In that post, our livestock guardian dogs made an appearance and garnered plenty of attention, as they should. We couldn’t graze sheep like we do without our dogs!
Where we farm, coyotes are a major threat to sheep. Our sheep are also vulnerable to attacks by ravens and even bears, though it has been years since that has happened here. Did I mention we are in Ottawa city limits? We are! But yes, there are black bears, sometimes wolves, and plenty of coyotes to worry about.
There are a few options for guardian animals, including dogs, llamas, and donkeys. We’ve had the greatest success with dogs — it takes a predator to smell, spot, and deter a predator. And that is our goal: unless a coyote or group of coyotes is preying on our sheep, we leave them alone. We would rather not hunt or trap the coyotes, but it does happen from time to time that a troublesome animal or family moves in and even the dogs can’t keep them back.
We’re always asked what breeds of dogs we use. Most of our dogs are a mix of breeds — there are a surprising number of guardian dog breeds, all of which have been developed over hundreds of years alongside sheep flocks. Most of our dogs are Maremma (an Italian breed), with some Great Pyrenees, Akbash, and Karakachan in the mix.
Our dogs are sometimes born here, or at other sheep farmer’s set ups, but it’s so important that they be from working parents and are born and raised with the charges they will protect. A pup needs to bond with sheep from the beginning so that they treat them as their own. The instincts these dogs have been selected for are truly amazing, but they still require training and support to eventually make it as a livestock guardian. Not all of them do.
We run about one adult dog per 200 ewes, but prefer that the dogs work in pairs. The final number (up to three or four) all depends on the coyote pressure, the terrain, fences, and whether we are lambing or not. There are always young dogs coming on and older dogs slowing down. It’s a real challenge to find the balance of new and experienced.
We’ve just started lambing this week (see above) and two of our newest dogs are doing an amazing job keeping watch over the newest lambs. These dogs not only keep the ewes and lambs safe they also clean up the lambing areas (gross!) which serves a real purpose — less scent for predators to pick up on or come in to investigate. The relationship between these dogs and their flocks is incredible.
Even with many good dogs, losses still happen. This past fall and winter were some of the hardest for coyote kills in close to 10 years. They even took down a mature ram, which is rare. We did have a few trapped, and that seemed to help, but our goal is to add more dogs to keep the pressure down.
Until next time, enjoy the sunshine and if you’d like to see more of our solar grazing and lambing adventures check us out on Instagram at @Shady_Creek_Lamb!
Sunday was shearing day. It is a very busy day as you can imagine. We had a friend come help but most of the setup work was done by my son. This system is set up in the area we put the lambing pens in the spring. This is a shoot system from the holding and crowding pens to where they get sheared. There is a gate part way to stop them from going backwards. On one side is a big pen for the ram lambs to be separated for weening. It will be a noisy night.
Here are some shots of the sheep being sheared. We have a wonderful shearer. He is calm and gentle.
This is a picture to show the difference between the outside sun-bleached wool and the cut side of the wool
I only kept 4 fleeces. These are 2 of them. I couldn’t resist the white one. I have to have a proper look at them yet I hope there isn’t too much hay chaff in them.
This is my Lincolns fleece. It looks matted to me but I will try washing it and see what happens.
This is a bad sheep complaining, between nibbling. She ran around and instead of going out the open gate to the barnyard she flipped open the wooden gate and ran out the opposite side of the shearing floor. She then complained that she was by herself for the remainder of shearing. We opened the gate to let her back in but she just stood there and yelled.
I tried to get a picture of naked sheep. when I went feed Storm they were all in the barn, too dark for pictures. I went back an hour later they are all in the old garden, great. I got one picture before they turned tail and ran for the gait to the field. This is the story of my life trying to take pictures of sheep. You have to sneak up on them or they at very least will all turn away and show you their tails and at worst decide you are a coyote taking pictures for a future dinner party.
This is 4 half bags of wool ready to go to the wool co-op. I get half bags because I am the bag stuffer and the big bags are a pain if you don’t have a stand and are bad at climbing ladders to stuff fleeces in. they are much easier to manage and transport too.
For those wondering how Storm is doing. here he is He is in the barn and is eating grass (cut for him daily) and grain and still gets 2 bottles a day. In the close-up shot, you can see milk all over his face from bumping the bottle and sprayed milk all over his face and the other one is just to show you how much he has grown.
I took lots of pictures but my iPhone kept switching to live and so it kept taking 3-second videos instead of pictures. If anyone knows how to permanently turn that feature off I would love to know it. What a frustrating feature. If I wanted a video I would switch to video. I don’t know how to grab one shot out of a video. It is probably simple but… And that’s my rant for today. 🙂
I am still all packed up so decided to do another small picture. This one is 3.5 x2.5 inches. I wanted to do a sunset. Step one google sunset pictures in the public domain. Well, that was disappointing. It seems that the popular configuration is oversaturated with the blinding sun dead center and if there is anything else in the picture it is a black silhouette. I was looking for something more subdued with lots of colour in the sky but with colour still in the landscape. I tried adding qualifying words to my google search but it didn’t help. I just kept scrolling and scrolling. The further away from the top hits the better it got. Sometimes page 5 has better pictures than the first page.
I started with this small piece of offcut from a long-ago project. I think it was a little bag.
I decided to go with my imagination rather than an actual picture. Drew in the horizon, the lake, the hill and an indication of trees. I knew the trees would disappear under the sky so not much point to that.
I added some sky using 2 shades of blue. I used 3 shades of orange and a little white to do some nice sunset-kissed streaky clouds in the sky.
The water was next. It is a combination of Prussian blue and navy.
I added the grass. It is antique, olive green and a puter/brown colour. I was thinking of late in the year when the grass turns golden. I carded the colours together but not too much so I would have some nice variation.
Then I added the cloud reflection in the water.
I wanted some trees on the ridge. I want the ridge to be in the distance with the trees striking up a little. I don’t like them. they look too much like they belong at a Christmas tree farm, so I took them off.
Next, I tried mixing some shades of green and then drafting it thin. I told it in my fingers to give it some cohesion and needled 3 trees on the ridge. I like these better but am still not sure. I think I probably just need to not look at them so closely. The thumbnails that show along the bottom of my photo editing software look better than the big picture but it’s twice as big as the actual picture so it shows too much detail. I would like to add more trees but not sure it won’t just end up looking like a green blob. I may leave it and more onto the flowers in the foreground. Any suggestions for the trees.
For the next one, I hope to go bigger. I always want to add too much detail and it’s just not possible with a small picture.
And one last thing, a cute thing. This is Storm. He was born on Saturday. we have no idea who his mom is. Perhaps the storm spooked her.
We had a huge storm in Ontario it took out power to most of the south of the province. We were out for a little over a day. Many people are still out. You may not see Jan in 2 days. It hasn’t been like this since the Icestorm of 1998. At least the weather is better for this one.
here’s the outage map the darker green is the area the hydro company covers and all the dots are the numbers of outages in that area. London, Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa have separate hydro companies but they all have huge outages too. if you follow the link you can zoom in and see different areas.
I am still slowly packing up the studio. The hard part is deciding what to leave so I can still do some work while we slowly work on the new space. slow is the operative word. It has to fit in around other things that are a more immediate need. It is looking emptier. I am not sure the picture really shows that. The pile to go is different stuff.
We have had several more lambs. I think we are at about 15. So the barn needed reconfiguring to make a group pen and space for lambing pens. they are so cute and of course, they can not wait.
I signed up for a stitch camp online. It starts tomorrow (17 January). It’s free but I thought it sounded fun. It’s one video a day for 5 days and they are available for a week after that. Seemed like a fun thing to try and maybe get some creative juices going. It’s here if you’re interested. https://training.textileartist.org/stitchcamp-signup-1/In
In the meantime, while sorting and packing I found some thread I got a long time ago. It is on cardboard, old-style spools. It says FILTEX on the top of some. From what I can find online it is a 40/2 polyester embroidery thread. It is very shiny. I thought I might use it to stitch on some felt balls just for fun.
And I can’t forget that it is Ava’s Birthday on Monday, Jan 17. A big 1 year old.
Welcome to Christmas Morning, for those who celebrate, I hope Santa was good to you and maybe brought you some fibery goodness. For those that don’t celebrate, I hope you are enjoying a nice day off and have time to felt.
I was stuck about what to blog about today. I haven’t made any presents or really anything much. I haven’t been feeling very Christmasy until the last few days when we got some snow. But then we had this surprise last Saturday.
Yes, they should not be born now but some of our sheep are able to breed all year and this Ewe and the Ram seem to have plans that were different than ours. Best laid plans and all that.
That was a good start and I bet the cuteness has hooked you to keep reading.
Chatting the other day about sketchbooks, some people said they don’t have one because they can’t draw. I can’t draw but I keep them anyway. I try to write things beside the pictures so I know what I was thinking later. I don’t always do it and later wonder what on earth I was trying to draw. Sometimes it sparks new ideas.
I thought I would share a few pages to encourage people. Sketchbooks are just for yourself, for ideas or inspiration not an art project in themselves. I have seen some that are published, they are beautiful. Mine are not like that. I am sure you will recognize some of these ideas.
I use them to doodle shapes
Do sketches. Can you tell I like sheep pictures?
And work out how to do things.
I like smallish flip pads. These are 6 inches by 9 inches. or 152mm by 229mm. I have some that are a bit smaller A5 size. I think that’s a standard everywhere but in North America. We always have to be different. 🙂 I like them because they fit easily in my basket or a bag. They are also cheap pads. $1.50 at the Dollar Store.
I will be doing some sketches for some Christmasy things for next year. I just need to remember to look at them in October so there is time to work on them.
They may not be pretty but I find them useful. I hope I have inspired you to give it a try. It doesn’t matter if you can draw, once you stop worrying about it, its fun.
Thanks for reading and commenting and joining us all year. You have all kept me going as we all work our way through these difficult times. All’s wool that end’s wool.
I am lucky enough to live in Sturminster Newton, Dorset, England (known affectionately by locals as Stur). One of our Town’s claims to fame is our Watermill. There has been a Watermill on the river Stour here for at least 1000 years. The original mill was a Grist Mill – that is for grinding corn, but in the early 1600s a Fulling (or Tucking) Mill was built adjacent to the Grist Mill. This was largely to facilitate the greater production of a fabric which had been produced in and around Stur since the 1570s. This fabric was called Swanskin. It was a tough, course white woollen fabric, made from locally spun and woven wool, which was then scoured, fulled and the surface teazed and fulled again. Fishermen working out of Newfoundland, many of whom were recruited from Stur, greatly prized the Swanskin for its all-weather, waterproof qualities, as did the British Army and Navy. Originally the fulling would have been done by fullers treading the fabric in troughs filled with all sorts of nasty stuff, including urine. Once the fulling mill was built this hard work was done mechanically. The woven fabric, in its troughs of nastiness, was hammered by large wooden stocks which were driven by gears from the waterwheel. Eventually the fulled cloth was hung out to dry along the river bank, stretched out on tenter frames by tenterhooks. A report about Manufacturing in Dorset dated around 1812 reads:
“There is a manufactory in the neighbourhood of Shaftesbury of a kind of flannel called swanskin, which is a coarse white woollen cloth, used for soldiers’ clothing, and made from 18d. to 2s. a yard; but this is of little consequence to Shaftesbury, the chief trade in this article being carried on at Sturminster Newton, where about 1200 people are employed in it, and where between 4000 and 5000 pieces, containing 35 yards in length, in a piece, yard wide, are annually made.
At present the woollen manufactures are almost confined to Sturminster and Lyme Regis, at which latter place broad-cloth and flannels are made in considerable quantities.
At Sturminster there are four or five clothiers, and about 300 weavers; sometimes 700 or 800 people are employed in the manufactory of Swansdown, (sic.) but the trade is not so considerable as was formerly the case.”
In early 2016 I was asked by the curator of our town’s Museum and Mill Society (now known as the Sturminster Newton Heritage Trust) if I could produce a sample of Swanskin for the Museum since it appears that there is no example of actual swanskin now in existence. As Swanskin was such an important part of the town’s history, the Museum wanted to create an exhibit for future reference. This I did, so far as I could, and I also wrote them a report on the process, which I repeat here – it was of course written for the edification of members of the general public, most of whom would not be conversant with spinning and weaving terms, so please don’t think I’m trying to “teach granny to suck eggs”.
“Swanskin – Experimental Archaeology
“In order to try to recreate the processes in the manufacture of Swanskin some research was carried out by Kathleen Sanderson (a member of the Dorset Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers). It appeared that the likely breed of sheep from which the fleece was obtained was the Portland. This breed was found in fact over much of Dorset in the 17th Century. “Kathleen found however that the fleece from today’s much improved breed of Portland sheep was finer and more delicate than would have been the case in 1600. She therefore blended Exmoor fleece with the Portland to obtain as near as possible the coarser, more hardwearing fibres originally used. Originally the wool would have been spun “in the grease” – that is still containing (inter alia) the natural lanolin. The resultant yarn would have been woven in this state so that the resultant cloth would have had to be washed and treated with fuller’s earth (scoured) to remove the oils and other detritus like plant material and insect life.
“The sample shown was spun after scouring because this had been necessary to facilitate the blending of the two fleeces. The yarn was plied and then twill woven – that is instead of the basic over one, under one, over one – of plain weave, the weft was taken over two and under two on the first pass then over one under two over two on the next. This results in characteristic diagonal lines in the weave. “When “fulled” twill woven fabric becomes denser than would a fabric with plain weave.
“I wove the sample in this fashion on a frame loom. After the weaving, the sample was wetted and fuller’s earth rubbed into it on both sides, just to make sure that all the grease and oils had been removed. This was rinsed out, the sample soaped and rubbed by hand to start the felting or fulling process. “This process would have been carried out by “Fullers” or “Walkers” in the 11th and 12th centuries. Though they would have done it by treading or walking on the fabric in wooden troughs rather than using their hands. At Sturminster Fulling Mill swanskin was fulled at the Mill using water power to move fulling stocks. These hammered the fabric until it was fulled or felted sufficiently to make it water repellent. “The sample was fulled in a washing machine, first at a temperature of 40° with a very hard rubber ball acting as a fulling stock. This was repeated once more and then at a temperature of 90° until the sample was fully felted. When the sample was almost dry it was ironed with a steam iron on both sides and then fully dried. The original swanskin cloth would of course have been dried on tentering frames in the open air.
“Once the Sample was dry it was brushed with a flick carder (the modern equivalent of using a frame covered in teasels) on one side only in order to raise a nap on the fabric.”
The mill was open to the public again this year, after having had to be closed during lockdowns. It is possible that, during the first lockdown, some of you may have seen reports about the fact that the mill reverted to milling flour which was provided to local bakers. Many people over here took to making their own bread so that there was a general shortage of bread flour, and, since approaches were received from people from all over the globe trying to buy bread flour from our miller, I assume that this was the same almost everywhere.
I have added below some internet links about the Mill and our Society (Sorry – Trust!), and some of the news stories from last year – Google has lots more.
Oh and a couple of my felt paintings of the mill – adding a bit of artist’s licence!
Not long ago was shearing day. Before had we have to get pens and shoots set up to direct the sheep efficiently to the shearer. I had to go get wool bags, from the Wool Co-op I got half bags this time. The full-size ones are too hard to pack, they are taller than me. We also got my nephew to come and help out. Wrangling sheep is best done by young people, my son and nephew.
There is a crowding pen is at the far end of the shoot so the sheep can fairly easily be pushed into the shoot and past the one-way gates. You can see lambs on the right-hand side. They are small enough to pop through the fence and get out of the way. On the left are some late lambs from last year. They have been put there to be kept separate. They are too big to get back through the fence.
Despite taking many pictures most of them were terrible and I didn’t get any sheared sheep pictures because I had to grab the fleece out of the way as my husband handed the next sheep to the shearer. By the time I stuffed it into the appropriate bag, the sheep was long gone.
so here are the best of the bad shearing pictures. I am not sure that’s all the same black sheep but you get the idea. you can see how brown they look from being in the sun and weather and how black they are underneath.
I also have one lincoln sheep named Dolly. You can see how different her fleece is.
These are some of the wool sacks. I was sorting black wool I want to look at again and white wool I want to look at again and the stuff to go off to the co-op because I don’t want to look at it ever again. LOL
And some close-ups of some wool.
This one has so much lanolin the shine bounced the light and it looks grey.
It took about 4 hours to do 55 ish sheep. That’s about one sheep every 4.5 min. I know it’s no record but I still find it amazing. When it was all done we released the lambs to find their moms. There was a lot of noise while the lambs work out who mom is now she is sporting her new summer look. And the kids my 2 grandchildren and great-niece and nephew came in and gathered up all the little bits of stinky wool to play with. They had so much fun and smelled just like sheep in no time.
I wish I had better pictures for you. Maybe next year with no pandemic I can have Jan come play photographer.
Continuing on from my last post about making felt for needle books, Felt for Needle Books I started sewing them together. Well, first I had to iron them all which always takes much longer than you think it will. Everyone forgets to mention this step or they just say iron your pieces like it’s nothing at all. There are no pictures of ironing, as fascinating as that might have been, I didn’t take any pictures.
I also only took one picture when I was sewing them together. There was much swearing, and unpicking that you didn’t need to see.
After sewing them together I had to think about how to decorate them. I went online and looked for line drawings. You can find them in any theme you like. I looked for sewing. I also used some I had saved from other projects. I traced them onto a nonwoven dissolvable stabilizer. This is great stuff and it doesn’t take much to dissolve it. You can’t use a marker for tracing, it dissolves the stabilizer. I used a thick pencil to trace my designs.
On to the stitching. The first one is a snail. I picked a variegated embroidery floss. I used all 6 threads because I wanted a heavy line.
You will notice that in the first of the snail pictures the book is sewn together but in the other 2 pictures, it is pinned together. After stitching the snail I realized I stitched it so the inside is upside down and so I have unpicked the thread holding it all together and will sew the inside in the right way.
This one I really didn’t know how to embellish, I have another one almost the same. I decided on a backstitched chain stitch using 2 similar colours. I didn’t need the dissolvable stabilizer for this one. It’s a bit wonky, but there you go.
I also did the smallest book.
Closed the little book is only 2.25 inches (5.7cm) square. That is big enough to hold some needles and a thread saver. This book only has one double, needle page. All the others have two, and they all have 2 pockets. I have one more smallish one and the rest are all bigger. The biggest ones are 4.5 inches (11.3 cm) square so big enough for a small pair of scissors. After I get all of the embroidered I will have to add some buttons and ties or elastics to them. Elastics can look messy if you don’t have layers to hide the ends between. How do you deal with cut ends when adding them to a project?
This is what’s new on the farm this week. These are baby chicks.
And these are baby turkeys. There is not much difference between them as day olds. But only a few days on and the turkeys have grown necks.
Five of them got stepped on by there friends and had isolated themselves away from the heat so they had to come inside and live in a box with a heat lamp, in my sewing room for a few days.
Here they are all better, in a bucket for their trip back to the group. this is the safest way for them to traves without getting hurt or too scared. You can see how they have grown in just a few days. Not sure why the look so grubby in the picture because they weren’t, just the light I guess.
This week I decided to try a new style of hat. As it’s the first one and I don’t know if it will work I am making it fairly plain.
To save time I started with a template I already had. I traced around it so I would have the nice round part in the right size all ready to add the new part.
This is the final shape.
Next, I added some silk from silk hankies. The hankies are gray and pink. I stretched the hankies out long so I could wrap them around. They are hard to see, you can see them sticking out the sides.
After I wrapped the first side around, I added another hanky going the other way as well.
Here is how it looks with the first side of wool wrapped around.
And lastly where I had to stop. On the outside of the hat, I added more of the gray and pink hankies. They are very hard to see, on the wet felt they pretty much disappear. I am hoping the pink and gray on the light gray wool will make it shine nicely. It is a very conservative hat but this is a government town so that would work ok.
And here are some of the reasons I haven’t got back to it yet.
The red light is a heat lamp. It has moved to another pen now. They just needed it the first night as it was very cold. These 2 moms and babies are not much trouble but these three below take a lot more work. It is not a great picture but to get a picture of them not moving, standing in front of one another or showing the camera their tails is quite difficult.
Things are still very busy here with the bottle lambs. So there is not much time for felting.
I have managed to do some spinning. It all still needs plying.
This one I think will have to be plied with somthing else. I think that if I try to pull the yarn out of the middle as well as the outside it will get hopelessly tangled with all the curls.
Sunday I am picked up a new to me ( and Jan of the polar bear and bull frog). This is an upright tapestry loom. The loom has come all the way from Sudbury. It was transported down by a lady down to visit her daughter saving Jan or I from having to do the long drive up there. As you can see it is all in pieces in my van. I have to clear space for it. that will hopefully happen over the next moth or so as my husband builds his new space and I get to take over his old space. My plan is to make some fleece rugs. I think Jan is planning a Viking cloak.