It was Granite Haven’s open day at their Gotland sheep and llama fibre farm last week.
Granite Haven is located just out of Euroa, Central Victoria in the Strathbogie Ranges. It is well named after the granite formations visible across the landscape, formed 350 million years ago during the period of intense volcanic activity that formed much of the Victorian topology and geology. There have been sheep in these hills since 1842.
After climbing into the hills from the plains and driving down a well graded gravel road, you come to the shining new shearing shed and enthused welcome of Cheryl Crosbie, the sheep and llama farmer.
Cheryl had just finished shearing her Gotland sheep, so the fleeces were fresh and the shed smelled pleasantly of lanolin. Being of the long wool family, Gotland sheep are not particularly greasy, so the smell is more enticing and exciting than that intense, sheepy wallop of some fleeces.
Gotland ram lamb. Image by Jens Bonderup Kjeldsen from Wiki Commons Collection
Gotlands are a Swedish sheep, an early twentieth century breed developed from a more primitive Viking sheep. They are justly prized for the fineness and lustre of their lovely locks and the true grey colourings they produce. The greys range from pale silver to dark silver. Black is rare, although all the lambs start black and change to grey. The adult Gotland fleece changes in colour over time so every shearing brings a different range of colour. In a world where our expectations are formed more by industry than nature, we do have to accommodate and embrace this quality in a commercial product if we want to see it in the marketplace. Maybe we can think of each year’s fleece as a different dye lot.
Cheryl sells her fleeces direct to spinners and also holds back a portion to be processed into roving and spun into yarn. Fleeces, roving and yarn can be purchased from the Granite Haven website or just the roving and yarn from EcoYarns. Bear in mind, stocks will be low till the fleeces are processed and spun. I used Granite Haven low twist 3 ply DK for my Maldon Shawl. It has a drapey quality that is just lovely to knit with.
Cheryl had a new Gotland yarn at her open day, something she calls a homespun style. It has a softer, loftier handle but less lustre than the Gotland yarn I have used before. I bought a range of greys to sample stranded colourwork with.
We met some wee lambs that Cheryl was hand raising, mostly third babies that she says often get taken by foxes if not kept close. It was a bit disappointing not to meet the mamas who made the fleeces we saw. They were in a paddock beyond the shed. But the lambs kept us entertained as young creatures of all kinds seem to.
Of course, the one thing I didn’t buy, is the one thing I keep seeing in my mind’s eye. I didn’t buy a fleece. I can’t think why I didn’t although I am still a fleece novice and was rather overwhelmed by the bounty before me. Perhaps there is still time…