There is no denying that this has been a rainy spring her in New England. A peak of sun on Easter Sunday gave me a sunburn, then cold and wind chilled me yesterday at the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Festival, which I should be at right now, but I had chills so bad last night I decided to give myself a break today. While the rain has me frustrated, mostly because I am tired of being cold, it has brought a beautiful palette of greens to the world, and the special gift of washing Willie.
Willie was my victim a few weeks ago when I decided to shear my own sheep, though for once in my life I should have not have listened to my stubborn genes as I a not built to be a sheep shearer. But alas, I needed to get my goats done and I have sheared them for years and well, waiting is not my strong point, so since I was there I tackled a few of them. After the two little Angora goats were done, Willie was first, then Brian, and finally Mary before my hamstrings began to shake. I came home with two white Romney fleeces, two Angora Goat fleeces, and Willie. Aaron Loux will come in a few weeks and finish up my flock ... and clean up the not-so-show-sheep look I left a few of them with. :)
So back to Willie. His mama was a Columbia, and his daddy-o a Southdown. He leaned toward his tall mama's side with long legs and a magnificent set of ears. His fleece is a combination of the two down breeds.
After laying the fleeces out to be skirted, shaken for second cuts, and to pick out hay and dirt, I stood and looked at the lovely fibers in the sunshine and had a flash back and that warm feeling inside of pride and happiness. These are my babies, my friends, my peaceful companions. I haven't even considered spinning them myself like I did many years ago. Then I say to myself, "Kelly ... wouldn't it be fun to go back to your beginnings?" I left them out in the sun, then the next day I began washing them.
Romneys. Ahhhhhhh. Why do I love them? The list is long. To me that are beautiful, I always come back to oooh and ahhhh over them at the fairs. The wool is so beautiful, strong, lustrous, earthy, crunchy, farmy, wholesome. Of all the wool I have ever spun it touches my soul. Weird huh? Maybe it's because it is my beginning ...
But my mind and hands and heart have always been open to many sheep, purebred to mixed, my hands beg to touch their wool and rub their cheeks.
After washing the two lightly greased ( meaning low lanolin ) Romney fleeces using a combination of the rainy weather, a good soak in Cosmo's pool and then a wash in small batches in the sink with warm water and soap, I let the random sunny days we have had dry them and now I anxiously wait for a chance to card and spin them.
Willie was next. I have read, learned and heard about many methods of washing wool without using hot water, ( though for years I washed them in my washing machine on soak and spin settings ) but instead letting the wool soak in cold water then draining and repeating until the lanolin separates from the fiber. A not so hard task with Romney's, but Willie's fleece is much more greasy, and such a different texture, so I started with the cold wash and will continue with he warm after this nasty Northeaster passes. And then what?
Well I have 9 more fleeces to get through. Romney and Southdown crosses like Willie. Should we have a Spin In? Would you like to join the process with your own Romney Ridge, lightly washed, deliciously, sheepy-smelling wool share and card and spin with us through the summer? I will have Handsome Mike, Athena, Truffle, Jack Black, Mary, Mercy and Brian's Romney fleeces. Then Gromit, Madeline, Blizzard and Willie's Southdown-cross fleeces. I also have Paulie Walnuts and Thomas mohair to spin if you'd like to try that too. Do you have a spinning wheel? Can you come spend a few Sundays with us this summer learning and creating? Tell me you thoughts!