Friday, March 6, 2009

~ Making good use of everything you have......

We have found in order for our farm to be self sustaining, we must be diversified. We sell a multitude of products and by doing so, we have very little waste of anything. We compost and recycle and try to do our part to leave as small of a carbon footprint on the earth as possible.

When we set up our sheep breeding groups in the fall, rams are paired with ewes for specific reasons. Our goal first and foremost is to be produce healthy, strong multipurpose lambs. By using the same ewes and rams several times, I can generally predict what type of lamb the pairing will produce and for what purpose it will be used for. I am always so thankful and excited when each new lamb is born!

Finn and shetland/finn cross lambs are shorn when they are about 6 months old. Lambs are evaluated at that time and lambs that don't meet certain criteria or lambs that were born to a pairing specifically for meat will move to the "meat" pen. Shetlands aren't sheared until the spring of the following year. The same theory applies. These culled lambs thrive and live happy, healthy lives until they go into the freezer and are offered for sale.

When we make an appointment with the slaughterhouse to take lambs, we always ask for our hides back. This means a trip back to the slaughterhouse the following morning to pick the hides up immediately after slaughter.

This is one half of my basement. It's a wonderful place to process sheep hides and for storing winter vegetables. It's a 4 foot frost wall design so I have to stoop a little as I'm 5'. I'm going to get a rolling mechanics stool so I can sit and push myself around. I have milk crates set up on the other side with plywood on top with heavy plastic over the plywood. These serve as my drying tables. The house is 68 feet long so I have quite a good amount of space.

When I bring the hides home, I have to use a sharp knife to remove all the fat from the skin side and trim around the legs, head and butt section. I like a nice, shaped hide. Once the hides have been trimmed and cleaned, they need to be salted. I buy canning salt or use taxidermy salt. All skin surfaces of the hide must be covered with salt to aid in drying and to prevent rotting.

It usually takes about an hour or so to process each hide. I check them every day to make sure I covered them sufficiently with salt and that they are drying as they should be. It takes a couple of weeks or so to dry them sufficiently.

These hides have all been salted and are dry, ready to be sent off to the processor.

When they are completely dried, I roll them up, put them in paper lawn and leaf bags, box them up and send them off to be processed. We have our hides done at Buck's County Fur Products in Pennsylvania. It takes approximately 6-10 weeks to process and return to me. These hides will be fully machine washable and can be dried in the dryer. The difference between what I send them and what they return to me is amazing!

These are finished sheep hides that I had for sale at Common Ground Fair last year. I sell many of my hides to expectant parents. Wool is naturally fire retardant and wonderful for new babies to sleep on. One some of the hides I have the wool sheared to an 1" or 1 1/2" long, other's I leave the fiber it's original length. I have sold hides to men for their motorcycle seats, women for their window seats and college students for their beds. I think my greatest feeling of accomplishment is meeting a delightful baby whose parents bought a hide for them to sleep on before they were even born and they have used it everyday of their life :)

9 comments:

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Very interesting! I have always loved sheepskins, but don't think I could deal with a raw fleece from a sheep I KNEW....

Yellow Jacket Ridge Angoras said...

They are really beautiful.

Lisa said...

This is very cool!!

Egghead said...

That is an interesting process. It seems like a lot of work but they turn out beautiful. Thanks for the tour.

Gayle said...

When you talked of scraping the fat I was picturing it done with an ulu like they do with moose hides. Our Sam's Club was selling sheep hides (of all things) awhile back. I was so tempted to buy one just because. So soft! I wouldn't mind doing this with the next moose hide we harvest rather than let it go to waste. I'm just not sure where to do it at!

kristi said...

Well, I have totally learned something new with this post! though I am pretty sure I could not do that. You amaze in what you do!!

threecollie said...

That is just fascinating. We have one nice sheepskin we bought on a trip when we were first married and we still fight over whether it is under my desk or on his side of the bed. Great post

DayPhoto said...

This was very intersting and you are one amazing person.

What do you sell your completed hides for? I saw some at Sam's Club for about $30, but because they were there I figured they were 'not real wool'. I didn't look close, for that reason.

Linda
http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com/

Bush Babe said...

That was amazing... what a great post! Of course, I couldn't do it. Not cause I'm squeamish (I'm not) but I AM claustrophobic!!! And that ceiling is waaaay too love for 5'8" me...
:-)
BB