March 24, 2009

It's a GIRL!!!!

I went out to the barn this morning to check on the girls and let them out. I have been bringing them in at night for the past few weeks : there are lots of problems with foxes in the area and with the freezing nights, I didn't want to have a lamb born outside at night.

This morning I found the smallest little mite of a lamb proudly standing beside her mother. She was still wet & 'TitBijou was doing a brillant job cleaning her up. I decided to install a heat lamp, more as a precautionary measure than out of strict necessity. When I got back with the heat lamp the afterbirth had been delivered and Onyx was nursing.

Onyx weighs in at just 1 kilo 620 grams!

I think she's going to be a perfect little gem, just like her mum!

Here are a few pictures of the long awaited new arrival!

What a pretty little face ...

... and beautiful little legs ...

... with her proud new mum in the background!

Both mum and lamb are doing well.

And I, for one, am absolutely thrilled with this beautiful little addition to the flock!

March 23, 2009


Gee! How I wish I could tell you that 'TitBijou finally had her lamb! But NO ... she's still holding on. That said "it must be any day now" --- of course isn't that what I said exactly 3 weeks ago?!!!

So no lambs here!

But I would like to introduce you to the latest addition to the fold, Dagobert.

Dagobert : 3 year old ram

Dagobert : profile

I'm very excited about this new arrival.
He measures in at 47.5 cm, but with all the fleece it's a bit hard to judge.
That said, he is under 49 cm, which is the height limit for ouessant rams.
I would have prefered a smaller ram, but due to his rare color, I am prepared to forgive him those few extra centimeters!
I'm absolutely delighted that he is within the the standard, BUT he is on the upper limit!
So from a breeding point of view I will need to be very careful : he will only be used on a few carefully selected ewes.
With that small reservation, I'm looking forward to Dagobert's potential genetic contribution to the flock.

But take a look at that fleece!
When the wool is parted you see a beautiful grey fleece :

Dagobert : fleece

When you look at the fiber samples below, the base color is a solid light grey with no white fibers. You will note that the three samples below look like they are three different shades of grey. In fact this is due to the varying amount of black gard hair that is found in the fleece. Ouessant rams tend to have a fair amount of hair fibers in their fleece, particularly along the top of their back and the chest area. So depending on where the sample was taken there is more or less gard hair mixed into the wool. For example, the sample on the far left has a lot of black gard hair in it and is thus quite a bit darker than the other two samples.

Dagobert : 3 wool samples
note that the longest sample is over 15 cm long!

Dagobert is settling in quite nicely and will be spending the next few days in a quarantine pen.
.... in the mean time I am still waiting for this season's first lamb!
Of course, there's much more to be said about the lovely color of Dagobert's fleece, but that will have to wait for another day!

March 14, 2009

Spring is in the air ....

Winter in almost over! In just one week (March 21st) it will officially be spring.
I'm still waiting for 'TitBijou to have her lamb. It has to be any day now. ... must say that I am starting to get impatient!
In the mean time, the grass is growing, the birds are singing, and the daffodils are announcing the beginning of spring and the arrival of happy, healthy ouessant lambs.

Daffodils in the corner of one paddock!
The sheep don't eat them, merely eat around them!

March 11, 2009

Coating Experiment : Half-Way Measures!

Last year I decided to experiment with coating my sheep. Originally I was concerned about protecting the fleece from unwanted vegetable matter. But I did have another concern too. I've seen too many ouessant fleeces that are matted, leaving you with a fleece that is only good for the compost pile!
For example, here's Margaret, a three year old ewe. This picture was taken last June, right before shearing.

Margaret : June 2008

She had a wonderfully long and lovely fleece -- or so it would seem from a distance!
In fact, the fleece was matted into one big "carpet" on her back.
Matting, or cotting as they say in Great Britain, is among other things linked to exposure to rain. And of course, anyone who knows anything about Normandy knows that it rains a lot here!
So it's not too terribly surprising that cotting is a problem.
After coating RhumRaisin and 'TitBijou last spring, I noticed that even when it rained, the fleeces under their coats were dry while the fleeces of the uncoated sheep were wet. That being said, I only ended up coating these two in the spring as the smallest sized coats were too big for the sheep & I didn't want to alter any more coats.


I noticed three things :

1) RhumRaisin and 'TitBijou (the coated sheep) had beautiful, pristine fleeces : as far as I was concerned my coating experiment was a total success!

2) At the same time, the uncoated sheep were virtually free of vegetable matter .... but I was dreading the coming months that would rely more and more on feeding hay.

3) Finally, I noticed the first little signs of degradation of the fleeces of the uncoated sheep. This is very difficult to explain and even more difficult to photograph! But it's the first signs of what I will call "pre-cotting" of the wool.

I knew that if I didn't do something, all of the uncoated fleeces would be lost to cotting. So I thought that I would try a half-way measure : coating after 6 months growth and hopefully protecting the fleece during the last 6 months of growth, which is the period when vegetable matter and cotting are the biggest threats!

So everyone was coated in December.

One of the advantages of coating after 6 months growth is that I didn't have to alter any of the coats! So this was great news. But the best news of all is that by coating after 6 months wool growth and before feeding hay and before too much rain exposure, I will end up with a beautiful fleece. Okay, it's not quite as nice as a fleece that was coated from day 1 : but almost!
The fleeces coated after 6 months will have sun-bleached tips, but otherwise they are beautiful. I have a feeling that I will be doing this next year, although I might coat a little earlier, like in November. I will most likely also coat a few at shearing time too, particularly if I want to avoid bleached tips, otherwise, I will wait until November before coating.
I'll try to post a few photos of Margaret's fleece in a few days ... I will say that I'm really excited about how her fleece is looking! She will be four years old this spring and she is going to have a lovely fleece!
In the mean time, here are a few new photos to document the half-way measure of coating just during the winter and spring.
Here's the lovely little Praline in her coat (with her not so little belly!) :

Praline : Coated in December

And here's what her fleece looks like :

Praline : fleece after being coated for 2 1/2 months.
note sun-bleached tips!

And for good measure, here's a photo of Margot's fleece. .

Margot : fleece coated 2 1/2 months
Again bleached tips from the summer sun!

. . . and a fiber sample that I took today. Her fleece is ever so lovely : clean, long, and soft. It will be a true joy to spin this fleece later this summer!

Margot : Fiber sample taken after 2 1/2 months being coated.
Overall staple length 12+ cm (5") ... & she won't be sheared for at least 2 months!

I think that you'll agree that these are some lovely fleeces!
Of cource my coating experiment is far from over.
But so far, it's two thumbs up from the Spinning Shepherd!

March 8, 2009

A feeder for Ouessant Sheep!

Last year I spent a fair amount of time building various types of feeders for my sheep.
They all looked just beautiful ... BUT none of them worked very well.
The lambs would jump into them ... and promptly leave some sheep poo as a reminder of their visit!! Larger sheep would push the feeders over. Etc., etc., etc.....
Nothing seemed to work very well. That was, until I read this post on Dominique's blog!

What a fantastic idea!! I went out straight away and bought supplies to make my own feeder.
Actually, I bought a 2 metre section of PVC and made 2 one-metre long feeders.
These are wonderful! Easy to make, inexpensive, and functional!
What more could you ask? Here's a photo of one of my feeders.

So hats off to Dominique! And a big "thank you" for a great idea! Also .... do check out Dominique's blog if you haven't already. It contains a wealth of information (in French) and beautiful pictures of "Les Lutins du Montana", his outstanding flock of ouessant sheep.

March 5, 2009

La Toise or "Who ever said that size doesn't matter?!!"

Making a "toise" was one of my projects this winter.
Essentially, a "toise" is a height gage used to measure your sheep. Size, or more accurately "height measured at the shoulders" is one of the important criteria (but NOT the only one!) for selection in the official standard of ouessant sheep.
When measured at 3 years of age, a ram must not exceed 49 cm (that's 19.29") and a ewe must not exceed 46 cm (18.11"). That said, most breeders prefer that their sheep are at least 2-4 cm under this top limit!
So it's not surprising that most serious breeders measure their sheep and are careful to select and breed from animals that are well within the standard.
The GEMO (Groupement des Eleveurs de Moutons d'Ouessant) site has plans that you can use to make your own "toise".
Here's what my finished "toise" looks like :

Not too bad, if I must say so myself!!

March 4, 2009

Fiber Prep ... a rethink!

Last year I basically just spun my ouessant fleece without doing much fiber prep! No carding, etc... most of the fleece was spun in the grease. And it wasn't too bad ... although I have to admit that I wasn't totally happy with the results either.
This past fall I've been experimenting a bit more, and have decided that it is well worth the effort to prepare my fiber more carefully before spinning. So here you have it! A basket full of carded "clouds" of ouessant fleece, ready to be spun.

Yes! I does take longer ... but I think the results are worth it (more about results later!).

March 3, 2009

Any day now!

Lambing season is just around the corner! All my little ewes seem to be quite pregnant. Most will not lamb until April or possibly even May. TitBijou, will be the first! She has been uddering up quite nicely .... and I'm expecting a lamb any day now! She will turn 2 years old in the next couple of weeks. She didn't have a lamb last year, so this will be her first! This picture was taken yesterday. Her not-so-little belly is round and heavy with lamb. She's sporting her lovely Matilda coat which is protecting a beautiful 6"/15cm long black fleece.

'TitBijou waiting for lamb : 2 March 2009

Ça ne chôme pas ... ça bosse!

Wow!! It’s been more than three months since I last posted anything!
And no! I haven’t been hibernating! Or leisurely sitting by a warm fireplace! (In my dreams!)
One would think that the “peaceful, quiet winter months” would leave me with plenty of time for blog entries! If only that were so! Reality has been anything but!
I’ve been very busy .... yet more fencing .... cutting wood ... coppicing trees ... bundling up fagot ...etc... We’ve made progress .... but we’re not finished. Gee! I feel like I need a vacation!

What does this paddock look like to you?
Personally, I think it looks like a battlefield!

We’ve cut and stacked lots of firewood .... some lovely apple, chestnut, and oak. And I’m still bundling up fagot .... so we’re looking forward to a few years worth of firewood.
Just hoping to get this mess cleaned up in the next few weeks.
Fortunately this is the type of work that only needs to be done every 10 to 15 years! It’s going to take me at least that long to recover.

Thank you for visiting the Spinning Shepherd!