EWE shearing 2015

Shepherds know many mysterious languages; they speak the language of sheep and dogs, language of stars and skies, flowers and herbs.

– Mehmet Murat ildan

On October 18 we did the shearing for our seventy one sheep.

Two days before a neighbour came over with his gentle and loving dog Sally. Sally gets so excited about bringing in sheep, but never barks and never goes near a sheep.

Malcolm and Sally brought in the main flock…not that easy as many of them love dogs and just wanted to say ‘Hi’ to Sally, not follow the other sheep!

Once the main flock were in the yards Malcolm volunteered to hit the forest to bring on the four ‘bushrangers’ who refuse to stay with the main flock and roam the creek line. This was a very challenging task as it involved rough terrain, crossing the creek, a complex fencing arrangement,  and taking into account that the kangaroos are also in the forest.

Despite the challenges the Malcolm and Sally team, aided by us, brought in the fugitives to join the others in high security yards, and to settle down with hay. Sally rewarded herself by having a dunk in the horse trough!

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The older sheep and special needs sheep, such as Blossom the blind merino ewe, were put into their shelter, to be brought up for shearing separately.

We are lucky to have the services of an excellent, patient and caring shearer, Matthew. Matthew brought a second shearer along so we could shear all sheep in a day. In addition two WWOOF guests, friend Sari, and my daughter provided support.

We use portable panels to create feeder yards to the shearing area, which is the veranda of our stables. It is flat, has access to power and shaded. Even though it was an ideal day, just 21C, it still gets so hot doing such hard physical work, and so we not only attend to the comfort of our sheep, we try to look after our shearing team with shade, a safe surface, cool drinks, lunch and a ‘real’ coffee from the local hotel.

At 8.30 am set up is complete and the shearing begins, with our newest arrival Cindy and Magpie starting the day.

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Many of our sheep are very large. Our sheep get to live out their natural life, are on good pasture and roam freely. They are strong. Some are cooperative, others not so. But our shearers managed all well although at times we needed to call in reinforcements!

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As each sheep is shorn Matthew identifies their breed type, which I record on the fleece bag, together with the name of the sheep. Each fleece is bagged individually.

Once shorn, the sheep is released back to a separate yard and after a short period released back into the olive grove, where they happily return to grazing on fresh grass. For the next two days especially they will rest and catch up on sleep.

The helpers quickly remove the fleece to be skirted and bagged, and sweep the shearing area, as the next sheep is brought in.

We have a mix of breeds and colours. Below is ‘Joseph’ with the wonderful multi colour fleece. He is a merino cross.

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It was also the first shearing for Wilma  the border Leicester ewe. Her fleece is huge with a staple length of 20 cm!

Wilma (3)

Wilma (6)

Wilma (4)

Once the main flock was shorn, we brought up the older sheep.  I led blind Blossom up and she quietly submitted to being shorn, dear girl.

At last by around 4pm, all sheep were free of their fleeces and our shearers packed up to shear another twelve!

And we have sixty nine bags of fleece to move!

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To purchase our fleeces, either raw, as batts, or as spun yarn, please contact us.

 

The making of a doona – Part 2

Winter is here and other projects have taken precedence.  I need to get our doona ready!

Now I have batches of washed and dried fleece stored ready for the next stage.

The fleece needs to be teased apart ready for carding

The fleece needs to be teased apart ready for carding

Each batch is teased out by hand to open up the locks in preparation for carding. Carding ‘combs’ the fleece into fluffy ‘batts’.

I use an electric drum carder

The washed fleece is then carded

The washed fleece is then carded

The batts are now put aside until I have enough for a doona. This is going to be an ‘all year’ double bed doona with 330 g of fleece per square meter. It will need twenty of these batts.

The next stage is to prepare the doona cover. I am using organic bamboo sheeting. Bamboo is more sustainable than cotton, is soft, absorbs moisture and is long wearing.

As this is the first donna I am using a set of bamboo/cotton sheets as the cover.  I have cut them to size .

Laying out doona cover.

Once I have cut the cover to size it is time to lay out the wool batts to check quantity. As you can see Alice the cat has arrived to ‘assist’.

Laying out the wool fill.

Henry, the lonely alpaca

I first spotted Henry alone in small paddock, on a recently sold farm. The farm had bred sheep, but all were now gone. As I drove past I saw the property being vacated, and there was Henry, alone and looking lost.

Then a notice went up. There was to be clearing sale. I love a good clearing sale and so changed my plans so I could attend. On checking the list of goods for sale, there was no mention of an alpaca,

Arriving on the day, I registered with the auctioneers. I asked about the alpaca and no one could tell me if he was for sale. There was a large amount of goods being auctioned and the pace was fast and furious.

The alpaca was in a small paddock alongside much of the farm equipment for sale. He anxiously ran the fence, crying, and coming eagerly over to anyone who took notice of him.

As always, at a local clearing sale, it is a chance to catch up with rural ‘neighbours’. On speaking with such a neighbour I asked if he knew any of the family from the property. He did and pointed out the son. I made my way over and introduced myself, and asked about what was planned for the alpaca.

Still the auction moved rapidly on. The man then told me, yes the alpaca was to be sold today. As I turned I realised that the alpaca was about to be auctioned. I pushed my way through and anxiously waited the start of the bidding,

Within minutes I was the proud ‘owner’ of a large male alpaca. Luckily my good friend and neighbour has alpacas and could reassure me re our ability to transport him on the short trip to our property.

When we returned with the horse float the son was their to assist. We were told that Henry, as I had decided to name him, had run with the sheep and a female alpaca. The family had decided to keep the female but to sell Henry. So Henry found himself suddenly alone and wondering where his flock and his partner had gone, and why he was left.

Henry travelled beautifully and settled quickly. He found a friend in Barrie the sheep, who arrived within days.

And then, as we knew it would, we received a call from a friend…..could we take in an alpaca we knew of in dire need………

So Henry now has a friend, some sheep to care for.

And for that we are very pleased.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The making of a doona – Part 1

Our next project is a new doona for my daughter’s bed.

Our reason for making our own is we  do not want to purchase a down doona due to the extreme cruelty involved in the ‘harvesting’ of down from live birds. Also we do not want a synthetic doona, made from petrochemicals.

We want a natural, organic and cruelty free doona, with the thermal values and  the luxury of a wool doona.

So we are going to produce one from the fleece of our rescue sheep.

Our fleece for this project is from Bertram. Bertram is a wether (a castrated male) who came with four other sheep from a property where they we repeatedly attacked by roaming dogs. They have settled well here and are part of the main flock living in our organic olive grove, with their ‘protector’, Samba the donkey.

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The sheep are shorn in November, before the onset of the summer heat and after the worst of the cold, wet weather. We use a local shearer and the sheep are shorn at the property, minimising the stress to them.

Shearing

Relieved of his fleece, Bertram trots off to join his friends and his fleece is carried up to the sorting table. Here we trim the  fleece of the ‘scraggy’ parts, ‘skirting’ the fleece, remove as much vegetable matter as possible. The fleece is then carefully rolled and stored until use.

Om the sorting table

The next step is to clean or ‘scour’ the fleece to remove dirt and the lanolin. As we want to conserve water we use the ‘suint’ method for our initial scouring, This method utilises the naturally present suint in wool fleece to remove the majority of the lanolin. The process takes two days, before the fleece is removed and rinsed with fresh water.

Ready for first soak

Next we divide the fleece into smaller lots for hand washing and rinsing in batches.  We use rainwater collected on our property and all waste water is recycled on site.

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Once washed the fleece is dried in the open air.

Drying fleece

Our next stage takes us inside.