Fiber on the Farm

Lucky as a lamb
Lucky as a lamb.

Some years ago, my mother got involved in a spinning group. At the time, as a young adult, I didn’t really have much interest in the spinning group. I did crochet a little after attending a university where my room mate loved doing that in her free time, but it would be a few years before I began to have an interest in fiber for myself.

Despite crocheting, my interest in fiber didn’t start until a very special lamb was born on the homestead. Her mother was a small Shetland sheep. Her father was a large merino ram. It was, as I recall, her mother’s first time lambing and it all started on a Sunday during church. My mother went out to the barn to check on the sheep just to be sure that all was well. She came hurrying inside and called me out of the church service. One of our little Shetland ewes was lambing and she was having difficulty.

When I had a feel to see what was going on with her, I first discovered that her uterus was twisted. In order to begin to get to the lambs, that had to be untwisted. So, I told my mother to roll the ewe to the left while I hung onto the one leg of a lamb that I was able to grab. If I shouted, “STOP!” she was to stop instantly and roll the ewe the other direction as that would mean that I had felt the uterus tightening on us rather than opening up.

Thankfully, on our first try, I felt the uterus loosen up. But, our troubles weren’t done yet. The lamb that I had gotten a hold of it’s leg, had it’s head laid back to the left, and the right leg was back along the rib cage. It still couldn’t come. I had to push the lamb back, carefully bring the head forward, and then in a rush, the creature hit the ground.

This should have been a relief. The first lamb had been born and I ought to have been able to focus on helping the next lamb. It wasn’t. Our first lamb wasn’t breathing. I tried spinning fluids out of it’s lungs. No luck. Still nothing. I was inclined initially to call it a lost cause and move on to the next lamb. It’s a sad fact of life on a farm or a homestead, but not every baby is born alive.

My mother though, was about to go into tears. The lamb was a stunning little ewe, and we didn’t have many ewes on the farm. I couldn’t stand to see Mom cry. I braced myself, tried not to think about what I was about to do…..and started CPR on the ‘dead’ lamb. Within two breaths, I saw the rib cage rise and fall on it’s own and heard a weak bleat. That baby was alive!!!!!

While I was working on the one baby, the next lamb arrived with no complications and was able to be handed off to it’s mother. It was a satisfying feeling to see the three all up and doing well. Fast forward a few years. Lucky, the lamb had grown into a beautiful ewe. She had lambs of her own. However, ever since Lucky was still at her mother’s side, she always considered me to be another momma. I became very attached to Lucky. She peaked my interest in keeping sheep for fiber.

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Some of our flock with their lambs

Fast forward a few years. We hit some times where we needed to make the painful decision to sell our sheep. I’d continued crocheting and had taken an interest in knitting during my childhood. Now, my mother is teaching me how to spin and a friend of mine has started to teach me how to knit.

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My hope is that one day, I will be able to make my own clothing from the wool that I have from Lucky. Eventually, as well, I will also learn how to spin dog hair to be able to use in clothing as well. I hear it is much warmer than wool. Someday, hopefully, I’ll be bringing home a Kerry Blue Terrier when either my boxer or rat terrier passes away and aside from helping me with the animals on the farm, being a companion, and going to dog competitions with me, I hope to have learned to spin, knit and crochet well enough to be able to use Kerry fiber which the breed is also known as Irish Blue terrier, in order to make cardigans, scarves, and mittens. Homesteading is ever an exciting journey, and even for those of us who have been doing it for a while, there is always something new to learn that will make your life all the richer.

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