Thursday, May 28, 2009

Baa baa BLACK SHEEP ???

Well, here's a first at Wild Rose Farm ...... look at the ewe lamb that was waiting for us when we came home! We've never produced any natural colored lambs here before. I'll be going over the genetics of this lamb. More on genotype & phenotype at a later date. Just suffice it to say that while this is fun, she sure won't qualify for registered Polled Dorset status. I've talked to a few of my "peeps" about how unscrupulous breeders have mixed breeds to obtain a phenotype (the physical appearance of the animal) that is popular in the show ring and then passed the animals off as "purebreds". My feeling was that our last ram had fine wool breeding in his background based on his micron test. Looks like those color genetics had a chance to come together, eh? This very vigorous lamb is the result of breeding a sire to his daughter, aka "inbreeding". It's one way that breeders attempt to "fix" desirable traits. That was not our intent here, it's just how the ewes were split between rams since we didn't intend to keep the offspring for breeding. Here's a little on sheep breeding systems from Susan Schoenian, Sheep & Goat Specialist at the University of Maryland's Western Maryland Research & Education Center.

By the way, the lamb's name is "U". And she may be a keeper. Nothing like adding a "natural colored" fleece to the fair wool entries!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Open House & Exploring Lambs

The first visitor to our Wild Rose Farm Spring Open House was our friend Margaret. She usually comes with friends or with several children to see the farm. This time, everyone was booked into birthday parties, etc., so she made the yarn expedition on her own. Too bad for the kids! This year we actually have 2 lambs that are being "bottle supplemented". Our 11 year old Rambouillet ewe #806 had twins (!) and we decided to help out with some additional milk. Thankfully, we don't usually have bottle babies. Most people want to pet lambs, but unless they're bottle fed, they run away from people as fast as they can ..... just try & catch one in an open field! Bottom line, no kids to feed the lambs. Of course, adults like to help too, so that works out.

Here's a look at some of the yarn that we had on display. The gorgeous blue/green skiens above were sold first thing. They were still drying, but we just had to have them out. You can see why we like the colors from natural dyes. The 2nd picture shows dark brown from walnut, deep gold from onion skins, magenta & pinks from cochineal, & blue from indigo.

During the open house the garden was being plowed. It's been several years since we had a garden. After the open house was over, the ewes & lambs were moved back to the front paddock. The lambs just "flocked" over to the plowed ground. One of the Dorset yearlings joined them too. They sniffed and pawed the soil and just jumped around over the clods left after plowing. Don't they look so intent poking around in the dirt? It's just like having deer around. The morning after a field is plowed, you'll see deer tracks all over it. They probably also pick up some minerals nibbling on the roots & soil.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Wild Rose Farm Open House Tomorrow!

It's finally upon us. The Wild Rose Farm Spring Open House is tomorrow, May 23rd from 11am to 5pm. We get folks every year who have asked about coming out to the farm to see the sheep or to buy yarn & fleeces. Having one day each spring while the grass is green and it's not TOO hot seems to work out for everyone. We are usually done lambing - this year we have 2 holdouts still to go - so we bring all of the ewes and lambs into the paddock next to the barn where they're easy to see. It's time to make a list of what we have this year in the way of potential lambs for sale. I know that there will be a good selection of registered Rambouillet ram lambs available for sale. That's a great way to get some fine wool into your flock if you're not starting with a bunch of fine wool ewes.

We're waiting for it to cool down a little this evening before setting up the tent next to the barn. It looks like we've avoided an afternoon thunderstorm today, so hopefully our luck will hold out tomorrow when we have visitors. There is a last batch of yarn to finish rinsing tonight - we currently have an indigo dyebath going ...... beautiful blue/green multi colored yarn coming out! Next I'll have to do another rhubarb dyebath since the last skeins sold out at the Waynesburg show.
Fiber note: this weekend is the Great Lakes Fiber Show in Wooster, Ohio at the Wayne County Fairgrounds ...... it's worth the trip!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Another One for the Record Books

The 6th Annual Waynesburg Sheep and Fiber Festival is now history. This was a year of change for the festival. We moved from downtown Waynesburg to the Greene County Fairgrounds due to a scheduling conflict with the Waynesburg University Commencement festivities. We had more vendors than in prior years and what a quality group they were! There were some last minute changes, but the concensus from visitors & vendors alike was that it was a great weekend!

We started off Saturday morning before the festival officially opened with the sheep shearing for the Sheep to Shawl Contest.
Three teams competed for first prize with a shawl that they created from freshly shorn sheep. Two women were shearing this year. One of them was the Greene County Lamb & Wool Queen, Rachel Finnegan. After the sheep were sheared, the fleeces went to be carded, spun into yarn, and woven into shawls on a prewarped loom.

The shawls were judged by a panel and then auctioned off Saturday afternoon.

The Lamb & Wool Queen wasn't done for the day though ..... she and her escort also judged the vendor booths. There's an award for the best fiber booth and the best non-fiber booth. Rachel & her escort are making their way through the building to check booths and talk with each vendor. Best fiber booth went to Aboundingful Farm and best non-fiber booth went to Wilson Stained & Fused Glass. Here's a shot of one side of the Wild Rose Farm booth and some of our naturally dyed Rambouillet yarn. The gorgeous fleece on the floor was the one that was reserved on shearing day this spring and it was picked up by Misty at the festival. Looking back at the records, this fleece came from the same ewe who had the Reserve Grand Champion Fleece at the Hookstown Fair in 2008.
Next to the Wild Rose Farm booth was Shipyard Point Glassworks. They had a fantastic selection of image art glass buttons, stitch markers, beads, earrings, and glass embellished knitting needles, crochet hooks, needle threaders, and orifice hooks for spinners. I kept going back and looking at all of the buttons ..... I finally settled on the bright yellow button with blue dots and millefiore accent at the bottom middle of the picture. Go ahead & zoom in on it! I couldn't resist & also bought a button and a fun cat's head bead for a knitting friend.

For the spinners out there, the festival had some rare breed wool for sale ..... hope you got some! Wensleydale was available from Flying Fibers and Navajo-Churro was available from Walks Far Acres.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Couldn't have said it better myself!

I'm ready to drop from all of the activities the last 3 days at the Waynesburg Sheep and Fiber Festival! Here's a link from a visitor with great pictures to tide you over until we get more details posted .....

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Waynesburg Sheep & Fiber Fest - MORE Vendors

First a look at the latest lambs from this afternoon. We had 2 sets of twins born today. One set was born in the barn and this set of Rambouillet twins was delivered in the pasture. They're only hours old. This is #325 and she has one ram & one ewe lamb. We're going to have quite a selection of Rambouillet ram lambs for sale this year. We may keep one for ourselves. The lambs have been brought up to the barn since we're going to get heavy T-storms tonight at Wild Rose Farm ...... no sense leaving them out to endure that.
As promised, here are MORE VENDORS attending the 2009 Waynesburg Sheep & Fiber Festival on the 16th & 17th of May ..............
Adamson Pottery - handthrown pottery including WS&FF custom pieces.
Rostraver Farms - home of "Becca's Buddies" clay sheep pins, felted sheep, needle felting supplies.
T. L. Holmes - tatted lace items, lace jewelry, bookmarks
Sheep Thrills - angora rabbits, Pygora goats, sheepskin items, teddybears
Wilson Stained & Fused Glass - layered dichrome fused glass jewelry, fused wine bottle cheeseplates
Prairie Wind - hand-dyed, handspun yarn, sweaters, vests
Morning Meadow Sundries - knitting totes, soaps, lotions
We're coming down to the final preparations ----- see you there!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My, What Big Ears You Have ....

The better to hear you with, my dear! Look at the "propeller ears" on this Wild Rose Farm Rambouillet ram lamb. Then take a look at this Dorset ewe lamb below. Notice the difference in the ear size. Dorsets typically have smaller ears as a breed characteristic.
Who says that you can't tell these sheep apart? The lambs in the barn are a little younger than the ones out in the field so they haven't recieved their ear tag yet. We'll process another group of lambs tomorrow and get the lamb tags in their ears. Right ear for ram ram lambs and left ear for ewe lambs.

Well, it started tonight ..... it caught me by surprise in this photo, but
the little mob of lambs in the barn broke into what I refer to as a "LAMPEDE". It starts when one or two lambs spontaneously get a sudden twitch, leap into the air, and take off at a dead run. Of course the other lambs turn and run with the first lamb, creating a mob mentality that sweeps all lambs in it's path into the fray. The mad dash continues in large circles until tired little lambs begin to drop out of the race. They mill around for a while and finally lay down to rest. It's hysterical! They do this out in the fields too. You can actually hear their little hooves pounding ......... it reminds me of the Ben Hur chariot race (if you're old enough to remember that movie).

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Waynesburg Sheep & Fiber Fest Vendors!

Here is a group of folks gathered around the sheep shearing demo booth at last year's festival ...
As promised a while ago, here are some of the vendors coming to the 6th Annual Waynesburg Sheep & Fiber Festival. The festival will be at the Greene County Fairgrounds on May 16th & 17th. You won't want to miss it!
Flying Fibers
Columbus Park Fiber & Quilting - wool batts
The Rosefield
From Many Threads - hand & machine stitched dolls, animals, quilts, blankets
Bitsy Knits
Aboundingful Farm - roving, yarn, finished products from angora rabbits, mohair, Jacob sheep
Folklore Fibers, Herbs, & Homestead Essentials
The Wool Garden - roving, yarn, shawls, needlefelting, knitting needles
Shipyard Point Glassworks
Royal Meadow Farm - mohair, yarn, kits, jewelry, charms
Lippencott Alpacas
Boone Hollow Baskets - handmade baskets with oak handles

Tune in again for more vendors!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Time Lapse Photography

Some time lapsed today and here's what we have to show for it! Curious about what goes on during lambing season at Wild Rose Farm? Well, today we had 2 sets of twins born between 4 a.m. and noon. The 1st lambs were born overnight in the barn. We had a Rambouillet ewe going into labor on Friday evening. We were having a heavy downpour, so she was brought into the barn. She delivered her twin ram lambs overnight and all was well when we went out in the morning to check on them.
Meanwhile, out in the field with our curious friend #330 above, another ewe was showing signs of being ready to go into labor. Our crossbred ewe #29 can be seen in the middle of the 2nd picture ..... notice how her udder looks very full, her flank is sunken in, and her belly has dropped. This was at 8 a.m. She then proceeded to drift off away from the rest of the flock .... another sign that she was going to lamb soon.

Nothing to do at this point but wait and come back later. Meanwhile, back at the barn, we noticed that those lambs had nursed unevenly on the ewe's udder, so we milked out one side of the udder. We save this colostrum from the ewe and freeze it. It is full of antibodies and can be used to feed a lamb that may be orphaned or whose dam doesn't have enough milk.
Notice how rich the milk is. These containers are perfect to milk into because of their wide mouth and the indentations on the sides so you can keep your grip on them. Let's just say that the ewes don't exactly enjoy the process of being milked since they're not handled on a daily basis like dairy cows!
But that's not all for the morning. On the way back into the house, I stopped to cut back the flowers bolting from the rhubarb plants. Most people have rhubarb to make pies and cobblers, but that's a sideline here at Wild Rose Farm. The stalks are used for pies and jellies, but the leaves are considered to be poisonous. They contain oxalic acid and are used here as a natural dye for our yarn. The link above mentions both uses.
Soak the leaves overnight and boil for about 1 hour to create a dyebath. The yarn comes out as a yellow with green undertones if an alum pre-mordant is used. The leaves soaked all day and they're simmering as we speak. It's a busy time of year with the lambing and the natural dyeing preparations for the Waynesburg Sheep & Fiber Festival and our annual spring open house. After shredding the leaves (wearing rubber gloves) and covering them with water to soak, we left to run errands and go to the farmers' market.

When we returned just before noon, we immediately went out to the pasture to check on #29. Look what we found .... Two newborn ram lambs that were nicely cleaned off and who had already been nursing. Note how white they are after being born in the dewy clean grass.