wooly woes and watermelon

Today I fed the sheep and Carole and I did some herding to check on a few of the ladies. A few weeks ago, I built catch pens in both the lamb pasture as well as the ‘big sheep’ pasture. Despite their lack of experience in the world (their small world anyway) the lambs are MUCH better at going where they are supposed to. Catch pens, for us, are small pens made of woven wire fence (called hog panels or page wire) secured to metal fence posts with wooden panels for swinging doors. We lure the sheep in with grain and by calling (loudly and in a high pitched tone), “Sheep! Sheep! Sheep!”. No joke. It works, most of the time.

[Insert cute photo here… Oh yeah, I was busy catching sheep and couldn’t hold my camera/phone too!]

We got all the lambs in the catch pen and took care of changing coats on the growing lambs (more on coats another time). Since we were all close quarters and I found myself next to Daisy, I thought I’d take the opportunity to check out her fleece. I pulled back her coat and parted the wool to look for growth, crimp, etc and much to my dismay there was a light band at the base of the fibers, about 1/2 cm from the skin (a month or so of wool growth). I reluctantly gave a gentle tug and ended up with a clump of wool. Wool is not supposed to tug out. What happened you see, is that Daisy, along with Dahlia and Camille, was shipped from Oregon at the end of May. Shipping can be really stressful on sheep, and their trip was kind of a tough and long one. Stress, along with sickness or major dietary changes or malnutrition can cause “breaks” in a sheep’s wool, causing a weak spot in each individual fiber. The wool doesn’t fall out because of this break but it is weak enough to snap under very little pressure and renders it useless for handspinners or for making yarn (my primary market/goal for raising sheep).

Huge bummer. And, when I checked Dahlia and Camille they were the same. Oh, and catching Camille and the big sheep was a real treat to top it all off. I will be doing a little remodeling on that catch pen next week.

I knew this wool break issue was a risk, though, when I chose to buy sheep from across the country, and I am just thankful that my Oregon girls are now stress-free and healthily grazing away. I will likely have them shorn now, and again in December to keep them on schedule with the rest of the flock. This means a loss of 12 months of wool on 3 sheep, which is a big financial blow for a flock of just 9 sheep. I’m hoping I can at least have some felt made, or find someone who wants a LOT of moorit merino stuffing for Waldorf dolls or stuffed animals.

To cheer me up, I had a big brownie sundae at the ice cream man and J put the kids to bed! Then I did a bit of experimenting in the kitchen.
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We had an enormous watermelon leftover from the holiday weekend so I decided to try and extend it’s life by 1) dehydrating into fruitsnacks/leather/chips and 2) blending and straining to make juice. The dehydrator is humming away now so I’ll update you with results in the morning. The juice was super simple and turned out to be plentiful and delicious! With 1/2 of a large watermelon I got 64oz of juice to freeze for later and about two additional cups in the fridge ready for breakfast tomorrow. My batch of yogurt from yesterday turned out on the thin side so I may make some juicy yogurt smoothies!

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For the dehydrator, I just sliced up the melon as thin as I could get it and threw it on. I plan to let it dry at least 8hrs, check it and go from there. Stay tuned for an update!

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For the juice, I cubed the melon, blended it in my mini (12oz) blender in batches and strained through two layers of cheesecloth.

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I hung it up to drip for about an hour before tossing the pulp and pouring into jars for freezing and refrideration. In the fridge it would prob last a couple of days though I’m sure it will be gone by midmorning. In the freezer I think three months would be a safe bet.

Here’s to hoping for a happy Friday!

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One thought on “wooly woes and watermelon

  1. Pingback: baa baa, brown sheep… | Brown Betty Farm

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