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Laura asked if we could wash the sheep before we sheared them....well, truthfully, I don't know. I have been watching a show on one of the History channels that chronicles what life was like on a sheep farm in Australia when that country was being settled. (Kind of like the Pioneer house that they did here in the states) They had something called a sheep wash, which was basically like a wide spot in a creek. The sheep were herded in, swam through the water for a while, then climbed out. It might have got some of the dust out, but I don't see how it would have removed any of the lanolin. Also, I think the same theory of felting would prevail whether the wool was on the sheep or off. Heat+agitation=felt. Besides, washing them first would have meant we would have had to catch them twice, Laura, and it's hard enough to catch them once!
The covers are left on year round, and if you are buying wool, some spinners will pay more for a covered fleece than one left uncovered. The reason we covered mine was because they found some burrs back there, and were covered in them shortly after they arrived here. Hay and stuff I could pick out, but burrs are almost impossible. I am hoping the fleece will stay nice and clean, and have less stuff in it next year.
We did the shearing ourselves. That's a story in itself. My MIL bought the shears, and they were pretty expensive, but she plans on using them to shear her german shepherd as well. Anyway, the saftey on the shears clicked them off every couple of passes. We finally resorted to cutting off the wool we weren't going to keep for spinning with a pair of scissors. That was quicker than the shears. We also got kicked repeatedly. Sean, Chad and myself are so sore we can hardly move today.
At the end of the day, it was a unanimous vote that next year we would try to find someone to shear them. There has to be an easier way than the way we did it. I keep looking at the wool though and secretly thinking it was worth it. I'm thinking the non-fiber addicted of the house wouldn't agree with that, so I am keeping that thought to myself.
As for how hard it is to turn wool into yarn, it depends on how much work you want to do. You can buy wool that is already clean, and carded or combed, dyed and ready to spin. Each step in the process adds to the cost of the finished top or roving. I don't think though, that the cost of feeding and housing the sheep for the one fleece you get from each every year would add up to the cost of the roving or top. I have the sheep because I really love them. I love looking out the window and seeing them, and watching them act like complete idiots out there is hilarious. I like the way fresh wool smells, and I love the work of scouring, combing or cardind, dyeing and spinning. Since I homeschool and am home with the kids a lot, it gives me some very needed intellectual challenges. If you didn't enjoy all those things, I think it would be rough work.
I'm including a picture of Ivy getting her nails done (LOL). In addition to the shearing, I trimmed the sheeps hooves. I think that is the hardest part for me, and it has to be done about once a month. Tommorrow, I promise I will post about the baby sweater I am knitting. I am not using a pattern, and it's been interesting, to say the least.
She seeketh wool and flax and worketh willingly with her hands. --Proverbs 31:13
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