All a huge learning curve

So we have fly strike here again!! Poor Cherry and now her dad, Rambo!!

She was a feisty baby yesterday and was more awkward to handle, he, once we managed to lie him down seemed to accept his fate and enjoy the relief provided!!

But once again we have multicoloured predyed sheep in the fields! Though I am pleased to report Cheery’s fleece had started to grow back beautifully on the patches that had become utterly bald after her first round of strike!!

What have we learned:

  • Crovect, crovect and crovect!! Prevention is better than cure
  • Spot on is great as a cure
  • Battles summer fly cream is brilliant
  • Purple spray for any wounds
  • Don’t be afraid to cut more fleece than you think is necessary
  • Trim all the fleece as short as poss and a good pair of scissors beats hand shears for ease of working with jumpy babies!!
  • Washing up liquid, water and smidge of hibiscrub is great for washing out the maggots they almost need to surface for air!
  • Don’t forget the comb!!
  • and gloves 🤢
  • Take the time to get to know all your animals it’s easier to spot any issues (Both sheep seemed fine the previous day checks but heads hung low the following morning and then a bit of observation and itching spotted- no signs on the outer fleece) Sheep really like to hide their issues well!!

Sheep are amazing at hiding some awful issues as we learned from lambing this year! But we have learned an awful lot this year and things are already in the diary to do for next year to get on top of things early!!

However I do wonder if the different fleece of Rambo (which Cheery and A’tuin have inherited) is more prone to flystrike in our weather here in west Wales! Those that have the more Llanwenog style fleece seem to have faired better!! Llanwenog obviously being a super local breed (Any thoughts here gratefully appreciated!)

Anyway after a super hard day removing maggots from sheep we had a welcome beach picnic for dinner and a dip in the sea!!

The Benefits of Wool – and it’s many uses

So wool has many uses other than as clothing!!!

Clothing as previously discussed in the first blog post of this title

Carpets

Blankets

Bedding, both blankets and duvets or Baavets (as one company call themselves!!)

Mulch or weed suppressant mats to put round plants. There is also the added benefit of moisture conservation!

Fertiliser. It takes a while to break down, but when you toss wool into the compost pile, it adds beneficial nutrients, including calcium and sodium. It’s about 9% nitrogen, 1% phosphate, and 2% potash, too

Pet wares, horse blankets, saddle cloths, pet beds…

Upholstery the stuffing for chairs etc and the fabrics to cover them

Insulation for homes. It has an excellent R value and also provides an acoustic buffer

Insulation in outer wear coats etc

Uniforms for firefighters as some types like merino have the right properties

Furniture and soft furnishings like cushions

Packing boxes for thermal packaging as an alternative to polystyrene

Bricks. Mixed with seaweed and added to bricks to improve durability and environmental impacts

Lanolin products, salves, balms for all sorts including one of the best for breast feeding mummas!! But lanolin can also be used in cosmetics, lubricants and adhesive tapes!

Cleaning products, especially for soaking up the spills due to its absorbency!

Pianos, woollen felt covers the hammers inside the piano!! It also makes acoustic insulation for machinery!!

The Benefits of Wool – Wearing

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the benefits of wearing and using wool! so I thought it might be a good idea to get some of these thoughts out into a blog post!

Benefits of Wool:

Natural, renewable fibre – Wool comes from sheep and is a renewable source of material! Using wool in clothing is great for the environment and far better than using the synthetic alternatives!!

Wool is a natural protein fibre found on the backs of the millions of sheep you see over the world. It is considered one of the most effective forms of all-weather protection, and man-made fibres with the same properties have yet to be produced.

It’s biodegradable
That’s right, it naturally decomposes into the soil releasing valuable nutrients back into the earth. Compared to synthetic materials, it’s a very quick decomposer too!

It’s renewable
For as long as there’s grass to graze, sheep will grow producing a woolly fleece, a renewable fibre source. And woolgrowers actively work to protect the natural environment, enhancing the sustainability of the wool industry to enable future generations to benefit from this warm natural material.

It’s breathable
As wool fibres are packed together, tiny pockets of air form allowing the material to absorb and release moisture. This could be moisture in the atmosphere, or perspiration from the wearer. This makes wool an extremely breathable material and helps you avoid any clamminess when you head inside from the colder outdoors.

It reacts to your body
Wool is also able to react to any changes in your body temperature. It’s an active fibre that helps you to stay warm when it’s cold and cools you when it’s warm. This makes it the perfect material all throughout the year, helping you minimise your wardrobe and maximise the sustainability of your closet!

Wool keeps you dry. Wool fibres wick moisture away from your skin and can absorb around 30% of their weight before you feel wet. This moisture is then released from the fabric through evaporation.

It’s static resistant
As wool can absorb moisture from your body or the surrounding air, it rarely creates static electricity like synthetic fibres do, keeping you cosy and comfortable and avoiding any awkward clinging.

It’s easy to clean
As its primary function is to protect the body of a sheep to the surrounding environment, wool fibres have a natural protective outer layer. This helps to prevent any marks or stains from being absorbed, so the dirt sits of the surface and is easily removed.

It’s anti-wrinkle
Each wool fibre is structured much like a coiled string, allowing it to return to its natural shape after being bent, so woollen items tend not to crease or wrinkle. This makes them the perfect addition to you everyday bag or great items to pack when you’re going on holiday.

It’s odour-resistant
As wool can absorb the moisture from your skin, and therefore the sweat when you perspire, wool can even help to absorb any odour from sweating that is only released upon washing. So wool clothing is great for layering up in post-workout when you need to brave the cooler air outside.

Wool doesn’t stink! Wool products are also highly odor resistant due to natural, anti-microbial properties that don’t allow bacteria to bind and subsequently grow on the fibres in the fabric.

It’s eco-friendly – wool has eco credentials! It’s a natural, renewable product that biodegrades much quicker than synthetic fabrics. It’s got a long lifespan and is frequently and easily recycled and reused. It is also a carbon store; pure organic carbon makes up 50% of the weight of wool. And research is now investigating the health and wellbeing benefits of wool. Wool bedding and sleepwear has been associated with a better night’s sleep, promoting sleep onset and improving sleep efficiency. Merino wool has also been found to help people that suffer from chronic skin conditions, despite misconceptions of it being “itchy”, due to its moisture and temperature management qualities.

Warm even when wet. When fibres absorb moisture, they also release small amounts of heat, which can help you stay warm on a cool, wet day.

High warmth to weight ratio. A wool shirt is significantly warmer than a synthetic shirt of the same fabric weight.

Soft skin feel, not itchy. Wool fibres are often treated to reduce the prominence of natural scales, which cause the rough, itchy feel of old wool products. This increases the carbon footprint of the wool production process though and there are many breeds of sheep that produce next to skin soft wool naturally!! For example some of our beauties here!!

Very low flammability. Wool naturally extinguishes itself and will not catch on fire. It will also not melt or stick to your skin like synthetics will.

What else could you add??

Sheep Sunday, and then we got a Ram!

So we have decided the best way of expanding our flock is to start lambing. So the hunt for a ram began!

We initially though borrowing one would be our best chance, but quickly realised a lot of people keep a closed flock for many many reasons.

So we sat down and thought about lots of different sheep breeds that we know of locally…

Then I saw them!

Kerry Hill and Valais cross ram lambs!!!

We went up to visit them and after a squish of the fleeces and a look at their little faces we chose one to collect the following day!!

When we got him he was five months old, so he is now 8 months old and has grown a LOT! He is now getting almost as big as Lamb Chops!

If not as chunky!

His horns are growing in and whilst we wonder if he will be up to the job at the end of September… this year, he most definitely will for next year!!

So next year, his first shearing…. Do I add his wool to our current blend or do I save his fleece for hand spinning…. ????

Smallholding Sunday

A little update on the holding! a little of what we have gotten up to this summer!

We have…. Giant courgettes, hoof trimming the sheep, honey harvesting, plum picking, a grape harvest, some beans and a new little chap hanging about more and more!

A Sunday dinner completely made and grown and raised by us, bottled rhubarb gin, the starts of a Holly run, an onion harvest and LOTS of berries.

All sorts of lovely stuff growing in the veg garden and Polytunnel!

We have baled, both big bales and hand baled small bales, we dropped the fleeces at the wool mill, made fire bricks from sawdust and paper…

And all this, as well as having summer adventures with the boys, dyeing yarn, forest school and so much more!!

Such a fab summer!!

Sheep Sunday – four more!!

A friend from a smallholding near to us here finally sold her property for a BIG move. She had to down size her animal collection. Most of her sheep went to market but a few, her pets, remained. She made the incredibly hard decision that she couldn’t take them with her. So we said that we would take them on! Initially three, but as Coal still had a lamb at foot we ended up with four!

Hairy legs

Coal, who was originally blackie but we thought she looked more like she had rolled in coal dust! Indie (if you ask the eldest she is actually called Indoraptor) and Lamb Chops a big chunky wether.

A wether is a boy sheep who has been neutered.

They arrived one cold evening in December 2020 while my friend was deep in the final throes of moving!

And they joined the flock with gusto! I think it helped that the three witches were some of the lambs from the flock from the previous year, and I think we reunited at least one mother and daughter!

They have upped our numbers of callable sheep, at first it was just Hairy Legs, but now Coal and Lamb Chops are readily available as long as a bucket is rattled!

Indie follows Coal every where so that makes her easier to catch too!!

All four of these are Llanwenog, which is fast proving my favourite yarn to work with!!

If you are interested in knitting with some of the yarn spun up from their beautiful fleeces then head over to our Etsy shop!

Sheepy Sunday

So after the 3 witches we acquired Wolfie!

She is a welsh white type sheep and was a bottle lamb that one of my neighbour’s wives acquired to raise.

We acquired her when she had transitioned into the neighbour’s garden and was spending more time munching flower beds and pooping on the front doorstep than cutting the grass! Particularly the pooping on the front door step!

We got her about Christmas time and popped her into the field with our guys and she looked at the other sheep as if to say what are these things…. and why why why are you leaving me with them! I think she would have followed us to the house and come in through the front door if she was allowed!

She is a lovely little sheep and is always at the gate after some sheep nuts and a fuss, as long as she has heard us coming. Once in a while we make it into the field before she spots us and then the little leaps and gambols she does are just adorable.

She has the most beautiful thick fleece too!!

Wolfie’s wool is blended into the Rustic ranges of wool we have in our Etsy shop here!

Sheepy Sunday

So we have done Wanda’s Story and Baarbara’s Story….

Here is the story of the three witches!!

Basically we swapped three sheep for some large bales of haylage the summer after we had Wanda and Babs!

Not a hugely exciting story, but we ended up with Garlick, Og and Weatherwax, which for the literary savvy among you will tell you I like reading the Terry Pratchett books!!

These three are all Llanwennog sheep and James cannot tell the difference between most of our Llanwennogs!

So in this picture we have Weatherwax, who is the biggest of the three up front to the left, Og in the middle front, she is easily recognisable as she tore out one of her tags early on and has a funny little left ear. Garlick is getting increasingly difficult to spot as she and a more recent acquisition are remarkably similar now the recent acquisition is growing up!! But she has a petite slim face and is the smaller of the three witches!

So our flock grew from 2 to 5! The hope was that these three would be relatively tame and join Wanda, but no they joined the suspicious Baarbara and hung round at the back, not coming close enough to hand feed but always within range of thrown nuts!!

They are hard to catch and a bit wild, but this has provided us with entertainment, in he form of Weatherwax diving under James when he was trying to catch her, her boosting him up and him effectively riding her as she ran round the pen! She was eventually caught, wormed and hooves trimmed!

If you want to find out more about Llanwennogs as a breed click here

Find their beautiful wool here for sale!

Sheepy Sunday!

So last Month I told you some of Wanda’s story….

Up this month is Baabara!

Baabara is a mule most likely, Welsh white… something along those lines! She is the white faced one in this picture and is the MOST suspicious sheep you will ever meet!!

When they come up for feed in the field, Baabara is always right at the back! She is the hardest to catch, utterly unmotivated by food and a talented escape artist like her friend Wanda!

I say friend, but the pair of them tolerate on another and that’s about it!! Baabara prefers to mix with a few of the Llanwenogs!

She was given to us by neighbour who had her as an odd one out in their flock of Lleyn sheep to keep Wanda company in our fields and it helped to keep Wanda from wandering!!

She has a beautiful full soft fleece and it makes for gorgeous yarn!!

You can try out some of her wares here!! All spun up locally here in West Wales and dyed by me!

Sheepy Sunday, Wanda’s Story

Once a month I am going to tell you the story of our sheep and how we came to acquire them!

First up is our first sheep on the smallholding, Wanda. She is a Beulah Speckled Face sheep, which you can see more in later photographs.

Wanda turned up in the lane and on our yard just before I had Mati so three years ago next month. She was scared, alone bedraggled and very, very thin. We managed to coax her into our barn, but as we had sold all our hay bales that year we couldn’t keep her in there for long. Plus the barn was still a bit filthy from having been loaned out to a local farmer.

We called everyone we could think of and then a few more, trying desperately to find her owners. I sent a photo to a local lady who works for animal health and she came out to see her once we had put her out into the field.

She would come running for a bucket of feed and we managed to have a look at her ear tag numbers, which the lovely lady ran for us, to no avail as her last home recorded was on the English borders!! A heck of a long way from here! She also noted on her visit that Wanda was at least 4 years old having no teeth, and at some point recently had had scab. The scab is a notifiable disease but it had been treated, so we were warned to be watchful of her and to not let her out of the field, unless the owners came. Wanda was particularly not allowed to see other sheep until we were certain the scab was clear.

So she stayed in the field, and we put up signs as instructed. Then after 14 days she became ours…. so we got ourselves a flock number and became sheep keepers, easy we thought…..

After the 14 days were up Wanda decided she did not like the solitary life she was leading and tested every single fence, gate and hedgerow on a daily basis. She got out more times than I care to say! Remember at this point I was heavily pregnant with Mati and shouldn’t touch sheep and this continued till I had Mati in a sling for our round ups. She tried joining flocks in both of our neighbours’ fields.

We walked the lanes pretty much daily with a bucket of feed to round her up and bring her back. She happily followed me and the feed anywhere, but it became exhausting. One day we thought she had completely gone forever, as it took us walking halfway down the track that goes through the valley to the next village and part way back up before she heard me and came running for the feed. This last one was a mile and a half of walking, which doesn’t sound much, but just after having a baby, losing a scary amount of blood post birth…. still being paper white and having a toddler to wrangle along the way as well as babywearing it was enough.

We went round all the fences, gates and hedges and tried every field. Eventually we found a field she couldn’t escape from. The relief was immense! We had also in the meantime been speaking to a neighbouring farmer who kept sheep. He had a spare ewe…. and offered her to us as a friend for Wanda to help her settle into the fields and maybe stay put! Finally the friend for Wanda arrived in May 2018, but more on her in a later post!#

Wanda by May was fattening up despite her long walks…. and her fleece was growing back. The scab was completely clear. She was a very confident sheep, didn’t mind Sookie the dog (to be fair Sookie the neurotic spaniel was more afraid of Wanda!) If Will got too close and over enthusiastic then she would head butt him and put him on his bum!

These days, at probably about a minimum of 7 years old, she is still the most friendly sheep, coming running to sound of my voice. Greedy when the bucket comes out, happy to be hand fed by anyone and not fussed if she muscles in on the horse nuts too! She is now shorn every year, wormed regularly and has to have lots of hoof trims as her hooves curl in all sorts of directions! She could live to be 10-12 years old, but some live to about 20! She is certainly stubborn enough to manage that! She helps to coax some of the more nervous ones over with her enthusiasm, but also doesn’t like too many others crowding around her. She will liberally give out head butts if the mood takes her. I love her attitude!!

She is one of our bigger sheep and produces a great huge soft bouncy fleece every year! It sure makes some wonderful or should I say Wanda-full yarn!

If you fancy a bit of Wanda wool head on over to the Etsy shop, anything with Rustic in the name has Wanda fleece in!