I nearly wrote this article for the last edition of the co-op news butAuke wrote a lovely long piece about the Tablehurst sheep and although we could both natter about sheep endlessly not everyone shares our enthusiasm. The different approaches Tablehurst and Plaw Hatch take to certain aspects of farming I think is positive, while we go for wooly sheep Tablehurst go for no wool, I’m sure there is strength in our diversity!
Auke is absolutely right that the wool industry in the UK has been suffering for a long time and there are still people who burn their wool rather than sell it to the wool board because the prices can be so bad. However there has been some renewed interest in British and organic wool in the last few years. Personally I think it is about time there was a revolution in textiles in the way there has been with local/organic food. The chemicals that are found in finished wool products such as formaldehyde are alarming the Soil Association have a good article about this on their website.
I have always been a knitter and a constant wearer of wooly socks, as those of you who read the Plaw Hatch e-news will know. During the 3 years I have been a Plaw Hatch we have sent the beautiful white wool of our biodynamic Lleyn ewes to be processed by the Natural Fibre Company. The wool is always available in the shop in a variety of colours and gauges.
At the end of last year my mum (Deborah Barker) and I ran a Hedgerow dyeing workshop. I was just there to introduce the sheep and guide the foraging expedition as unlike my mum I have no natural dyeing expertise. It was a magical experience to take our pure white wool and transform it into a whole range of colours. We are hoping to run at least two courses this year one in June and the other in September. If you are interested in being added to a Natural Dyeing at Plaw Hatch email list please send me a message: firstname.lastname@example.org.
As I write this we are having blankets hand woven by Stuart at Bovey Handloom Weavers. The blankets are woven from our very own organically processed wool from our flock. Navy and white herringbone. This is no usual blanket processed in the UK and made 100% from one small flocks wool. A very special blanket. You can even meet the sheep!
On February 13th the scanner came to scan our ewes. We are gradually growing our flock this year we have 34 ewes that went in with the ram usually we would expect one or two not to be pregnant but they are all “in lamb” as we say. Not only that but we are expecting 7 sets of triplets, a possible quad, 8 singles and a whole bunch of twins! 14 of our expectant ewes are first time mothers I hope they won’t be too overwhelmed by their triplets. Next year we will have 50 ewes and we will buy a Jacob ram. Jacobs not only have beautiful wool but also have strong feet a big plus in the world of sheep! And we can have beautiful brown and white sheepskins too.