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How to Fit Several Sheep Into One Box

A crazed look swept over our faces as we began packaging our sheep fleeces to ship to the fiber mill in Michigan. We have learned that this can be a rather exciting event though we have perfected our method of fitting several sheep, so to speak, into one small box for shipping. Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours going through each of our fleeces, a process known as “skirting the fleece”. As the shearer clips the wool from the sheep, it rolls off their backs like a carpet. The locks of wool hold together in one piece. I weigh each fleece and put it in a bag with a name tag so that I can tell which sheep the wool belongs to. I then take these wool blankets and lay them out on a table made of woven wire. The woven wire allows the short cuts of wool to fall through to the ground.
Skirting Fleeces

As I lay the fleece out, I can perfectly see the neck wool where hay has gathered from feeding time and the leg wool, which holds manure and mud. Meticulously, I walk around the table picking off the undesirable wool and vegetation matter. As I skirt, I test the fiber for strength by snapping several locks of wool from different areas of the fleece. I look for softness of the fiber and luster.

Chloe’s Fleece

 The quality of the wool indicates the health of the sheep. A healthy, beautiful fleece equates to a healthy sheep. After skirting, I weigh the fleece again so that I can tell how much usable wool each sheep contributes to our farm. Next, I decide which fleeces should be combined together for our different yarn runs. 

 

Daisy’s Fleece

 

Once finished going through each fleece, I enlisted the help of my daughter to package the wool in boxes so it could be shipped to the mill.  We began by putting together sample bags of locks of wool from each sheep. By keeping a wool sample from each ewe, I can see the difference from year to year in their wool quality. It also allows those wanting to purchase lambs an opportunity to see a wool sample from the sire and dam of each lamb. 
 

Now the fun begins….trying to fit as much wool as possible into as small a box as possible. The picture above only shows ONE of two bags of wool that must fit inside the box! As shipping rates have risen over the past few years, we have perfected our methods and have come up with a way to fit a lot of wool into a small box. However, this method relies upon our ability to control our laughter and to work quickly, which can be a challenge when working with my daughter.

OK-It is obvious-this will not work…

 

 

We tightly tie the bag holding the fleece. Then we make a tiny hole in the bag and use our vacuum to suck the air out of the bag. The bag will shrink down to a hard brick. Then we must quickly tape over our hole, put our next bag in the box and repeat the process. After we have filled the box with as much wool as possible, we quickly close the box and secure it with packaging tape. If we have been successful, we can tape the box with no problems. If however, our holes begin to let air in and we burst out in laughter, the growing bags make taping almost impossible. I will admit that yesterday, we had trouble controlling our giggles and it took two attempts to get this box packed. We did finally successfully fit about four sheep into this little box. Sometimes, after we tape a box shut, we nervously watch as the box seems to swell as air gets inside the bags of wool. We have yet to have a box explode on us, although we have had multiple tries on one box before. 

As long as our packaging holds….our fleeces will be sent on their way tomorrow morning!

Sucking the Air Out of the Bag

 

Ready to Add the Second Bag
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