Thursday, September 3, 2009

Our first sheep skins

It's been more than two years since we butchered our first lambs and sent off their pelts to be tanned at Stern Tannery in Wisconsin. Shortly after we shipped them, we learned that the tannery had burned down. They said they would rebuild but didn't give me an estimate about how long it would take to get my pelts back, so I anxiously waited and hoped that we had correctly salted the hides so that they wouldn't mildew in storage waiting for the tannery to get rebuilt.

Well, it finally happened, and we're pretty excited. The first one shown above is from Monet, a very mean ram who rammed one too many people. We consider ourselves lucky that no one ever sustained any broken bones. I was going to keep this for myself and put it on the floor next to my bed, but Joy peed on it within a few hours as I was contemplating whether or not it made a good rug. Now what? A chair pad, maybe? It's quite soft, but the hair isn't as long as the yearlings. They were all butchered six weeks after shearing, which is what the professionals suggested, but apparently adult sheep (or at least Monet) don't grow their wool as fast.

These three pelts are from wethers who were never named because we knew they were going to be lamb chops from the time they were born. We can adequately house and feed around 20 sheep, so all ram lambs get wethered (castrated) and wind up in the freezer when they're about a year old. (Of course, coyotes have done a lot to keep our numbers down in the past two years, but I hope that will change.) I will probably sell these.I know these pelts are really oddly shaped, but it was our first time, so try not to be too hard on us. Hopefully, they'll be better next time.

And finally, this is a very special pelt. It came from a two-month old ram lamb that died of natural causes. We decided to use it for practice. Our clumsy technique put several holes in the skin, but it handled the tanning process okay. Katherine is keeping this one because it was her lamb. The wool is so soft -- feels more like angora rabbit.
The coyotes killed one of our yearlings this spring, but we have two that will be butchered in the next month or so, which means we'll finally get to try this again.


Terri and Randy Carlson said...

It's great to hear that Sterns is FINALLY sending out some pelts. They tanned a few for me before the fire, and they turned out beautiful. Did you request washable pelts? I sent in about a dozen more last year and am hoping to get them back before Christmas.

Deborah said...

I didn't know that was something I could request. I was hoping there would be cleaning instructions in the box, but nothing. I was thinking that I should call them and ask how they should be cleaned, so I can tell people who buy them. I'll definitely request washable next time!

Kate Clarkson said...

Aunt Deb,

Next time name the sheepies after food products. (That what we did with the cows at UNH) we had A-1, Porkchop, and BeefCake.

I think there was one also named Spam! It helps keep distance but also gives them a bit of dignity.

Deborah said...

I'd never thought about the dignity aspect of naming food animals. Good idea. We name the pigs only because it's too hard to keep describing them every time you want to talk about them. My favorite pig names were Chop and Suey.

... Paige said...


MaskedMan said...

At The Farm, there's been a steady progression of steers named 'Fil.' I think they're up to 'Fil the Sixth,' now. Fil, for Filet Mignon, of course. Everyone who hears of Fil knows his fate from his name, but yeah, it is more dignified.

Donna said...

Hi Deborah
Do you have an address for Stearns? I am going to be putting a few rams in the freezer and would like to keep their pelts! The only other company that I know of, and have used in the past, is Bucks County.


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