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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A Spanish post – Un post español

Soy inglesa y normalmente escribo mi blog en ingles.  Pero, vivo en Chile, cerca de La Serena, y creo que aveces debo hacer mi blog en español.  Mas que nada para ver si alguien esta interesado en que hago.  Yo trabajo con lana.  Tengo ovejas y lo esquilo yo misma y después hago cosas con la lana.  También trabajo con lana que compro.  En este post voy a incluir “links” a otros posts mios que estan en ingles, pero que muestra mas fotos del tema.

I am English and write most of my blog in English.  However, since I live in Chile, near La Serena, I think I should sometimes do parts of my blog in Spanish.  I am doing this to see if there is interest in what I do amongst Spanish speakers.  I work with wool.  I have sheep and shear them myself, and then I make things with the wool.  I also work with wool that I buy.  In this post I will include links to my other posts that cover each theme in more detail.

Con la lana que compro me gusta hacer cosas de fieltro, como bufondas.  La lana de mis ovejas no es tan buena para hacer fieltro, porque no es tan fina.

Bufandas de fieltro / felted scarves

With the wool that I buy I like to make felted objects, like scarves.  The wool from my sheep is not very good for felting, because it is not as fine.

post de fieltro/ felting post

Para empezar, primero saco la lana de las ovejas esquilando y lo lavo suavemente para sacar algo de la lanolina y suciedad.  Cuando esta seca yo paso la lana por un “wool picker” (que yo hice), que abre la lana y deja caer mas mugre. Luego, paso la lana por mis “hand o drum Carder” para peinar la lana.

Maquina para abrir la lana / machine that opens the wool

Lana sin lavar, lavada, abierto, y dos vellónes peinado/ wool unwashed, washed, picked, and two carded batts

To start I remove the wool from the sheep by shearing and then I gently wash the wool to remove the lanoline and some of the dirt. When the wool is dry I pass it through my home made wool picker, which opens the wool and allows some of the dirt to fall out.  Next, I pass the wool through my hand or drum carder to card the wool.

post de ovejas/sheep post

post de esquilar/shearing post

post de como hice mi “wool picker”/ how I made a wool picker post

post de cardar/ carding post

Ahora la lana esta lista para hilar.  Yo hilo con husos y ruecas dependiendo de donde estoy.  Los husos yo puedo tomar a todas partes porque son chicas y livianas.

Lana hilada con una rueca/ wool spun on a spinning wheel

Lana hilado a mano/ hand spun wool

Now the wool is ready to be spun.  I spin wool with drop spindles and spinning wheels, depending where I am.  The drop spindles I can take with me anywhere because they are small and light.

post de husos/ drop spindles post

Yo puedo tejer o usar la lana para telares, o yo puedo teñir la lana en mis hornos solares.  Yo teñía con colorante de comida o con plantas naturales.  Mis favoritos son cascara de cebollas, que hace un color naranja y hojas de el árbol nogal, que hace café o verde.

Lana con cascara de palta en el horno solar/ wool with avacado peels in the solar oven

Lana teñida con cascara de palta y cebolla/ wool dyed with avocado and onion skins

I can use the wool to knit or weave, or I can dye the wool in my solar ovens.  I dye with food colouring or natural dyes from plants.  My favourites are onion skins, which give an orange colour and walnut tree leaves, which give brown or green.

post de teñir en hornos solares/ solar dyeing post

Este post es solo una introducción a las diferentes etapas del procesamiento de la lana.  Si alguien esta interesado en algo específico me puede dejar consultas en la sección de comments.

Gracias por la visita!

Lana de mis ovejas/ yarn from my sheep

This post is only an introduction to the different steps in processing wool.  If anyone is interested in something specific you can leave questions in the comment section.

Thanks for visiting!

Clip, clip

I have been busy doing things that I should have done months ago.  Like organising and cleaning, (yes, my mom has been helping me with that stuff) and getting some of the sheep sheared.  I know, way too late.  Summer is ending and I should have done it in September, not really much point now.  Except that I want to know if my sheep have wool that is good enough for spinning, and I can only do that if I shear.

Shearing isn’t very common in this part of Chile.  I have seen some sheep that are never sheared, just a mass of walking wool.  But there must be some people who shear because my dad encounters stacks of rotting wool when he is working in the mountains.

When we first bought the goats a man came to shear.  He was very slow and didn’t seem to really know what he was doing.  I thought “hey, I can do as good as that”, and so started shearing the goats myself.

I lay the goat on their side on a table with someone holding their legs and work from the back leg, up across the side, front leg, back, then neck.  Then the other side.  Our goats are pretty accustomed to shearing now and don’t cause much of a fuss.  The sheep however are much heavier and their wool is much more denser.  With the hand clippers I was using it took me hours to shear one sheep.  I invested in two good clippers from the UK, Burgon & Ball, and it made shearing much easier.  It still takes me over an hour and my body ached the whole week I was shearing, (and I only sheared three!)

The sheep's back legs are tied up and she is being held at the front while I shear

I am shearing the sheep on the floor because it is a bit easier.

I am using the stronger, Dagging shears here because the dirt in the fleece makes it harder to shear

The wool is not very long, and very dirty.

These clippers are for shearing the soft wool

I think that my sheep are a mix of Hampshire or Oxford Downs and Suffolk Downs. After shearing the different types of sheep I found the sheep more like a Suffolk had better quality wool.  It wasn’t as dirty and was softer than the other fleece.  Now I get to play with the wool doing some spinning!