Sue Bailey, the lady in the next village who keeps Leicester Longwool sheep rang me 2 weeks ago to say her sheep were being sheared and did I want any of the fleece. Needless to say I said yes as the shearling fleece I got 18 months ago from her Lily was beautiful. It was black and cream, but where the sun had bleached the darker fleece it had faded to a gingery shade. This gives a nice accent every now and then when spinning and the wool was very soft.
Shearling fleeces are the first shearing ever of that particular animal, so the softest, including the lamb's wool, the thickest, weighing in the case of L. Longwools about 15 lbs, the next shearing will probably weigh half of that.
Sue gave me a list of what she would have, and I chose about 5 fleeces including a cream shearling L. Longwool, Duke's (the ram) fleece which has a lot of pale grey in it, a Hebridean cross which was cream and a couple of others. She said she would get them weighed and see what the going price was per lb.
She rang me again yesterday to say the ones I wanted weighed about 35 lbs. she was actually at the farm as she doesn't work on Mondays so we arranged to go over and see the lambs and the shorn fleeces.
When we got there, she has a new dog, a beautiful Rottweiler called Roxy, daft as a brush. We saw the lambs, already quite big at 18 weeks old and getting beautiful thick coats with curls. Sue and I had a rake through all the fleeces while Phil and Jeff chatted about farming stuff. I decided to have a couple of extra, dark Hebrideans, almost black nearest the skin with ginger tips again. That cost me an extra £5, Sue had already agreed £30 for the rest. The going rate was £1.20 per lb. but she gave me a discount.
I asked Sue what she was doing with the rest and whether she was taking them to Melton rare breeds fair in the Autumn, but she was undecided. So I can have more fleeces if I want them later on. I will pick them up next week or the week after, when I have the money spare. I might even wash and card some and try selling it on eBay to see how that goes.
Sue also wants to try felting some of her fleece so she will let me know when she has some washed and I will take my beach mats and some old net curtains over and we will try it out. Messy business but fun!
I have 3 cream fleeces to experiment with natural dyes. I have grown Dyer's Chamomile, Woad and Indigo this year. I did have a Weld plant but I'm not sure if that has survived as it didn't look too healthy last time I looked. The Alkanet which used to grow in the garden has all gone, though I imagine if the chickens didn't free range it would soon grow back. Sarah geve me some dried Madder and I have some onion skins.
We had a chat about buying chickens at Melton, after Sarah's experiences with Mycoplasma and Jeff said they got some chickens from Melton and got Mycoplasma. It seems to be in all the poultry auctions, so it's better to go to a reputable breeder of the breed you want and check the adults before you buy young stock.
Sue has just wormed her chickens, and I need to worm ours. I will be buying some of the Marriages layers pellets which are impregnated with Flubenvet. You feed them that for 7 days.