Sheep shearing at Hacienda El Tangue

The IV Region, is not known for its sheep, and when people see Chilean wool it usually comes from the South. Patagonia is full of sheep, most of them merino. The wool I use for most of my spinning comes from my sheep, which are basically for meat, similar to Oxford and Suffolk breeds. So I was very surprised when I heard there was a flock of merino sheep about an hour drive from my house, at the Hacienda El Tangue. I didn’t want to visit without contacting them, so I had put off going.

But then I heard of a small craft fair being held at the hacienda; an event organized by El Tangue and Innatura, a vegetarian restaurant located in La Serena. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see some sheep, so this weekend with my family, we drove to El Tangue.

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El Tangue is twenty minutes south of the seaside town Tongoy, and as well as the craft fair there was horse riding, trekking, BBQ, vegetarian food, and (most importantly), sheep shearing!

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Sheep waiting to be sheared

The building where they shear is tall, dark, and impressive, made of wood and a thatch-like material. I talked to the man who classifies the wool, and he said that at the moment there are 8000 sheep and they are sheared between October and November. The wool is classified and pressed into bails ready for sale. Information on the internet, from 2009, says they had over 10,000 sheep, shearing 600 a day with 4.5 to 5.5 kilos per fleece, making 12 bales a day.

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Fleece sorting and pressing, bales at the back

I asked about buying some wool but, all of the wool is sent to the south of Chile for processing and export.

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Sheep after shearing where they are checked and given worming medicine

My family and I watched them shear along with other visitors. Here is my video of the shearing.

The shearing demonstration was scheduled for 10am till noon, we saw them shear at 1.30 and there were still people arriving to watch. It was Saturday, their day off, and they weren’t being paid for the demonstration. So the shearer may not have been working as fast as a work day, and may have been a bit grumpy.

I was fascinated by how he moved the sheep, something I can’t do when I shear. I loved being there. I loved the smell of the lanolin, the sheep and the metal grease, the cool dark air compared to the sunshine outside, the rolls of soft greasy wool. I could have stayed there all day.

But unfortunately, the rest of my family is not so obsessed with wool, so with two sleepy girls we drove home.

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And the weekend continued with more surprises; as I wrote this post on Sunday, it was raining outside. In fact it rained for most of the day, rare for November. The rain is great for the plants, not so great for my laundry, which I had to wash, and had to peg out, rain or no rain. Although my girls said they didn’t mind if they stayed home from school because of wet uniforms…they are so thoughtful.

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Where has the sun gone?

First it rained.

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Sheldon isn’t bothered by the rain

Then the sun came out and everything turned green and beautiful.

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And then the sun went away, and we have been left with cold, wet, grey days.

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We are accustomed to misty mornings and grey days, but we haven’t seen the sun in over a week. Clothes are not drying on the laundry line, children are staying home with colds, and where ever you go, people are complaining about the cold.

We are lucky, we have a wood burning stove that keeps us warm. But most businesses, schools and homes do not have heating, so I have been knitting and weaving for my family.

scarf

 

A warm hug of wool to keep loved ones warm on these grey days.

The fall and fruit of trees

Behind our house we have a small forest of Eucalyptus trees which look beautiful, but have a habit of falling down with the slightest storm.

Trees behind our house

During the rain two weekends ago the winds whipped around for a couple of hours and brought down a few trees.  We were inside the house and heard them crash.  When the wind had died down I went out and took some pictures.  It is hard to imagine the power and weight these trees have when they fall.

Inside our little "bosque"

Trees that fell down across the road, knocking down trees on our side.

After the rain the mountains above our valley were full of snow.

Snow capped mountains

Next to our house we have four small olive trees which have never produced more than twenty olives, but this year one of them had a bit more.  I was worried during the storm that the olives would be blown off.  They weren’t, and so this morning my girls and I collected olives.  Hardly buckets, in fact not much more than a kilo, but they look so nice, and I love the possibility of eating my own olives!  I sliced them all and then left them soaking in salted water.  Maybe we will eat them with a little goats cheese and salad.

Olives

Update on rain and sheep

The amount of rain we had last week was as much as La Serena has in a whole year.  I know I said everything is beautiful and clean after the rains, but not last week.  The run off from the rain covered all the roads in mud and debris.  In our village, and many other areas they needed ploughs to scrape the mud off.  Many of the lower areas were flooded and people were trapped in cars or rescuing furniture from their houses.

This weekend more rain is expected and with the ground still wet from last week there could be more flooding.  Because we live in the country we don’t have run off from cement, but there are many property walls made from adobe that sometimes collapses with their own wet weight.   So we are getting the farm ready for rain.  I want to climb onto our roof to fix the bathroom skylight where we had some dripping, and we need to put a plastic sheet over the hay and goat/sheep corral.  The sheep don’t seem to mind the rain but the goats look downright miserable when it rains.

The mystery sheep are not such a mystery now!  With much help from spinners on Ravelry, the general opinion was that the sheep are Suffolk /Shropshire or South Down mix.  The father of some of the ewes definitely looks like a Suffolk.

Ram we had on loan, who was father to some of our ewes

After the rains this week, our first lamb of the season was born, and she looks very sweet.  Well, maybe leggy and wrinkly is a better description.

Lamb born after the rain

While I was taking pictures of her asleep, her mother became protective and started “stomping”.  I think she is a new mother, because she “stomped” on the little lamb’s head, waking her up!  Poor thing.

First lamb of the year with mom

Rain rain rain

Today it is raining.  We do not get much rain here in La Serena, so when we do it is a bit of an event; sometimes good, sometimes not.  The rain during the night was crashing on the roof, waking us all, but now it is gentle drizzle.  The girls stayed home from school and are playing board games and watching TV.  I am remembering rains from years before.

Rainy day

My father designed our house as a guest house; open style kitchen/dining/living room, two bedrooms and a bathroom.  He wanted it to have a “Mediterranean” feel, big windows and a flat roof.  This is lovely when it is done properly, but for some reason our first winter in the house the rain entered everywhere!  We had buckets everywhere except our bed, where we were all snuggled up, trying to ignore the damp that was creeping towards us.

During the following week the parquet floor popped up all through the house and mould started to creep down the walls!  More rain was coming so it was a rush to cover the roof with a plastic sheet.  It worked, less rain entered the house, but that night the sound of rain covered the sounds of a dog killing the rabbits outside.  When the rain stopped, I rushed outside to the screams of rabbits and a horrible sight.  And it wouldn’t be the first.  Something about the rain brought dogs out killing; rabbits, chickens, ducks.

For a long time I dreaded the sound of rain at night, and something that can be so beautiful I hated.  However over the years we have changed our roof, added some extra rooms, and made the areas for the animals more secure.  Now when it rains we are all dry and I can listen to the sound of rain without fear.

After a day of rain, La Serena is beautiful.  The rain cleans the sky and countryside, and turns the mountains in the valley green.

 

Clear sky after the rain