Spring Shearing

“>Sheep Shearing 0279 EDITAside from the early blooming plants that mark the arrival of spring, our yearly sheep shearing day is another indication that our long winter is over. This year our shearing day fell on a rather cold and blustery morning and the sheep had some adjustment from wearing long woolen coats to spring “crew cuts”. They quickly headed for the nearest hoop house to soak up some penetrating sunshine. I do think they feel some relief having their fleeces shorn and appreciate the lightness after a winter of carrying 5-6 pounds of wooly locks around.

Sheep Shearing 0249 EDITOur sheep shearer, Jeff, arrives early to set up and sharpen his shears. I always have a few extra friends around to help catch sheep, skirt fleeces, and then sort each one and put them into the sheets I use for storing . Everyone has a job and the help is really appreciated. I am always excited to see how each fleece has grown. I know what to expect from the older ewes but checking out the fleece quality of the yearlings is always a delight. Those first year fleeces are always the softess, and I look forward to spinning them into delicious and cozy yarn.

 Sheep Shearing 0234 EDIT Sheep Shearing 0239 EDITJeff begins shearing at our place and then travels to the surrounding sheep farms in the area to finish out his day. He does a great job taking the fleeces off without getting second cuts. Second cuts are small bits of fiber that end up in the shearing if the fleece is cut over more than once. A good shearer gets the entire fleece off in one piece and tries not to go over an area twice, thus avoiding those little bits of ” fluff” that handspinners don’t like. We love having Jeff because he is so conscientious about the finished product. It makes a difference.

Sheep Shearing 0378 EDITSo, twelve fleeces later, all rolled into old bed sheets, the task of washing, picking, and carding awaits. Of course, much of the fiber will be offered  for sale ….either in raw form or in roving and some dyed, ready to spin. Folks intersted in Blue Face Leicester wool or yarn can always contact us by email. Once the nursery is open, we have baskets of fiber available for sale and this year we will offer a few kits, containing handspun yarn, needles, and a scarf pattern.

As our spring and summer tasks increase, we look forward to the return of green grass and the next sheep chore…..moving the flock to their summer pasture.

Just a note……… our friend and neighbor Megan Marsanskis came to help this year with shearing. She actually took the photographs ( aside from helping to wrestle sheep when needed) of the event. Megan is working on a photography project documenting rural living  in Waldo County. She has been traveling around the area taking pictures of people who continue to practice the traditions and skills of rural life.  It is fortunate that here in Waldo County, we are rich in examples . I can’t wait to see her finished work!

Winter Aconite

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWinter aconite ( Eranthis hyemalis) is one of the first plants to flower in late winter/early spring, often blooming before crocuses. Some years they even push through the snow in order to bloom. They are an early source of nectar for insects and bees. Prefering evenly moist soil in full sun to part shade, they will spread and naturalize, to the point of being invasive in some cases. But large colonies of them, especially in a woodland setting, is hard to consider invasive. The plant is toxic, and therefore seldom bothered by deer, rabbits, or unbenefficial insects. After flowering and setting seed, the foliage will die back, making room for other plants that bloom later in the season.

It is one of the plants we look so forward to in early spring. A burst of bright yellow flowers amongst the otherwise drab landscape. We have a nice bunch growing just beneath the arbor and along the footpath to the house. We pass it many times a day and because it blooms before most other plants, it truly takes center stage. A Fernwood favorite and one we often recommend to our customers.