Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Brown Sheep, Brown Sheep

I love this profile of Cora I took one evening. The other brown sheep just behind her doesn't have a name but she's another one of my favorite mamas. She never runs away when I'm taking a photo of her. They almost resemble horses leaving the starting gate, don't they?

The mayhem of January lambing has passed and the lambs are growing like crazy. Late in the month, this brown ewe had a lovely set of black lambs. They are both girls and we'll be keeping them for replacement ewes. They are so sweet with their blazes on their faces.

How do you get a black lamb, you may wonder? There are no guarantees when breeding for color. We have several black ewes but they don't always have black babies. A couple years ago, we used a black ram and we had lots of black babies - many spotted and looking a lot like Holstein cows. He had a foot rot problem though as did many of his progeny so we chose to not use him for breeding anymore.

This year we used only white rams and so most of the babies are white or touched with brown and black on their ears and legs. It makes these 3 little lambs more special with their beautiful markings.


Black lambs don't stay black for long. The sun fades their coats and they start looking brown. As the sheep ages, their coat is mostly grey although the outside of the coat always looks brown because of the sun bleaching the fibers. Some stay black or dark longer than others - just like people's hair.

The title of my post couldn't help but remind me of the great children's book "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" by Bill Martin Jr. and illustrated by Eric Carle. We don't live far from The Eric Carle Museum in Amherst and so over February school vacation Julia and I visited it a couple times. What a great place to take children of all ages. The galleries are manageable in size and keep kids attention while also being interesting for adults. There is an art room where there are alway special art activities for children and their grown-ups.


It is the 40th Anniversary of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and Eric Carle's 80th Birthday year. Wow! In one of the galleries, they have displayed the original artwork from that great book along with early prototypes before "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" became "TVHC." It is fascinating to see the progression of that famous book and learn about its development. There is a great video produced by a Rawn Fulton, a local film-maker that is also shown in the main gallery. I highly suggest a visit if you are nearby.

Wouldn't it be a great idea for a children's library to throw The Very Hungry Caterpillar a party? I'll have to suggest it to our local library......

12 comments:

Willow said...

I'll check in with my library and see what they're doing for EC's birthday year.

Why do you prefer black lambs? Is the fiber better for bleaching and dyeing? My experience in Oregon was that no farmers could sell or even GIVE away black fiber...

Anonymous said...

If one wants black yarn, is it easier to start with a "black" sheep's grayish brownish wool and dye it all the way to black?
--Gretchen

Eileen said...

I'd love to see that museum some day. I am still fascinated by Eric's Carle's work even though DS and DD are far from picture book age. I've nominated you for the Kreativ Blogger award. Your blog is one that always brings a smile to my face and I really enjoy it. Especially your tales of raising sheep. Go to my blog for details.

Diane H K in Greenfield said...

To answer others' questions re: black sheep and dyeing, overdyeing fiber from a black or brown sheep gives a lovely result, very deep color. I have a Cormo cross ewe with a wildcard Jacob gene that started out blacker than black; she's four now and has lightened to brown, and her fleece has been the best ever to work with. I didn't bother to dye her hoggett (first) fleece because it was such a rich black, but her later fleeces are excellent candidates for overdyeing with burgundy, blues, greens...

Kristin, are you talking about Greenfield or Leyden as your local library? I think Kay could throw an awesome TVHC party down at Greenfield! We'd definitely go!

Ann said...

Just out of curiosity, if a black sheep is coated, so the sun didn't get to it, would it still change colors?

Sometime when you are talking about your sheep and have the time, I'd be interested to know their breeds....again, just out of curiosity.

Dawn Brocco said...

Tha black and white lambs are adorable, Kristin!

I love to read your blog and have nominated you for the Kreativ Blogger Award. Info is on my blog.

Happy knitting and blogging!

floatingink said...

That adorable little black and white lamb on the left in the third photo looks like the James Dean of sheep. Definitely a racy streak in that baaaad boy.

Deborah said...

I love Eric Carle! I always enjoyed Brown Bear and the Grouchy Ladybug. Cora has a lovely profile. The lambs are cute little stinkers, especially the one on the right.

Lizz said...

I'm enjoying hearing all about the sheep!

Christine Claros said...

I love to come to your blog and look at all the sheep and lamb! Seeing them always puts a smile on my face. They are beautiful and absolutely LOVELY. =) Thanks for blogging!

Dianne said...

Nearly all of my white ewes are black factored.Last year I used a black ram and out of 40 lambs only 4 were white.I loved it!Handspinners (including me) love those black fleeces.If you've got wool breed sheep, you certainly don't have to throw those fleeces away.

Kar said...

Those little ones with the white on their faces are too cute! How completely adorable!