Posted in Breed samples Spinning

SandHill Farm Visit

October 3, 2013 - 10:34 am

Monday I visited Eileen Hordyk at SandHill Farms in Arlington, WA. I was greeted at the gate by a 30-something Shetland pony, who decided the grass was more interesting than me when I didn’t produce treats. Apparently he’s a neighborhood treasure, and Eileen regularly has folks asking about him when he’s in a back field or in the barn instead of on display out front.


She and her husband are raising sheep for fleece as well as for meat, but Eileen says “For me, it’s all about the fleece.” The stack of ribbons they brought home from the Washington State Fair and the quality of her fleeces speak to the success she’s having. Here’s a sneak peak of the Lincoln Longwool I brought home: 


This was a blue ribbon ewe fleece this year, but her brother’s fleece beat her out for grand champion. Another one of Eileen’s fleeces– one of her Dorsets– won Grand Champion handspinner’s fleece. I looked for a listing of the results from the fair to share all the ribbons she brought home, but it isn’t posted anywhere I could find. Suffice to say Eileen brought home more fleeces with ribbons than without.

Here’s Eileen with this year’s fleeces. This is also the lambing barn in the spring, once the fleeces are all sold.


Here are a few that didn’t come home with me. This one was a crossbred Dorset/Rambouillet: 


This was a Romney that took best of show:


Pretty sure this was another Romney.  Look at the length and crimp!


They have two flock protector dogs that are crossbreeds, and three Border collies. I didn’t take a note on this girl’s name, but she’s the old lay of the farm and spends her days in the barn now:


This is her brother, who prefers to spend his days with his charges:


Right now he’s in with the boys:


Eileen was in the middle of putting four of her Lincoln ewes in with a ram lamb. Here are the girls:


The girl in the green coat is #1188, who grew the fleece in the first picture that came home with me:


Eileen and I talked a lot about what she looks for in fleece, and how she manages coating so the fleeces grow well. This girl has a nice white one. It curls differently on her upper body where the rain falls than on her sides, but the fiber is quite uniform.


Here’s an up close shot of one of the fleeces on the sheep. This is 1189 who is the other one blanketed in the first picture; her coat was a little too big for her and so Eileen was switching it out. She pulls coats regularly and fluffs the fleece underneath to make sure it isn’t getting matted down:


Here’s another picture of the girls mugging for the camera or possibly begging for treats:


Eileen teaches all of her sheep to tie and lead. She explains it makes management much easier for her since she doesn’t have to fight with them to move them around. Takes extra work with the lambs, but pays dividends throughout their lives whenever she needs to handle them.

I brought home three fleeces, a Dorset:


Sample lock:


The Lincoln fleece from #1188:


Sample lock:


And a Romney:


Sample lock:


Today I started washing the Lincoln fleece. It was six pounds in the bag. Here it is turned out ready to open up:


And here are some sample locks.  Look at that crimp!


I opened the fleece out on a sheet in my living room because I have to start washing the pile you can see there under my puppy grooming table, and if I wait for a dry day in Seattle to start sorting fleeces it will be summer before I get that!


In the whole fleece I only found a few tidbits I wanted to skirt. You can see them in the upper left of the sheet. There were a couple locks that were matted, a few with dags, and a few second cuts. Here’s a close-up:


I’ll leave you with some more fleece beauty shots. It was so lovely!





It’s soaking in the tub now, removing the dirt in prep for it’s scouring wash which I’m about to start. I should have clean, dry fleece to share, perhaps tomorrow!



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Deborah Robson

October 3, 2013 10:34 am


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