It's hard to believe that another lambing season has concluded. And it was probably the most successful crop of lambs I have ever had! Twenty one bred ewes yielded 34 lambs- 14 sets of twins and 7 singles. We also had probably the highest percentage of ewe lambs ever for a total of 20 ewe lambs! Sorry for all the statistics, it was just a very exciting year for us after several frustrating years of single ram lambs.
The beginning of January held snowy weather and negative temperatures, and with most of the ewes showing very large bellies and udders, we were quite worried about lambing during the storms. After several pep-talks to the ewes to hold on a little bit longer, we began lambing on January 8th. In a matter of days, we had 9 ewes lamb. We only have, at most, 6 jugs (lambing pens) so it was chaos for a few days with "makeshift" jugs out of hay bales and babies everywhere. Toward the end of the season we had a few stragglers and ended our lambing season on March 6th.
No lambing season is without it's tribulations, which are expected for a shepherd. There's always at least one midnight check where you find 2 ewes and 4 lambs just as confused as you are about who belongs to who. There's always at least one ewe who needs to be helped along, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. This year we also had a yearling ewe abort her first lambs, due to carrying a "mummy" (an undeveloped fetus). Despite the normal challenges and setbacks, I'm so thankful that we didn't lose a single lamb after being born. This is a huge encouragement after several disappointing years. We did have two bottle babies this year, who we affectionately have named Norma and Hubert. I'll do a blog post about them later this week!
Now that everyone is around 3 months old already, tails have been docked, ears have been tagged, vaccines have been given and the oldest lambs have been weaned. Lambs will begin going to their new homes in a matter of weeks. It's amazing to think how fast they are growing and fun to see the personalities they are developing. Many lambs are already sold, and I look forward to seeing how they grow at their new homes. Now it's time to wait for the arrival of spring and green pastures.
All photos are from Maria Victoria Savka, a friend who visited on a gorgeous day in January. Check out her beautiful artwork at: https://mariavictoriasavka.com/ You might even recognize a few of the sheep in her art...
This summer I had the opportunity to slaughter one of my own lambs. I have been raising sheep for 15 years, but had not eaten my own lamb until now. Some of you may think it's strange that I would even want to, while others are probably wondering what took me so long! My dad and I are the only ones in our family who are open to the idea of eating our own lamb, and I wasn't willing to pay to have someone else slaughter one for me. Now that I have my own house and freezer, and also have a friend who is a skilled butcher, I figured now was the time to try my own!
One day back in August, a few of my friends came over to help with the process. I had a little ram lamb picked out that wasn't going to make my show flock. He was adorable and thus, I couldn't watch the killing process. But, once that part was over I was fine! I'm sure many people find this hard to understand or comprehend, but I believe there is nothing wrong with eating meat and my little lamb met his demise in the quickest way possible. We decided to hang the lamb in my garage where we had a lot of room to work. There were four of us working to skin the lamb, cut it into pieces, and then package it. It was actually a fun process to see the different cuts of meat. I got around 40 lbs. of meat that is now in my freezer waiting to be cooked!
Since I didn't grow up eating lamb of my own, I've been doing a lot of searching for recipes and reading on how to best cook it. American Lamb has many great resources, as does Pinterest (of course!). Because of my love for my crockpot, I decided to start with a lamb stew. I was not disappointed! Absolutely delicious, very easy and filled with vegetables, this recipe is a keeper!
Do you have any favorite lamb recipes? If so, share them with me!
After returning from my UK trip, the editor of the Lincoln Longwool Sheep Breeder's Association (LLSBA), Chris Higgins, approached me about using some of my photos for their association newsletter in the UK. She said she was very impressed with my blog posts (yay!), and wanted to know if she could use some of the photos and descriptions for their newsletter.
This newsletter has great descriptions of the UK summer shows, beautiful photos of Lincoln fiber arts, and a history section. Enjoy!
One of my favorite parts about the New York Sheep and Wool Festival is the festival portion. While I love showing my sheep, I spend a lot of the weekend wandering barn after barn of crafts. If you've never been, it's a hard thing to explain. Picture your local county fairgrounds, only more beautiful, and picture every single barn filled with yarn, yarn, yarn, more yarn, needles, spinning wheels and things you never even knew existed as part of the fiber arts world! Huge, ancient, colorful maple trees line the walkways of the fairgounds and there are gardens at every corner. Vendor after vendor of gorgeous colors and textures. And it isn't just yarn, but hand woven towels, gorgeous felted purses, and goat soaps and cheeses. If you aren't into fiber arts, you can head up to the main exhibition hall where you can spend time sampling sauces, dips, cheeses, desserts, candies, fudge, wines and vodkas. While in the exhibition hall, you can also see the make it yourself with wool fashion competition or the photography contest. You can also cast your vote for next year's logo.
The weekend after Columbus Day in October marks one of my favorite weekends of the year: The New York State Sheep and Wool Festival! This festival is held at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, which has to be the most beautiful fairgrounds in the state. It consists of a sheep show, fiber vendors and contests, delicious food and more. This is the last time of the year that we show our sheep, and the last time we see many of our sheep friends before the winter. This year we took six sheep to show. Unfortunately, I had an interview on Sunday so I wasn't able to stay for the show, but my awesome friend Anna stayed with my parents to get the showing done. I was bummed, since this was the second show this fall I missed (I was in the UK during the Big E), but was glad I got one day to enjoy the festival and get the sheep ready.
Again, I apologize for the delay in posting about the last couple days of my trip!
Today, my last full day in the U.K. was the day I was looking forward to the most! I have been following the Risby Flock of Lincoln Longwools since I first heard about their flock after Louise's wool wedding dress made international news! Get ready for photo overload!
We headed from York to a little village in Lincolnshire called Market Rasen. This was just over an hour and half to the southeast. We headed over the Humber Bridge, a very large suspension bridge and into Lincolnshire. The views were amazing and the agriculture larger than other areas we traveled to throughout the week. We drove through the little village of Market Rasen and down several very small curvy roads before catching our first glimpse of Risby Grange. From what people who had been on this trip before said, finding them was much easier this time!
Upon arriving at their drive, we headed up a long lane up a hill surrounded by sheep pastures. We got out of the bus and were on top of a hill overlooking Lincolnshire, with the Lincoln Cathedral peaking out of the horizon. I kept thinking (as I have been all week), “Is this even real???!!!”. When we first arrived, we had tea together and Louise shared with us the history of their flock.
First of all, I apologize for the delay in this post! Exhaustion and the second leg of my trip got the better of me, followed by catching up on work upon my return. But I didn’t want everyone to miss out on my last two days. Next, I apologize for the technicality and numbers of this post! I learned SO MUCH from this day and wanted to record it all for U.S. producers who may be interested in how the U.K. wool marketing is done. We don’t have anything like this in the states, so I was fascinated by how organized and successful this system seems. Feel free to scroll through the photos if you’re not into the technicalities of wool marking!
Today we headed south to the city of Bradford to visit the British Wool Marketing Board. This cooperative handles 90% of the wool in the UK through a series of depots throughout the country, but only makes up for 2% of the global market. The main depot and the Wool Board headquarters are located in Bradford. When we walked into the headquarters, there were beautiful wool products everywhere; a display with a wool suit, an amazing chair upholstered with knit wool fabric. We headed into a conference room to hear a presentation about the Wool Board, its history and its purpose.
Have you ever seen 4,000 sheep in one place? Today I did at the Melton Morbary Market auction. We travelled two hours south of York to Melton Morbary to view their market which happens every Tuesday. Keith Harding met us at the market to show us around and explain the process. Farmers bring their sheep, cattle, poultry and other animals to be sold via an auction. This time of year farms are selling the lambs they have raised all year, along with cull ewes and breeding ewes ready for tupping. Many of the fattened lambs are mules that Martyn showed us yesterday, the Swaledale x Border Leicester crosses. The sheep are separated into pens of mostly 10 sheep (some are 12 or 20, and other random assortments depending on age and size) and they are weighed for an average weight per head. The auctioneer then auctions each pen off by price per head. He will announce the average weight per pen (ie. 40 kilo), and the price the buyer pays is per head for the whole pen. It moved very quickly and was hard to follow!
Today we headed an hour and a half south to the city of Lincoln. It was a cooler, drizzly day with rain on and off, but nothing too substantial. While everyone else headed to the Museum of Lincolnshire Life, I headed to the Lincoln Cathedral. The cathedral is an important icon for the city of Lincoln and I was interested to see how it compared to the York Minster. It began construction in 1192 and continued until around 1245. In 1237 the central tower collapsed (similar to the York Minster) and in 1311 the tower was replaced by a spire that made it the tallest building in the world for nearly 238 years. I had less than hour to walk around and had just missed the 11:00am tour so the lady at the entrance gave me some great pamphlets and information to do a quick tour myself. The nave of the Lincoln seemed slightly bigger, and I really enjoyed all the stained glass. The glass windows seemed brighter than those in the York Minster, probably because more of them have been renovated. Along the side of the nave were the most beautiful depictions of the twelve stations I have ever seen, carved completely from wood! This cathedral had a north and south transept, just like the York, with a choir right behind them. When I arrived, someone was practicing at the organ in the choir and whole church was filled with music. It gave me chills! The church contains a treasury, which now houses a collection of artifacts from the church. There were challis that dated back to the 14th century and earlier! That’s a piece of silver that was used for communion before our county was even thought of! The age was just astonishing! While chatting with a woman in the treasury, the Duty Clerk came in and I had a really nice talk with him about his role as the Duty Clerk and the prayers and Eucharist services he conducts daily. Along the north transept is a cloister with windows that look out into a grassy yard. That was one of the most beautiful parts to me. In the back of the church, there is a little carving on a column called an imp. The story is that he caused so much havoc that one of the angels turned him into stone. I began to run out of time by the time I got to the back of the church, so rushed through the small prayer rooms to the south. I stopped to enjoy the fount at the back of the nave before leaving. The fount is made of marble and was constructed in the 12th century. It is still used for baptisms today. I ended up with a few extra minutes and walked into some of the cute shops in Lincoln on my way back to meet the group.
Today we traveled one hour northwest of York to a small country town called Masham for their annual sheep festival. It was only day three of the trip but it has already surpassed all my expectations! I was very excited to see my first UK Lincolns, so upon arriving I headed right to the sheep show. This was a small show so there were only three breeders, but all the sheep were gorgeous. Within ten minutes of arriving, Keith Harding of Swepstone Lincoln Flock roped me into giving him a hand showing. I say "roped in", but really I volunteered! There was no way I was going to turn down an opportunity to show a UK Lincoln! I helped him get the sheep ready, and into the showring we went- white coats and all. This show is very relaxed, without an actual show ring, and showing in general is very relaxed here. No touching the feet to set them up, no walking circles around the ring, and only one person showing each sheep. I have to say, it was definitely my type of showing! Keith had two gimmer lambs (ewe lambs) and two ram lambs, but no shearlings (one year old sheep). The judge was Rod Dart from Illinois who is on the trip, and he of course had to give me a hard time in the ring; "When was your lamb born?", "Why does your sheep look dirty?". I had a hard time figuring out how they judge the different pairs. They do top gimmer and top male, followed by top overall sheep where they judge the gimmers against the males. There is also pen of three with one male and two gimmers, but they can be different ages. Keith ended up with top male! This was so much fun and my life is officially complete now! Dad was showing my own sheep at the Big E in Massachusetts today, so I didn't completely slack off :)
Emmaline Long, main owner of Orchard View Farm, is currently a graduate student in the Animal Science dept. at Cornell University. She has a passion for Lincoln sheep, and loves educating others about her breed and farm, as serves as the Vice President of the National Lincoln Breeders Association.
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