Saturday, October 30, 2010

I See Fleece Everywhere I go.

OK, so I was driving along a busy highway, having spent the entire day (6 hours) at my daughters school for the big All Saints Day procession and games.  Fun though it was...I was delirious.  Two little girls sat in the back of the suburban mobile and chatted away as if they weren't the least bit tired.  The next 8 miles seemed like an eternity. Home and my comfy slippers were all I could think of when I looked up into the sky which had been overcast for most of the day and it was this perfect powdery blue with the gentlest of cloud wisps strewn across like fresh shorn FLEECE!!!

So there you have it...everywhere I look I see fluffy carefree fleece!! I think I am addicted and I love it!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Preparing My First Icelandic Fleece

Its been three days since the flock was sheared and it has been tough not being able to get to it and work with it right away.  But life happens and with two little girls ages 5 1/2 and 2 1/2, being troop leader, cleaning house and making fleece had to wait.  But this morning the little one slept in almost as if she knew mommy needed fleece time!!
I took the fleece from our yearling ewe Eliza Jane and began the skirting process.  This is my first time so I was not completely sure how much to remove and what really constituted a second cut or cuts that would not be good for handspinning which is my main focus. After some research online and asking around I hope I did it justice keeping what should be kept and tossing the tags and burr clumps.
Here is a picture of Eliza Jane's fleece before skirting and then one of the small batch after skirting. Even before washing it is so pretty.

It took me about two hours to skirt the whole fleece.  Any parts that I was unsure of keeping I set aside and will ask someone with more knowledge than I (oh Margaret) to see if it is worth keeping for handspinning or for other projects.  Now I was ready for washing!!! Soooo exciting!
I ran the washer and filled it with really hot water about 150 degrees, too hot for your hand.  As it was a small batch of wool I only set it to fill a medium load.  After it was done filling I set the washer to the "spin only" setting this way there would be no chance of  accidentally turning the washer to the wash cycle and felting the wool.  I then added a little less than 1/2 a cup of Dawn dish they say it even safely washes birds and penguins caught in oil slicks.  Not that Icelandic's have much lanolin, unlike other breeds but at least I know Dawn is gentle and cuts grease easily.  With a long stick I gently stirred  the water to disperse the detergent.  Now I lay the wool on the water gently and pressed it very very slowly and gently with the stick into the water.  I closed the lid to keep the heat in. 
After about 20 minutes I turned on the final spin.  When done I gently pulled it out (ooooh so happy) and placed it in a small tub while I re filled the washer with more hot water like before for the rinsing soak.  Once full, I placed the fleece back in the water, again very gently.  I let it soak about 10 minutes and then the spin cycle again.  Now it time to dry it.

Many folks use sweater stretchers to dry their fleece or homemade screens fitted with legs to get maximum airflow.  I had limited resources so I hunted in the basement for something that could work.
Like I said earlier, I have two little ones and so I found an old wooden baby gate that opens sort of like an accordion.  I opened it up and lay it on an old wooden table my husband uses in his workshop.  It seemed too flat and was afraid no air would circulate through the wool, so I found some old plastic baby food containers and placed them under the four corners of the gate to lift it up off the table.  WA LA!!!! Presto a wool drying table!!! I gently lay the fleece on the baby gate and now I wait patiently to see the results.  I know it has to be perfectly dry before I can store it so I will be washing in very small batches.
Here is a picture of my drying wool.  It is perfectly sparkling white!!! Its a beauty of a fleece!!!!


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

More Sheep Shearing Pictures

The ladies trying to find a way out of the barn!

Georgie before Eliza broke his hand! He's such a sport!

Emma and Abigale waiting patiently for the shearing to begin! They were so well behaved!

Sheep Shearing Day

Well folks the day finally came! We had a local shearer from Otisko Lake come down and shear our mini flock of 4 Icelandic Sheep and 1 Shetland Sheep on Sunday.  The excitement was  overwhelming.  The day before we decided to get the sheep under cover as it was raining and we had awoken to our first light snow.  As this was our first time shearing I was very nervous that we had decided to do it so late in the season.  But as luck would have it and by the Grace of God a light heatwave blew in on Sunday morning with temps of about 65 degrees!!
My sister in law and her husband were visiting with us from New Jersey and were more than eager to help out in any way they could preparing things for the following day.  Many of our attempts to herd the ewes across the farm to the barn were comically futile! Though very entertaining to any on looker! Suddenly without much fuss, we spotted my brother in law Jeff herding the girls down the fence line and promptly into the barn!! Hail the beast master!!!  Since the ram is separate from the ewes until later in November for breeding we just kept him and his wethered buddy Rhum in their little 3 1/4 barn with a gate.
So the flock remained nice and dry for their shearing.

The first one to be sheared was the Matriarch Eliza Jane, our yearling.  Nothing prepared us or Jim the shearer for her feistiness!!! She bucked like a mechanical bull gone haywire.  I attempted to hold her down at Jim's direction and it was not easy.  Though I was holding my own, my dear husband George decided to come in and lend me a hand.  He's is "strong like bull" but Eliza gave even George a run for the money.  So much so that she broke his hand!! Seriously, she kicked his hand that at least one finger is broken, he is getting X-rays as I write.  But as I say he is strong, he continued to work with Jim for another two lambs before deferring to someone else in the crowd.  Thanks Georgie!!

All said and done, we have 5 beautiful bags full of Icelandic Fall fleece!!!! And a flock that look more like little goats rather than sheep! Can't wait to skirt it and wash it! Please check back often to see what is for sale!  Might have at least two full lamb fleeces available, one white and one black!

Thank you to everyone who helped out! Couldn't have done it without you!

Enjoy the video and turn the volume down before playing!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Learning about my flock

Well, finally got an appointment with the vet to come out and give the flock a once over.  They probably don't need it but I sure do!  The day after we brought them home I noticed some "irregularities" in the holding area we had them in and thought "oh oh" parasites! Yuck! After contacting the sellers they recommended Valbazen dewormer and said they should all be fine.  I checked their eyes for that pale anemic look and they were all nice and pink.  Our guess was that the stress of travel must have woken up some sleepy worms. Nice! But such is life with the sheep, better I get used to it.
A week later after being dewormed with the drench of Valbazen, some of the sheep were still not "regular" if you follow me.  It was quite a messy sight.  Ok, now I was getting nervous.  We had a visitor to the farm, Margaret from Trinity Farm who sold us Rhum the Shetland wethered ram and while she was dropping him  off she offered to check my flocks eyes for me.  YIKES!!!! White as snow they were.  She thought it may be the dreaded barpole parasite in the stomach that sucks the very life out of a sheep.  She recommended, a drench of ACV, nutri drench for sheep, molasses, and lots of garlic powder along with a serious dewormer drench of Ivermectin.  We administered both and two days later their eyes were returning to normal.  Thank God!! Was it the treatments? Was it nothing? Who knows, but better safe than sorry.
Now truth be told the sheep never displayed any other warning signs that they were extremely sick. Don't we wish they could speak.  They have been fine since.
Shortly after this episode, I noticed my black ewe lamb Ania had a cough.  Sounded much like a cat coughing up a fur ball.  Ok, my new shepherd nerves were on high alert "now what?"  So that's why I am having the vet come out and give them a once over to settle my own mind.  I think they are well but since the little sheepy can't whisper in my ear, I'd rather be on the safe side of things.

Here is a picture of me giving our ram lamb his drench of ACV. And my good friend Kelly after I talked her squeamish self into helping me tend the sheep!! Good job!! Who says we city girls can't rastle a sheep or two!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Images of the farm

Its been a long year of hard work but it has really paid off.  Most things are in working order and ready to be used and lived in.  First we added four hens and Buddy the rooster! Wow what great egg layers!! Then with the addition of our Icelandic sheep grazing freely to be seen from any window of the farm house has really made this dream come to life.  Here are some of the images of what it all looks like now.  Soon  I will post pictures of the before and during some of the work.  It really is night and day from those first days. 
George and I walk the line every morning when we are able to be up at the farm, to check the fences (which are all new and have no damages areas) every day just to feel close to it all.  There is no greater feeling than knowing it was all worth it and the fun is just beginning.

The original 1850 Barn

The old smokehouse turned playhouse years ago.

The newer house we live in.

The dirt road leading down to the farm.

Our Icelandic Sheep

George rastling the lambs into the truck.

Does the look of pure joy show on my face!!? We are finally bringing them home!

These are three of our 5 sheep the day we brought them home last month!! In this picture are two white sheep, the yearling ewe in the front is Eliza Jane and the white lamb is Aniella.  Still mulling over what name for our sophisticated little black ewe lamb!

This will be the very first of many posts sharing our Icelandic Sheep farming experience!  So far nothing has matched the joy of having this gorgeous ancient breed of sheep on our farm in Skaneateles, NY!

Just looking out the window at any given time and see them dotting our little landscape, grazing peacefully brings such a sense of calm.  I will be sure to keep you posted on all of our Sheepy Adventures!!


Our Farm

Georgie on the tractor! Just lovin life!!!

These are the out buildings.  The barn in the distance is the original Barn from 1850 that we had restored. My husband's great grandfather farmed this land so long ago, we wanted to save this beautiful barn.  The smaller building was the smokehouse later turned children's play house.  Our two little girls love playing Laura Ingalls in there! The farm was out of the family for many years until after much perseverance and hard work my hubby bought part of it back, the original farm house with a newer house on the property, the barn the little house and a total of 22 acres. 
We have fenced  the ten acres that have the two houses and barn on it with horse fencing and sheep wire fencing behind it and electric running the perimiter on the bottom to keep predetors out and the sheepies in.  
And lets not forget the ladies, Titi and Rosa Linda (emma named them) :)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Our New Shetland Ram Lamb ~ Rhum

This is Rhum, out latest addition to the farm.  He is the sweetest little guy! Rhum is a wethered Shetland ram that will be more of a pet to our two little girls and keep our Icelandic ram company on those lonely days in the pasture while he has to stay away from his girls before breeding time.
We got Rhum from Trinity Farm on Cayuga Lake. Thanks Margaret for all your sweet guidance!
I will try to post a video of Rhum jumping, he looks more like a gazelle than a sheep.  Its all part of his sweet charm! Dontcha just want to hug 'em!