Spring – Shearing time

Today was shearing day, we usually shear the sheep when the nights are warm enough for everyone to stay warm and the days are beginning to be uncomfortably hot. This Spring has been wet so far, which means that our sheep run the risk of being damp and warm for long periods of time (flies love that), so we messaged Karl, who shears our sheep for us, early this year.

Peri relaxing while she is shorn
Kracken losing her Winter wool

Karl came out and the sheep were shorn in no time. He always does a great job, treating them with care and respect and talking to them the whole time. This year they all behaved themselves, which is unusual, in previous years we have had to lasso escapees and even tackle one or two as they run past. Luckily, Karl plays football and takes it all in his stride. He seems to find us amusing, and laughs at the lengths we go to to keep our babies comfortable. We set up a shade gazebo for Karl to shear them under and then leave it up for a few days so they don’t get sun burned. We spray every little graze with antiseptic spray (the pink splotches) and give them a soothing feed of hay after their shearing ordeal. At the same time, he takes the time to make sure they are comfortable while he is shearing and they seem to just lay against him or on the ground while he works, and he talks to them like we do, so we count him as one of us, and so do the sheep.

Chloe and Karl leading Kracken to the shearing spot

I now have a bag of lovely wool from Eli to process into wool and knit or weave into something lovely. I could have saved more, but I have plenty of fleece to spin in my craft room already.

Eli after his shearing

Processing wool from Eli

Recently we had the sheep shorn for the year. A lovely man from a local town came out and did the job for us; after the year we tried shearing them with kitchen scissors, we decided the money is well spent. He bought his own equipment and was quick and efficient, we will be using him again I think.

Eli came out of the experience looking sorry and thin. We have been trying to fatten him up a bit, but it appears his age and breeding mean that he needs a huge amount of feed to get any weight on him at all. The current cost of feed and the fact that we have to pay so much for it means that our ability to fatten him up is limited, but we will keep trying.

The pink spots are antiseptic spray on the areas where he was grazed by the shears.
Eli is all angles and loose skin under the fleece.
Frieda came out of it looking like a black and white ball.

Eli’s fleece is lovely and long. He has quite a bit of crimp in the locks, but the wool isn’t particularly fine. There is also a lot of vegetation in the fleece (chaff and stray mostly), but I will have a go at spinning it, because I’m excited about using our own wool.

This is the fleece before scouring.
I used soap nuts to wash the fleece, the wool comes out so much softer and very clean.
Eli has been collecting dust and dirt this year.
Didn’t the fleece come out white and fluffy?
Carding it was a breeze; two passes over the carders and it was ready to spin.
The singles spun up smoothly and seem to want to be fairly thin. I think it will make about a sport weight yarn, once plied.

Even though processing some of Eli’s fleece cost me an extra bucket of water, I’m glad I tried it. It is a deeply satisfying experience to process your own fleece; especially when it is donated by a family member. I think I will try to spin enough to make a beanie for the people who raised Eli, they might like it as a keepsake.

Now I am wondering how Frieda’s fleece will process. This drought had better end soon; I need to wash a lot of fleece.

Freida update- she joins the herd

This is another behind-the-times post; Freida has been living with the sheep herd for about two months now. After Eli joined the family, she bonded closely to him and they both began to explore the outside world.

At first they both slept in a tent in the back yard and ran around with the big sheep through the day. After a few weeks we began to leave the gate to their tent open at night so they could choose where to sleep. Now they live full time with the herd.

We still lock Freida and Eli up for the morning feed as the other sheep can be very pushy and will chase them off. This way we know they will get at least one good feed in the day.

Freida has become a very smart and calm sheep, which is something of a relief; we thought she may have trouble learning to be a sheep after the start she had.

She is still as loved as ever, but now she is able to fullfil her biological needs without getting in trouble (at least not much trouble).

Meet Eli- new family member

Eli and Freida at breakfast

In all the rush and confusion around the start of the year I forgot to introduce our newest family member; Eli. We adopted him as a friend for Frieda, and our way of encouraging her to realise she is a sheep, not some kind of mish mash of human, dog and rabbit.

The full story;

Just before the end of the year (I can’t be precise here, I didn’t write down the date), I was walking past a group of Mums at school (the regular afternoon chat session, which I love to join, time permitting) when one of the lovely Mums called out to ask me if I wanted another sheep. I , of course, said yes (automatic response I’m afraid) then thought I should ask some pertinent questions. The back story was; a friend of this Mum had raised a lamb in the house (the same as Freida), he was a wether and had been a pet for her two year old son. She wanted to re-home him as he was being aggressive to the little boy. Sheep can become very pushy with those they see as below them in the social order. I thought twice about getting an aggressive sheep as they can be a big problem, but decided in the end to give him a go as we were desperate to find a friend for Freida since our old ewe Ma had sadly died from pneumonia. In order to get Freida to join the sheep herd, she first had to come to terms with the fact that she is a sheep.

I picked him up one day after work when the original Mum bought him to school in the back of her car. he was ensconced in a pile of hay in the back part of her four wheel drive with a collar and lead on. We woman handled him into the back of my car, a job which went very smoothly as he was eager to do whatever we wanted. His name was Eli and he was some kind of wool bearing sheep (i.e. not a shedding sheep or a hair sheep like the rest of my herd). He rode home in happy silence and jumped out of the car to meet Freida when she came barreling out of the humpy to see what was going on. They sniffed each other and got down to the business of finding grass to eat, they have been inseparable ever since. The house he came from was a very animal friendly one and it showed in his general nature.

Look at that happy face.

Eli is polite and calm, he is as trusting as it is possible for a sheep to be and allows us to do anything with him (obviously having never been hurt). He has shown no aggressive tendencies here (probably because we have no two year old humans in the herd) and has bonded to Freida well.

He enjoys sitting in the sun, eating (anything really) and having his ears scratched. He has developed a real love of corn flakes (we give him a handful as a treat sometimes) and chaff.

Eli getting a good ear scratch

Eli is a Dorset/merino cross, which means he has wool in some inconvenient places (like his belly and legs). He has been tail docked when he was a lamb, this procedure is essential in wool breed sheep as the underside of their tails are wool covered and, after a week or two, very poop covered. We will be getting him crutched (where the belly, legs and bottom bits are shorn on a roughly six monthly basis) as soon as we can get the shearer out here.

He has given us a huge amount of freedom as he has become Freida’s company and he will give me some beautiful fleece to spin as well. He has also given us the privilege of getting to know him.

Introducing two new family members- Frieda and Daisy.


Yes we have some new family (we hope), with an interesting story. My daughter is a house sitter; she looks after people’s homes and pets, etc while they are away. It is a great way to get to know many different walks of life and (for her at least) find new family to bring home. At her current job there is a herd of Dorper cross sheep, and it is lambing time. One ewe in the flock gave birth to twins a few days ago and decided she didn’t want them.

My daughter noticed the ewe lambing during the day and took care to keep her in sight (from a distance) to make sure she was OK. The ewe had her first lamb and got up to clean it, then had another lamb which she seemed to lose interest in (maybe she only wanted one?). When my daughter checked her next she had rejoined the herd and left the lambs, bleating helplessly, where they had been dropped. My daughter left them be until almost dark, but the cold was coming in and the bleats were getting  faint, so she picked up the babies (after getting permission via phone from the owner).  I found myself driving to her current abode with a car full of multi-species formula, bottles, teats, vinegar (sterilizer), hot water bottles, towels, blankets, a big wooden box that used to be Shaun’s (previous lamb) and a horrible coughing fit (pneumonia is no fun). We bedded the babies down, got them warmed up then gave them a feed. They were both girls (although at first we thought one was a boy) and very, very adorable. We both fell in love with the little faces and nuzzles immediately.


The next day I forced myself up and out of bed again (still feeling very tired and sore from coughing) and drove in to town to get disposable nappies, baby wipes, electrolyte mix and new formula. My daughter had rung me at dawn to report that the babies had developed scours (diarrhea) at about 3.00am and had painted the inside of the box and each other with this new and interesting art medium. I arrived with the supplies and we cleaned up as best we could with hot water and damp cloths. Put a nappy on them both and then had a shower (it was messy work). Their box was scrubbed out and they were given a bottle of half strength electrolyte and milk to keep them hydrated. Scours can be serious in little babies so my daughter was really careful to be sure they were drinking enough and that they were kept clean.

We think they developed scours because they did not have any colostrum (the magical first milk given by the mother in the day after birth) and also because our milk formula was old (and had been open for a few months). We changed to a new formula tin immediately just in case.


The next day I was back down there again because they had used all the nappies. We bundled them into the car along with the dog my daughter is looking after and went for a drive to get nappies in bulk. I hate disposable nappies, but I do not have any handy washable sheep nappies either and they needed to be able to be kept clean if they were to be living in someone else’ home. I am currently working on a design for sheep nappies, modified from the doggy version (watch this space). We also picked up some inject-able re-hydration fluid (Hartman’s) and needles while we were out…just in case. When we got home we injected some Hartman’s fluid under the skin of each of them (poor babies) as they were very de-hyrated by that time. About 40ml each was all that it took and they perked up and asked for food within a half hour.


They are doing well now, although Frieda (the black and white one) has a limp in one hind leg (possibly nerve damage from a botched injection…but we hope it isn’t permanent). This is a very photo heavy post because I am besotted (again) by their sweet, trusting natures and their lovely little faces. My daughter is equally besotted, but is doing  the vast majority of caring for them and as such is also struggling with sleep deprivation and frustration at not being able to visit the toilet alone (any new mothers can obviously relate) not to mention the shear weight of washing. We hope that the owner of the herd will allow us to buy these two from him to become part of our family…Shaun would be so proud.