Sunday, July 27, 2008

I am a Shepherd

How the heck did this happen?

The girls are really into fiber arts, so it seemed to make sense to grow our own fiber. We have had English Angora Rabbits for about a year now, but angora is too warm to spin by itself. So for the last couple of years we have been searching for the ultimate fiber-producing animal.

Alpaca was the first choice, but the ridiculous economics make that impossible. $20,000 for one animal is just plain silly.

So, we turned to sheep. But then the question is which breed.

Catherine's initial thought was Merino. They have very fine wool and it doesn't itch. But they are ugly animals.

Then, Catherine got her hands on some BFL roving. She had no idea what BFL stood for, but she fell in love. It is very soft, long fibers and lots of luster. We had found the breed we wanted, if only we could figure out what the heck a BFL was.

It turns out the BFL in this context does not stand for "Body-for-Life" - not sure what that is, but it has nothing to do with sheep.

BFL is short for Bluefaced Leicester (pronounced "les-ter"). It is a breed from England. There are not many in the US, but after a long an arduous search I found some.

It turns out the place to go for the best Bluefaced Leicesters in the US is Beechtree Farm in Michigan. Brenda Lelli runs the show there, and she is GREAT! She is constantly importing the best genetics from the UK (via artificial insemination).

I contacted Brenda a couple of months ago, and she was ready, willing and able to set me up with a starter flock. I had the problem of how to get the sheep from Michigan to New Hampshire (an 18 hour drive). But aside from that, it looked like smooth sailing to get our own BFL flock.

I managed to solve the shipping problem via A wonderful horse lady by the name of Erin McNeely did the job.

Last Thursday, I flew into Chicago (on the way home from business in Austin, TX) and drove to Beechtree Farm. Brenda showed me around and gave me a quick and thorough introduction to the BFL. I finalized my purchase (2 rams and 7 ewes) and when Erin arrived with the trailer, we loaded them up and off they went. I hopped back in my car and headed back to Chicago to catch a Friday morning flight back home. Erin arrived Friday night. Unloading was relatively uneventful and everyone got settled in their new home.