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Wovember Fibre Farm: Granite Haven

November 15, 2014

It was Granite Haven’s open day at their Gotland sheep and llama fibre farm last week.

IMG_4829Granite 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.

IMG_4823The shed nestles into a stand of eucalypts and it really is a most pleasant situation.

IMG_4810Cheryl 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.

800px-Ramlamb_no._114367-00009_(Official_Danish_animal_register)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.

IMG_4819Cheryl 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.

IMG_3391Cheryl 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.

IMG_4832I also bought some llama roving as I am intrigued as to how this will compare to the alpaca I spun earlier this year. At first feel, it seems sturdier than the alpaca, not quite so soft.

IMG_4836The beasties themselves were remarkably stately creatures, more like a strong, wide horse to the deer-like alpaca.

IMG_4792We 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.

IMG_4797Of 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…

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  1. What a wonderful day you must have had!! I just love going out to “meet and greet the local woolies!!”
    A whole fleece can be daunting but once you do the processing yourself you’ll probably want more!!

  2. Ooh – makes my fingers itch just to read your description of the Gotland fleeces – I long to dive in and feel them!
    I think you just have to be brave when it comes to buying a whole fleece – I’ve had some absolute beauties, and also one or two horrors. But I’m definitely the wiser on fleece choice for these experiences.

  3. Rebecca, Your posts are always so tantalizing! I love greys and how I wish I had some of that yarn you bought in my hands. Can’t wait to see what you make. What a lovely thing to visit a farm and see those pretty creatures. (PS Stunning shawl and great photos!)

  4. Oh goodness, how I wish I’d found something like this while I was in Australia! Natural wools were so difficult for me to find! The best place I found was the Victoria guild. Thank you for sharing this visit.

  5. Everything about this excursion sounds lovely! How interesting that the fleeces change colour as the sheep get older, you don’t get a more natural dye than that. The 4 different greys you bought are beautiful. llamas are so funny, they make me laugh! That spotty face one is particularly sweet.

  6. Euroa meaning Joyful! Lovely. Was intrigued to see the area called the ‘Shire’ of Strathbogie. Is Shire a normal way of designating an area…like county maybe? Those Gotland’s were to die for, yup, you missed out 🙂 OK, so I’m an enabler……….I do like looking at Alpacas and Lamas but have no interest in their fleece or yarn.
    Am sure the Australia Post could help you out…………

  7. I did enjoy this post. We have Well Manor Farm in the UK which souonds like a similar operation, minus the llamas. They sell their Gotland under the name ‘The Little Grey Sheep’, some in it’s natural, and some overdyed on site … the colours are gorgeously subtle as of course they start from a grey base.

  8. Fleeces feel overwhelming to me. I want one, but the logistics of the washing and drying and processing are a bit much. I washed one fleece that was so full of vegetable matter and caked on lanolin that it was a terrible experience, and it turns out I hate the feel of the fiber itself… so, a lot of work wasted. If you get one, make sure it’s a well-cared-for fleece, grown specifically for handspinners, and skirt it heavily before washing. You will thank yourself!

  9. Wonderful travelogue, Ms. N & S.

    Gotlands! What a noble breed. Natural greys are truly the most elegant shades. I will admit to lusting after a sheep that produces cadmium yellow, but then I would be happily satisfied with a good hand in a good grey.

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