Slaughter success and breeding victory

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Skinning Bart. He was very bony.

 

With the help of some relatives, one of the ram lambs, Bart, was finally slaughtered, skinned and broken down over the holiday weekend.  It didn’t take very long and we now have some Icelandic lamb in the freezer.  We should have Scottie and Dingus taken care of in the next week or so.

As for breeding, all the adult ewes are finally in with Shaft and hopefully everyone gets pregnant.  Due to the ewes’ cycling not being synchronized, they’ll be in there until January, or when they show conclusive signs of pregnancy, whichever comes first.  So we are going to have May lambs, which means April spring shearing.

Bart was a light yield, about 15lbs of finished cuts including the organs we kept.  That is a hanging weight somewhere past 20lbs, but not much past.  He weighed more before the weather got colder, but he was in fact weaker than Scottie and Dingus and lost some weight the last month.  Dingus has inherited excellent parasite resistance, as he was stunted but has a well formed, meaty frame.  He is smaller physically than Bart’s rangier, lankier frame, but will give more meat.  So that’s good.

My husband feels pretty good about his ability to slaughter sheep going forward.  Bart was stunned unconscious and then had his throat slit.  It all went very quickly.  The cold weather has helped a lot.

Now that Thanksgiving festivities are over (we celebrated with friends and family and it went pretty well and was delicious), I have to get back to the fiber prep.  Speaking of weight gain, we have a baby that went from 16 to 17lbs over the course of Thanksgiving week.  And still waiting to hit three months old.  I guess he’s taking lessons from the lambs.

Breeding by halves

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We’re breeding Shaft to the four adult ewes.  This is him trying to persuade Goldie that now is the time for all good ewes to get bred and bear a pair of wonderfully fleecy twins next spring.

She’s not a fan.

Badgerface is in there too, those were the two ewes we managed to move over to the breeding pen.  We are going to get our two largest ewes, Black N Tan and Grey, moved over sometime this week, as weather and ability permit.

Fast Fleecy update

It looks like I haven’t been posting much to this blog, but that’s because I’ve been updating the fleece sale page.  I am running out of whole fleeces, and will soon be posting raw fiber for sale by the ounce, probably by this weekend.  I am learning a lot about shipping costs, paypal fees and preparation of fleeces to send out to customers.

So anyway, that’s where the latest updates are.  The flock is fine, we still haven’t done breeding yet, but it doesn’t look like we had any accidental breeding either, so we’ll probably take care of that this week.  We have to delay eating the ram lambs until after Christmas unless we get an opportunity to slaughter after Thanksgiving, which is unlikely right now.

Fiber Fusion Fiasco

This was a pretty crazy weekend.  I took Shaft’s fleece to Fiber Fusion for sale, and we took a peek around.  Compared to last year, Fiber Fusion had more vendors and appeared to be busier.  A lot of the people appeared pretty interested in buying and there was a shift in vendor makeup towards vendors that supplied equipment and finished/processed goods rather than “raw” fiber.

Having said that, there was also a massive increase in people offering raw fleeces for sale.  The increase was so great they set aside another building just for raw fleeces.

But then they didn’t really let anyone know how to get to it, or where it was, or how to submit a fleece for sale or judging (two separate desks).  So I and a bunch of other people put our raw fleeces out excitedly and hoped for a sale, but nobody knew our beautiful fleeces were there, so almost nothing sold.  The same fleeces I saw when I put mine out were still there at the end of the day on Sunday when I went to claim my unsold fleece. Alas.  Here’s hoping they’ll get the hang of things next year, this is still a new festival and working all the kinks out takes time.

As for the rest of the fleece, we broke down and got a dehumidifier so air drying would not take days on end.  It’s been quite effective and we are delighted with the results.  We set up in the garage, it is easiest to dry fleece there.

The sheep hacked the barn and ran amok when I lay all the fall fleeces out to air dry in the barn after shearing day.  So my project for the next few months is to shake all the hay out of the fleeces.  It looks pretty bad, as these pictures suggest, but it’s not really.  However, I’m not eager to do it again, so next  year all the fleeces go straight into mesh bags on shearing day.

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Fleeces waiting to be air dried.

 

 

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Air drying. This is a drying rack meant for “herb”, but we find it works great for wool instead.

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The VM situation looks terrible, but most of that stuff comes out quickly when the locks are totally dry rather than slightly damp.

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This drying rack holds a full mesh bag of fleece, which is about 2 fleeces’ worth of wool.

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Bucky’s fleece survived the onslaught and is drying on a metal rack that is good for individual fleeces, but not as awesome as the “herbal” drying rack.

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It hangs from a rafter. Very easy to set up and take down, just a wonderful find.

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One last look at Bucky’s fall clip. It is soft and looks pretty good. Should wash up nicely for sale.

As you can see, we’re finally starting to formalize our processing so I can develop a routine and just always be preparing wool for sale or home use.  Also, I’m taking up knitting.  It’s a great way to use up the bulky, lumpy yarn I am likely to produce with my current newbie level of wool combing experience.

The actual sheep are doing ok and already have plenty of wool grown in for the winter.

“I used the crook!”

My husband said that the other day after separating the ram lambs out.  There’s a trick to it that I can’t recall right now because I’m still enjoying postpartum sleep deprivation, but he figured out how to hook the legs so that the sheep stands still and lets itself be led to a new paddock.  This was fabulous news, as it means more flexibility in managing the flock.

We are going to Fiber Fusion this weekend.  I’d hoped to put up at least three fleeces for sale, but will probably just see if I get a bite for Shaft’s fall clip.  I don’t think I can have his and Bucky’s spring fleeces (which, being lamb fleeces, are still plenty spinnable and worth putting up for sale as whole raw fleeces) ready in time, but we’ll see.  There were some challenges with the drying, as the spring fleece was sheared and a bit dense with winter growth, so it was thicker than the tuftlike rooed wool I collected from them in winter.  Plus they have a bunch of straw stuck in them, large pieces and easy to remove, but more than I remembered being there when I shoved them in a mesh bag for long-term storage.

The fiber sales plan is to put out what I can at the festival, see if it sells, and for the rest process them for sale as raw locks/fleeces and possibly roving.  I am getting steadily better at combing into top (considered a form of roving, which is aligned wool fibers ready for spinning), but I have yet to comb out enough to make more than a few feet of yarn.  And roving is generally sold by the ounce, which is at least a yard of yarn for one piece of roving.  My efforts at combing top yield fractions of an ounce per bundle.

That’s all right now, I am too tired to type more today.

Wingus choked to death on electronet

I was able to bail him out a couple days ago, but today he snuck by and we just didn’t catch him in time.  He was tangled where there is a lot of bramble and it’s not easy to see if a sheep is actually tangled or not without stomping out there in the mud and thorns.

No more electronet for us.  This is the first (and hopefully only) death from it, but we’ve had so many close calls with our other sheep that we’re just going to have to put up something else that is higher-hassle to move around for our temporary fencing.

I know it’s our first year (from when we got our initial sheep), and my husband keeps saying that part of starting out even on a small scale is losing animals due to inexperience, but we were really hoping to eat Wingus, he was really massive.  And the punchline is that we don’t know enough about dead animals to know if the meat is salvageable, so he’s going straight in the ground as fertilizer.

I’m just feeling very overwhelmed right now.  My own child is gaining like crazy, if his current gains persist, I’d have a 90lb one year old.  So it’s hard to wait for the old energy levels to get back up.  But it’s good to have a healthy, comically large newborn.

Anyway, we have a lot to learn, and in the meantime our bellies will have to be filled with humble pie as we gain that wisdom from experience.

What we did today (Fall Shearing Day)

shaftfleeceSix pounds of Shaft’s unskirted Icelandic wool, fresh off the sheep.  We also got the other 12 sheared and hoof trimmed.  They have held up pretty well the last few weeks.

The shearer we used this time was a very professional guy from Concrete, Pierre Monnat.  He was careful with the sheep and did nice work.

I finished my own addition to the farm, a little boy who is growing ridiculously fast.

I’m still pretty tired, so that’s all for now.  But we do now have some raw fall fleeces.  They are softer than the spring clips and it will be interesting times preparing the best ones for sale.