Saturday, April 9, 2011
Today, just before a huge storm swept in, we visited the sheep farm. I should clarify, this isn't just any sheep farm its one of my favorites. The farm, Rarefind Farm is owned by Lynn and her husband and they raise the most beautiful Shetland sheep. They are as friendly as dogs and come racing over when Lynn calls for them-- they get so excited that even the pregnant ewes leap like little lambs! And their fleeces. wow. Several years ago when I first had my hands on yarn made from Lynn's fleeces I couldn't believe it was Shetland. I thought she must have snuck some merino in it was so soft! All my previous experiences with Shetland fleece had been a bit, well, "rustic" would be the nice way to put it. I had no idea that Shetland wool could be so fine. She doesn't have a sheep in the flock with a micron count of more than 30, and her average is around 22 (I think that's what she said-- I should have been taking notes). Perfect for hand spinning and the type of wool you'd want to have against your skin.
Because Shetland sheep are so small they are perfect for our small farm. We are planning to start with three this year but we'll breed them in the fall and lamb in the spring, so we'll have more next summer (and the next, and the next...) but they are small enough that it'll take a while before we run out of space. And they are small enough that I can handle them on my own-- larger breeds are surprisingly strong and when they are stubborn can be too much for someone my size/strength to handle. Plus they don't eat as much as larger breeds which will be nice on our wallets!
After talking to Lynn I think our best choice is to buy three adult ewes who have already had at least one baby. This way we will know that they are good, healthy animals and they shouldn't have problems with lambing. Sometimes new moms take a while to realize that the tiny creature following them around is their responsability, and they can have more trouble birthing, so a proven ewe will make things simpler for us and take away some of the stress of our first lambing!
I'd like to bring them to the farm in late May or early June. That will give us the summer to get to know them and get them settled in before breeding in the fall. Of course, that means that we'll have to have the farm ready for them. Thankfully our trip to Lynn's reassured me that setting our farm up for sheep is within our capabilities.
My dad has already told my mom that she can have a sheep...which would live at our farm, of course!