The mutant To-Do list got pushed around a lot this week. I had plans, I had good plans, but then I got distracted by sheep things.
You may recall that my next door neighbor, Margie, has a small herd of CVM sheep. Yesterday morning she called me to let me know her sheep were being sheared. Unfortunately I was sleeping in because I had stayed up late the night before working on a project. As soon as I got her message though I headed on over to help her skirt the fleeces in preparation for sending them to a mill to be processed.
Neither of us had ever really skirted a fleece before, we had both see it done many times and had an idea of what to do, so we jumped right in. All the rejected fleece bits we gathered up for me to take home. I’ll be cleaning and carding them to use for the interiors of some of my needle felting creations. Some of the better bits may be used for color work on my needle felting creations since Margie’s sheep are a wonderful mixture of colors; blacks, browns, beiges, grays and creams,
Margie didn’t have a mill lined up for her fleeces, so she spent the afternoon researching online. Later that evening she called me and told me she had found a new mill in Estes Park that could process her fleeces. She had set up an appointment to take her fleeces there as well as getting a tour of the mill. She asked if I wanted to go along. Of course I said, “Yes!”
I had a number of things on my list to do this morning, but who can pass up a tour of a new fiber mill? I made sure to wind a hank of yarn into a ball to take with me to crochet on during the drive.
Margie picked me up at 8 a.m. and we had a fun time talking about sheep, fiber and yarn on the 45 minute drive to the mill.
It is a gorgeous drive to Estes Park from our neighborhood. Margie stopped for me to get a photo of the clouds on the mountain tops over Peaceful Valley.
We saw some Elk with velvet on their antlers only a few miles before the turn off to the mill. I took this photo thru the truck window and the sunlight was working against me a bit.
Finally we were at the Willow Creek Fiber Mill and were greeted by Daniel and Kat. Daniel helped us unload the bags of fleece and brought them into the mill building.
This is the area where it all begins. You can see there were already a number of fleeces on the drying shelves. In the far left corner is the big washing machine that the fleeces are cleaned in. The hook hanging in front of the window is where the fleeces were weighted. Margie’s fleeces had a total weight of 35 pounds. A lot of that will be lost once all the processing is finished. A big part of the weight is the “grease” in the wool.
Daniel pulled out one of Margie’s fleeces to see how we had done on our skirting work and to give us some pointers for next year. He told us we had actually done a pretty good job and showed us some of the stuff to watch out for next time. Margie and I had been talking about next year that we should skirt the fleeces as the shearers finished them. That way the messy stuff doesn’t get bundled into the good part of the fleece.
We talked about putting covers on Margie’s herd this coming year to keep the fleeces cleaner. Daniel said they had used covers on their herd in the past, but were considering leaving them off this year. We were all laughing that after processing Margie’s fleeces that they might be running to put covers on their herd.
I was curious about the other machines for processing the fiber. Behind Margie is the room where the cleaned fleeces are picked, carded, drafted and spun. On the Willow Creek website they had photos of each of the machines. I understood what “picking” and “carding” were about, but didn’t recognize the term “pin drafting”. Daniel showed me some fiber that had been thru the pin-drafter and the combs in the machine that get all the fibers lined up in preparation for being spun. I was so fascinated that I forgot to take any photos of this part of our tour.
They asked us if we would like to meet their herd. There were 9 sheep total, 3 were lambs. They had sold their other lambs. I was having lots of fun with petting the lambs and some of the older sheep thru the fence. Their sheep were very friendly. They have 5 children so the sheep get lots of time interacting with humans. I told Margie I’d be happy to come over and help socialize her herd.
This little lady was just too adorable. I got some nibbles on my fingers from her.
Then it was time to head back home and get back to my mutant To-Do List. Margie wanted to make one more stop at the stables in our neighborhood so I could meet her newest horse. I was having a bit of operator error with my camera, so this was the best photo I got of him. His name is Woody and he is a Gypsy Vanner. Such a handsome and sweet fellow. He was enjoying noshing on some fresh grass from Margie’s hand.