Archive for the ‘fiber’ Category

Winter – Will it Ever End?

Mid-April snowstorm - about 8 inches on the ground with plenty of mud underneath

Mid-April snowstorm – about 8 inches on the ground with plenty of mud underneath


This is a photo of our dismal April.  We have received more snow this April than the previous 10 April’s combined.  We have had continuous snow, ice or mud on the ground with very few dry days.  The temperature has been mostly in the 30’s-40’s with freezing temps at night.  It is depressing and the fields are behind on greening up.

For fiber folks that have asked when I will get to skirting the spring shearing?  Sorry, but it will be awhile.   I do  not jacket my sheep so the spring fleeces have VM.  We still have some lovely fall 2012 fleeces available on the Fleece page.



LAMBING UPDATE – We are in full swing of lambing on the farm.  I will get photos loaded for the next post.  ALL LAMBS THIS YEAR WILL BE FOR SALE!

Our grandchildren holding a single 3/4 Finn black piebald ewe lamb








Fresh Fleeces Listed!

I have started the list of fleeces from shearing in October 2012. Most of the fleeces are lamb fleeces from our flock of purebred Finnsheep, Shetland, and crosses of Bluefaced Leicester, and Border Leicester.

Please check out the Raw Fleece page for photos and prices.  The quickest way to reach me is via the comment section or email at roundaboutacres AT gmail DOT com (you know what to do with the AT and DOT)

Thanks for looking!

(This posted has been edited.  I originally set up a new sales blog but decided, after two days of use, that I didn’t like switching between two blogs so I transferred everything to this blog.)

Baa, Baa Grey (?) Sheep

Our new Finnsheep ram lamb is from Gail VonBargen of  Little Red Oak Farm.  His mother is black piebald (wildly spotted) and sire is brown. So he BBBb with spots.  Or so we thought…  Last Saturday, as Knuut was being sheared, his fiber fell aside to reveal a beautiful silver grey.  Finnsheep genetics are not as well understood as Shetland genetics, but Shetland breeders would call this type of change “modified.”   I think it is beautiful, whatever it is called.

Finn ram Knuut

Finn ram Knuut


On Sunday, daughter-in-law Ashley helped me skirt 21 fleeces.  This is our first year shearing in autumn.  We will always shear twice annually from now on!  The fleeces were very clean and the six-month old lamb fleeces are luscious!  I am working on a Roundaboutacres Sales blog and will get photos and prices of sale fleeces online in the next few days.  In the meantime, here a few photos.

Bluefaced Leicester/Shetland Mulesheep Sasha

Finn/Shetland ram lamb

Shearing Day – Fleeces available!

Shearing Day!

Saturday is shearing day on the farm.  We are trying something new this year – we will shear in the fall and again in spring.  Many Finnsheep shepherds shear their sheep twice annually.  The fall clip is clean because the sheep have been on pasture with no hay to contaminate the fleece.  I have also noticed that with the Shetlands and the Shetland/BFL cross sheep, the staple is VERY long when sheared annually; at times it has been too long for the fiber mill.

Fleeces are available from $9-$16 per pound plus shipping.  Please email roundaboutacres AT gmail DOT com


Breeding Groups

We have two breeding groups this year.  Our new Finn ram lamb is Little Red Oak Knuut.  He is BBBb (black, carries brown) with spots.  His mother is piebald.  On Oct. 7th, he was introduced to ten ewes and ewe lambs and everything appears to be going well.

The second breeding group consists of four ewe lambs and a ram lamb which we brought home from northern Minnesota.  They are Border Leicester crosses.  The ram is 3/4 BL, the ewes are Border Leicester,  BL/Columbia, or BL/Karakul crosses.  I am really curious to see what we get from this group.  We are hoping for lambs with a bit more size.

And I had to include this humorous photo of a ewe lamb who didn’t want to go into the breeding pen.  She flopped… and then she flipped.  Enjoy!

New Finn Ewe Lambs!

We have two new additions to our Finnsheep flock!

The first ewe lamb is from Gale Woods Farm.  Her body is white but her legs are brown and gray with white socks on the rear legs.  Her hooves are very light brown with some white.  At this point her fleece is white to the roots and her skin is pink.  She has a very dense, heavy coat with a nice crimp.  In the photo, her rear end is wet – I think she got “wee’d on” by the other lamb when they were in the crate on the ride home.

White ewe lamb Reese X020 from Gale Woods Farm

Reese X020(Not named yet)

And since I love the natural brown Finnsheep, I brought home a lovely ewe lamb from Little Red Oak Farm.  Leila is a twin with wonderful fleece.  I am happy to report that we now have five Finnsheep ewes and two rams in all the colors – white, black, brown, and gray.  We have spots and (hopefully) modified/Ag genetics.  Ooh, I can’t wait to see the lambs of 2011!


Finnsheep Little Red Oak Leila

I GROW WOOL but There IS A USE for Man-made Synthetic Fibers (via O ECOTEXTILES)

I love wool even though I am sensitive to the “itch” factor. I have learned to love the smell of lanolin when washing fleece. My hands like that soft feeling of the grease in the water when a fleece is soaking. And picking, carding, spinning, plying, weaving or knitting are lovely tactile pleasures.

BFL X NCC Mule fiber

Happily, we knitters and spinners have a wealth of natural, renewable fiber to choose from – the many types of sheep’s wool, llama, alpaca, mohair, yak, bison, cotton, linen, silk, qiviut, even dog hair! So many fibers — so little time.  Sigh…

Having said that, I have happy for a lightweight, rip-stop nylon tent that sheds water when camping in a rainstorm. Also, a breathable rain jacket is a vast improvement over the inexpensive plastic raincoats that leave me more drenched in sweat than rain! And thankfully, our police officers and troops are protected daily by Kevlar vests which will stop a bullet.  Having said that, if set on fire, wool will self-extinguish;  synthetic fibers will melt onto one’s skin.

So there is a place and use for synthetic fibers. But production of any fiber comes at a cost to the environment. Scouring natural fiber involves water, soap/detergent and vinegar. With synthetic fibers, I never really thought about the oil and chemicals involved in the manufacturing process. Thank you again to the ladies of O Ecotextiles for their excellent information!

Man-made synthetic fibers For millennia mankind depended on the natural world to supply its fiber needs.  But scientists, as a result of extensive research, were able to replicate naturally occurring animal and plant fibers by creating fibers from synthetic chemicals. In the literature, it is often noted that there are three kinds of man-made fibers: those made by “transformation of natural polymers” (also called regenerated cellulosics), those made from synthetic polymer … Read More


A Visit to Finn Land

It has been raining non-stop since the beginning of June.  I’m trying not to complain… we need the rain… but the barnyard is saturated, mushrooms are sprouting, and the gray is depressing.  So I was happy to spend a bit of time away from the farm.  And what did I do on the day spent away from the farm?  Go shopping at the Mall of America?  Get a relaxing massage and pedicure at the spa?  Um, no.  I did what any crazed shepherdess would do – I visited another farm.  Oh dear, I just realized that I visited two farms!

Gail Von Bargen emailed last week to let me know she and a fiber friend, Candy, were going to Gale Woods Farm to look at the 2010 crop of  Finnsheep lambs.  Did I want to meet up with them?  You betcha, I wanted to go!  I had already decided to purchase two to three more Finn ewe lambs this year for our flock.  I wanted to see Gale Woods’ lambs and I’ve picked out two from Gail’s lamb crop so this would give me the chance to see them also.

It was raining as I drove but I still enjoyed listening to several episodes of Craftlit.  I met up with Gail and Candy at Detta’s Spindle where Candy was buying a spinning wheel.  I had never met Detta or been to her store before so that was a nice treat.  Then we had lunch and went to Gale Woods Farm.  Farm Manager Tim Reese has a mixed flock of Clun Forest and Finnsheep, with some Border Leicester and Icelandic mixed in.  Within a few moments of entering the pasture, Gail and I set our eyes upon a lovely ewe lamb who looked like she may have modified or Ag genetics.  (Forgive me, but I am still learning the genetics.)

2010 Finn ewe lamb at Gale Woods Farm.

Tim said they considered her gray due to her leg coloring at birth.  Gray?  She looks white, yet not white…  Gray in Finns ranges from nearly white to a dark, steely gray.  She has good confirmation, a sweet personality, and her fiber looked lovely.  Her spotted face appears “washed out” or diluted.  Gail and I pondered if she could be Ag?  Modified? Gail is much further along in a comprehension of genetics than I; but we agreed that this lamb looked to have whatever genes are at work in Finns that lightens the fleece.  Time will tell.  I placed a deposit to hold the ewe lamb.

Look at her precious face!  I will bring her home when I pick up the other two lambs from Gail.  You can click on any photo to “biggify.”

Little Red Oak Finn ram lamb (L) and Finn ewe lamb Leila (R)

We ended the day back at Gail’s farm which was full of bouncing Shetland and Finn lambs.  These brown Finns are brother (spotty) and sister.  I will bring home the ewe on the right.  Her fleece is very, very dense and curly and she likes chin scratches.

2010 Little Red Oak Finn ewe lamb

And finally, here is a photo of Kimi’s ewe lamb.  Gail’s daughter Emily is holding her.  Her dam Kimi can be seen on the right.  Her fleece became gray before she reached one year old.  This ewe lamb has silky soft fiber with very little crimp at this time.  It will be interesting to see how her fiber grows in.  She has HST spots and maybe, maybe will give us some gray??

Wool Washing 101

Eino's raw fiber 2010

Raw wool from Finnsheep ram Eino

I am often asked how I wash (scour) my fleece; I decided to document the process and put it on the Fiber page.  Following are photos taken as I washed Finn ram Eino’s 2010 fleece.  But first a disclaimer: this is the way I wash fleece.  One just has to do a quick google search and you will find the methods other fiber folks use to clean their wool.  There are a few basic concepts which remain the same no matter what technique: I will put those concepts in bold lettering.

1.  Place skirted wool into a mesh laundry bag.  I have washed from several ounces to several pounds at a time.  This fleece weighed just over three pounds after skirting so I divided it into two washes.  You will need detergent, hot water and vinegar.

Mixing in the dishwashing liquid

2.  Fill the sink/basin/tub with the hottest water from the tap.  I have read you can warm water on the stove if you need to but I have never done so.  Hot water is needed to help cut the grease. My fiber mill told me my wool was clean (free of grease) so I assume our water is hot enough.  I have a deep but smallish double kitchen sink.  I have also washed a larger batch in a plastic bin.

After the basin is filled, squirt Dawn dishwashing liquid into the water and then gently stir the water so the soap dissolves into the water without making bubbles.  If there are bubbles, it makes for more rinsing of the wool!  I use Dawn because it is a great at cutting grease and it works for me.  I have also successfully used Orvis paste.  Some folks use laundry detergent.  Whatever you use, it needs to be a good grease cutter.  How much soap to use?  I can’t say except to find an amount that works for you.  I make “swirls” in the water with the soap, placing 5-6 lines in horizontally and 4-5 lines vertically and then I gently stir.  I suppose it is about 1-2 tablespoons of liquid.  (I apologize for that OCD moment!)

Soaking wool

3.  Once the water has finished swirling around, place the mesh bag with fiber into the water/detergent solution.  Remember that water, soap, agitation (and temperature change) can, and most likely will, cause felting. So while submerging the fiber, I like the water to be fairly still.  As I gently push the fiber into the water, I sometimes remove my gloves (hot! hot!) just so I can feel the grease come out of the wool.  It is a lovely sensation – difficult to describe – the water feels “soft” with the grease (lanolin) coming out of the fleece.  In the photo you can see the water immediately turns brown from the dirty fiber.  I then set my timer for 20 minutes or so.  Disclaimer: I have left the fiber in longer but as the water cools, the grease sets back into the wool.  You also have to make the next wash cooler because you run the risk of felting the wool if you put cooled wool back into a hot wash.

Dirty water after the first soak.

4.  When the timer is done, I pull the stopper from the sink and let the dirty water drain.  I usually lift the wool bag, holding it above the sink, allowing the water to run out.  I have also placed the bag of wool into a colander to let it drain while I fill the other sink.  I then repeat the wash process (steps 2-4) once or twice depending on the color of water.

Use a good grease cutting detergent to wash and vinegar to restore pH.

5.  After the washes are complete, I fill the basin again for a rinse – still using hot water.  I usually rinse twice because I may still see grease or dirt after the first rinse.  Once the basin is filled, I pour a few “glugs” of white vinegar into the water, again stirring gently.  This is to restore the pH balance of the wool which has just spent some time in an alkaline detergent solution.

The water is clear in the last rinse.

Lovely, clear water after the final rinse!  A few thoughts: I continue to use the same temperature hot water throughout this process as it seems that my sink keeps the water very hot and it really doesn’t cool much in 20 minutes.  Please match your next wash/rinse temperature to what the water temperature felt like before you let it drain! Again, temperature changes can cause felting!


6.  After the final rinse, I place the bag/s of wool into the washing machine which is set to spin only.  (I have read to turn off the water supply also just to be sure that there is no rinse water.)  The spin cycle will remove the excess water.  Another way to remove excess water is to roll it in a towel or shammy cloth.  I take the fiber out of the mesh bag, lay it out on the towel, and roll it up to soak up the water.  This technique makes me nervous that I will felt the fiber by the rolling; also, it is more effective with small amounts of fiber.

Freshly washed wool drying in a laundry basket.

7.  And then the final step!  Place the wonderful, clean, freshly washed fiber in a basket to dry.  I have also left it in the mesh bag, especially if it is windy out.  I tie the bag strings to the deck railing so my fiber doesn’t go flying away in the wind!  (It gets windy here.)  I have also laid in out on towels on the floor, set it on the washing machine, hung it over a clothes rack, etc.  Just be sure to check on it occasionally and fluff or turn it so it will dry faster.

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