Here's an illustrated mathematical process:
1 Ewe with a year's worth of wool (our model is the delightful and whimsical Baboo, identified by the white spot on her nose):
MINUS 1 Shorn Fleece (yes, if shorn correctly, it all comes off in one beautiful piece):
EQUALS a much more comfortable Baboo come summertime!
Now don't panic - although we have enjoyed a mild winter, I certainly haven't had the sheep shorn this early. I put together this funny equation to illustrate what a bountiful, renewable resource the sheep provide. Previous years' fleeces were spun into lovely charcoal-colored yarn (I still have some available, for all you knitters out there). But the fleeces keep coming each year, and I am not a knitter or spinner, so what to do?
The exciting solution has been to partner with Scarlet Fleece <-- please click on that name to visit their gorgeous, colorful website!! The company owner, Kathy Oliver, is developing a line of American-bred, 100% pure Shetland fiber to market to yarn retailers. She came out to Easy Keeper Farm earlier this week to inspect the sheep's coats for crimp, length, and other qualities, and even purchased nine fleeces from last year to include in her first run of American Shetland. I'll save the fleeces that were too short for felting and other projects with the camp kids this summer.
Kathy also gave me some great tips on cleaning, storing, and recordkeeping to help me manage the ten fleeces due this spring. Soon I'll be able to identify the best wool producer, by weight. I am guessing it will either be Pepper or his eldest daughter, Clementine, with their taller size and long black coats. And yes, the sheep are all purebred Shetlands - next time you're in the lower tackroom, check out Pepper's pedigree. His papers from the North American Shetland Sheep Breeders Association are hanging up right there on the wall!