About Robin

Owner of Meridian Jacobs, farm and fiber shop. I raise Jacob sheep, teach fiber arts classes, weave handwovens for sale, and manage the store.

Shearing at the Timm Ranch

Yesterday was Shearing Day at the Timm Ranch, in the hills west of my place. We lucked out with weather because it rained last week and it’s raining now, but the rain stopped long enough for the sheep to dry out and to stay dry through shearing.  I have been using this wool for a few years now and I love it. I posted about last year’s yarn in this post and shearing in 2015 and about some of the weaving I did using the wool in 2014.

My goal was to skirt and sort  wool and to finish with 200 pounds because that is the amount that I need to send for processing. After last month’s experience at the Anderson Ranch shearing (which I thought I wrote a blog post about but I guess I missed) I realized that is easier said than done and I was concerned that I wouldn’t get enough sorted before shearing day was over and the crew packed up and left for the next job. An ulterior motive of skirting at the ranch is that: #1 The job is done and I don’t have all that work to do at home another day, and, #2 The crew will bale it for me which will much simplify shipping. Fortunately a few friends came along and helped out.

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We planned to arrive just after the crew had started shearing, but instead we followed their van into the ranch and it took awhile before shearing began. That left some time for photos. I was amused by the adornment to the top of the van. Take another look and you’ll realize that those are two different species represented there. Shearing crew with a sense of humor.

Sheep portraits:

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Tis is Bonnie, the 9-month old Border Collie who found delight in rolling in the piles of wool and draggin away what she could.

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I didn’t get this one’s name. There are three Border Collies, this Dalmatian and a guardian dog on the ranch.

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In previous years there were two shearers but only one this time. That made it easier for us to keep up with evaluating fleeces and skirting.Timm Ranch shearing 4-2017-15

My crew: Vicki, and two Farm Club members, Kathleen and Mary.

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This is some of the lovely wool we saw. Last year’s wool tested at 21.8 microns and I expect about the same of this. We were strict on the criteria for the wool we kept–no vegetable matter, no weak spots or breaks and good length. Every year a ranch’s wool clip can be impacted by weather. After several years of drought I think I saw the effects of a bit too much rain in some fleeces–the wool on the back seemed more fragile and shorter in some fleeces. But timing was right for shearing this year in terms of vegetable matter. We found a small amount of filaree seeds with their corkscrew-like ends but no foxtails or other stickers. Timm Ranch shearing 4-2017-21

Sheep after shearing.

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Lambs were outside the shearing pen waiting for their moms.

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Vicki caught a pair of twins that escaped and were looking for a way back to mom.

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Beautiful rooster that walked by.

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It was late in the day and we had skirted 197 pounds. We had fleeces piled up to look at, but then it was time to shear the rams.

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Those ram fleeces were gorgeous and put me over the top.

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The crew was baling the wool and we kept sorting.

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We stopped at 215 pounds…Timm Ranch shearing 4-2017-39

…and just in time for my wool to be baled. My bale is only 215 pounds instead of 400 which is what they usually bale, but having a bale will make shipping it much easier than if I had to cram all that wool into boxes. Now I just need to finish skirting and sorting all the Jacob wool so I can ship it all at once. What am I doing sitting here on the computer?

Chickens Grow Quickly

I brought these chicks home February 21.

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By last week they had outgrown their dog crate and needed to get out into the chicken house. I left them in the crate in the chicken house for a few days, hoping that would help the big chickens accept them. I checked on them the first night out of the crate and saw them roosting on top of it. IMG_8770

I took the dog crate out today because they are now roosting on the perches. Here are their two-month-old portraits.IMG_8862

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I need to find some names. So far this is White Chicken.

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Black Chicken.

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Brown Chicken.

They are actually fairly tame since I’ve been handling them since the first day. Brown Chicken was very interested in my phone and kept pecking at it.

Watching a Sheepdog Trial

Last week a few of us went to Rio Vista to watch the third day of the McCormack Ranch Sheepdog Trials.

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The ranch is located in the Montezuma Hills, just north and west of the Sacramento River. The most striking feature of the modern landscape is the huge wind turbines scattered throughout the hills. This landscape is immense. It’s hard to put the size of the wind turbines (and the sheepdog course) in perspective. There is a group of sheep and a handler on the hill that is just in front of the only trees. The handler and his dog put a group of sheep on that hill and keep them there until the competing dog begins his run, coming from near where we were watching, about 650 yards away.DSC_9116

You lose sight of the dog while he makes an outrun that comes up behind the sheep. The dog brings the sheep toward the handler and is supposed to get them through the first set of gates in the center of the course. Then the dog brings the sheep to the pole where the handler is standing, around that pole and drives them through a set of gates to the west and a set to the east.

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After that the dog brings the sheep towards the handler. Once the sheep are past the marked mounds of dirt (red in the background of this photo) the handler can leave the post and help the dog to sort out three of the six sheep. This is by far easier said than done. Besides the fact that the sheep don’t want to be split up, it has to be the right sheep. Two of the sheep have red marks on their heads and they have to be part of the three that are split off to then be put into the pen. Not very many dogs and handlers that we watched accomplished this in the given time.

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I felt kind of out-classed watching these photographers. Not only had I left my longer lens (still much shorter than this one) at my brother’s house, I had to substitute a plastic bag for my lens cap that I lost in the pasture last week. I definitely did not get close-ups of dogs working sheep out on the course.

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This is another dog bringing sheep to the first set of gates…

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…and splitting the six sheep into two groups.

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Once the handler has opened the gate he/she  can’t get any farther away than the end of the rope that is attached to the gate.DSC_9166

I don’t remember but I think that this dog didn’t quite make the time limit.

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After the sheep are in the pen or the horn blows the dogs make a beeline for the black tub full of water. That dog waits there until the next competitor is finished and moves those sheep to a holding pen out of site and sound of the competitors while the last dog takes over the spot in the water tub.

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There was a break in the trial to award prizes for the previous two days’ winners.

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Scores are kept on a board where everyone can keep track of the progress. Some of the competitors:

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Notice the platform built onto the four-wheeler.

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After the awards we watched a few more dogs.  This dog was so close to getting the sheep in the pen but they weren’t cooperating. It was getting hot in the afternoon and at one point the dog broke from the sheep and ran to lie down in the water tub. You know a dog is hot when he leaves his sheep to do that, but this isn’t something that you can do with a dog that doesn’t love to work. A quick cool-down and the dog was back.

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This photo was taken from where we parked. You can see the river in the background. The canopies and trucks are at the top of the hill where the course started and the outrun was made towards the river. The sheep in this photo are the ones who were already used for one run and brought to the back to be out of sight and earshot of the other sheep and the dogs.

I sort of feel bad that my dogs will never have a chance to work sheep on this scale. If Ginny had to run that far to get her sheep she probably wouldn’t be so wound up we were trying to do the close-up work.

Farm Shots

Most of these photos were taken with my phone during chore time in the last couple of days.

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My chicks have outgrown their dog crate and needed to get out in the chicken house. I checked on them the first night and found them roosting on top of the crate. (This photo was taken by the light of my headlamp.)

Rain gauge

We woke up Friday to another inch and  a half of rain (with another 3/4″ the next day).

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This one was taken after feeding the bottle babies.

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This morning I noticed the wild eyebrow of one of them.

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Speaking of bottle babies…this one followed me right through the 3-strand electric fence…

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…while I was setting up fences so that I could move the ewes.

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Seen in the pasture.

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Also in the pasture.

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We have had several field trips during the last couple of weeks. This was a group of home-schoolers. Can you tell that there is a sheep in there? Jade loves to be petted. What an amazing sheep.

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And how about this amazing sheep? I think Mary is going to take her home.

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Tonight a friend took this photo while I was feeding these two.

 

Meet the Sheep

Meet the Sheep is our annual spring open house event. That was last weekend. Rusty already shared his story but here is mine.

I rely heavily on Farm Club to make this event a success.

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First was getting pet-able sheep into pens. This is Jazz who is a big pet and has twins, one of whom I’m going to keep and is now named Jasmine.

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Amy, Mary, and Sumi ready for visitors.

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We had vendors. Colleen, with Fiber Confections.

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I offered space to Farm Club members this year. Gynna brought knit caps and other goods. Here is her website.

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Brenda has sheep-shaped soap and other items. Here is her Etsy store.

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Jackie with Sheep to Shop brought a new item–plant boxes made of felt!

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This is another felted piece using Jacob wool.

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Carol of 2NFrom  brought hats and these fabulous new pouches. After Farm Club members saw this there were only two of the sheep pouches left.

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Many visitors come just to look at sheep. But there are other things happening as well.

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Rigid heddle demo by Lisa.

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Blending Board demo by Roy (of Clemes & Clemes who makes the blending boards as well as carders, etc)

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Great Wheel demo by Deborah. By the way, this Great Wheel lives at my house and I have no room for it. It is for sale but I don’t have it listed on the website yet. Contact me if you’re interested.

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Laura demonstrated inkle weaving.

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Alison sketched sheep off and on — in between spinning — and left her finished product with me at the end of the day.

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Julie is the person who many people look forward to seeing year after year. She brought her dyeing demonstration, but also…

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…bunnies. Oh boy, were those bunnies a hit!

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Julie also brought a couple of Karakul lambs and an Angora kid. They all had plenty of attention.

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I can’t believe I got through the day with hardly any sheep photos (although I did spend most of the time in the shop and when I got out I tried to get photos of all the other things going on). That’s Jade who is our best pet sheep ever.

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And this is my bottle baby who found a new mom to take him home.

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This is most of the Farm Club crew who made this possible. Thanks, everyone!

Shearing Day Revisited

Shearing Day here was way back in early February. I wrote a post about shearing the rams, but never got to the rest of it.

As I went through my photos I realized that a lot of them are of people, not sheep. But that is what makes Shearing Day here so fun–my fabulous Farm Club. The Fiber members chose their fleeces this day, but other members were here too. Everyone has a job and it makes the day go so smoothly.

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The star of the show is our shearer, John.

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John’s shearing shoes.

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Stephany and Gynna…

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…and Brenda were sheep wranglers, never letting John run out of sheep.

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Deborah and Lorrian  pushed sheep to the shearing pen.

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Kathleen weighed fleeces.

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Amy worked the gate in where the sheep left after being shorn.

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Mike swept.

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…I could just lounge.

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Here is Hallie after shearing…

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…and this is the beautiful result.

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Trista: “Does this shearing job make my head look big?”

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Speaking of heads several of us wore our Baa-ble hats.

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Some people left before we took these last photos, but there was still quite a crew for this photo.