Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles

Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles! Our farm mission is to enjoy and promote the wonderful diversity of the Shetland breed by fully utilizing to the best of our ability all they have to offer historically. We believe the best preservation and management of this breed includes it's full spectrum of history. We encourage old and new shepherds alike to join in the fun by engaging in fiber arts, especially spinning and knitting, as this breed is so intimately linked with those aspects of the arts.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

I Juusssttt Couldn't....

...shear Maewyn just yet!

It's been a cold winter.  Very cold.  Unusually cold.  So cold, we've busted numerous records.

Just last night, we had sub-zero temperatures.  Cold is stressful.  It's warming up nicely today, but as you can see, taking a fleece early would be selfish.  This little lamb is very grateful for his mother's warmth!  In prior years, I'd take the fleeces starting in February already.  This year, we were having negative twenty below temps through the night in  February!  What a shock that would be to the ewe to have her lush fleece taken from her in a time of need!

As the days warm up and the nights moderate, the ewes are happy to make the trip to the beauty salon!  Shetlands are very wooly sheep, and just like us shrugging off the layers and feeling greater mobility, the sheep also feel a sense of spring and happiness at shrugging off the thick, wooly, insulating layers that cover them.  

We know that caring for our livestock well is important to today's customer, as it's on the minds of so many.  Small family farms are capable of delivering the kind of care that huge producers just can't give.  We've come to learn that even jacketed fleeces will still have tidbits of straw, hay, or grasses in them, not to mention other problems.  We've decided that jacketing just jacks up the price of the wool (as the cost of coats can be expensive overall with various sizes needed, and washing), and deprives the moms of what they need to help their lambs get off to a great start.  Sheep are seasonal breeders.  They breed best when they lamb in cold temperatures.  They need their fleeces here in the north until the grip of winter breaks.  So far, I've only sheared three ewes, all intentionally not bred this year.  I left half an inch of wool on them, as I plan on shearing them again in the fall.  The rest will be sheared as the days warm up and I can't wait!!

Our fleeces are not perfectly VM clean, but we know now that our customers understand and don't mind.  People LOVE sheep! and want the best for them!  We do, too!  I think the little lamb in the photo above surely thanks the wisdom of customers who buy our fleeces and yarns!

P.S.  Maewyn's fleece mostly sold out very rapidly last season.  I saved her britch wool for mittens for myself and I've been heavily reliant on their soft, cozy warmth during this most challenging winter.  Her fleece won't be available this year until markets in June.  If you'd like to enjoy Maewyn's luxury,  stop by in those first couple of markets if you want to avoid being disappointed! 

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