Navajo-Churro Fleece

This is Reese, the matriarch of our flock. I took this picture because she was looking “fluffy.” Mind you, it’s not a word I use often when describing my sheep, but it seemed as though her coat had changed, almost overnight. She was sheared six weeks before so she already has over an inch of coat growth.

Inner Coat - Wool

Outer Coat - Hair

The Navajo-Churro fleece consists of both wool and hair. The inner coat of wool is the closest growth to the skin and is a separate layer from the “hair”, which are the longer locks you see draping the sheep later in the season. The inner coat can grow to three to six inches and represents roughly 80 percent of the fleece. The hair, or outer coat, comprises 10 to 20 percent of the fleece and can have a staple length of six to 12 inches.

Reese is my girl (remember in the blog post about the pasture gate—she “called out” that it was open)!! She’ll always walk to me to get a back scratch or shoulder rub but doesn’t like the camera. So for me to be able to snap a quick photo of her fleece was a pretty special occurrence. It’s easiest to see the wool-hair variation on her because of her coloring and markings.

She’s definitely pregnant, too—I can tell—so I’ll make time for lots of back-scratches and shoulder rubs in these coming months.

Blog Post About Our “Knitting 101″ Webisode

It’s November, 1941.

The newest issue of Life magazine is on the newsstands. On the cover is a woman knitting; the caption reads “How to Knit.” Now, this wasn’t your ordinary housewife-tutorial…something you’d pick up to do in your spare time…maybe something to try. In this issue, there was a simple pattern for a vest. There were simple instructions. There was an agenda. The objective?  Knit a million sweaters for soldiers by Christmas. Christmas, 1941. No kidding.

A movement was born. Sweaters, socks, mufflers, mittens—all were being knitted for soldiers abroad. And, until Pearl Harbor, many of these American-made warmers were bound for Britain in the “Bundles for Britain” campaign to assist displaced Londoners. Other committees soon formed to send the same handmade knitwear to other countries: Finland, Poland, Belgium.

“Knit for Victory” it was called (once America was fully engaged, knitting for American soldiers took precedence). Many knitters who’d picked up their needles to knit for World War I soldiers, immediately did so during WWII and the American Red Cross played the part of organizing this massive movement. If you worked in a factory, like many women did, it was a way to use your down time. If you had a loved one overseas, like many women did, it was a way to connect…to contribute…to actively participate on the Home Front. Besides, they say, the hand-knit socks lasted longer than the machined ones and knitting kept your mind occupied! 

So, you see, knitting, most definitely, has a special place in our history. Whether you knit for fun or for  “a purpose,” it’s a skill well worth pursuing.

Knitting 101 – A ‘How-to’ Webisode

Nicole Freed, a self-taught knitting enthusiast, visits Tracy Toth to share some tips on how to get started in this time-honored needlework tradition. Be sure to share this webisode with anyone you know who wants to learn the craft of knitting. It’s not as difficult as it may seem.

How to Show Your Sheep – Webisode 1

Our host, Tracy Toth, visits Rebecca Gunther of Jersey West Farm who shares wonderful tips about sheep wrangling in the show ring. We learn a lot about the conformation and characteristics of Navajo-Churro sheep in Webisode 1 of this two part program.

The story continues with Webisode 2, be sure to check it out.

Shearing

Navajo-Churro sheep need to be shorn twice a year. Their wool grows an inch a month.

Typically, we’ll have the shearer come in September and March (or thereabouts). The shearing happens before they’re bred and then again after the lambs arrive. The timing is good in that it cleans the mamas from the lambing and gets them ready for the warmer months.

Our shearer has been doing this his entire life. It’s something I wouldn’t mind trying but it’s such a delicate job, and I love my flock so much, that I’d rather a professional be at the helm of this task.

He’ll trim the hooves, de-worm (if we wish) – which just means he administers a “drench,” that is a liquid – and shear.

His technique is one that many spinners like because he doesn’t take “second cuts.” He takes one long pass along the sheep instead of going back to cut again (resulting in smaller “bits” of wool left in the fleece).

Another good thing about having him do the shearing is that he’s an “outsider” to our flock – he’s a valuable objective observer as to the overall health and well-being of everyone.

Sheep almost look like different animals after a shearing. It just has to feel good to have that “haircut” every six months or so –  just look at how relaxed they all looked that next morning.

Ram Swap

This week was special for us; we hosted a “ram swap”!

Our dear friend, Linda Cummings (http://guitner.blogspot.com/) from whom we purchased our first Navajo-Churro ewe and ewe-lambs came to our place to meet Shelly Gaines, a breeder from New York. They were to exchange ram-lambs (these li’l guys were born this past Spring). The swap occurred at our place—sort of a halfway point.

Now, these gals are pretty savvy when it comes to the breed. I sure learned a lot from them, such as: “clean” legs, face and belly are desirable (not “wooly”). And as much as we all love the four horns the Churro can possess, ready yourself for some bloody heads when they, inevitably, square off. Of course, the fleeces are truly important too; many breeders are picky…and rightfully so. When it comes time to market your wool, spinners seek out the best. It pays to begin to concern yourself with many of these traits at breeding time.

After the necessary paperwork was exchanged, “Ottawa”, the stunning white ram-lamb went home with Shelly to New York and handsome little “Newman” made the trek back to Linda’s Shepherd’s Loft in Pennsylvania.

We’ll have to keep those guys in mind for the future (wink)…

Wool – Webisode 3

Our host, Tracy Toth, completes the tour of a wool processing “fiber mill” in Wool Webisode 3.

Wool – Webisode 2

Our host, Tracy Toth, continues the tour of a wool processing “fiber mill” in Wool Webisode 2.

Blog Post About Our Wool Webisodes

The Navajo-Churro wool is beautiful! Just look at the colors of the sheep I was able to photograph before everyone came charging into the barn last week. I’ve been fascinated by their coats since we first purchased Reese and her twins, Lovey and Clara (Clara Barton Angel Of The Battlefield, so named by my history-loving son) years ago.

Attending sheep and wool festivals is always a treat because you get to see how spinners are using the wool and wool blends. I couldn’t wait to visit Loch’s Fiber Mill to “fill in the blanks”—I see the wool when it’s fallen from the sheep after shearing and I’ve seen the finished product in skeins, ready for knitting or weaving, but didn’t know exactly what went in to processing wool.

The morning we spent at the fiber mill was fascinating and informative….so much so that we couldn’t do just one quick segment—we had to break it down into parts! Jamie and Randy were so hospitable they invited us back to their maple syrup festival next year.

For more information, visit www.lochsmaple.com/fibermill/index.html

Wool – Webisode 1


Our host, Tracy Toth, tours a wool processing “fiber mill” in Wool Webisode 1.

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