You’ve shorn your sheep, now learn to skirt wool fleeces in person! I will be hosting 2 skirting classes this spring, and will also be offering private skirting sessions where you bring a fleece to skirt.
Rendering your beeswax cleans it of impurities and is necessary in order to use your beeswax in most projects. There are a few methods for rendering beeswax – I use the crock-pot/slow-cooker method. It’s easy and doesn’t involve pouring any hot wax through a strainer.
First, you need to gather your beeswax and supplies. You will need:
a slow-cooker (with lid)
an old (but clean) white, cotton t-shirt, cut in 2 pieces so you have the front and back torso separated – you can find inexpensive t-shirts at crafts stores if you don’t have one that you can use
kitchen twine or other string
approximately 2-4 cups water
a spatula or other utensil
You will want to use items that will not be needed for food in the future because beeswax is difficult to fully remove from objects, even after rigorous cleansing. I purchased a spare slow-cooker, 2nd hand from someone local, for rendering my wax.
Step 1 – Add about 2 inches of water to the slow-cooker pot. Cover the pot with 1 layer of the tshirt and tie with kitchen twine just under the pot lip. Don’t tie the t-shirt too taunt – you want it to give a little.
Step 2 – Set your pot in the base, making sure the t-shirt is not stuck inside the base. Place your wax cappings and any other beeswax on top of the t-shirt. You can push the t-shirt down so it hangs like a hammock, but keep it at least an inch from the water level. Place the lid on the slow-cooker.
Step 3 – Turn slow-cooker on LOW. Melting the beeswax will take approximately 2 hours, depending on how much wax you have and the size of your slow-cooker. As the wax melts and drips through the t-shirt you will see dirt, propolis and other impurities left behind. You can spread the wax out as it melts if desired.
Step 4 – Once the wax is completely melted, turn off the slow-cooker. With oven mitts, remove the pot from the base. Untie or cut the twine and discard the t-shirt (if it’s 100% cotton this can be composted).
Step 5 – Let the beeswax cool and harden. Once solid, remove it from the pot (remember there’s water underneath the wax that can splash). You may need to use a knife to dislodge the wax from the sides of the pot.
Step 6 – Dry the wax disc. The bottom of the disc will be rough and will contain some impurities. Scrape this off the wax disc with a knife.
Step 7 – Repeat process with your wax disc using the other piece of clean t-shirt. This process can be repeated as many times as you wish, but I usually render my wax twice.
After cooling, drying and scraping your beeswax a second time you can store it as is or melt again in a double boiler or wax melting pitcher and mold into smaller blocks. I like to mold my wax into small discs, each weighed out to the portion I will need for my lip and skin balm recipes.
Remember it’s best to store your wax sealed in a ziploc-type bag or airtight container because it can attract wax moths.
I’ve been neglecting posting here, and have been posting more to facebook and instagram lately. 2022 had its ups and downs for the flock, but most things went well. We had 18 of lambs born – 3 Jacob, 2 Tunis/Jacob and 13 Tunis.
Molly, Maya and Kate were bred to Rival. Molly had a ram and ewe,
Maya had twin rams,
and Kate had a single ram.
Luna, Erin, Lia and Kathleen were bred to Marvin. Luna had twin ewes,
Erin had a single ram,
Lia had a ram and a ewe,
and Kathleen had a single ewe.
Harriet, Natalie, Lexi and Izzy were bred to Apollo. Harriet surprised us with ram/ewe/ram triplets,
Natalie had twin ewes,
Lexi, sadly, lost her ewe lamb during pregnancy, and Izzy had a ram and ewe.
For our 2022 breeding season we only used Apollo and Marvin. 14 girls are pregnant and our 1st due date is March 28th. I hope to post about births here, but you can always see daily updates on FB and IG.
Coco went into labor Saturday morning, May 2, 2020. The first lamb, a ram, presented butt-first and I was unable to turn him to get his legs out first. I slowly delivered him so not to damage Coco. The 2nd – a ewe – was a normal presentation (head and 2 front legs) and was born without any issue. The 3rd was also a ewe and was presenting with only 1 leg forward; her head and other front leg were turned away from the birth canal. I live-streamed the lambing on Facebook Live once we realized there was a 3rd lamb. You can see the video below: (it is graphic and stressful)
After the 3rd lamb was born we made sure they all nursed, got weighed and navels dipped in iodine.
It became clear by the afternoon that Coco didn’t want to feed the ewe lambs – only the ram.
So we brought the girls in the house for a while…
but decided that they needed to be with Coco as long as she didn’t hurt them.
We added a couple boards in the jug we had Coco and the ram lamb in so that the girls could get away from Coco if needed.
We held Coco so the girls could get some colostrum, plus we supplemented with bottles of colostrum we had frozen the previous year (in case of emergencies) mixed with colostrum we milked from Coco. We continued to milk Coco for a few days until her milk supply had slowed for only 1 lamb.
After a couple days in the jug, we let Coco and her lambs out with the other mamas and lambs. She watched over all 3 of her babies, and we went out a few times a day with bottles to feed the girls.
We were thankful that she didn’t totally reject the girls because lambs learn so much from their mothers, including what is edible and how to interact with other sheep.
Over the 3 months of bottle feeding we decided to keep one of the girls that had become such a love bug. We named her Natalie and she is growing into a beautiful sheep.
In discussing rams, I feel it necessary to first warn you about rams in general. Rams can be dangerous, and after years of breeding sheep we have decided that there are too many good-tempered rams out there to risk harm in keeping an aggressive ram on our premises. We have also seen that demeanor is a heritable trait. One year we bred half our ewes to our 1st ram, Zeus – an aggressive ram, and half to our 2nd ram, Karloff – a sweet and gentle ram. As both their lambs grew close to weaning age (3 months) we could pick out which ram lambs were Zeus’s or Karloff’s by how they watched us and acted toward us. No matter how correct or beautiful a ram is, he’s not worth the risk of injury to you or the risk of passing on those aggressive traits in his offspring.
Breeding sheep can be done in multiple ways. Shepherds who are wary of keeping a ram on their farm full-time may choose to lease a ram for the breeding season or send their ewes to another farm to be bred. A few choose to artificially inseminate (AI) their ewes. Many other shepherds prefer to keep only 1 ram on their farm and trade or purchase a new ram when they deem it necessary. There are still other shepherds who keep a couple to several rams on their farm.
We have had between 1 and 3 rams on the farm at once over the years. Keeping a single ram doesn’t mean he should be alone, and experts warn that keeping a ram by himself may cause him to become aggressive. A wether (castrated male) is a great companion animal for the single ram. The wether will keep keep him company and won’t fight with the ram for dominance.
If you plan to keep more than 1 ram on your farm at a time and don’t want to or don’t have room to keep them in separate areas, you will need to introduce them in a small pen or stall – like a lambing jug (stall).
When rams fight for dominance, they back up, then run and headbutt (or ram) each other. By putting them in a small area you’re taking away the space they need to back up and gain momentum before ramming. They will still headbutt each other but you have greatly reduced the risk of serious injury.
This introduction period can take a day or 2. We check on the rams throughout the day to monitor behavior, every couple to few hours – depending on how they are getting along. After they work our their pecking order we send them out to pasture, but we still check on them a few times a day at first. If we witness fighting, they go back into a stall for another day. **If you introduce rams in hot weather – put a fan on them. They will be hot from pushing each other around.**
Sometimes rams can’t get along, and need to be kept separate. You would need to decide if you have room to meet those needs on your farm.
Now that you have your rams together, you may think they will always get along. This, however, is not the case. Anytime the rams are apart for a period, they need to be reintroduced in the same way. i.e., after breeding season. It is also necessary to pen them after shearing. Although they both smell the same, they look very different and need time to assert dominance in a safe space.
After weaning, we sometimes move our ram lambs to the ram pasture. We bring the adult rams and lambs together in the barn first to see how they react to each other. The adult rams may not react to the lambs in the same way they would react to another adult ram. It usually depends on the age and size of the lambs, though. Larger and more mature lambs may need to learn their place in the pecking order of the group, while smaller lambs may naturally assume a lower spot in the order.
Here is the video of our Facebook Live field trip that took place yesterday. We hung out in the coop and talked about chickens.
As always, if you have any questions that I didn’t answer in the video please leave them in the comments and I will post answers.
I won’t be doing a field trip next week because we will be on baby watch! Our first lambs of the season are due around April 29th. We will check in with the ewes during the week with videos and possibly Facebook live events, but they won’t be planned like the field trips are.
Today marks 19 school days of Distance Learning for Noah and Hannah. Their teachers prepped for more than a week before school was closed to be able to transition their classes as seamlessly as possible to Google Classrooms. After 1.5 weeks, the students had a day off from classes so that the teachers could get together, virtually, and reevaluate their distance teaching and make changes as they saw fit.
When our governor announced school would be closed another 2 weeks, and then indefinitely, both kids were upset and angry. They want to go back to school. They want to see their friends and be in classes.
This distance learning, though frustrating at times, is keeping them engaged with their teachers, continuing their learning, and developing self-motivation skills.
Since I work at home, I was a bit overwhelmed when school first closed. Over these past 4 weeks I have enjoyed watching them work and helping them as needed. We are blessed that they have their own work spaces and can be apart when they want or need to be. Noah works mostly in his room, and Hannah splits her time between her room and the kitchen. She also does some of her work with my mother-in-law.
Even though they are learning from home, this isn’t homeschool. Nor is it cyberschool. This distance learning was an emergency decision and none of us were prepared for or chose this. We are learning to give grace. To each other and to our teachers, because we are all learning this system together.
I am enjoying having my kids at home. My work is slower so I have more time to assist them as needed. I think if I had my same workload of soapmaking, etc. I would feel overwhelmed again, though. I am talking to my kids more and I feel closer to them.
School stress hasn’t gone away for them, but it has changed. This has been a tough year for Hannah, but over the past month I have seen her smile more and her personality soften. I enjoy talking with her, and listening to her talk – even when she’s supposed to be doing schoolwork.
Noah loves to be outside and work. He is looking at the farm to see what projects need to be completed, then sets out to do them. He’s learning responsibility and ownership.
Even in this season of uncertainty, there are blessings. God hasn’t turned His back on us, but continues to provide for us. Sometimes in big ways, but sometimes in small ways.