Tuesday, July 3, 2012

One More Lamb

Two weeks ago I was outside inspecting the sheep and was stunned to see that one of the "one winter ewes" had developed an udder.  Sheep terminology lesson:  A lamb is any sheep less than one year old.  A one winter ewe is a ewe that has been alive for one winter and is no longer a lamb meaning just over one year old.  Icelandic sheep are a fast growing breed and it is possible to breed a lamb that was born in the spring their first fall.  It's a little controversial to some people though.  Generally it is believed that only experienced shepherds should consider breeding ewe lambs because they have more labor complications and even then it should only be done if the ewe lamb is in perfect condition for it. 

I'm a brand new shepherd.  We only just got our sheep last fall.  Our starter flock was 7 mature ewes, 3 ewe lambs, and 2 rams.  My intention was to only breed the 7 mature ewes and give the ewe lambs another year to mature.  Well, there was a very small whoopsie. 


The 3 ewe lambs were kept locked in a building the entire time the rams were with the girls.  When breeding season was over, I put the rams back in their barn on the other side of the creek and let the ewe lambs rejoin mature ewes.  Everything should have been perfect, but there was just one problem.  Luke, the ram lamb.

I had not set out to buy a third ram.  The lovely woman I bought my sheep from thought I might enjoy trying some Icelandic meat.  She thought I would butcher him, but (like the ewe lambs) he was a little small.  So I thought I should let him grow out a bit more.  He was registered and he was growing out very fine.  I decided to wait and sell him this summer as a breeding ram.  He turned out so beautiful!  But we couldn't keep him with the big rams because they were mean to him.  They'd ram him and keep him from eating.  So we decided to put him in the pasture with my husband's horse.  We thought, "oh, that's good.  He shares a fence line with the ewes so he won't be lonely."

Now I'm new at keeping sheep, but I did keep goats before.  I knew a ram could get a ewe pregnant right through a fence, but we use ELECTRIC fencing.  We thought we were safe.  We don't know if he got her through the fence anyway or if the power went out briefly or what, but we know it was him because all the other males were on the other side of the creek.

Back to my discovery that London (that's the one winter ewe) had developed an udder.  I shared the news with my husband and he had to come look for himself because we were just so surprised.  We agreed she was pregnant and we should watch.  Three days later the smallest, cutest little thing just bounced right out of the woods!  

This little lamb is Devon, born to London, courtesy of Luke.  Another ewe lamb making the final lamb count 9 ewe lambs and 3 ram lambs.  She's in the house in these pictures because at first we thought her mother was rejecting her.  I decided to try to get London to accept her one more time that evening and she took her right back!  I guess I was just worrying.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Why I Spin Wool (& why you should too, maybe)

When I tell people that I spin wool into yarn I almost always get one of two reactions. There are the crunchy, granola-eating, farmy people that think it's just too cool, and then there are the people that are genuinely surprised that I would bother. After all, anyone can go to the craft store and buy almost any kind of yarn imaginable in a rainbow of colors to make their socks, sweaters, or blankets. More to the point you can go to a department store and just buy some socks ready to wear for a couple of dollars.

Plus, I'm busy. They know I'm busy because they're busy. Everyone is busy. It's a chronic condition of our society.

And that's why I spin.

That's Martha on the left and Elizabeth on the right.  Of course my spinning wheels have names.  All spinners name their wheels.  Seriously.

No, my tree isn't still up.  This picture is from just before Christmas, I swear!

Being busy is not a good way to live. You can't think on things and reflect on happenings if you're always rushing to the next thing.

That's the first reason I spin. To slow down. There's something meditative about fiber sliding through your fingers, steadily working the treadle, and the quiet blur of the wheel turning. I find when I spin that it's not only me that's affected. My husband will pause in the doorway and take in the sight of me. The children are drawn to watch and ask (again) if I will show them how. My youngest child is autistic. Have I shared that yet? Well, he is. He's 8 years old and doesn't speak yet, but words are coming slowly. My autistic child will come and sit on the floor right in front of the wheel and hold his face mere inches away to feel the air move and look through the spokes. It slows the whole family down. Just like magic.


Another reason I spin is the intense pride and satisfaction I get from finishing something. This feeling greatly adds to my well-being. And it lasts for years. I made a quilt just before I got married 16 years ago. I still get a rush when I see one of my children sleeping under it. Almost as though the quilt is an extension of me, of my arms wrapped around my child.

Oh, now I'm getting all wistful and sappy. That is so not me!

So, maybe, you should spin too. Or crochet. Or knit. Or quilt. Or paint. Or you could be scatter brained eclectic, like me, and do all of the above.

If you think spinning could be your thing, I suggest you go to The Joy of Handspinning.  There are videos of different techniques.  The author has a real knack for teaching.  I learned from that site and other videos on youtube!  I still don't know any other spinners in real life.