up that looked about 20-minutes old. I could tell she was about to have another. I waited patiently as Lindyhop pushed and pushed. The second lamb was born rump-first, but she did it on her own!
It's amazing how quickly they are up and nursing!
Lindyhop wasn't too sure about the move up to the lambing shed; Gene and I had to really coax her (read "force") her to get into the jug with her babies. Now she is settling in for a few days' bonding and rest with her ram lambs, Reggae and Disco--had to be dance names! ;->
I don't know why I didn't think of it before. When I take a carded batt off my drum carder,
I usually roll it into a button to store in a basket until I'm ready to spin.
When I'm ready to spin, I either tear off strips of the batt, or attenuate it into a long roving. But why not use a diz??
The diz is usually used when combing fiber, rather than carding, but I was wanting a long roving to wrap around my wrist distaff for spindle spinning, and had this inspiration to use the diz.
I twisted the end of one corner of the batt.
And threaded it through a diz hole.
It's hard to take selfies of fiber work!
Now I'm using a diz for all my spinning, spindle or wheel. I think it will also make it easier for beginners, when I teach a spindle class. I'll prepare their wool this way, too. I'm diz-zy!
I worried the first night that I may have been wrong to let Tehya take care of the lambs completely by herself. From my observations, experience and raw intuition I felt that my intervening by bottle-feeding might undermine her abilities to recover and do the mothering, so I made a decision to leave them alone together through the night. And walked up to the silent lambing shed Saturday morning with trepidation...
What a joyous relief to open the door and see this!
Today, day 3, they are sproinging about and curious about their limited world.
Tehya looked like this for days. She (and I) spent a lot of time in the sheep shed, waiting.
Note the outstretched leg, which ewes do when they are close to and in labor. I kept waiting for the telltale signs of her pushing.
A few lip curls, but mostly she just was exhausted from carrying around the lambs and her huge udder.
Friday morning, just at dawn, I went out to the sheep shed and heard lamb cries. HOORAY! It was a little confusing at first because Nara, who isn't due for at least 3 weeks, had claimed one of the lambs for her own, and was distraught when I wouldn't let her keep him. Shooing the others out to pasture, I got Tehya moved up to the lambing shed with her adorable ram lambs.
Both lilac, the 4-horned little guy on the right is Tucker, and the 2-horned one on the left is Twain.
Look at the horn buds on Tucker!
We had a scary, frenzied day of Tehya not able to let her milk down. Lamb milk replacer, goat colostrum, and frozen sheep milk got us through the hours, and after massaging Tehya's udder with warm water and peppermint oil (on advice from my dear friend, Rosanna), the milk was finally in and both lambs' tails were waggling as they nursed. Whew! It's always something...
But always worth it!
Our farm is not just for sheep, it seems. The woods contain excellent tipi poles for harvesting! Two years ago, our son, Tyler, cut and finished Cedar poles for a tipi, shown here:
On his most recent visit this past week, Tyler and friend Madison, trekked up the hill to find Douglas firs for a new, larger tipi. Hatchets in hand, they cut down 20 trees and brought them down the hill. This tipi will seat 24 people around the inside, and be comfortable for 4 or 5 people to sleep in.
Five days of skinning and smoothing! They made it look easy, but I know it was hard work. Cross-training for rigging, they said, as they both work for Rocky Mountain Rigging, whose season starts up soon.
Tyler and Madison also chopped oak for our next winter's woodstove, raked an incredible amount of leaves for fire safety, and helped us fix our sheep shed. They earned their keep! And the beer ;-)