Last year, I noticed that my Black Welsh sheep began to lose their fleeces around Christmas time. Since it was my first year with them and most of the ewes were pregnant, I wasn't sure if it was the norm for them or just a pregnancy thing. Most of my other sheep -- the longwools in particular - don't ever show a rise. On the other hand, the Icelandics certainly do.
in any case, Christmas seemed early.
|The light colored horizontal line is the point where the new|
fiber (above the line) started growing through the old fiber
(below the line). For good measure, the point where they
crossed felted solid. Total loss. :(
By the time I managed to get a shearer to actually turn up (grr) to shear, it was July and all the Black Welsh fleeces were long since ruined. Not just from the months of ragged shedding, but also from so many long weeks in the heat and humidity. They were either felted on the outside like a shell (yuck). Or, just as bad, they were felted at the point of the rise -- where the new fleece grew through the old.
I was relieved to finally get the fleeces off the animals, but was so disappointed to have nothing to show for my first year of tending the flock.
So this year, as I notice the fleeces loosening, especially on the lambs, I'm determined not to let the same mistake happen.
If we lived in a milder climate, like, oh, say, Wales, I'd shear them right now.
But we don't, so I won't. I've got my fingers crossed for the return of mild Mr. Nino, but truthfully, we're just as likely looking at two more months of nights in the teens and single digits. Brr. Early March is probably the soonest I will dare to shear.
If I can manage to keep the fleeces from felting in the meantime, I've got some lovely things to look forward to.
One of my favorites?
Lovely little Brie is the daughter of skittish Black Welsh Eloise and dopey puppy dog Lincoln longwool Johnny Blue. She is the only lamb from the entire flock of last year's Black Welsh offspring that I am certain is Johnny's daughter. In fact I suspect she is Johnny's only lamb. Period.
And her fleece is wonderful.
I gave a couple of the fleeces a good tug this morning while their owners were busy at the hay feeder. You know, just to see if they were starting to release. (Not because I particularly enjoy harassing the poor sheep that way.)
This is what I got.
The lock on the left is from one of the older Black Welsh ewes. Short, crimpy, and still in nice condition. Pretty typical of the flock.
The locks on the right are Brianna's. (Ok, I took a couple from her - I was so enamored.) She's got the length and a hint of the curl of a longwool, but otherwise the fineness, crimp, and color of the Black Welsh. Black as night and soft as a whisper in the hand.
Of course, to top it off she's as cute as she can be. She stands out in the crowd of little lookalike black lambs. She's so much boxier and fluffier than the rest of them. Plus, her head sits right smack down on her shoulders with nothing in between, while the rest of them sport long slender necks that give them the look of tiny deer, rather than sheep.
Yes, she's a cutie. Black Welsh x Lincoln turned out to be a great cross. I wish there were more of them.
Not that I don't love all the little purebreds too. ;)