Susie Benitez; ACRE Student: From Fleece to Yarn

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After Sue at the Snowy Mountain Sheep Creamery took us around her sheep pens, she took us into her milking area. Sue weans the lambs off of their mothers after they are about 30 days old. The ewes are then milked in a milking area using milking machines. The milk is sterilized in vats and turned into a variety of cheeses. Professor Trimpey and I bought some cheese curds from the local market where Sue sells some of her cheese. We also bought a small wheel of cheese from Sue directly and we plan on having a cheese tasting party in the near future.

            Sue’s milking room was packed with 40 fleeces from the sheep that had been most recently sheared. The rest of her fleece was stored in the old barn and according to Sue, it was filled top to bottom with bags of fleece. She let us look through them and showed us the different colors of fleeces and also informed us about the importance of crimp in the fibers. The more crimp a fiber has, the easier it is to spin. Sue also said that you can predict how hot/cold a winter or summer will be by the amount of fleece a sheep grows. The fleece will be thicker and longer if it is going to be a very cold and bitter winter or a mild summer. This past winter was very hard and cold and the lambs who normally give off 8 to 10 ponds fleeces were giving 13 and 14 pound fleeces. Sue sold us two fleeces. One is from an East Friesian ram. It is black with auburn highlight and long fibers that curl at the edges and almost look like dreadlocks. The other fleece is from a French Lacaune ewe and is white with some bits of grey.

            The best part of our trip was meeting little Mouse. Mouse is a lamb who was the runt of his family. He was about 4 days old when we saw him and about only 4 pounds. Sue kept him in the milking room in a box and had her assistant bottle feed him because he was just too small to be out in the field with the rest of the sheep. Sue said that he was the smallest lamb ever born, but he wasn’t premature and was fully developed and healthy. Mouse only wanted to play and he ran around the milking room the entire time we were there. He was all black with a little white spot on his head. Professor Trimpey and I each had a chance to hold him. His fleece was so soft and he was so precious. All in all, it was a great trip. We had so much fun and we’d like to thank Sue for welcoming us, showing us around, giving us great information, and for just the wonderful experience in general.

Here are pictures of some of the fleece.

 

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Meet Mouse!

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I made sheep cupcakes just for fun!

 

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