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.

20131109_140451

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!

20131109_125141

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.

20131109_125119

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.

20131109_125424

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.

20131109_135344

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.

20131110_094411

Lets just call this my 100th post

I wanted to write something great and moving for my 100th post, but the more I think about what I should write, the further away I find the post. This happens a lot with me. Constantly thinking, my mind going over every thing so that I get nothing done. However, today I will share.

This morning I looked out of my window, through the mist, and watched the new lambs as they jumped and played, and it made me think of all the beauty around me.

Image

Like yesterday for instance. My family and I went up the Elqui Valley to Vicuña where we had a terrible lunch, (not new for us), but a nice walk around. We visited Emporio Oveja Negra, which sells products from some of the Creatif participants as well as the owner’s beautiful wool creations. We then visited Galeria Elqui, part of Elqui Total. This is a pretty gallery set in a horse ranch, with textile, ceramic, sculptures and painted art.

I came home feeling inspired and belonging to the artistic/artesian community, – and it feels great!

I have been preparing for the next Observatorio Cultural, but in a relaxed way, enjoying the process. I have more ideas, (have to start thinking of spring) and using more of my handspun.

At the moment I am working on a diagonal weave on my large nail loom.

Image

I am not sure if it is slower than traditional looms, but there is no warp loss, which is good when I am using my handspun.Image

The handspun is a mix of wool from the south, alpaca, and wool from my sheep.

Loomaug2

I have also been sewing with my youngest daughter and knitting a scarf for my oldest.

Image

I bought some grey fleece fabric for school clothes, and we made this octopus with some of the leftover.

Image

This is really simple and great for kids! Here is the link on how to make this no-sew octopus.

There have also been some changes on the farm. Sadly, last weekend we sold the last of our cows. As long as I have lived on my Dad’s farm we have always had cows. But my Dad wants to focus on smaller animals that don’t need as much physical strength to control, (when things go wrong it helps). I am sure this has been harder for my Dad, but he is looking forward to a simpler farm.

And I am looking forward to my next 100 posts!

 

Maybe mohair

The goats on our farm are not pure bred angoras, but they are the reason I learned to shear, spin, and knit.

Image

The mohair from them is not perfect, and because we have not had any young goats in a few years the mohair isn’t as soft as it could be. However it shines beautifully and the past few weeks I have been dyeing wool and mohair in my solar ovens, as yarn and as un-spun fibre.

ImageI used onion skins, and walnut leaves for the orange and green, then spun the mohair and wool mix on my Ashford Traditional.

I also dyed mohair and wool with avocado skins, which the cats loved.

Pinkwool2

I am planning to blend these together, but first I carded the wool and mohair separately.

Battsandwool

 

The white wool is from our sheep, and the off-white is from the small spots of grey that I occasionally find on the fleece.

Most angora goats can be sheared twice a year, but I am not sure if these goats produce enough hair for shearing twice. However, this year I may try to shear earlier and get a better quality fleece, (these samples are slightly matted). If I leave it too late then the hair starts to matt and comes off by itself.

goatsandsheep

Even though these goats, my “old ladies”, are not pure bred it is nice to know I can still make beautiful objects from their hair.

 

 

Do lambs need scarves?

I don’t think so.  however, I have been busy weaving scarves and watching the new lambs.

A third lamb was born last week, and she is more blond than black.  I am still not sure of the breed of these sheep, and when some are born light brown it confuses me even more.

Wake up little girl, new lamb to the left, (and a goose at the back pulling wool off the sheep).

The twin lambs are getting bigger, but I still can’t get a great picture of them.

.

As well as watching the lambs I have been making different shaped looms and weaving. The scarves were woven on a loom similar to the continuous square loom, except that the loom is a long thin rectangle.  The continuous weave is more complicated than on the square loom but the result is very pretty.

Continuous or diagonal weave

With the same loom and a horizontal weave I used some of my hand spun in these two scarves.

The hand spun and other yarn in these scarves were dyed in my solar oven.

I have also been using yarn I bought from Mary Dubo’s store.  The yarn is similar to the yarn I have been dying but in different colours.  I bought a purple, teal and brown.

Before washing

After washing, or fulling, the scarf softened.

After the scarf has been fulled

 

The colours are bit different in the last photograph because it was taken in the shade.

Cute as a button

As promised, more pictures of the lambs born last week.  However they still look wrinkled and I can’t seem to get a really cute picture.

Some of the lambs, like these, are born black then their fleece turns white as they grow.

They will keep their black face and legs.

This is the boy, who is more curious then his sister.

A couple of weeks ago I said that I felt there were changes in the air.  One of the reasons was because we stopped making cheese here on the farm.  My father started this almost 10 years ago, but for many reasons, (different depending on who you ask), the cheese “business” never really worked.

It seemed sad to finally admit that this was something that wasn’t going to work, but for me it has been a change for the better.  The building we made cheese in has now turned into my new fibre studio.

Unlike my old room, this building has electricity, water, no dust or bugs eating the wood in the ceiling!  It is spacious and secure, with lots of room for all my stuff.  Because it has electricity I have also expanded my wood working tools so that I can make looms, drop spindles and other woody things, like buttons.  I will post pictures soon of my new studio when it is organised.

So back to the buttons.  Last year when the trees fell down behind our house, they broke the top off one of the flowering trees.

Branches of different sizes were cut and some were left under the tree.

I collected some of this wood and cut it into disks to make buttons.  The wood is quite hard and I was very happy with the results.

I know it is a cliché, but beautiful things can be made from waste, and new beginnings can come from sad endings.

Deep winter

Well, it is very cold, but no rain or snow, and very sunny, so it does not really feel like winter.  However, this past week we have had nights with frost and actual ice on the window’s of the car!  Frost is rare for where we live and can cause damage to local crops that are accustomed to milder weather.

Last night in the middle of this polar wave and dusting of frost two lambs were born.  The mother is the ewe I sheared earlier in the year and it is her wool that I have been spinning and weaving.

The picture is not very good, I didn’t want to upset her while the lambs were sleeping.  And since they appear more wrinkled than cute I will give them a few days before I take more pictures.