This year we realized we have more sheep than we need. We had 9 or 10 breeding ewes and expected they would all have lambs, but 5 of the 6 yearlings also produced lambs. And the fleeces from all these lovely animals were filling the studio. Marilyn spent the summer washing fleece after fleece. John sold a few fleeces to his fellow weavers, and Marilyn sold some fleeces and some roving at her summer spinner’s retreat. But still, there was a mountain of fleece in the studio. We were determined to reduce our flock to 6 breeding ewes and to market our fleeces.
For us, sometimes the best way to market live animals is to load them all into the truck and take them to the auction yard. Shearer Beth had taken five lambs, but we still had some older ewes and additional lambs that needed to go to market. So one Sunday afternoon we loaded all these fine animals into the truck and off they went. Prices were good that week, and now our flock is down to just 12 animals. 4 of those are market lambs that will ultimately go into the freezer, leaving us with a flock of 8.
We’ve never tried to sell fleeces at the big gatherings. But the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival makes it easy. You just show up Sunday morning with your table and your fleeces, pay an entrance fee, and the people start coming at 9:00. We had five fleeces, all washed, with shiny white locks and nice information sheets that told the weight off the sheep, after skirting, and after washing. Three were lamb fleeces, one was from Robert the ram, and one was a ewe’s fleece. At 10:00 we still had them all and I began to worry. Were there too many Romney fleeces to choose from? Were the other fleeces less expensive–I had not spied on the competition to find out what they were charging. Did people only want the exotic Wensleydales and Jacobs? But it turns out other people shop like I do–they walk around and look at everything, then plunge. By noon all our fleeces were gone and we were heading for home. Income from wool sales this year: about $500. Income from flock sales: about $1000. Beautiful woven rugs, shawls, knit items: can’t value them. Home grown lamb in the freezer: yummmmm.