Guest Post: On the Fiber Farm with Sharon Tree

On today’s guest post, Sharon Tree shares a typical day on her own fiber farm with our readers. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to raise fiber-producing animals, today’s post will give you a peek inside (and outside) the barn!

On my fiber farm, I raise sheep, llamas, alpacas, goats and Angora rabbits for fiber. Each day begins by checking on the animals to make sure that no one is caught in the fence or needs to have their coats adjusted. Many fiber farmers will jacket their sheep (and other animals) to keep the fiber clean and protected from the outside elements; un-jacketed sheep can get into quite a few messes!
If an animal is moving slowly, that means it’s time to corral the herd and check for pale eyelids. This in an indicator which means that worming medicine must be administered by injection, a process which is quite time-consuming. After that, it’s time for breakfast, which is either grain or hay from the barn.
While the sheep eat, I dump over the troughs and clean them out, then check the waterers in the pasture to remove any debris which may have fallen in since the day before. Occasionally, it’s necessary to empty the waterers out completely in order to scrub out algae that has formed – clean water is always a must!
A typical morning of checking and feeding animals and cleaning their surroundings begins with the ewes, followed by the rams, llamas, goats and alpacas. After that, it’s time to check on the chickens to collect eggs and clean their waterer.
The next stop is to check on the angora rabbits to make sure they are fed and have plenty of water. Each bunny is checked for mats, mites and weight. If they are plump, I know that they are eating well; if a bunny has matted hair or longer fiber, that means it’s time for a shearing!
If I have a request for a purchase of washed wool, I will then pick the fleece and start a soak. While washing the fleece can be time-consuming (one fleece typically takes four hours), I have found that it is much more cost-effective to wash your own wool rather than having others do it for you. The soaking time can be spent spinning or tending to other tasks such as feeding the dogs and barn cats, the studio guinea pig, or doing some gardening or house work.
Barns are cleaned on an as-needed basis, but I make a point to clean them before lambing, during labor (which can last two hours) and every day after the last lamb is born so that each stall is fresh and clean. Lambing goes on for at least two months in the spring, but it it worth it to spend the extra time cleaning during those two months, as it keeps the lambs and ewes much healthier.
Once the lambs are born, it’s necessary to check on them several times each day to make sure their tummies are full. If one doesn’t seem to be thriving, I will milk mom and give the lamb at various times throughout the day; if the lamb is not nursing at all, it gets to wear a diaper and live in the house where’s it’s bottle fed and easier to keep an eye on its progress. Once it’s good and strong, it will start getting into trouble, which means it’s ready to join the rest of the lambs outside!
My flock is cormo sheep, a breed I chose for its fine fleece and hardy nature – cormo sheep are known for having very few health issues in general. Each year, I cross some of my white cormos with a colored ram or a BFL ram to introduce variety and color into some of the fleeces. Not only does it provide new genetics when needed for a proven ewe, it’s also a bit like playing Dr. Frankenstein, as you’re never totally sure what you’ll get!
Life on the fiber farm is always filled with surprises and ups and downs. It’s a thrill to welcome new animals to the world, and sad when we lose one to old age or illness (luckily for us, the latter happens infrequently). It’s a true pleasure to share the fibers we raise with fiber-loving folk, and nothing beats being able to spin with fiber we have collected from these wonderful animals who bring us so much joy each day!
Sharon Tree is a passionate fiber farmer who designs yarns & patterns and judges and sells fleeces. She is also a teacher and share many spinning tutorials here on her YouTube channel.

59 responses to “Guest Post: On the Fiber Farm with Sharon Tree

  1. Thank you for all the information. We are lucky that there are people willing to put so much work into producing wonderful fiber for us spinners and fiber enthusiasts!

  2. I wish this was my life!!

  3. That is pretty much the way it is on my farm as well, except that I only have 28 alpacas, two Anatolian Shepherds who are their guardians, four German Shepherds(I love this breed), four Guineas, and six cats, two of which are barn cats. I am the sole caretaker, and right now I am building an addition to my big barn, so that all the pacas will be in one building where I have water and electricity. This will be the first year that I don’t have any fall babies(alpacas, that is) because last winter cured me of that. No more fall or winter babies here for this gal. I do have a litter of German Shepherds due this month, and it looks like she will have another big litter. She had 12 in her prior litter. Never a dull moment around here. In between caring for my critters, I skirt, wash, pick, card, dye, spin and felt the fiber from them. Nuno felting is my latest passion. I got my spinning wheel and carder from the Woolery, a place I lovel to visit whenever I can.

  4. enjoyed your daily step by step.nothing better than country living

  5. I have 3 alpacas, 3 angora rabbits, and 2 angora goats on my mini fiber farm. I would love to add babydoll sheep to the group! Please enter me in the fiber toy #7 giveaway, Thanks.

  6. OMG! I would love to have a rug hooking frame! I have been looking at them for weeks. Thanks for the opportunity.

  7. Sounds awesome and very fun! Thank you for what you do. Please enter me in the #7 giveaway.

  8. I enjoy locker hooking, and use my own alpaca rovings to do that. In addition, I love dyeing and have made many batts, using the Strauch Carder I got from you. Any idea where I can get a good, larger picker? I have a table/bench model, but it takes forever and I have lots of fiber to pick right now, so am looking for something that will make that process a lot shorter.

  9. I would love to have a rug hooking frame! Sounds like a great way to use up the alpaca and mohair that we raise here on the farm. I would love to add a few merino sheep to my small farm–or a leicester longwool…

  10. I would love to have a rug hooking frame my mom had one when I was young. I loved what she produced. Unfortunately she sold hers after the kids all left. I would love to win one to take up where she left off.

  11. Oh my…a lamb in a diaper. I would lamb-sit for you! I could watch the lamb while working on the rug hooking frame I’d love to win! Sounds like a great day to me!

  12. I love the lamb in the diaper! That would make a great image to hook with a rug hook frame.

  13. Chickens! I want chickens on my little city farm. Currently waiting for retirement so I have time to commit to them.

  14. I’d love a rug hooking frame too! I’d love to have all sorts of sheep on my fiber farm! I just have to get a farm first…

  15. OF course- hooray for rug hooking! I’d love a frame. As for animal on a dream farm- yak! Yak fiber is wonderful and what a joy to look out the window and see yakkie-awesomeness. (And this is why it is a dream farm, because I can only imagine the chores that come along with keeping yak)

  16. I would like Icelandic and Corriedale sheep on my farm! Please enter me in
    the rug-hooking giveaway. Did it many years ago, can see me doing it again!

  17. I love the setup you have on your farm, organized and clean is hard to create on the farm lol. I would love to have Angora Goats again… There is just nothing like Mohair.
    I am setting up for winter crafts and rug hooking is one of them!

  18. I think I would like to have a few Yaks if I had a fiber farm.

  19. I’m dreaming about Lincoln sheep at the moment. Sweet pictures…..looks like a lot of work!

  20. Wow! What a life. On my dream farm I would have alpaca, I do think they’re great animals and I would like a few pygora goats. Maybe a few angora rabbits as well. Getting ready for winter and I would love a rug frame!!

  21. I have raised all sorts of fiber animals in past years, I still live on a small acreage, but do not have the appropriate fencing. What I miss most are the angora goats and the fine wool sheep….I loved their personalities, as well as the wonderful fibers. I managed a llama farm for many years….Musk ox appeal to me…maybe a little too far south! I would really enjoy a rug hooking frame, they look wonderful!!!

  22. If I could have a dream farm I would want a push me pull me off the original Dr . Doolittle.

  23. I would love to have a farm with horses, alpacas, sheep, and goats. contact

  24. Marjorie McLaren

    Sounds like a LOT of work. So glad folks are still willing to do it and share the results. Please enter me in the drawing for the rug hooking frame. THAT sounds like fun!

  25. Having a rug hooking frame would be great. We have 24 alpacas and 1 lampaca (alma alpaca cross). I wish we had more lampaca as there fleece makes wonderful rug yarns. Please enter me into the drawing for the hook rug frame.

  26. I tried to comment earlier, but I don’t see it here so I’ll just hope I’m not double-commenting now.
    I have a small herd of cashmere goats…probably enough fiber animals for my little acreage 🙂
    Thank you for the giveaway opp!

  27. In a fantasy world I would love to have a herd of pygora and cashmere goats. Throw in some merino sheep and Giant Angora rabbits and I would be a happy duck.

  28. Rug Hooking Frame:
    I am a rug hooker from the bigcity. The feel of wool between my fingers takes my mind to the open spaces and country air of my childhood.

  29. I would love to have an alpaca on my dream fiber farm!! Gotta love wool!

  30. I would have some shetland sheep on my farm. You can’t have just one or it would get lonely!

    Please enter me in the drawing.

  31. I would love to have a herd of alpacas. I love their wool, plus they’re friendly, intelligent animals with a great sense of humor!

  32. I would love to have several different colored alpacas on my fiber farm. I love the way they look like they have bangs. I am totally addicted to anything wool.

  33. I already have angora board but I would love, love, love to have Valais black nose sheep….or…Shetland…or…(hehehe- can I say ALL fiber animals??)
    I’d also love the rug hook frame now to plan how I’m gonna use all that fiber.

  34. I’d love to have goats, so I could get fiber and milk. And some sheep too, because who doesn’t want sheep (as long as you’re not allergic to wool…)?

    Please enter me in the seventh Fiber Toys drawing. Thank you.

  35. I have 3 rugs waiting to have the wool cut to hook and a new frame would be perfect! We have a farm where we raise horses and cattle and I’d love to have alpaca and sheep and learn to spin! I have a floor loom and I do weave. How nice it would be to spin my own wool, weave the cloth and hook the rugs! Thanks for this chance to win a new frame!

  36. I would like to raise goats: cashmere and cashgora. They are so sweet and interesting, and I love to spin the fibers.

  37. I would love the rug hooking frame. I just love the look of hooked rugs, yet I so much trouble with hoops, so I don’t do much. As a spinner I would love to have a spinner’s flock,of Romney, Shetland, polworth and cormo., and maybe a pagoda goat. Thanks for the conest mm

  38. Alpaca! and a couple of shetland for the colors!

  39. I have just started rughooking, took a class at Rhinebeck and I think I’m hooked!! Love to win your frame fiber toy!! Toy #7

  40. Considering pygora goats maybe when I retire!

  41. i am so happy to have wonderful fiber raised for me by other people! at one time i had 200 angora rabbits for commercial fiber production….loved it but am so glad not to be so deep in this aspect right now. got the hooking bug again on a trip to cape breton this fall. if i win the frame there will be no stopping me!

  42. I would love to have sheep and go through the whole process from animal to finished product. Thanks!
    Rav ID – NLemonds

  43. Would love to win this and then would need to get lots of yak to make warm rugs for the wood floors in the bedrooms to start the day off toasty

  44. Goats! Definitely goats.

  45. I would love to have beautiful sheep. I love to see the babies hop!
    And I would love the rug hooking frame to make something beautiful.

  46. I’m beyond age to start a fiber farm now but I want to have one in my next life 🙂 I would love the rug hooking frame.

  47. Very interesting article! I would LOVE to have a farm! I would have chicken, and various sheep that could give me beautiful fiber to spin and weave…..perhaps weave with the rug hooking give away for this week. I would LOVE to win the rug hooking frame!! Kindly enter me.

  48. Interesting! I want them all! Alpacas are awesome as well as lambs! I have to show my grandchildren this post! It’s great! Since I knit and rug hook, as well as weave it was informative!! Thanks for the opportunity to win this frame!

  49. Interesting post. My dream would be to have a lamb in a diaper in my house! Thanks for entering me in the contest!

  50. My dream is to have alpacas and sheep someday – when we get a place with more than 1 acre!

  51. Would love the rug hooking frame! I would have an alpaca on my dream farm…such cute faces!

  52. I would love an Alpaca, cashmere goat, or merino sheep

  53. I would love to have alpaca and sheep on my imaginary fiber farm 🙂 until then, I would live to win the rug frame! 🙂

  54. I would love to have some Black Welsh Mountain sheep. I had a half-BWM at one time — very nice fleece. For now, I’d love to win a fiber-craft toy — the rug hooking frame looks lovely! 🙂

  55. on my dream farm…..I would have those cute little valais blacknose sheep and silk worms.

  56. We started wanting alpaca but then got some angora goats!

  57. My dream farm would include musk ox , angora rabbits, colored Angola goats, alpacas, conservancy(endangered) sheep breeds, and silk caterpillars

  58. I have a soft spot of angora rabbits. One of the local LYS near me has a pair, and the gray one loves parking his fuzzy butt on my foot when I visit.

  59. I have to confess, I am a sucker for goats, but not of having to shear them twice a year, so my choice would be cashmere goats. However, I would love to use some mohair from my older angora goats on that rug hooking loom.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s