Posts tagged ‘farm’
Spring break this week, so I had a chance to make a quick trip down the road to show them the llamas at Shenandoah Homeplace Suri Llamas in Luray, Virginia. For the last year, I’ve been helping the owner of this lovely and historic homestead, retired Airforce General Chet Taylor, with marketing fiber and yarn from his pedigreed animals. I enjoyed getting out to see his farm (and the cleanest, neatest most organized barn you can imagine). The children got a chance to get up close and personal to the animals, who were very gentle and even a bit shy. My youngest first called them camels, and he wasn’t far off, as llamas, alpacas and camels are all related (in the camelid family). The highlight for them, though, may a have playing in the hayloft!
The first batch of llama fleece was sent off to a small mill for processing into five natural undyed shades of lovely, dehaired luxury yarn shown in these pictures. Some was made into roving which I have both spun by hand and sold to other spinners. While more fiber is heading to the mill and roving is currently sold out, there are still skeins of the yarn in three of the colors available, and on sale in my shop http://www.wildhare.etsy.com. Just look in the Shenandoah Llama section ( it may be several months before the new batch is back from the mill).
Llama is lustrous and silky with lots of drape, which makes it great for lace knitting, scarves and shawls. The natural colors also go well together in fair-isle designs. And it’s so meaningful to work with fiber from small farms where you know the animals are well tended and free to enjoy green pastures like those at Shenandoah Homeplace Suri Llamas.
The lovely fiber is only a small part of it for dedicated llama breeders. To read more about these pedigreed animals and the farm on which they live (and which is in the National Registry of Historic Places), please visit their web site: http://web.me.com/shenhomeplacellamas/Shenandoah_Homeplace_Suri_Llamas/Welcome.html
Today I went to Forevermore Farm to help Debbie with shearing some of her sheep. Wait– you may be asking. It’s January, why shear now instead of waiting for a balmy spring day? And why “some” of the sheep? What’s so special about these:
First, they are all ewes. Second, they are all pregnant, and due within a few weeks. As Debbie explained, lambing is easier on a sheep (and on the shepherd) when the ewe is not in full coat, like these girls are. But another important reason is that if you wait until spring to shear the ewes — who are then nursing their little ones — the lambs become terribly upset and often don’t recognize their mothers and won’t nurse. So best to get the coats off now.
Debbie’s friend Bill did most of the shearing on a short table, with electric clippers similar to what a barber would use. To keep the sheep from injuring herself or the shearer, she is restrained with leg ties and a neck leash. I suspect sheep like to be sheared about as much my children like getting their flu shots… but it both cases it’s necessary and for their good.
As the fleece comes off the sheep, it goes to the skirting table, where the wool is sorted through and any parts that are encased in “tags” (i.e., sheep poop), are too short, or have lots of straw and seed in it are removed and discarded. This is where I came it — I was one of the people skirting the freshly shorn fleeces. The wool from each sheep was then put ito it’s own bag, labeled with the name of the sheep. Some fleeces will be sold just like they are – raw and full of lanolin. Most will be sent to a carding mill to be scoured (washed) and carded into roving. I brought some home to list in my etsy shop.
Here’s an after picture of the newly shorn sheep. They will now have the privilege of staying in the barn at night and in poor weather, and get extra grains as they await the arrival of their lambs and begin nursing.
Okay, I admit — they are prettier with a full coat. But oh, what wonderful wool I brough home in those three bags (yes sir, yes sir, three bags full!). Although all the sheep are Coopworth or Coopworth crosses, their fleeces varied from animal to animal. Some were longer and more lustrous than others, and the younger sheep tended to have finer, crimpier wool. Laurel, a Coopworth/Bluefaced Leichester cross whose fleece I brought home is particularly soft and fine . And they weren’t all white — the two other fleeces I got are from Faith, who has multishaded grey/brown wool, and Jasmine, who is a black sheep. She and her wool are in these last few pictures (sun bleaches the tips of black fleeces, so before shearing they look coppery colored).
Quite a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon, IMHO – my kinda fun!
Forevermore Farm… a lovely name for a wonderful small farm in the hills of West Virginia, where my friend Debbie White tends to her flock of mostly Coopworth sheep. The children and I visited Debbie in the spring after lambing, and we had a wonderful time feeding the sheep, including the bottle babies. Debbie even let the children name one of them … Baaaab, who is eating from my daughter’s hand below.
For years Debbie has sent her wool off and had it processed to roving, which she sells locally and also spins into yarn which she knits into felted bags to sell in a artisan’s coop near her house. Recently, we both realized that her sheep and copious amounts of wool plus my online shop (and lack or sheep, seeing that I live in town) made for a natural fit. And so, I am now happy to offer her rovings for sale! Currently, I have listed four natural, dye-free colors, named for the sheep they come from, but I am in the process of dyeing some of the roving as well. The picture below show those four natural color rovings. Wouldn’t they be lovely used together in a no-dye project?
Coopworth is a long wool that is lustrous and very very easy to spin. It felts nicely too, and takes dye beautifully. It’s a great all-purpose wool, suitable for sweaters, socks, hats, blankets, and felted items like bags. It’s a wonderful choice for beginning spinners as it is easy to draft.
Debbie takes wonderful care of her sheep, and it shows!
Follow the link here http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5073046§ion_id=5675468 to go directly to the Forevermore farm section of my shop.
Here are some more pictures from her farm (including one of Debbie with one of her angora goats):