Shearing Day and Spring Updates on Dream Come True Farm
By Pam Blasko
Hi there, it’s Pam from Dream Come True Fiber Farm in Connecticut farm country. It’s spring on the farm, which means lots of good things are happening. New chickens arrived with a wonderful new chicken coop! I’m excited to have this coop because it’s actually up off the ground, and the chickens are in at night with a very secure 1/4-inch wire to keep them safe. They are also lucky to have a wonderful little henhouse with nesting boxes.
As I said, being off the ground at night makes me happy, I don’t have to worry about something digging up under and killing our chickens. Then in the early part of the morning, I open their door and down the ramp they go one by one. Then I get to enjoy them all cackling all day long. How I love that sound. We are in our second year with quail so the chicken eggs are a nice addition to our breakfast.
We do a small scale coop, just enough for us. Our quail eggs, we get enough to sell to one regular customer, which helps with our feed bill.
It’s also shearing time on the farm. This year we are shearing one Wensleydale sheep, one Teeswater sheep, one Finn sheep, four Olde English Babydoll Southdown sheep. We also have two llamas and five pygora goats to shear. A nice selection of wool for a fiber fanatic like me. A spinner’s flock (variety of fiber animals) has worked out wonderfully. We are still home to two miniature geldings horses as well. And of course our four dogs!
My yarn-spinning venture keeps on growing and growing. I have so much to share. But for this post I thought I would just pop in to say “hello” and update you all on our farm activities.
This year so far on the farm we have four scheduled events. We are lucky enough to have a spinner, fiber artist Suzy Brown aka Wool Wench visit from the Netherlands and share some of her techniques with us on art yarn spinning. We have a full workshop of 20 who will attend here on the farm.
We also have Esther aka Jazzturtle coming in June from North Carolina to share spinning and weaving techniques.
I’m planning an event workshop later in the year, which will be announced.
And we have Kelly aka Romney Ridge Farm coming from Maine in the fall for a needle felting workshop!
So much fun on this farm this year will be had by many.
So first up is shearing within three weeks. I don’t shear my animals; we have two sheep shearers come here to the farm to shear. On that day we usually have a few on-lookers who would like to learn and help.
So on the morning of shearing, we lock all the sheep in the barn and lightly feed them so as not to have sheep sitting on their rump with full bellies and being uncomfortable. We will have them all inside near the area that shearing will take place. I coat my sheep to keep the vegetable matter (VM) out, which spinners appreciate. So I will remove their coats and have them ready for the shearers.
The shearers will shear them on a clean piece of plywood to keep them up off the barn floor so as not to contaminate the fleece with hay and droppings. Each fleece will be rolled up and placed in burlap with the sheep name to be skirted later on in the day. My job is to sweep the plywood between sheep and stay out of the way. There are two shearers, they are fast and methodical.
Each animal will have its hooves trimmed, and yearly injections are given by me before the shearers let them go. We try our best to make it as stress free as possible for the animals. After shearing we all watch the sheep and goats look at one another, not knowing each other because they look different! Heads are banged and they re-establish a pecking order. It’s quite comical.
After the shearing is complete, I feed the sheep lots of hay and give them some grain, and maybe even a little extra to thank them for their gorgeous fleece. Then I feed the two-legged folks who are on the farm watching and helping. A big farm-style breakfast will be served. After breakfast we skirt the fleeces, which means we pull off all belly and neck wool, which is usually dirty and full of VM (vegetable matter). We then roll them up and put them back in the burlap readying them for the mill; workers there will clean most of the fleeces and put them into roving ready to be spun into lovely handspun organic yarn. I keep some fleeces to clean by hand myself each year because I love the process. I love my hands deep in the fleece. I love even the smell of lanolin. I find it very rewarding. Besides I get to spin it quicker!
The mill usually takes about 12 weeks. When all the fleeces are skirted and bagged, I write my washing and processing request in note form to the mill and place all the fleeces in big boxes to be shipped within a day or two.
By the time all of this is complete it’s usually late afternoon, and we are all tired and ready for cold refreshments and some relaxation.
Shearing day is the one day a year fiber artist shepherdesses wait for with great anticipation. All of the winter work, cleaning pens, trips to the feed store, early winter morning shoveling paths to the barn, changing of sheep coats as the fleece gets fuller and coats get tight, and administering injections has paid off.
I hope I have given you a good idea what shearing day consist of on our fiber farm.
If I can answer any questions about shearing, fiber or spinning, feel free to email me at email@example.com and please write “Grit Comment” in the subject section or add your comments below.
Shear Your Own Sheep
Check out this advice from a professional shearer on the ins and outs of at-home wool removal, setting you up for a safe, humane experience every time.
Fiber Farms and Wool Farming
Shearing sheep, alpacas, or llamas can bring your small wool farming operation a tidy profit, without the fuss of breeding.
Building New Lambing Jugs
Last year, the lambing jugs were cobbled together from panels and gates that were on hand, but not meant for long-term use. This fall, we’re turning an unused area of the barn into the lambing area with custom-built pens that will be secure, as well as movable for easy clean-up after lambing season is over.