Saturday, November 29, 2008

Can't Wait for Thanksgiving Weekend!

This is the big weekend at Wild Rose Farm. We put the rams in with the ewes on Thanksgiving weekend and the lambs arrive in late April through early May in the warm weather. First we had to bring the lambs up to the barn and sort a few of them out and then return them safely to the other side of the fence where the rams won't get to them. Here they are trailing back to their paddock ....... this is the first time we've moved them without an older ewe leading them, so they need a follower sweeping behind, encouraging them along (camera conveniently in hand). Then we separated out the Dorset ewes and crossbred ewes to go in with our Dorset ram. They are in the front field and this ram is wearing a marking harness with a black crayon. When he breeds a ewe, she gets a black swipe on her backend. This way we know on which day each ewe has been bred and we can estimate her delivery date. The Dorset ram is shown here angling up to his second interest of the season, Dorset ewe #114. He already spent the first 2 hours with crossbred ewe #93 ....... things can get pretty busy some days!

Next we put our Rambouillet ram in with the Rambouillet ewes. He is wearing a marking harness with a yellow crayon. We usually use a green crayon which is easier to see, but we didn't have one today when I put the harnesses together, so we'll have to look very closely to see his mark. The rams and their respective ewes are in totally separate pastures so that we can maintain registered stock. You can never trust the rams, so note the wary eye kept on the ram as we lead the group back to their pasture. Yours truly follows with camera and pitchfork, if needed! For right now, he is newly distracted by his harem of ewes and he immediately started to get to work with #317!

Oh yes ---- the ewes are marked on the right hip with their ear tag numbers so that you can see at a distance (and in twilight after work) who has been marked by the ram. Ever try to read a 1" ear tag on a moving sheep? We use a spray paint specifically formulated to scour out of the wool. In fact, the numbers are hard to read after a couple of weeks in the weather.

More Results .....

Here's a quick post to show some yarn in process. I was baking pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving and was struck by how the yarn that is being rinsed had the same shades. They'll look a little different once they dry, but here is the "one-of-a-kind" Wild Rose Farm "Pumkin Pie" colorway! This is the result of a strong bath of Somerset Sweet yellow onion skins that had been soaking for 2 months. There was no pre-mordant, but the 6 darker skeins had a 5 minute 2% tin post-mordant. The lighter skein soaked in the exhaust dyebath for 30 minutes.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Results ......

Here are the 3 skeins of yarn that resulted from my red onion skin dye bath with iron postmordant ........ actually, I dyed the 2 darker skeins first and added iron (ferrous sulfate @ 2% WOG) to the dye bath. I returned the yarn to the bath and simmered for 5 minutes. Then I decided to add another skein of yarn to the exhaust bath for 10 minutes. The 3 skeins have a nice soft heather or oatmeal type of look to them. They'll look great knitted up next to each other. Come visit the Wild Rose Farm booth at Old Economy Village on December 6th & take them home with you! You'll love Christmas at the Village ........

Now for my question to any natural dyers out there ...... how do I get green out of these red onion skins? I saw a beautiful green on page 78 of the Spring 2008 issue of Spin-Off. I don't want to use up my stash experimenting, since they're hard to come by in quantity!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What we're up to .......

The latest skeins of yarn done with natural dyes ..... left to right are onion skins, sumac berries, and cochineal. I love the strength of color that comes from cochineal.
I have 2 skeins of yarn cooling on the stove right now that used some red onion skins in a medium strength dye bath. I'll finish them tomorrow with an iron mordant afterbath.
How about these fluffy lambs in the barn munching on their hay?
Update - We made another trip to Lisbon, Ohio this morning and the gas prices were low again. Today the Smith station had regular 87 for $1.66 ....... PLUS when you bought 8 gallons or more, there was an unpublicized "free 16 oz. beverage of your choice" to be had when you paid.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Surprise in the Mail!

Look at what arrived in the mail last Saturday!
Katherine, one of the Western Pa Unit - Herb Society of America members who visited Wild Rose Farm on September 21st, sent this hat. What a great surprise! The hat was made with yarn spun from a Rambouillet fleece that she got while visiting. She also did her own natural dyeing experiments to obtain the colors that you see here.

How did she get the colors? Dark brown from black walnuts on unmordanted wool dyed in an iron pot ..... rust from dyers coreopsis (coreopsis tinctoria) mordanted with alum & cream of tartar ...... yellow/green from marigolds on alum mordanted wool. She dyed the fleece first and then spun the yarn to even out the colors. Katherine even sent along the leaves since they so perfectly matched the colors in the hat! I don't know if she's been reading this blog lately, but I'm going to send her some Rambouillet combed top as a thank you.

Here's the hat in a "pastoral" setting with some undyed Rambouillet 2-ply yarn and our Rambouillet ram in the background.
Of course, this reminds me that I have Rambouillet fleeces in the barn that need to be sorted and shipped to make another batch of yarn ...... now, how to find some time!?!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gas & Flushing ...... Huh?

Not a topic that I would normally share on this blog, but we encountered a gas price war in Lisbon, Ohio on Saturday, November 1st. We were on a Wild Rose Farm related chore when we pulled in to take advantage of the lowest gas price we've seen in a LONG time. The competition at the other end of town was at $1.91.
We were in Lisbon to buy shelled corn at the Agland Co-op in preparation for flushing the ewes in the upcoming weeks prior to the breeding season. We feed shelled corn to increase the energy level of the feed that the ewes are receiving. By increasing the nutrition plane of the ewes, you increase the chance of multiple ovulations and therefore increase the number of lambs born per ewe ...... here's a little more detail.