Friday, November 30, 2018

The Rams Are Busy Now!

Wild Rose Farm - Breeding Season Supplies ...
The sheep breeding season started the day after Thanksgiving here at Wild Rose Farm.  It was a little muddy around the barn with all of the rain we've had, but it was a relatively pleasant day.  The raddle powder is mixed with mineral oil and rubbed on the chest of the rams. The ewes are then marked on their rumps when they've been bred. That gives us a date to track so the we know when to expect the ewe to deliver her lambs in the spring. We also use the special spray paint to put each ewe's ear tag number on her hip. It's much easier to read the painted number than an ear tag from a distance! The paints weather or wash off over the winter. The little color remaining at shearing time is able to be scoured off of the wool. We also use the craft shears to trim up the back end of the ewes if needed, but everyone was pretty clean this fall.
Wild Rose Farm Rambouillet Ewes & Ram - Just Mixed Together
 This year we have our Rambouillet ram in with Rambouillet ewes & our Dorset ram in with the Dorset & crossbred ewes.  The 2 breeding groups are separated into different pastures. We also move the llama out of the pasture groups and into the barn with the ewe lambs.
Rambouillet Ram Panting After An Hour With The Ewes!
The first few hours in with the ewes are pretty exciting (and tiring!) for the rams.  The ram above immediately started following everyone and narrowed it down pretty quickly to one receptive ewe.
As of today, just under half of the ewes are marked and it's time to freshen the raddle paint over the weekend.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Indie Knit & Spin - A Fun Show!

Pittsburgh Indie Knit & Spin - View From The Wild Rose Farm Booth
We had a great time at the Indie Knit & Spin show at the Ace Hotel in Pittsburgh!  Thanks to everyone who came out and enjoyed shopping yesterday. The cold weather and dusting of snow on Saturday seemed to put people in the pre-holiday spirit. The room where the show is held is the old gymnasium of this converted YMCA building. It's used as an event center for receptions & parties and even comes complete with a disco ball(!).
Wild Rose Farm Naturally Dyed Yarn Before The Doors Opened!
 After setting up for the show, I took a few minutes to look around the hotel.  Such amazing old architectural details … heavy floor tiles, thick oaken handrails, and iron gracing the stairwell.
Pittsburgh Ace Hotel Handrails
Pittsburgh Ace Hotel Stairwell

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Follow Us For Wool!

Wild Rose Farm #44 Ready & Packed Up For Pittsburgh Indie Knit & Spin!
We're all packed up and ready to go to Pittsburgh Indie Knit & Spin tomorrow!  We had our first snow of the season this morning and that should put everyone in the mood for wool.  We'll have our naturally dyed fine wool yarns, Rambouillet combed top, Dorset wool quilt batts, and some wool locks and llama locks for Santa beards and crafting.
Lace Weight Yarn Gently Simmering …
We finished up some dyeing earlier this week and got our new pencil roving packaged too.  The yarn is simmering in a stainless steel fish poacher that I found at a rummage sale this summer. Someone changed their mind & I don't think it was ever used - it still had stickers on it.  It's PERFECT for processing lace weight yarn since it tends to "felt" so easily if it swims around too much.
Let's leave you with a picture of the snow this morning on the roof of the new garage/studio.  When we get back from IKS, we'll unload all of  the yarn and wool into it's new home in the studio … finally!
1st Snow On The Studio Roof This Morning! 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

What's Happening On The Farm ...

Wild Rose Farm Ewes Grazing
The cooler weather means that the sheep are happy and frisky now! There's a flush of fresh cool season grass to munch on too.  It also looks like we'll be able to schedule a fence repair "finally". I didn't mention it here on the blog, but for the 3rd time in 3 years, our fence above the Loafing Shed was hit by a car. It happened in late September and after yet another call to the driver's insurance agency, "the check is in the mail".
Fence Damage Above Loafing Shed
Luckily, the gate post wasn't hit. If it had been, there would have been more damage to the electrical wiring and a deeper post to pull and set. After running over some large stones, again even more fortunately, the driver wasn't hurt - the police report didn't say what caused the accident.
Fence Brace Knocked Off - Top "Hot Wire" OK.
Red Switch Open to Cut Power ...
Once we have the check in hand, we'll call our fencing contractor and get this repaired. For now we have welded wire panels secured in place to close the gap.
In other good news, we have almost completed the finishing touches on the "studio" above the new garage. I'll move the wool and yarn, plus the floor loom, in after the show this weekend. No sense moving it twice!  Come see me and another 25 vendors on Sunday, November 11th at The Ace Hotel in Pittsburgh for the November Indie Knit & Spin show!  Scroll down on the link and check out all of the older posts too to see what everyone is bringing!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Field Trip For Wool Growers!

Wool Intake Warehouse At Mid-States Wool Cooperative
Last week, I went with a group of sheep & wool producers on a field trip to Mid-State Wool Growers Cooperative in Canal Winchester, Ohio. The trip was set up by the Washington County Sheep & Wool Growers to help foster our relationship with the wool pool buyer. We got a great tour of the facilities from intake, through grading, and on to the shipping floor filled with packaged wool.
Stanley Grading Fleeces - Mid-State Wool Growers
The wool sacks are emptied by producer lot number and are fed up a conveyor where each fleece is individually graded and weighed. Each fleece travels in an individual basket and is conveyed to the appropriate graded bin … all tracking is computerized and the total is summarized for each producer.
Wet Wool Backlog - That's a Problem, Folks!!!
Conditions this year have led to an unusually large amount of wool that is wet and that's a big no-no! Anyone who has sheep sheared knows that they aren't to be sheared when they're wet. All steps must be taken to preserve the sheared fleeces in a dry state. These bags will be laid out over the weekend with fans blowing on them to dry them out, but the wool will likely be down graded due to the poor handling.
Discussion At Mid-States Graded Wool Bins
We had two young students on the tour and they asked some really good questions - both are sheep owners! The final stop was the shipping floor where the wool is weighed & the core testing is done. The wool core samples are sent to Yocum-McColl Testing Lab in Denver where they are evaluated for yield and micron test results. Each bale can then be shipped to the buyer, usually in semi-loads or half semi-loads.
Fine Wool Packed & Waiting For Core Test Results
Bottom line after our tour? Any wools that are 27-28 microns and higher are discounted in the current domestic wool market. Merino & Rambouillet wool @ 19-21 microns was valued at $1.20/lb. Columbia & Targhee type wool @ 22-23 microns was valued at $1.00/lb. Polypay & Corriedale type wool @ 24-25 microns was valued at $.80/lb. Then the price really dropped at 27-28 microns for $.30/lb. The Hampshire, Suffolk, & Dorset type wool @ 29-33 microns was paying at $.15/lb.
We're not even getting into the longer luster wool breeds favored by hand-spinners. Wool is a specialty item for a select group of shepherds. Targeting hand-spinners can get earn $5-$50/lb. for good clean & skirted fleeces.  The fine wools have a market as a commodity through the wool pool returning between $1-$2/lb. to the sheep producers.  That wool goes into the domestic, "next to the skin", Made In America socks & clothing that is so popular now.  The middle grades of wool are having a hard time finding a buyer … Oh yeah, natural color or black wool was 2 cents/lb. on the commodity market.
Interesting …  

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Growing Wool ...

Wild Rose Farm Ewes At Feeders
Growing and shearing a quality crop of wool takes some effort. Standing there dead center in the picture above is one of the sheep that seems to have a natural talent for finding any burdocks or cockleburs in the pasture! It's an ongoing battle to find and remove the plants before they set seed, but a few plants are all it takes …
Here She Comes … Burrs & All!
The best thing we can say is that burrs & vegetable matter on the head & legs will be sheared off as scrap wool & tags, lol.  Properly skirting a hand-spinning fleece means that any of this will never make it to the spinner, or to the mill if we're having yarn or combed top made for sale. Speaking of wool for sale, we're waiting for a shipment of our wool pencil roving to arrive any day now!
We'll have it in time for our next show in November.
Snow White - "You say there's wool pencil roving coming?"

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Unusual Visitors To The Show!

Abe & Mary Todd Lincoln Stopped By & Visited Wild Rose Farm!
We had a great weekend at Pioneer Craft Days and got to meet lots of interesting folks. Everyone was surprised to see Honest Abe & Mary Todd with her parasol strolling the grounds on Sunday!
The kids (and their parents) were flocking around for selfies. After they all took a picture, Abe gave each child a "picture" of himself … a bright shiny new penny fresh out of a roll from the mint. The kids were delighted!  They had to be roasting under those costumes. Temperatures were in the mid-80's and it was humid …
Some of the Outdoor Vendors - Beautiful Setting!