On the 21st, Carole had her twins while John was away at weaving school. Big strong boys, 11.75 and 10.25 pounds. Carole was born in 2005 and these are lambs 10 and 11 for her. She is a good mother and knows the routine. On the 22nd, Rebecca went into labor. This was her very first lambing [she was born in 2011] and she had two big boys also, 12.25 and 11.25 pounds. She labored long and hard, with John standing by to assist if needed. Everything went well! She is fiercely protective as first time mothers often are.
Over the weekend there were no new lambs. We had time to give shots, band tails, and make sure moms were fed. So how did we miss it that the male triplet was not eating? John gave them all some supplemental milk replacer on that first day, when Ruth’s colostrum was very thick and her milk had not yet come in. All three lambs took it eagerly and seemed strong. Soon the two girls lost interest in the bottle but the boy always approached whenever we got into the pen. The problem was, we had other things to do, and we needed to sleep at night….by Sunday, it was evident that he was going to continue sleeping for good. We are sad to lose him, but it certainly makes things easier for Ruth and her twins. There is one lamb for each spigot, happy little girls bouncing around. As of the 26th, every time Ruth lies down for a rest, they climb up onto “Ruth mountain” and leap off, chasing each other around their mother.
This is the way it goes with lambing: joy and sorrow, confidence and confusion. The shepherd is part of the rhythm of life, sees that birth is not a moment but a process, confronts the very thin line that separates life and death. The sheep, unconcerned, carry on.
Wetland Wool Farm is back! We have always been here, just got really busy and lost touch, so to speak.
The year 2012 was unique in that we had no lambs for the first time since 1988 when we first got sheep.
Ringo, who seemed such a promising young ram, had to go back to his breeder, and then to market. He had seemed interested in the ewes and made the same clumsy initial efforts we have seen with all our young rams, apparently consummation just did not happen. There is only one use for unproductive rams….lamb-burger.
Enter Robert, another ram lamb from the same breeder. Only once was he observed consorting with a ewe [Ruth]. But 5 months later, they were all waddling around with bulging bellies. Here is an example.
On the morning of February 20, John went out to feed the sheep and noticed Ruth was slow to get up and come to the feeder. Unusual for her–she likes her alfalfa. We had our oatmeal, then Marilyn went out to check the sheep before leaving for work and there was Ruth, busily licking a lamb. Dashed back to the house, changed shoes and coat, summoned John. He opened up the lambing pen and placed the newborn lamb inside. Ruth followed immediately, but there was already a “water balloon” emerging, soon followed by a second lamb. This one was a bit bigger, so Marilyn took hold of the little hooves, reached in to feel the nose and forehead, and pulled when Ruth pushed. Two pushes and he was out. We set up feed and water and secured the pen. Marilyn went inside to change shoes and coat, came out to leave for work when John shouted that there was more labor going on. Back inside, change to farm shoes and coat, and by the time she was back in the barn the third lamb had arrived. Finally, navels were dipped, noses cleared, and all seemed relatively peaceful. The lambs weighed 7, 9.5, and 8.25 pounds. Ruth was carrying almost 25 pounds of babies!
Last Friday [May 18] it was warm and had been dry for nearly two weeks. John spoke to Beth Myton, our shearer extraordinaire, and they planned to start shearing that morning even though I would not be there to assist.
We enclosed the sheep the night before, located the clear plastic bags, hoof trimmers, wound treatment [for nicks], and the big sheet of plywood to be used as a shearing platform. Next morning they were able to shear 8 sheep and trim the two wethers. The fleeces are enormous, with no breaks. All the energy that might have gone to lambs went to wool!
So far, Melissa has the best fleece. After picking out all the straw and veggie matter and tossing the belly wool, the fleece weighs 11.5 pounds! Since Romneys don’t produce a lot of lanolin, after washing it will weigh about 8 pounds. That is miles and miles of yarn. The staple length is 6 inches, the crimp is lovely, and it shines.
Ruth also enjoyed having no twins to raise. Her natural colored fleece is full of shiny silver, soft brown, and charcoal gray locks. The wire table is 5 feet x 10 feet so it’s easy to see that this ewe has produced a lot of wool: 12 lbs 4 oz after skirting!
In March and April we enjoyed many good times with friends and colleagues. Brenda and Bill Leppo came for lunch and Bill was “hooked” on the ‘you bake it’ baguette that went with our current standard menu of chicken & vegetable soup, pear & walnut salad, and bread. Jon and Barbara Schleuning [Jon is one of the founders of SRG partnership, where John worked for over 20 years] also came to visit. Barbara is involved in learning about watercolor painting, and has joined several international travel groups in pursuit of this new passion. It was great to see them. Sharon and Roger Bolmeier wanted to see the photos from our most recent trip to Australia, so we spent a fun afternoon sharing the adventures from Sydney and beyond.
Meanwhile, we spend our evenings in the studio and things get woven. Sharon put in a request for a table runner, and it occurred to Mar that table runners would afford a great opportunity to experiment with the hook joint learned from Saori websites. It was fairly quick to wind a three-color warp that only required 80 threads, and easy to make it long enough to weave two runners. There was lots of blue-green yarn dyed with Landscapes dyes in the color “ice,” which paired well with a deep maroon. The borders and center sections incorporated some of the yarns we dyed together back in January.
John has completed more than half of his latest weaving, which was inspired by a pattern called “butterfly”. However, Tracy [aka TJ] thought it looked like a beautiful seed pod pattern. See for yourself.
At this moment, John and TJ and friend Jessie are on native land in northern California for the Buckeye gathering. This annual event brings together people who share interest in the ancient arts such as basketry, hide tanning, and fire building. There are many classes to take and communal meals and evening campfires. More about that after they get back next week.
In April we began to believe in Spring again! The sheep are happy with just one feeding of alfalfa [gourmet sheep food] because the grasses are leaping up and full of nutrients. Without lambs to feed, the ewes are getting rather rotund on this lush diet. They also have a lot of wool and I expect it to be excellent, though all the March rain makes it look stringy. These youngsters are about 14 months old.
The rains returned in force, and the valleys have flooded again. Spring break was a washout in the northwest.
The sheep are reasonably comfortable in the barn, and we don’t prevent them from going out regardless of the weather. They seem to enjoy watching the ducks paddle around in what should be the pasture. This morning I saw a bald eagle at the water’s edge, with a bright white head and intensely yellow beak.
Speaking of eagles, John’s eagle weaving is off the loom and he has completed his plan for his next piece, which will be 20 wide by 10 high [landscape rather than portrait]. He will use some Peruvian highlands single ply yarn found in the shop at Cannon Beach. After a few false starts we determined the best source of the edge cord he needs would be to use some of the weft yarn after it has been plied. So Marilyn got busy at the spinning wheel to ply the needed fiber, then washed by dipping alternately in hot and cold water to cause it to pull together, then hung it to dry with a little weight to set the twist. The warp has been wound and today John began to add the twining with the edge cord. After that, it will be time to transfer the warp to his loom.
Meanwhile, I finished the two Saori-inspired pieces I had been working on. It was a very nice warp, easy to weave because of the wide sett, meaning the warp yarns were set about 1/4 inch apart by skipping every other slot in the reed. The hook joint, allowing you to change color within a single pass of the shuttle, was a lot of fun to try. I have much to learn about the possibilities of this technique. I also tried a section of free color, using unspun dyed fiber alternating with gray weft yarn to stablilize it. The size of the finished weaving after washing is about 80% of its size on the loom. That is a good thing to know!
A crisp, mostly sunny day after a week of heavy rain and hail that left the entire valley flooded and even water over the road in a couple of places. It’s strange weather for March, more like February. Still, the daffodils bravely send out a few blooms with many more on the way.
We went to a birthday party for John [Drut] Olson at the Bolmeier’s. Excellent food, toasty woodstove, lots of folks to visit with. All of Drut’s old college buddies were there. Here’s hoping all that positive energy helps him with his fight for health. Talking with Mike and Kim we learned they have built a functioning greenhouse that extends their growing season and houses some exotic flowers. We hope to go see it to gather ideas for the one we want to build.
Today John completed the last few rows of his Eagle weaving. It will come off the loom now. Much was learned through this project, and the colors are wonderful.
This week I discovered Saori weaving. It is a Japanese approach that has a strong spiritual component, and is designed to be free-form and experimental, using lots of color and texture. This is right down my alley! So without knowing a thing about the actual Saori method, I just looked at the pictures, got inspired, and spent the week preparing a warp so I could jump right in and try it. I have a three yard warp, hopefully enough for me to use up a lot of colorful scraps and try a few techniques. The first technique of interest was one where you weave with two yarns and hook them around each other somewhere in the middle. So that’s what you’ll see in the picture of my early efforts. –Marilyn
It was a lovely weekend at Wetland Wool. No rain, several hours of sun, “warm” temperatures [relatively]. We spent time in the garden. John was digging beds [nice loose soil, not sticky–so exciting], we trimmed fruit trees and raspberries, and Marilyn started some seeds indoors.
On Saturday evening we had dinner with Gin and John de Camp of Forest Grove. Gin is a felt-maker and John loves his model railroad. Good food and good company! Gin is known for her amazing felt hats, but if you let your eyes wander around her studio, you discover that she uses felt to create everything from winged dragons to beads. Beautiful and inspiring.
This evening we are in the studio with a warm fire going in the wood stove, beautiful music playing, and wool in our hands. I am spinning Roberta’s light gray wool, which is part of the fleece I washed in the bathtub. Washing wool remains a mystery to me. Sometimes it clumps together, clinging to the other fibers as if it wants to felt. But Roberta’s has no neps, no noils, no tangles. It is smooth and slips through my fingers easily. The whirr of the spinning wheel made me think of my grandmother, my dad’s mother–we called her Nanny. Her name was Florence. She was always busy with her hands. She found furniture in abandoned houses and covered it with gym floor finish because “I like shiny things.” She designed the quilted bedspread that covers our bed to this day. At 82, she told me it was to be her last quilt. “People say red and purple don’t go together, but I like it,” she said. I told her I did too and would she please put my name on it for later? Next time I saw her, she gave it to me. “Use it!” she insisted. “Don’t fold it up somewhere. Throw it in the washer when it gets dirty.” I did, many times, and it is wearing through in places. Which is partly why I am weaving: to replace that bedspread. — Mar
After discovering half of Roberta’s 2010 fleece upstairs with all the 2011 fleeces and trying out washing it in the bathtub, Mar was excited to feel how soft it was and began immediately to test it out. First she sorted it into light and dark, to see if the difference is evident in finished yarn. Then she began carding and spinning some samples. This led to creating baskets with samples of the washed fleece, carded fleece, spun singles and spun plied yarn.
Here are two samples. Doesn’t it just look delicious? All you need is a spoon!
As usual, there is lots of news from Wetland Wool.
On Saturday the 11th, the local spinner’s group met for our quarterly spin-in at the house of Kim, one of our members. She and her husband raise Jacob Sheep south of McMinnville. I really enjoyed spinning some lovely dark brown wool that Kim contributed to one of our fiber exchanges so I was excited to see her sheep. They are spotty, and they have horns!
Nine spinners enjoyed lovely day at Kim’s. Her husband provided a tasty kettle of soup and fresh hot homemade bread, and we supplemented with delicious potluck treats.
In other developments, John is about to remove both his projects from their respective looms: his second project woven at home and his first project out at the Damascus fiber arts school. It is amazing how much is learned with each project. He’s busy planning his next endeavor, the Eagle pattern.
We have been running low on gray/brown wool from Roberta and Ruth. Upon studying the fleece inventory the reason became evident: most of Roberta’s 2010 fleece was upstairs, never having been washed. Mar tried a new technique, using the bathtub instead of buckets to rinse, wash, and rinse the large quantity of wool. The key is having a very good little thing in the drain to keep wool out of it. Used Orvus paste for the washing, and also tried adding a little conditioner in one of the rinses to see if it will add softness and slip when spinning. It is now drying atop the fridge where there is plenty of warm air movement.
Photos of John’s projects and Roberta’s wool will be added when available.
We had a call from Ringo’s breeder, wanting to know how it’s going. So we told Sue that our sheep didn’t seem pregnant. Turns out she put her Romney ram in with her ewes for three cycles last fall [17 days each cycle] with no result! Usually when a Ram is unsuccessful you blame the weather, but none of us recall any major heat or other troublesome weather last fall. Now we know Ringo is not alone, his brothers or cousins are also unproductive. But in our case, he is still running with the ewes and there is always hope for late lambs.
is a small family farm raising Romney sheep for wool and related products.