Cheeky title aside, Holiday is the name of a Corriedale ewe whose story I have been following over the last year. Last weekend, I visited Wildflower Acres, to see Holiday’s flock and meet with her owner Joanna Mohn.
Joanna has been raising colored and white Corriedale sheep for over a decade with a focus on genetics for fine fleeces for hand spinners.
The flock currently consists of twelve ewes and four rams (plus March babies), primarily Australian Corriedale stock with a few New Zealand Coriedales. New Zealand Corries are known for their high luster and crimp. Joanna has been slowly working to bring luster into her colored fleeces.
“Colored fleece is a recessive trait,” she told me, “Luster is a dominant trait, as is the white color.” Separating out the white color from the luster is a tricky task that requires pairing a colored animal with a white-lustrous animal, then breeding that offspring back with colored sheep and repeating the process over and over until you get the combination of traits you want; the perfect storm of science and luck.
Joanna has used selective breeding techniques to benefit the health of her animals and improve the quality of fleece over time. Her hard work has paid off in numbers. Not only does she see a number of twin and triplet lambs, but the fleeces that come from her farm are stunning.
On average, Corriedale fleeces run 25-30 microns. Joanna’s flock ranges from 20-25 microns. Though this breaks with breed standards, it is done with purpose. Joanna aims to produce the fleeces of hand spinners’ dreams. This ultra fine Corriedale is, “not the kind of fleece you run through a drum carder…” and “are best enjoyed one lock at a time. These are not fleeces to rush with.”
Having worked with both Holiday’s lamb and yearling fleeces already, I can confirm that Joanna’s fleeces spin up beautifully either combed or straight from flicked lock. She has also bred her sheep for lower lanolin content; I’m a fan of spinning in the grease, and this makes her sheep ideal for the task.
While visiting, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity for another fleece. While the grey one above spoke to me, I left it behind (can you feel regret through the internet?) Instead, I picked up Glacier’s fleece. Glacier, the newest ram in the flock, is a New Zealand Corriedale. Before I saw his fleece, Joanna told me I’d be able to tell immediately why she brought him into the flock.
Is this fiber any indication? Glacier has beautiful luster, defined crimp, and is very soft. She is interested in bringing in his genetics to mix with her colored sheep.
She hadn’t even skirted the fleece yet, but I had to have it. Joanna showed me her skirting table. Skirting is the process of removing the undesirable parts of the fleece, usually parts with heavy vegetable matter, matting, or sheep poo.
Even though Joanna’s sheep wear coats year round, she still heavily skirts each fleece. Some of the fiber she removed, I probably would have said “I’d spin that,” but she is exacting in her standards and wants to provide the highest quality to the spinners who buy her fleeces.
Despite heavy skirting, I came home with a solid nine pounds of gorgeous, to-die-for fleece.
I wish I could say I was exaggerating, but I feel like I may not being doing her fleeces enough justice! She doesn’t have an online shop, but sells fleece based on consultation. I asked her what she looks for in a buyer and she likes it when a buyer comes to her with an idea of what they want: colored or white fleece, finer or coarser, luster of matte, etc. She’ll match you up with samples of a few different fleeces to decide which you’d like to buy.
She also looks for a buyer who will appreciate the quality of the fleece and won’t just throw it on a drum carder and hope for the best.