Growing fleece, Tour de Fleece

I was going to move the pasture for the sheep today, but it’s raining (finally, thankfully) and there’s still plenty to eat out there, so it’ll wait. But they’re not going along with my plan, which is for them to stand outside in the rain all day to wash off all the dust, so that when it clears up and they dry off on Friday, I can jacket them all. I’ve let them go longer than I normally would, but when they’re just eating grass, their fleeces get dirty, but not full of VM. Dirt washes out; VM does not.

I was even toying with waiting until fall to jacket them. That’s what a lot of farms do, and it does cut down on how many times you have to change their jackets as their fleece expands. But I worry about weathering. On the black sheep, you also get “highlights” on the outer tips, which does lighten the the overall color of the fiber once it’s blended–but not to ill effect. All shades of chocolate brown are pretty, as far as I’m concerned. But I think party time’s over at Cupcake Ranch. I’m going to mend all the jackets and give them a UV blocker bath and clothe everyone after they dry from this stretch of rain, but hopefully before the land dries and the dust rises up again.

Their feeder, though handsome and convenient, is also perfect for working hay into their fleeces and ruining the neck fiber, some of the softest and most yummy.

New order!

Hear they are in winter. The problem with this feeder is that they hay above falls into their coats and works its way in (the jackets protect their blankets, but their marvelous neck fleece gets trashed to mulch status). The bigger problem is that I, being both a dunce and a know-it-all, decided those little holes for the hay were too small and clipped out a few grids. Never mind that the nice people making the bunks have a lot more experience than me and clearly know the right size of grid to use; certainly, I must know better. (I blame my inflated sense of my own wisdom on my only-childhood. With no one to compare me to, my parents were always impressed at my abilities and gave me undue credit for everything. As an adult, I get near-constant proof that I’m WAY less smart than I think I am. Yet years of positive–albeit unwarranted–reinforcement about the size of my brain still bolsters my foolish confidence and prompts me to “fix” things to disastrous effect.) With bigger holes, the sheep burrow their heads deep into the hay and really grind the VM into their neck fiber.

I can console myself that even without my “improvements,” the design inherently causes this problem–all the smart fiber people feed low, so I bought my feeder knowing it wasn’t ideal, but liking the clean, simple design. Happily, my shearer suggested an easy improvement, which I’ll make before switching them to hay this winter: paneling the top 3/4 of each side with plywood, so they’ll be shielded from the hay above and only able to pull hay from the lower squares. May reduce waste, too.

Speaking of hay, I’m going to have to buy hay this winter. My pasture has gotten ratty and tree-filled enough that it’s not worth Jay’s trouble to hay, especially since he’s got another 100 acres of his own this year. My plan is to prune out and kill off all the stupid mulberry saplings that have proliferated, then to spray for weeds (I’m loathe to spray, but I can’t see any way around it–I can’t weed 6 acres by hand) and maybe fertilize–both of which will be expensive, but hopefully no more expensive than buying the hay; and it should really increase my yield–in theory, at least.

Ideally, I’d use composted sheep manure instead of commercial fertilizer, but I don’t have a way to spread it on that much acreage. Can you spread compost with one of those pull-behind spreaders? I’d assume they’re just set up for grass or granular fertilizer…

Yikes, I’m lulling myself to sleep. Enough of that!

Thanks to Tour de Fleece, I cranked out my delinquent April Pound of Spinning in record time:

April Pound of Fiber: Yarn School Orphans

Today, Day 5. Lacking an ounce to get the full April pound, I had to filch an unrelated braid of roving someone ditched in the Yarn School fiber buffet. Doesn’t go with the rest, but whatevs.
Tour de Fleece, Day 5

Day 4 (abandoned batts):
Tour de Fleece, Day 4

Day 3 (orphaned rolags):
Tour de Fleece, Day 3

Day 2 (dregs batts composed mainly of carder farts):
Tour de Fleece, Day 2

(That’s Roger Sterlingpants, the Mad Men chickenpants.)

Day 1 (dregs batts):
Tour de Fleece, Day 1

Most of it came from:
April's pound to spin: Yarn School scraps

Now I get to pick out what to start spinning next! Since I want to do something for each of my TDF teams, next will be Hello Yarn, probably. I also need Wicked Stitch yarn and Firefly yarn.

  • Patty says:

    Have you thought about goats. There are lots of people who loan out their goats to weed, cut grass. Might be an alternative to spraying.

    Good luck
    Patty

  • Nikol says:

    I’ve thought about goats for clearing out my woods of poison ivy and brush, but goats aren’t the best choice for pasture. And most of the weeds I’m really eager to get out of my pasture are very invasive and/or toxic to most livestock. I don’t want to kill my mowers (though most toxic weeds aren’t very palatable) or get them to spread the weeds by scattering the seeds in their poop or pruning them to encourage fresh growth. Even for the stuff that’s not toxic, you can’t exactly instruct them on what to eat and what to leave.

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