We have quite a few sheep on the fields around East Chevington nature reserve at the moment. These fine horned Soays are in with a few Swaledales in the field near the turning circle. In one of the small fields between the Cycle track and the northern lake is a mix of colours of Shetland sheep.
The weather may be a bit mixed at the moment but these hardy animals are unperturbed by such things. The ponies with the Shetlands are equally capable of dealing with weather conditions without additional food.
Checking the livestock sometimes provides a wonderful opportunity to get out and enjoy the countryside, especially on a beautiful spring afternoon. The ponies and sheep were easily found on Prestwick Carr on Sunday, meaning there was more time to enjoy the wildlife that could be spotted. It wasn’t the busiest of days but a butterfly passed by at speed, too quick for a positive identification, and a lapwing flew over the site but in the distance. A better view was to be had of a female wheatear, recently returned from Africa and on route to the uplands where it will breed. Overhead skylarks gave a wonderful musical accompaniment to the trip and with the sun warm and the air relatively still it did seem like spring was finally here.
The fleeces from our mixed flock have always proved to be a bit of a problem to get rid of. Up to now a select few have been passed on to a some of those we know who are into woolly crafts but the majority end up getting a few pounds through the normal Wool Marketing Board route.
So last Thursday we had a trip to see whether we could make a little bit more of this product with a visit to Halifax Spinning Mill (which is actually near Goole). We had a fascinating look around, seeing the process from carding through spinning to the final balls of wool. Spindle spinning and ‘rope’ making were also little asides to the tour.
Our trip culminated in us looking at the quality of our own Flexigraze fleeces to see whether they were good enough to turn into something we could sell. A few unwrapped fleeces soon indicated that we actually have some good quality wool, particularly from the rare breeds such as Shetland and Manx. We also have a few tips to help us get clean, quality fleeces from the sheep we shear this coming season so that an even better batch can go to be processed next year.
In the meantime we look forward to our first batch of Flexigraze yarn as well as some garden twine made from the lesser quality wool. We will be selling this locally to help fund conservation grazing in the North East along with the meat that we already have on offer.
It was a fascinating day out and thanks to Paul at the mill for showing us around and passing on some of his knowledge and enthusiasm to us all.
Please check this web site for further details of the wool when it comes back from the mill and is available to anyone with a knitting, crocheting or other woolly pastime to pursue!