Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Quick Hello

What a busy Summer and Fall this has been! I should start with a huge apology for not making it to Black Sheep Gathering in June. It was a disappointment for us, but we were very grateful that Doug had the time blocked off from work. Doug's Dad's health took a turn for the worse, and Doug needed to travel to Arizona to organize Dad's relocation to Bellingham. Dad is now getting the kind of care he needs, and is just a few minutes away from family. We did get to Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival in September. What a great event! As one fellow shepherd commented, there is no place we'd all rather be at that time of year. . . the perfect end to Summer, in the company of our many fiber friends. We have set the date for Wonderful Woollies next year - April 13, 2013. More later. . .

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


to everybody who participated in or attended our annual Wonderful Woolies sale! I hope you had a fun day.
The little lambs have grown since then, and are fast approaching the time when they will be weaned from their mommies. The little ram boys will go to stay with the wethers (non-breeding fiber dudes), and eventually all the guys will be together. As for the girls, we’ll see how it goes. We may or may not need to separate them from the moms. We plan to have this all done well before Black Sheep Gathering in late June.
Yes, we will be showing lambs and yearlings at Black Sheep! They are a little younger for the show this year. We usually plan for January lambs. This year, they were born in March. We got a little behind last fall because of our travel plans. I hope this will not be a huge factor in the show ring. . . we’ll see. Every time we show, it’s a learning experience. We are relatively new at all this, and have been focused on fiber quality. But part of a healthy flock is having beasties with good body structure. We are working on that as well. Black Sheep Gathering is always a fun event - a great place to take classes, shop for treasures, and connect with fellow fiber fanatics & yarn farmers. The Spinner’s Lead is not to be missed! It’s in the evening, following the potluck dinner. It’s a fashion show, with the related fleece beast in tow. I participated with our ram, Elmer two years ago. This year, I’ll be walking with our yearling ewe, Olive, modeling a shawl (which is still in progress). . . .
I hope to get over to the Pavilion to watch the judge assess the vast display of fibers, but most of the time I will be in the sheep barn. I hope that if you’re there, you’ll stop by the Spinners Eden banner to say hello!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


The 2012 fleeces have been sheared & carefully skirted, and will be available for sale on Saturday, April 14, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. at our farm. Spinners Eden Farm is at 5740 Mertz Rd., Bellingham WA 98226. We have a wonderful assortment of colors & different fibers available, and some *to die for* hand-made Turkish drop spindles.

From Interstate 5 northbound, take the Sunset/Mt. Baker Highway exit (#255) and head east. After a mile, turn north onto Hannegan Rd. Continue past Smith Road (light) to Axton, and turn right (east) on Axton. It’s 1.1 mile to Mertz Rd. Turn left (north) & we’re the first barn on the right. If you get lost, my cell # is 360 770 6044.

From Interstate 5 southbound, take the Ferndale Main Street exit (#263), and head east. The road will turn into Axton Road. Continue east, past Hannegan 1.1 mile, to Mertz Rd. Turn left (north) & we’re the first barn on the right. If you get lost, my cell # is 360 770 6044.

Our other participants this year:

The Spindle Smith - Allen Berry’s hand-carved Turkish drop spindles
Nancy’s Farm - Nancy Giordano's flock
Little Orchard Farm - Rocky & Michele Long’s CVM/Romeldale
Riversong Farm - Christie Stewart Stein’s Lincoln, Cotswold, and Romeldale crosses
Marietta Shetlands - John Park & Tina Thommsen Park’s Shetlands
Felicity Fibers - Karen Washington’s alpacas
JNK Llamas - Jeff & Niki Kuklenski’s llamas
Brenna Brown - Brenna’s CVM/Romeldales
Rhonda Wreggelsworth - Rhonda & Vicki’s Angora (mohair) goat
Ferndale Fibers - Kathy Green's flock, washed fleeces and carded wool

There will be raw (unwashed, well-skirted) fleece, washed fleece, roving, top, batts, & the most beautiful hand-crafted Turkish spindles you’ve ever seen, and little lambs romping in the field.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lambing 2012

I’m happy to tell you that little Zoroaster survived & is doing well after his birth ordeal. After emerging from his mommy he found himself in a mud puddle up to his armpits. Thank goodness he started out a vigorous little tyke, with a determination to survive. The first night was iffy, but since then he has been flying along with the rest of the flock.

Among sheep, births usually occur without too much difficulty. The ewes are often independent, requiring little intervention other to make sure that the mother has a safe & warm place to deliver her lambs. I’m not sure what mortality is like for range sheep, but here we try to keep a close eye on everybody for good nutrition throughout pregnancy, and to watch before & during labor for problems. This year, we have mostly first-timers, so this is new territory for all except for two of our girls. It is our fourth year of lambing.

Here are Rachael & Quinn. They're from two different mothers, but are good friends. So much cuteness!

Ellen has been uncomfortable for three full days. The vet has been out to see her & felt that the lambs were getting repositioned for delivery, which could occur any time within the next few days. We have watched her fidget, stretch, sway, paw (and I’m sure this is where the expression “piss & moan” came from). But no labor. You may see fireworks of celebration when she finally gives birth.

Three more ewes left to give birth. And then we can get some sleep, at least until our new puppy comes! (More on that later)

Thursday, March 1, 2012


We have been watching our pregnant ewes for the last week or two, guessing that because of her enooooorrrmooouse belly, Glenda would be delivering lambs first. At least twins. But every time we’ve gone out to check, she’s been cheerfully munching on hay, alfalfa pellets, & begging for what we call “donuts” (actually Show Lamb Grain, which resembles a concoction of granola with molasses). None of the predictive circling & pawing on the ground, none of the soft baaing that usually accompany sheep labor. So at noon, when I heard some of those soft baas on the baby monitor, I went running in anticipation that Glenda might be ready to go.

To my surprise, it was little Contessa who had delivered twins, her very first lambs. I heard baby lamb bleats, quite determined ones at that, and found little Yo Yo Baa (lighter of the two) standing & being groomed by his mom, and Zoroaster (black with white star on head) lying in a mud puddle, yelling his little head off. So we pulled him out, warmed him up, trimmed & cleaned off umbilical cords & got the three settled in a lambing jug for a couple of days of bonding time. Yo Yo was up & eating vigorously in no time. Zoroaster was a little less vigorous, but seemed to be getting some colostrum.

All went pretty well until late afternoon, when Zoroaster’s energy level plummeted. A quick check of his mouth indicated that his temperature had dropped, and he was standing with back arched. . . not a good sign. Time for warm towels, milking mom for colostrum, and feeding him with a syringe. He was able to swallow, fortunately. I lent out my one and only gavage tube last year & haven’t gone back to retrieve it. Zoroaster was able to drink & probably got at least half of what I tried to feed him. I thought it a good idea to touch bases with the Vet about the possibility of antibiotics, but he suggested a couple cc’s of corn syrup to bring up the blood sugar quickly. What a miracle! Of course, I’ll be going back out to keep an eye on the little tyke. His temperature is up to normal, although his mouth is still cold. If he needs, I’ll continue syringe feeding, and hopefully he should perk up soon once his temperature & intake stabilize.

Contessa has been a champ through this. Although I see a lot of question marks hanging above her head (these are her first lambs - this is all new to her), she is cooperative when I need to milk her, and seems to comprehend that this little fellow is still *her* lamb (not mine). Keeping fingers crossed!

Monday, February 27, 2012


This time of year is almost as much fun for us as Christmas. Our sheep, who have been growing their wonderful wool for a year, look forward to the day when it all comes off. Yes, it is still February, but they seem to come through the event feeling more comfortable & relieved to get all that heavy wool off. Just imagine an instant 10 lb weight loss. We’ve literally had grown-up, adult ewes & rams do the “Happy Spring Dance”, pronking in the field following shearing.

The pregnant ewes are more likely to stay in the barn after shearing, and after they deliver the lambs, the teats are easier for their little ones to find. And even though the rams don’t have these concerns, they, too, are happy afterwards. All our sheep are coated, so they do have that protection, as well as their 1/2”+ of wool remaining to keep them warm.

So here we are, with a wonderful bunch of fleeces. Several were promised to repeat customers, and those have been shipped off. One went to Judith MacKenzie and was used in her CVM class at Madrona Fiber Festival just a couple of weeks ago. The rest of the fleeces are here, and I am working hard to get those ready for the sale at our farm April 14, 2012, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. So there’s still some sorting & pricing going on, and I am having a great time just fondling the scrumptious wool. Mmmmmmm!

Here is a photo of Helena’s dense, velvety fleece. Helena has been a dark espresso color in years past, but now (after having birthed & raised 10 lambs in three years - two sets of triplets & one set of quads), she has some gray in her wool. It’s a more charcoal color this year. She is a very precious lady, and has this year off for lambing. If I could give her a real vacation & send her on a trip to Hawaii, I would. But she’s just going to be Auntie this year, and have some time for her body to recover from her very busy last three years.

The really nice thing about dense fleeces is that it’s hard for VM to find its way in. It’s more likely to stay on the top of the fiber, and then is pretty easy to pick off before shearing. It also helps that we have coats on everybody to protect the fleeces from dirt,VM, & sun-bleaching. During the course of the year, as the fleeces grow, we change out the coats to larger sizes to accommodate the wool. That means that the sheep wear four to five different coats through a year. Those coat changes are also a good time to assess body condition, to make sure that each one is at a healthy weight.

The next thing to happen here will be lambing. . . any day now! We’ve been watching the girls very carefully & it appears that Glenda will be the first to give birth. Her udder is enlarged, her belly has dropped, & her nether regions are looking rosy. She is big as a house & I am sure she has at least twins. She is our champion ram, Elmer’s daughter (looks just like her Dad), and since we lost Elmer last year, I am so very happy that we still have his genetic line at our farm. Can hardly wait to see the lambs!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Smile

As I returned to the house after morning chores today, I realized that I once again came in with a smile on my face & warmth in my heart. Trite, I know. It’s an impossible thing to comprehend, probably, if you’ve never made a connection with sheep, but they are the sweetest beasties one could imagine. Well, mine are, anyway. (Okay, not always the rams. . . they can have an attitude & it’s wise to keep eyes open. But even our rams are pretty mellow.)

We sent four of our ewe lambs off to start a new farm - Isabelle, Josephine, Kathleen & Nadia. I do miss those little ladies. All were born here last February. All four have *spectacular* first fleeces which I will probably never have a chance to spin. But knowing that they went to a good young shepherd helps to make up for the loss.

The young lady who started her very first flock with these girls was well-prepared. She is in FFA, has read & studied the books, and came twice a week for *many* weeks to work with the girls. That says a lot to me. She worked on halter-training (or, as we call it, “fancy pageant walking”), so the girls will be ready to show next summer. She helped with hoof trims, something that needs to be done every few months with this breed. She learned about nutrition & general health. Her family was supportive in building a small barn and getting fences in order before bringing the girls home. This is just the kind of situation that we hope for, for our lambs’ new homes. Nevertheless we miss those little faces. We still have three little ewe lambs from last year, Mary (white), Olive (gray) & Bianca (a white Corriedale).

For ram lambs, we will be keeping Ulric & William, two of Elmer’s boys. If you recall, Elmer was our National Champion Ram in 2009, at Estes Park, Colorado. He also won Best Fleece at Nationals that year. We sadly lost Elmer last winter, but we are so happy to have his little ones. One of them has already been out as “Traveling Stud Muffin” to another farm. I can hardly wait to see his offspring.

Our new lambs will be born in March this year. Lambing is like Christmas. One of the reasons is that we never know what we’re going to get, in color or sex. We had one year of 7 rams/1 ewe (Blossom), which prompted considering a ceremonial estrogen dance around the barn before breeding the following year, but we never got around to it. Then we had a couple of years with more balanced gender outcomes. As for colors, Romeldales are all one color (well, maybe a star on the head). CVMs are badger-faced, multicolored sheep. But they’re basically the same breed. Blossom (black) had white twins. Amity (black) had triplets - a white/gray CVM & two moorit (brown) Romeldales. Christiane (black/white CVM) had two duplicates of herself. It’s all good. We gave the breeding ewes a stunning black/white CVM ram last fall - Esteban El Guapo, from California. So it’ll be fun to see his little ones.