Archive for the ‘fleece’ Category

So, you take your Vitamin D3 geltab each day, but do you know where that vitamin might come from? Guess. Go on…just take a guess. Fish liver oil? Well, maybe. But read the label on the bottle. Does it actually state “fish liver oil”? No?
If it states “cholecalciferol”, you may just have a sheep to thank for your health.

“There are two commercial sources of natural vitamin D3: fish liver oil and an oil extracted from wool. “If a label lists ‘vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)’ then it is from wool oil. This is considered a vegetarian source (the animal is not harmed, just sheared), but not vegan. Fish liver oil will be in parentheses if it is the source.” (6) Animals can obtain vitamin D from licking their fur, and in humans, rickets can be successfully treated by rubbing cod liver oil into the skin.”

(from: http://www.doctoryourself.com/dvitamin.htm)

Recently, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease. One of the markers used in determining a thyroid problem is the level of vitamin D in the patient. Even though I work outside, in the high-altitude sun we have here at Oleo Acres, I was way below the bottom of the range of this essential vitamin in my system. Most folks in this area can work outside for about 15 minutes in the sun and get more than their daily need of this vitamin. It is essential for a number of reasons. I guess I just have to be different, don’t I?
As I did more and more research on the need for vitamin D, especially in the D3 form, one item kept popping up in the sites I searched. Much of the D3 supplements are made from wool fat in the fleece of sheep.

It seems we shepherds have been on the healthy track and not known it. 😉 Just another reason to thank those four-footed creatures we have come to enjoy, love, and respect, eh?

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After weeks of “waffling” about whether or not I was going to attend the local wool festival, I decided to go ahead and try it again. Last year, both my friend, Melanie, and I went and both did really well. But this year, I only had fleeces to sell.

Mel and her husband, Mark, putting together her dyed yarn displays.

One rack up and one to go…

Both yarn racks up. Aren’t her yarns beautiful?

A shot across the table with some of my yarns in the foreground in the basket.

A basket of Mel’s beautiful, bright, space-dyed rovings.

While we were located in the same spot as last year, next time we/I go we’ll move to the other side of the building where more booths are set up. I only got the chance to really walk about once and noticed that, while we were very protected from the winds where we were located, most of the activities were elsewhere. The were quite a few alpaca people with booths. I think ours was the only “sheep only” booth in the whole place. But, we had more traffic on Saturday when the festival had the sheep herding demonstrations across from us. Sunday the sheepdogs weren’t there for some reason.
I can’t complain about sales. My fleeces sold out within the fist two hours of the show on Saturday. The bobbin lace makers having a display on Saturday could not believe that someone in Arizona actually had real, honest-to-goodness Shetland fleece. One of them called her sister in Phoenix as she was standing at the booth wondering how many they wanted to split together. Plus I had repeat customers seeking out more Shetland for their “wooly-habits”.
Now I have a quandary. I had planned on sending this year’s fleeces out to be processed into combed top and roving to have available at next year’s wool festival. But since they all sold so quickly I will only have fleece available next year if I go. With customers looking for Shetland fleece now coming to the farm to get it right off the sheep at shearing, I won’t have surplus to sell at the festival. Hmm. To be honest, I like the farm sales much better. I think the customers do as well. They actually get to see their fleece come off the sheep of their choosing.
While I like going to festivals and shows and getting our name “out there”, I also have to admit I don’t have the energy I once had to keep up the pace of the summer shows. Now I have come to a time to reflect and find the balance between promoting the farm, getting the jobs done at the farm, and spending my time doing pursuits I enjoy.

Maybe it’s time to have a bit of a “wool festival” here at Sheep Thrills. I know Hizzoner, the Hired-Hand-With-Benefits, wouldn’t mind burning a few hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill. And with this summer’s more mild temperatures the sheep have been growing in fleece both thick and long already.
(Or are my fluffy sheep a portent of things to come?)

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Appreciating Himself

These are not the best photos I have taken of “Himself”, but I took them to show you something I noticed about Skittles that wasn’t there last winter. This all came about from letting all “The Boys” out together in the pasture yesterday. I wish I had my camera then for what did I behold, but a ram ponging and jumping around the pasture with all the rest of the boys – kicking his heels up in pure joy! I never thought “The Old Man” could move like that! 🙂

It was then I noticed it…the sun was at my back as I hung over the gate to watch and so afforded me the opportunity to see what the dull greys of winter had hid so well from sight. Can you guess what it is?

Now, in his defense, he wasn’t posed for any of these shots, but it’s still visible. It looks so much better in person, too. I just wish the camera had captured “it” as I had witnessed.

The above shot is a good one showing “it” off. Any guesses? Look closely at the LUSTROUS FLEECE The Old Man is sporting this spring! WaHoo! I have had only one shearing from Skit since I bought him from Nancy. And I have to be honest – his fleece showed the stress of shipping such a long distance plus his having to acclimate to this high altitude. The altitude will definitely take the wind out of your sails until you get used to it. Skit had only 6 weeks before breeding season that fall, very little time to adjust to all the changes in his life.
Altitude was a big concern for me…at high altitudes some strains of bulls will keel over stone-cold dead during breeding season as their heart can’t take the stress. I had never heard or read of any sheep doing that but I sure didn’t want my buddy to be the first. What a tough cookie he is.
That’s right, Skit…you guard that barn area from all comers! You’re looking awesome, Buddy! I ‘ve just got to get you a dribble bib for that hay under your chin.

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I have been asked by a few individuals what the rovings from the sheeps’ 2007 shearing look like. I hope this picture helps.
Alphabetically from the left we have: Ailee, Amanda, Colin, Lacey, Loretta, and last but not least, Skittles.
Ailee is Amanda’s daughter and it really shows and feels in her fleece. She’s lighter in color than her mother, but both of them have incredible softness. I have been spinning some laceweight yarn out of Ailee’s roving and can hardly wait to get a skein finished and washed to see what it does. Colin’s fleece has been spoken for – well, most of his and Loretta’s, his sister’s. I want to make something for my DH from Colin as they were the best of Bud’s when Colin was small. I think they would still be that way if it had not been for so much going on this past summer.
Next we have Lacey. Lacey is the mother of both Colin and Loretta, so I guess it’s fitting her sample is in between the two. Lacey is the Leader of the Pack. She’s the first one to investigate what’s going on, the first to be friendly, and the first to the feed each morning! 🙂
Loretta’s is next. I was surprised to see that Loretta was more of a dark brown than her brother’s black although if I were to put both on either side of Skittles fleece, they would both look brown to Skittles black.
And last, but not least, is the Ole Man’s fleece…Skittles’ fleece is more coarse than the others. You can definitely tell a difference, but I have to mention that his fleece is still softer than, say a Karakul fleece, or a Romney ram’s fleece. It’s all relative…I have spun a skein of his roving up and while I would not wear his fleece next to my skin, it will still have many uses. And like me, he’s getting more grey with each year that passes. At least I’m in good company.
I will have to assess our 2007 lambs to know what type of fleece he’ll throw. And we have a batch of 2008 lambs cooking as we speak. Ah, Christmas in April for this shepherd! 🙂 I also have been toying with sending in fleece samples for micro evaluation. Whle a lamb’s fleece can give you a “taste” of what their adult fleeces will be, I still wait for a sheep’s first fleece after their lamb fleece has been shorn to make a determination of whether or not that individual will be a good fiber producer.
All of this will be in each sheep’s file and will help me make decisions about who to keep, who to sell. We can not keep all the sheep we produce here as we are not a very big operation with limited space. So I know that soon, I will have to start letting sheep find new homes. Until then I will enjoy each and every one of them.

And if I listen and observe, I may just learn a thing or two from each one…

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Above you see the six bags of fleece I sent off to be processed into rovings, ready for spinning! Yay! They arrived! I sent the fleeces off just before my back surgery last year. And I was delighted to see the return of the fleece in ready-to-spin form not only for me, but for a few people who have been patiently waiting for roving from my flock. Hooray! From top left, going clock-wise, we have: Amanda, Colin, Skittles, Lacey, Ailee and finally, Loretta.

For the past couple of days, I have been rolling the rovings into smaller balls making it easier for me to handle, store and meter out to customers. I was generally pleased with the rovings. Rolling them into the balls also gave me the opportunity to assess each sheep’s fleece, making notes on each to enter into my flock records. Three of the fleeces were from lambs: Ailee, Colin and Loretta. Lambs’ fleeces are the softest fleece you can get off a sheep. They really aren’t great examples of what the sheep’s fleece will be like as an adult. You really have to wait until the second shearing to get the true characteristic of each individual fleece. But lamb’s fleece is so very soft and rolling the three lamb fleeces felt like rolling soft butter. They were truly delicious!

One of the things I noted was whether or not each fleece had vegetable material in it or if it was fairly clean of bits of hay, seeds, etc. (See the previous post picture for an example of the debris sheep can have in a fleece) Some “vegetable matter, or vm”, as it’s called, is easily removed and most was picked out by me before I sent the fleeces in for processing. Some is terrible to deal with and it seems no matter how well you pick a fleece over before you send it off, there’s always a few bits you miss. One thing I did notice in the fleeces of the adult sheep was that I had very small bits of vegetable matter from plants that are not native to my area. Remember, these were fleeces worn by the sheep since 2005, when I bought them. From Lacey and Amanda, I found some seed matter from the Pacific NW area, where they came from. And from Skittles’ fleece, I saw just a few examples of a few seeds from Minnesota. As well as you pick over a fleece and the processing also eliminates most of the vm, there are a few bits that can still cling to the wool fibers. I have always been careful to dispose of any seed matter in the woodburning stove. I don’t want to introduce any seeds of plants that might be considered weeds here in Arizona. My Master Gardner friends would drum me out of the group should I let loose some “noxious weed” in my area. LOL!

I had been rolling the rovings while watching a movie on TV. As I was working the phone rang. When I came back to my work, I found one of my “helpers”, Pixel, had taken advantage of my absence to avail herself of a nice, soft, warm place to curl up in. I didn’t have the heart to move her.

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Oh, well…I needed a coffee break anyway, didn’t I Pixel?

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