School of Wool


The shearer came, she saw and she absolutely conquered. Since this is our first experience with wool sheep and we had zero point of reference for what to expect from a shearer, with the exception of our personal experience ‘shearing’ two of the ewes when they arrived on the farm, I must say that I am blown away by our experience. Nicole and I had been messaging back and forth for a couple of months when I asked if she’d come out to shear the small flock of Jacobs on the farm and when she showed up, I was a little nervous. You see, we have zero experience with fiber animals. Zero. Unless these last few months of tending to these Jacobs count then count us out of the fiber farming world. What’s a micron count? What’s luster and staple length? What exactly does VM stand for? These are all little things we are learning but I certainly don’t consider myself a fiber snob although I aspire to be one someday, because when part of your life includes ‘shepherding a small flock of wool sheep’ it’s kind of cool to know what you’re talking about.


So, Nicole arrived and made us feel right at home (we were actually in our front yard) and made us feel completely normal and like the best clients she’s ever had, which is simply because she’s awesome and knows her stuff and is happy to teach and share what she knows with the likes of us.


Andy had already loaded the sheep onto a livestock trailer in anticipation of shearing which was a good thing since Yoda sent us (andy, the kids on myself) on a wild ram chase for over an hour earlier that day. The sheep weren’t too happy to be out of the pasture, but they are all relieved to have lost their fleeces before they melt in the sunshine and warm weather we’ve been having. Nicole and Amy (her partner in crime) and Andy trimmed hooves while she taught us about how to evaluate body scores and eyelids and gum color to determine if anyone is anemic or needs some extra TLC. It is really nice to have a starting point for the flock’s health so that we can keep good records of everyone through the seasons.


It was also really great to identify names with faces, because the truth is that I only knew 3 of their names and that’s kind of sad, all things considered. But, they have tons of area to roam and they aren’t exactly coming to get their heads scratched when I go out into the field to say hello. That’s okay, because I almost have their names down now and I have a much greater appreciation for each of them after our shearing on Friday afternoon. They are awesome animals and I’m excited to see the lambs they produce and to improve their genetics with each generation that is born. Sheep are great.


We learned about Nicole’s business and ministry with Adonais Alpacas in North Georgia and are completely inspired and blown away by what she does. She’s a wealth of knowledge and a wealth of love and generosity. Thankfully, she not only shears sheep (and Alpacas) but she also processes the fiber. Hallelujah! So, the fleeces went back to North Georgia with her and will return as roving, which is the step before spinning into yarn. That seems much more manageable at this stage than learning how to skirt, wash, tumble, card, rove (?) and spin with zero experience and zero equipment. I’m not writing a tutorial on how to process wool anytime soon, because I don’t know. I don’t even know how to knit. Working backwards here, huh? Or maybe from the ground up which is exactly how we like it.



Shearing time

The soap is technically ready to use but I’m too nervous to try it. I’ll let Andy try a few bars and make sure it won’t burn my skin off or leave any kind of dangerous rash or poison me before I use it. I made 2 different batches and decided to wait before making any more in order to make sure they actually work. Andy’s brave and honest and I need a brave and honest soul to test out my newest craft obsession before I move forward. After all, I didn’t even know what ‘trace’ was before I delved into my first soap making soirĂ©e. In fact, I couldn’t really tell you what it means now, because it’s still a foreign language to me, but if you’re a soap maker then you know what I’m talking about.


Speaking of foreign languages and new hobbies and obsessions, we are shearing the Jacob sheep in a couple of days. Technically a professional is shearing the sheep because we sheared 2 of them when they first arrived after almost dying and taking Andy with them on their trip home (see ‘the great sheep escape’ or the ‘miracle on the interstate’ or whatever I entitled that post for more info). Anyway, after that rough chop shop of a shearing job we did and cutting the poor girls one too many times, we decided to spare their skin and have someone who actually knows what they’re doing come out and show us the ropes.


She’ll be here on Friday afternoon and on Saturday I’m going to a friend’s place in Augusta to watch the shearer in action again and to help with the beginning steps of cleaning a raw fleece. Then, the plan is to send off some of the fleeces to a professional (fiber mill) to be processed into yarn and handle a few of the raw fleeces ourselves. This new culture of fiber farming is absolutely fascinating. Do you know the work it takes to get a wool fleece off of an animal and into a pair of socks?! No? I sure don’t. I’ve never done it. If you have then please move to Emanuel county ga so we can be neighbors and you can show me your ways, because skirting, carding, roving, spinning, suint water, worsted, 2 ply, hand spinning, spinning wheel, carders, felting and all of those other terms have just opened my eyes to the fact that I am absolutely clueless when it comes to fiber farming.


I don’t even know how to knit, but I am determined to make a wool hat and eventually some socks out of this deal. This should be interesting and I’ll keep you posted because that’s what a blog is for, right?