Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fresh Pastures

We moved the sheep to a new pasture today.  The temperatures are climbing close to 100 degrees already, so the sheep will be very grateful not only to have fresh forage but also to be in the pasture with the most shade.

Our weedy pastures don't provide the richest grazing, but they do make for some pretty sheep photos.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

How to Wash a Wool Fleece

I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but I raised sheep---and sold their wool to hand-spinners---for four years before I tried washing one of the fleeces for my own use.  I'd somehow gotten it into my head that washing fleece was HARD, that in my ignorance I would inevitably ruin the precious locks of wool, and end up with an ugly, matted mess.

Eventually, after my flock had grown large enough that I had surplus fleeces piling up, I figured that it wouldn't be a tragedy even if I did ruin one when I washed it.  So I gave it a try.  And here's what I discovered:

WASHING FLEECES IS EASY!  What a revelation!

So, just in case you, too, suffer from wool-washing anxiety, let me show you an easy method for doing it. 

You will need:

  • A dirty fleece
  • Plenty of hot water
  • Two big dishpans (or a double sink)
  • Dawn dish washing liquid
  • Borax (optional)
  • Wooden spoon (optional)
  • Towel
  • Drying rack (more about this later)
Now you're ready to begin.

1.  Lay out your supplies so you'll have easy access when you need them.

2.  Fill one large basin with very hot water.  Once it's full, squirt in a generous amount of dish washing liquid and, if desired, a sprinkling of Borax.  Borax helps get the fleece cleaner, but too much can be harsh on the wool fibers, so don't overdo it.

3.  Stir the ingredients so that they dissolve fully in the water.  Use the wooden spoon if the water is too hot for your hands.

4.  Lay the wool on top of the soapy water, then press it down gently with your hands or spoon until it is submerged.  DON'T STIR OR AGITATE THE WOOL or it may begin to felt.  Depending on the size of your basins, you will probably only be able to fit about a pound or so of wool in at a time.  The wool will come out cleaner if you don't pack it in there too tightly, so split your fleece up into as many batches as necessary.

5.  Once the wool is completely submerged, let it soak.  The exact amount of time isn't critical, but it's best that you don't wait until the water has cooled off a lot.  I usually let mine soak for at least 15 minutes, but probably no more than an hour.
6.  Push the wool gently to one side.  Drain the dirty water from the basin and refill with more hot water.  If necessary, you can add a little more dish washing liquid.  DON'T LET THE WATER POUR DIRECTLY ONTO THE WOOL or it will begin to felt.  Let the wool soak again for about the same amount of time.
7.  Once more push the wool gently to one side.  Empty the basin and refill with more hot water.  Don't let the water pour onto the wool.  This is your pre-rinse, so don't add any more dish detergent this time.  You also don't need to let the wool soak.  Just press it gently down into the water to start letting some of the soap rinse off.

8.  Fill your second basin with hot water.  This is your rinse basin.  One handful at a time, lift your wool out of the pre-rinse basin and dunk it into the rinse water.  Then lift it out, let it drain for a moment, and lay it on your towel to sop up some of the excess water.  If I'm going to be washing a lot of wool, I drape my towel over a rack (something like an oven rack will do) placed over a basin, so that when my towel gets completely soaked, the water with drain down through the rack and be caught in the basin.  That way I don't have to stop to change towels.

9.  When the rinse water gets cloudy or soapy, empty it and refill it with hot water.  While it's filling, you can transfer your wool from the towel to your drying rack (more on that in a moment).  Keep refilling the rinse basin, dipping your wool into it, and laying the wool aside to drain until the whole batch is rinsed.

10.  Once your wool is rinsed, lay it out on a drying rack to dry.  A drying rack can be anything that will hold the wool and let air circulate over and around it.  You can use an old screen door or window, a baby gate, an old sheet stretched over a wooden frame, etc.  My favorite is to use these stackable sweater drying racks.  They are inexpensive, don't snag your wool, and the stackable option lets you dry a lot of wool in a relatively small amount of space.  I use four of them for one fleece.  If you stack them in front of a box fan turned on high, you can dry your entire fleece in 24 hours.

For another great idea for a convenient tool to help you wash your wool, check out what this blogger does with cat litter boxes.

If you're a hand-spinner, washing your own wool can save you money, since raw fleeces are the cheapest form of wool.  If you'd like to give it a try, we have lots of lovely Icelandic fleeces available.  Mention that you saw this article, and I'll even give you a $2 per pound discount!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

New Foal at Siberia Farm

 Even though I don't have any horses of my own anymore, I still get lots of horse talk from my sister Donna (

Today, her mare Serenity gave birth to this super cute and flashy Paint/Welsh cross colt.  He'll probably be large pony sized when he's grown.  His name is Captain Jack Sparrow, and he's definitely going to turn heads in the show ring someday, don't you think?

He'll be for sale when he's old enough to leave his mother, so contact Donna ( if you're interested! 

Monday, June 7, 2010

And the Winner is...

After more than three months of suspense, more than 300 name suggestions, and more than 40 lambs born, we finally have a Grand Prize winner in our Name That Lamb contest.

We had 82 successful final entries.  With the help of, I selected #78 as the winner.

Elizabeth Brockman, you've won the Grand Prize!  Click here for a list of what you've won.

The lambs and I thank ALL of the contest participants for helping us find so many "X-cellent" lamb names this year.  We couldn't have done it without you!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Name That Lamb Contest: Grand Prize and Finalists

As I promised back in March, everyone who submitted a winning name to my Name That Lamb contest gets one entry (per name) into my grand prize drawing at the end of lambing season.

Well, guess what?  It's the end of lambing season now, so it's time to announce the finalists.  Just to add a little bit of suspense, I'm going to wait until Monday to announce the grand prize winner.  But I don't have to wait that long to announce what they will win!

One lucky participant will win the following assortment of fun sheep-and-lamb related goodies from our farm:

1 bar of Sheep's Milk Soap

1 bar of Felted Sheep's Milk Soap

1 pack of "Sound Asleep" lamb notecards
1 "Peekaboo" lamb magnet

1 pair of Ear Tag earrings

1 pair of needle felted Fortune Cookies

Total value of the whole collection:  $45.50

Now for our list of finalists (including the number of entries each one earned:

Beth at   (5 entries)

Carol at (1  entry)

Carol Volker of (6  entries)

Catherine Sanchez (no web link given)  (1  entry)

Channa at (2  entries)

Chris Conrad of (3  entries)

Cindy of (1  entry)

Debra Chase (no web link given) (1  entry)

Donna Chase of (1  entry)

Elizabeth Brockman (no web link given) (4  entries)

Jeanne (no web link given) (3  entries)

Laurel McGilvery (no web link given) (29  entries.  If that seems like a lot, it's because Laurel earned it.  She submitted more than 300 name suggestions!)

Molly Bailey of (2  entries)

Monica of (1  entry)

Pat at (2  entries)

Robin at (3  entries)

Rowena at (1  entry)

Skye (no web link given) (2  entries)

Stephen Pappas  (no web link given) (7  entries)

Tika at (7  entries)

Stay tuned on Monday to find out who is the winner!

Last Lambs of 2010

It's taken me a while to catch up with everything that's been going on here, but here at last are photos of the last of this spring's lambs.

True to her attention-seeking personality, Ultra (aka Ultra the Fairy Sheep) had her lambs two days early, just so she could have them in the middle of the school field trip that brought 15 kindergarten students to our farm on May 7.  Even though it was Ultra's first time having lambs, she did it all without any assistance, and without being at all concerned about the VERY enthusiastic interest of so many children.

Ultra's lambs (by Scimitar) are a moorit gray girl named Xahara and a black gray boy named Xaeran.  Both of these names were submitted to our Name That Lamb contest by Laurel McGilvery (no web link given).

Here's Xahara:

And here's Xaeran:

Finally, the very last lamb of the year.  On May 14, Rhonwen had a moorit badger mouflon girl, by Scimitar.  A super-cute, fast-growing lamb with very fancy coloring.  Her name is Xantara.  This name was submitted to our Name That Lamb contest by Laurel McGilvery (no web link given), although I'm also giving credit to Carol at, for suggesting the almost-identical name, Xantera.

Here's Xantara:

Now that all the lambs are here, I just need to compile a list of all the successful entries for the Name That Lamb contest.  Everyone who submitted a name that I ended up using for a lamb will get an entry into the drawing (or more than one entry, if I used more than one name they submitted). 

Thanks so much to everyone who entered!  I would never have had such an easy and fun time finding this many "X" names without your help.

I'll announce the winner on Monday, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cerridwen's Guide to Wallowing

Sometimes a gal just needs a spa day, a little time to herself to relax and rejuvenate.  Here's how our Guinea hog Cerridwen does it.

Step 1:  Chase your boyfriend out of the wallow.  Ignore his pleading, hopeful looks, no matter how hot the afternoon.  You know he just wants to hog the entire mud bath.  He IS a hog, after all.

Step 2:  Inspect the wallow.  Rearrange and fluff the mud as necessary.

Step 3.  Climb in, lie down, and relax.

Step 4:  Ahhhhhh, bliss!  There's that smile you've been missing!

Step 5:  Mud packs are good for the complexion.

Step 6:  Looking for a pick-me-up?  Try a new hair color.  Red is always fashionable!