Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bluebell is a Mother!

Bluebell is a first-time mother and she has done a great job bonding with and taking care of her lambs. She talks almost incessantly to them, making sure they stay near by her side!

Dusty (9lbs. 4 oz)

Danielle (10lbs. 4 oz.)

Dusty and Danielle are our first lambs born that were fathered by Foreman. Both the lambs are black with cute little white hairs on top of their heads. Since Bluebell is a daughter of Edison, her two lambs are the first offspring that have both Edison and Foreman in their genetics. We are looking forward to watching these little ones grow!

Belvedere's Twins!

Belvedere was our first full-blooded Romney ewe to have her lambs this year. She is one of our smallest mature ewes, but she is very strong! Belvedere had a difficult delivery this time due to both lambs being in the wrong position for a normal birth. Shepherdess Emily was able get the lambs repositioned so they could be born. Although Belvedere was exhausted from the delivery, she cleaned her lambs off and helped them nurse. Belvedere has recovered remarkably fast and she is in good spirits!

Belvedere watches over her two little girls.

Dixie (12lbs. 5 oz.)

Dolly (10lbs. 2 oz.)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Delilah and Dora Arrive!

On February 23rd, Hannah gave birth to twin daughters!

Delilah (black) - 10 lbs.

Dora (white with black markings) - 10 lbs. 4 oz.

Dora at two days old.

Heidi's BIG Boys !!

Our Hampshire ewe, Heidi, set our farm record for the highest total weight of lambs at birth. She delivered 30 lbs. 7 oz. of lambs! This weight beat the previous record by almost 5 pounds! Even though the lambs were large, Heidi had a very quick delivery!

Dodge (16 lbs. 7 oz.)

Domingo (14 lbs.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Customer Feedback for Belle's Fleece!!

We appreciate feedback from our customers; it helps us improve our product and service for premium coated Romney wool. Here's an excerpt from a happy customer:

"Belle's fleece arrived yesterday! I'm in awe. It is SO GORGEOUS!! Really, it's going to be a joy to process and spin! I've already made plans for what the finished yarn will become! I was so excited when I opened the bag and took my first look at the fleece that I pulled a big lock off and brought it to work with me to admire. It's such a beautiful black with sparkles! While my co-workers don't understand the lure of sheep and wool, they certainly appreciate the finished product when it's spun and knitted! "

"Once again, thanks for allowing me the privilege of buying one of your Romney fleeces, they are superior in every way! "

For pictures of Belle's fleece, see the February 17th post.

Foreman's 2010 Fleece - Coated Romney Wool

Our newest flock ram, Foreman, produced a brilliant white fleece. Although Foreman is four years old, his wool bears resemblance to lambs' wool, with its relative fineness, tight crimp, and much of it laying in locks. His fleece washes up a bright white with high luster; it is our whitest fleece.

Foreman was sheared on February 4, 2010. His previous shearing was in the middle of 2009 ... with less than a full year of growth, the staple length is 3 to 4 inches.

We are looking forward to his fleece next year which will be a full years' worth of wool growth (likely over six inch staple length).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hattie's Two Valentines

What do two lambs and a hair blow dryer have in common? For the answer, keep reading.

Around 4:30 am on Sunday, February 14th , one of our Hampshire ewes, Hattie, gave birth to her two Valentines ... Doris and Dorothy. We were expecting Hattie to deliver on Sunday or Monday, so we had brought her into the barn and out of the winter weather a couple of days earlier. Unlike the day before, with temperatures in the 40's, Valentine's morning brought a big change ... eight inches of snow had fallen Saturday afternoon and the outside temperatures had fallen below zero!

With temperatures that low, lambs can be challenged with hypothermia, so we paid extra close attention to these two little girls. Shepherd Doug discovered the lambs during his routine 5 am round and notified the rest of the family. We all set to work, drying and warming the new lambs. Our tools included the family blow dryer ... it was brought to the barn and used to blow warm air on the lambs. Within 15 minutes, the lamb's wool started to dry and the little girls began perking up.

We have found the blow dryer to be an effective and portable tool for warming and drying lambs which have gotten a little cold.

Doris (white) - 14 lbs. 2 oz.

Dorothy (white w/ black markings) - 11 lbs. 7 oz.

Belle's 2010 Fleece

Now that shearing is behind us, it is time to for our family to go to work! The next step in preparing fleeces for our customers is to complete the final skirting on each fleece. We finished skirting our first fleece of the year from our yearling ewe Belle.

Belle is a unique girl! With most of our Romney's, the nicest fleece quality is exhibited when they are a lamb. With Belle, however, her yearling fleece showed an improvement over her lamb fleece (last year's)! As we were working on her fleece, we all remarked on the beauty! It is a striking black color with silver strands; the silver intensifies the natural luster.

Belle's staple length reached 6.5 inches in places and her fleece weighed in at over 6 pounds! This beautiful fleece will soon be on its way to a customer in Arizona.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Beulah Delivers Twins !

Saturday morning brought a pleasant surprise to Grace Valley Farms! In the corner of our big sheep shed stood Beulah, guarding twin lambs! We were not sure when Beulah was bred, so we did not expect her to lamb this early. It is for this reason we perform routine checks of our lambing areas every few hours during lambing season!

Although Beulah is a first-time mother, she is doing great! Both lambs are readily drinking their milk; in fact, they seem to always nurse at the same time! We refer to this as "Beulah is giving a double-drink".

Both lambs are black. Some may find this interesting since Beulah is white-wooled. However, Edison, the father, has colored wool. His genetics influence the wool color (and other traits) of the children.

Dakota - 8 lbs. 13 oz.

Delores - 9 lbs. 1 oz.

Question: Dakota and Delores are three-quarters Romney and one-quarter Suffolk. How did this happen?

Answer: Beulah (Mommy) is half Romney and half Suffolk. Edison (Daddy) is 100% Romney.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Denver and Dillon

Early on Friday morning, Hazel, delivered twin boys! Her lambs were fathered by Edison. Hazel is a Hampshire ewe, therefore her lambs are half Hampshire and half Romney.

Hazel keeps a close eye on her boys

Denver (white with black markings) - 12 lbs. 1 oz.

Dillon (all black) - 13 lbs. 9 oz.

Some have asked why we are crossing pure-bred Hampshires (meat breed) with pure-bred Romneys (dual purpose breed, meat and wool). Our answer: we are attempting to capture the benefit of the first cross. It has been observed and documented, the first cross from two distinct pure-bred sheep breeds will often result in lambs displaying vigorous growth characteristics. Last year was our first attempt and we observed the desired effect! The crosses put on the desired growth reaching 80 to 90 pounds in about three months. We had the added benefit of seeing some of the ewe lambs with desirable wool characteristics, too ... Carolyn, Clover, and Caramel. We will be studying these three and their offspring from this year's breeding. Those of you who have purchased fleeces from these three can help our study by adding your personal observations as you handle the wool.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Celeste: Before and After

In a previous post, we had a photo of our very woolly ewe lamb, Celeste. She had so much wool on her face, she could hardly see where she was going!

January 5, 2010

The next photo is Celeste the day after shearing ... can you believe this is the same sheep?

February 5, 2010

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Shearing Day at Grace Valley Farms!

Shearing Day was on February 4. Our 42 sheep received their annual "hair cut". Here are some of the photos we took during this exciting event!

Our three rams showed off their beautiful wool: Foreman (background), Edison (L), and Brady (R) before shearing.

The ewes patiently waiting in the holding pen for their turn to be sheared.

From the holding pen, a given sheep is placed in the handling system. The coat, which protects its wool, is removed and the sheep is directed down the chute toward the shearer. Betsy waits her turn (top) and Caramel (bottom) shows us her creamy-white locks.

The shearer pulls the next sheep from the chute and places it on its back. Shearing starts with the belly wool and moves up to the neck. Mr. Ralph McWilliams, our shearer, demonstrates his technique with Christina and Edison.


Edison being sheared while Foreman looks on approvingly.

Foreman being sheared.

After the chin wool has been removed, Mr. McWilliams moves around to the wool on the sides and back. The side and back wool is cut in smooth, continuous sweeping motions. The sheep is shorn so the best wool holds together in one unit; this cohesive unit is the fleece.
After one of the Romney sheep has been shorn, it is immediately re-coated to protect the new wool growth. The new coat is two to four sizes smaller than the coat worn just prior to shearing. In this photo, one of our ewes is shown getting her coat. After this, she was directed to the other side of the barn where a tasty meal of nice, green hay awaited her.

While the sheep is being re-coated, the resulting fleece is carefully picked up off the shearing floor. The floor is then swept clean in preparation for the next sheep.

The fleece is carried from the shearing barn to the Skirting Team awaiting in the garage.

Here's our Skirting Team, a group of friends and family, working on Belle's fleece. The heated garage makes it more comfortable for them to work without gloves.

These skilled ladies perform the first skirting on each fleece. In this first skirting, any remaining head, neck, and tail wool is removed and discarded as it contains considerable vegetable matter. The skirted fleece is then carefully rolled up and placed in its own marked bag. The bags are set aside in a clean, dry place.

Ralph McWilliams and a family friend pose for this picture after one of the last sheep was shorn. Our friend had an opportunity to try his hand at shearing. Heather, one of our Hampshire ewes, was his first subject. Under the watchful eye of our professional shearer, our friend proceeded to shear his very first sheep! He did a great job, but proclaimed "that's hard work!"

After the shearing was finished, we all headed inside where a big celebration lunch awaited us. We served homemade chicken soup and chili, sandwiches, chips, and desserts, to the hungry team! We all enjoyed the stories Mr. McWilliams related and the learning lessons he imparted.

Our crew of young men worked diligently in the barn to help keep the shearing process flowing smoothly. We couldn't have done it without their willing assistance!

This little guy helped out with shearing too! 2010 marked his second year to help with the sheep!

As we worked through the 32 fleeces, we were very pleased with the observed quality and the striking colors. We believe you, our friends and customers, will also be pleased with the quality of Grace Valley Farms Romney wool!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Update On Dooley

Dooley is 9 days old and doing great! He weighs almost 23 pounds now! Dooley is sure enjoying life! He loves to run and dance around the barn while his mother, Cocoa, keeps a watchful eye on him.


Some of you may notice Dooley looks quite different than our Romney lambs. Indeed, most of our flock is Romney or Romney cross. Not Dooley, however! He and his mom, Cocoa, are full-blood Suffolk sheep. They come from a line of quality show sheep. Dooley will likely be a 4H lamb!

Cocoa has a growing appetite these days and frequently reminds us of the fact that she is always hungry! It takes a lot of food to make milk for a growing little lamb!