A Shepherding Year

Spring Southdown lamb

A Shepherding Year - Our wool and how our bears are made!

Spring

We will begin our shepherding year in the Spring – the best time of all and the busiest! It’s lambing time and the ewes are now being brought into the barn to provide shelter, security (new lambs can be vulnerable to predators and cold nights!) and it also makes keeping an eye on the ewes much easier, spotting any which may need assistance.

Once each ewe has given birth to their lamb/s, twins or even triplets are quite common, they are marked with a number which immediately identifies each ewe with her lambs. The little family are them placed in a separate pen to ensure they bond well (very important for when they all go out into the field together) and also to ensure the lambs receive their mum’s first milk, colostrum, which is vital as it contains the highest percentage of antibodies to protect the lamb from many illnesses. At this stage any poorly lambs will be bottle fed and cared for individually. Once bonded, this little family will then go into the nursery pen where the lambs can become accustomed to mixing with other lambs and ewes, recognising their own mum’s call, before joining a larger flock. A chance to ensure they continue to feed well is important too.

Once all is well the lambs and ewes will be out in the field where the ewes will receive supplementary feeding to support their milk supply. The lambs grow so very quickly, running about getting stronger and beginning to eat grass.

Spring Southdown lamb

Summer

Summer is shearing time! With the weather starting to get hotter, the ewes are pleased to have a little less wool during the Summer months ahead! Often as early as May, here in the south of England, shearing begins – it’s a great time for us as we have a wonderful stock of new fleeces for hand spinning and making our cute little bears! Each fleece is clipped from the sheep and removed whole in one piece, hopefully, and at this point the fleece is cleaned of any really dirty matted wool and rolled up to be placed in sacks ready for sorting at a later date. The ewes are then returned to the field with their lambs.

Black Welsh Mountain and Jacob sheep fleeces

Autumn

This is the time of year when the weaned lambs are separated from their mums. By this time they are very independent! It is also the time when rams are chosen to go in with the ewes. Between ten to twelve weeks after rams have sired the ewes, ultrasound scans will be used to determine which ewes are pregnant and how many lambs each one will have in the Spring.

Southdown lambs

Winter

Feeding the pregnant ewes takes up much of the time during the brief daylight hours of Winter. The ewes usually stay out in the fields during these months with extra feeding needed especially during adverse weather conditions and hard frosts!

We hope you enjoyed reading a little about a shepherding year, of course there is more to this including routine worming, hoof care, vaccination and much more! Please read on to discover more about our little bears and, of course our lovely hand spun rare breed wool.

Herdwick sheep in the snow

Our wool and how our bears are made!

You may be interested to know a little bit about how your bear is made – it all begins with the fleece and carefully hand sorting each one into colours and wool quality ready for hand spinning. At this stage any brambles and matted dirty wool is also removed. Usually raw fleece is then washed at this stage but we prefer to work with the naturally greasy wool for our hand spinning. So, our next task is to hand card or comb the wool making hand spinning much easier – although we have had many Jacob fleeces so fine that we need not card the wool at all but simply spin straight as the fleece comes!

All of our hand spinning is done on traditional Ashford spinning wheels and once we have spun the wool it is then wound into skeins to be gently hand washed and dried naturally outside in the sunshine.

Once our lovely hand spun wool has dried we then set to work hand knitting each little bear. This is so rewarding as we love to work with our own wool which we can source right back to the sheep! Using our own pattern designs each little bear is created, their expressions embroidered and with the addition of hand made glass eyes their little characters come to life!

So there you have hand knitted teddy bears from hand spun rare breed sheep’s wool. Adorable teddy bears from The Knitted Bear Company, hand made in West Sussex from a natural, sustainable resource.

The bears are all photographed by ourselves here on location in West Sussex.