When I headed out to check on the sheep yesterday, these happy faces greeted me. These are this year’s non breeding ewes, which include all the youngest ewes, as well as Chocolate – who’s now too elderly to breed from, and her daughter Molly.
Molly’s in this group because her fleece is somewhat coarser than I want in my flock. I noticed this particularly yesterday, here’s a close up of some of the coarse areas of her fleece:
The hairy parts to the right are probably not kemp, in the technical sense. Kemp has a different structure from wool fibres, looking more like hair, it tends to be brittle too. This part of Molly’s fleece is more like coarse wool, and doesn’t have the brittleness of kemp fibres. It’s not however what I’m looking for in a good Ryeland fleece, the wool I want looks more like these examples:
Can you see the difference? They have nice blocky staples, and no obvious hairy bits. These are ewes born in 2010, Poppy – who’s on the right in this shot, has a particularly nice fleece for a Ryeland. It’s much easier to feel the difference than to see it in a photo, but I think Molly’s wool shows up as coarse even in a photo. Here she is again:
The coarse fibre is only really over her rear end, and with some careful skirting it’ll be possible to divide it into fine and coarse sections. The coarse parts would certainly be useable, but more appropriate for weaving into a tough rug or fabric for outerwear, than cosy woollen jumpers. In a Ryeland, we’re looking for a relatively uniform fleece, and I’m particularly selecting for fine wools in my flock.
Speaking of which, I have high hopes for Perry’s offspring, as he has a lovely fine fleece. It’s his first time of meeting the ewes, and actually he wasn’t supposed to join them at all this year as I had planned to use my old ram Giles for one last year. However Giles had other ideas, and escaped from the ewe flock because he missed the boys. After a few miserable days standing by the hedge in the ewes’ field, I found him back in with the ram flock! So Perry got his turn a year early. And he’s done very well. He only had two ewes to tup, but a month on, his job’s all done, and he’s happy just to keep them company.