Tag Archives: rare sheep breeds

“I am going on a trip and I am taking…”

This post feels a bit like that childhood memory game we used to play as kids and with our own children where we add to a list of items we are taking on a trip and have to remember the ones other people said before us.

I think we used to say we were going to Africa for some reason but my trip is not so exotic but very exciting for me. I am going to Colorado to the Interweave Yarn Fest. I won’t be taking my spinning wheel because I don’t want to risk any damage to it or risk my being thrown off the plane if anyone pushed hard on it in the overhead compartment and I sought revenge. I am taking classes other than spinning.

I will be packing some dubious looking tools in my checked luggage.

combs etc for yarn fest

These are just used on wool, honest


Should I have the confirmation of my class in hand if questioned when security screens my luggage?

I am very excited to be taking an all day workshop with Esther Rogers called Wild Fiber: Getting Creative with Your Fiber Prep.  I love carding, combing and drum carding natural fibers maybe even a little more than I love spinning them so I am looking forward to learning new tricks with the tools I already have. I can’t take all my tools since some are too big, but she will have them there too.

When I go to Colorado I am taking my…..  pointy dangerous fiber combs…

I am taking some snacks with me including some from my new favorite sourdough recipe.   Any time you use the sourdough starter you have to feed it every twelve hours for a day or so to allow the yeast to revive from its  hibernation in the refrigerator. Each time you feed it flour and water you have to remove all but four ounces of the rising starter. Sourdough baking is not for the faint of heart. There are many good recipes for this put aside starter and these crackers are one of those. They keep for a week. I added a few dried herbs to them.

sourdough crackers

My first batch of sourdough crackers

When I go to Colorado I am taking my pointy dangerous fiber combs and my sourdough crackers.

I also need a knitting project for the plane and waiting time to board. I am not an especially good sitter and I am really not good at sitting and keeping my hands still. I am thinking of making the second sock for this pair of cozy slipper socks that I am making out of rare sheep breed yarn that I have spun..

knitting for yarn fest trip

First sock of an unmatched pair made from rare sheep breed wool

When I go to Colorado I am taking my pointy dangerous fiber combs, my sourdough crackers and a sock to knit.

Also exciting will be my chance to visit cousins in Colorado and Wyoming. I have never been to Wyoming and am looking forward to venturing into Longmire territory. Anyone who hasn’t seen that series needs to watch it immediately and I will leave it at that. I can’t add anything I may be taking for them here because then YOU will know, Dell. 🙂

I am feeling some separation anxiety about being away from my cat and chickens but I know they will receive very good attention and care. I am also not an extrovert by any means but I feel no shyness whatsoever about going to this large gathering where I will know no one. Spinners, and other people who love working with fiber, and love fiber animals, have instant unspoken connections. It’s a given and really nice. I am sure other groups of people who share deep interests find the same thing at their events. We need as much of that as we can get in this world.

This trip came about because last fall I told my husband that I don’t need any more “stuff” for gifts. I said I would rather have experiences than things. That statement prompted this trip as Christmas, Mother’s Day and birthday presents. I knew something was up when he asked to read my latest Spin Off magazine, an event that never happened before or since. I didn’t know it was this trip!

Looking forward to reporting from the field!


Hardy Souls

I have decided to focus this month on Gulf Coast Sheep rather than Bluefaced Leicester because of a pleasant ovine encounter that I had on Sunday. My husband and I visited the small but mighty Coggeshall Farm Museum in Bristol Rhode Island. This living history museum is set in the year 1799 and depicts a small tenant farm. The house is  the original house that was there and has furniture, period kitchen items, hearth cooking, and workshop activities that reflect the goings on in the  lives of ordinary people of that time. Coggeshall farmhouse

We were there on a cold late morning when snow was about to arrive and had the three friendly and knowledgeable interpreters to ourselves. I was bundled up in my handspun hat, cowl and mittens and my LL Bean coat and was not cold at all. None of the animals were shivering either. We enjoy visiting house museums and those with barns are my favorites. My top interests are always wool spinning and any animals of course. This place has all of that and the animals and poultry  are heritage breeds that would have been found on this farm in 1799. Here is a little of what I found in the house.

Wool to be carded at Coggeshall Farmwalking wheel at Coggeshall Farm

Let me at them!                 But even better was who came out of the barn.

More sheep at Coggeshall FarmSheep at Coggeshall Farm

Gulf Coast Sheep!  One of my favorite breeds-let me at them!  So as not to be neglectful I should add that the heritage chickens, turkeys and cows are also wonderful. This is a Devon cow which is a very old breed used for both milking and meat.

Devon cow at Coggeshall Farm

For that fun reason of just having seen them I decided to change my fiber focus this month to the rare breed Gulf Coast Native Sheep. I’ll get back to the BFL later on for sure. Gulf Coast sheep ancestors were brought to the southeast of North America by French and Spanish explorers. Many were later abandoned, became feral and were able to survive on their own due to good foraging skills, toleration of heat and cold, resistance to parasites and resistance to foot rot. All are domesticated now yet they retain these hardy qualities,  instinctively are good mothers and their wool and meat (yikes) can both be used. They are considered to be one of the few uniquely North American breeds and are not found elsewhere in the world.

The breed’s wool staple length is 2.5” to 4” which means that is the length their fleeces grow in one year. The micron count of the fleece, which refers to the diameter of individual fibers and determines softness/coarseness is 26-32 microns. Lower micron counts correspond with softest fleece. A count of 21 or below is often considered the range of fiber that will be comfortable next to the skin for most people although many can tolerate higher counts. I don’t know the micron count for my Gulf Coast fiber which comes from three unrelated sheep- Sophie, Fernando and Henna-  however I subjectively think two would be on the lower and softer end and one is on the coarser. The softer wool can be used for mittens or outer socks and all the fiber can be used for many other items such as bags, or in weaving or rug hooking. It takes dye beautifully.

Okay, enough history and facts for now although I myself can never get enough of either. Next post will show you my lovely Gulf Coast fiber and tell you where it came from and some of my plans for it. Even I don’t know what the plans are right now. Until then I would love to hear about others experiences with these fantastic sheep and their fiber! This is truly a rare breed that needs to be preserved both for its tenacious place in history and for its hardy qualities that make it an animal with fewer health needs than many.  Coggeshall Farm Museum is definitely a place that deserves a visit and helps us at this time of year to remember the tenacity of the human spirit in the winter of 1799, and the winters that followed, as well!