Wednesday, September 03, 2014

The flower of youth

I started cleaning up Benny yesterday so I could coat him, but when it became apparent the job was much bigger than my available time, I switched gears. Instead, all four lambs got halter time, and all but Bali got toe trims and fleece photos taken. Blaise got a bigger coat (C); Bali needs one but all the Ds are in use so some juggling and washing is in order.

I am so, so happy with this year's lambs; I know, I've said that before. Indulge me as I drool:
Two views of Benny's fleece, in shade and sun. His 2015 fleece is already reserved.

My cute-as-a-blaze-faced-bug and soft-as-a-cloud Blaise. As usual, I couldn't get good photos of her silvery black fleece, but she has organized crimp along with softness, density, and length. I may have to keep her 2015 fleece for myself!

Since I'm keeping Blaise, her dam Kimberwood Marta is for sale. Marta's fleece has disorganized crimp, but the two times I've bred her to fine-fleeced rams with organized crimp, the offspring have taken after their sires in crimp and fineness while maintaining great length.

(Bali's fleece is just like this, only in grey.)

I took the most photos of Barbados because he is for sale, but he was too busy resenting the halter for good conformation shots. Handsome (not so) little turd!

You might think I'd be willing to let Sarai go (Garrett really wants her back) since she gave me a carbon-copy daughter. But I want to breed both of them to Blake this fall to see what happens. If both girls give me carbon copies of themselves, Sarai can go back to Garrett, but if their fantastic crimp and micron profiles blend nicely with Blake's length and luster, I'll keep the sheep that give me "golden" fleeces!

For me, "golden fleece" starts with our breed's standard, written in 1927 (the first two sentences), and clarified by Appendix A (in italics). To wit:
Extra fine and soft texture, longish, wavy and well closed. Wool on forehead and poll tapering into neck, likewise wool on cheeks. Should be clarified and expanded as follows: 'Longish probably means 3” to 5" in full fleece, Certainly no Shetland should have a staple of 7 ". 'The Field' 10/3/1927. 'Well closed': of medium density. 'Wool on forehead and poll, likewise wool on cheeks' to be clarified as 'not in excess', Reference to early photographs illustrates this clearly. There should be no frill. 'The Field' 10/3/1927. 'Wavy' means what we now term as crimp. The Universal Dictionary defines crimp as 'the natural curliness of wool fibres'. A good description could read as follows: Wool Extra fine and soft above all else. Crimped, of medium density and (length) 3 to 5 inches in full fleece. Breeches having coarser/longer wool but not extending into thighs. Wool, not in excess, present on poll and cheeks

My ideal Shetland fleece is at the longer end of the above spectrum, at least 4" unstretched, and has the added "gravy" of luster. (Density goes without saying; a Shetland shouldn't have a loose, open fleece.) That's what I've been working towards producing consistently in my tiny flock, and yesterday, I realized that I've actually succeeded pretty well. I have four wethers who meet my ideal in fineness, softness, crimp, length, density, and (in three of the four) luster. Interestingly, all are sons or grandsons of one sheep –
Annabelle – Whistlestop 0338. Thank-you, you grand old dame. If only they had all been daughters.

That's it for today from . . .


shelly hancock said...

Throwing my 2 cents out there; disorganized crimp can be great fun to spin, especially if you're looking to produce a very lofty yarn. At least that's my experience. All the fleece pictures are drool worthy, its too bad I don't spin faster I'm running out of room in the fleece closet.

Sharrie said...

My ram from Kelly Bartels is fine fleeced, but when I carded a small amount of his fleece, it had bunches of neps in it. Do you have that problem with your ff wool?
If so, how do you avoid the problem.

Michelle said...

Shelly, do you think disorganized crimp give more loft than organized crimp? I figure by the time it's processed, it's six one way, a half-dozen the other.

Sharrie, the only time I've had trouble with neps is if I didn't get all second cuts skirted out, the fleece was in the rise at shearing and had some funkiness at the cut ends, or if a commercial processor was too rough with one of my fine fleeces (which I wouldn't think would be the case if you were carding it yourself). In fact, the last reason is why I hesitate to have any of my fleeces commercially processed anymore, as I had trouble before my flock average was as fine as it is now.

Voni said...

Beautiful sheep! I love that Barbados ram of yours.

12Paws said...

Thanks for sharing this type of detailed info. I'm way too old to be a shepherd, but I love reading about sheep.

Nancy Kay said...

All the fleece pictures look absolutely beautiful to me.

Fiona said...

Such beautiful....on the cost of hay....have you considered supplementing with Alfalfa cubes? A little goes a long way with them and they are highly nutritious.

Michelle said...

Thanks, Voni – and good to see you back in blogland!

You're welcome, 12Paws. It's probably more information than most care about, but it helps me keep track of where I am now in my shepherding.

Thanks, Nancy Kay; I think so, too.

Fiona, alfalfa is high in calcium and may contribute to crystal formation, so I avoid it – along with grain, which is high in phosphorous.