Sheepy-wise it has not been a bad winter so far. The grass kept growing until very late in the year and here in the East, we have avoided the very wet weather seen in the south west, and down in parts of Cumbria. The snow has arrived in the last few days and the sheep have access to shelter from the winds.
Shetland sheep are hardy creatures and cope with cold wet weather fairly well. They are now on ad lib hay, as well as having access to mineral buckets and occasional hard feeding. They have been treated to prevent liver fluke and have had their pre-winter vitamin drench.
The tups were in amongst the ewes from Remembrance Sunday until the weekend before Christmas, and we have gathered together the tups that we loaned out to people as far as Skye and the North East. We borrowed two tups this year: a handsome white boy and a stunning wee grey tup lamb with the softest fleece I have ever come across.
We currently have a batch of ewes and ewe lambs in isolation awaiting transport to a farmer in Northern Ireland, and some ewes who are soon due to head off to a new breeder in Orkney.
Woolly-wise we are busy applying to various wool events and working on our business plan for the coming months. We aim to have new wool supplies ready for our spring events, and we will publish details of these on our website as soon as we know them.
The last few months have generally been spent catching up on knitting and weaving projects, finishing off those WIPs that have been hanging around the house.
We are also working on some new projects that we aim to launch later this year.
Where to begin? Am just re-emerging from a period of illness and then family bereavement, and it feels good to be back into the website, replying to a backlog of emails from potential customers (sorry!) and updating the stock levels.
New of Clive's death threw me into a period of wool dyeing and also (rather less
successful) home-baking. It's hard not to feel creative when you are surrounded by such great autumn colours.
I've attended two great woolly events in the last few weeks, which has helped with a sense of focus: Highland Wool and Textiles Festival and then St Abbs Wool Festival. It's easy to underestimate the amount of work that goes into making these events such a success until you are at the event and see how much needs to be co-ordinated and how much effort goes into the pre-event publicity.
At both events I had lots of lovely visitors to the Lammermuir Wool stand, and it's filled me full of enthusiasm for the year ahead.
The sheared fleeces have been taking up useful space in the conservatory for far too long. Although the cats have made lofty perches up on the tops of the sacks, and will miss their high seats.
The fleeces were well skirted at shearing-time, with all daggings and 'clarty bits' removed.
The task for today was to unroll each fleece in turn and give it a good shake, removing any double-cuts and vegetation. Then the fleece is laid (skin side down) on the table and checked over very carefully. Any remaining bits of vegetable matter are removed, then the fleece is rolled back up again and packed - as tightly as possible - into a sack. The colours are each kept separate, so that they can be processed separately at the Mill.
It's tiring work, and a bit greasy as the fleeces are still rich in lanolin. The trick is to remember how soon it will come back, cleaned, spun and ready to use.