Monday, February 14, 2011
Milk Sheep Fiber ~ My Present From Germany
For the first two weeks of February, my husband was in Germany for work. Since he had a weekend free, he was able to go visit a friend from high school, Kathy, who has settled in Uberlingen with her family. They had a wonderful time catching up and Kathy took Alan (that's my husband) to their Saturday market. One of the vendors was selling cheese and other products made from their sheep farm. Alan asked if they had any wool. The answer was yes, but not with them. Alan ended up taking a trip out to their farm to visit the milk sheep in person.
Here are a couple of pictures from his visit to Hof Schapbuch Salem-Weildorf Familie Albrecht. Beautiful! And I'd just like to say, love is... visiting a sheep farm in Uberlingen to buy your wife roving. Thanks, honey!
Now take a look at the world's largest wool batt! It's literally the size of a twin bed comforter. Alan brought it back in plastic bag that looked around 18 x 18 inches, so I was really surprised when I took it out. I quickly realized it was a wool batt and not roving, but then I just kept unfolding and unfolding. It's huge!
It has a little veggie matter, but overall it's very clean and well washed. The staple length is short, maybe an inch to an inch and a half at most and it has more of a coarse texture. I'd compare the feel to Romney fleece. My first thought was that this would be really good felting fiber. It's also feels like it would spin right up and make a good strong wool for rug weaving and other practical projects. It's not a wool that I'd want to wear next to my skin. It's just a little too scratchy for that, but that's okay. It will be fun to use my imagination and see what I can create.
So here's my milchschafe (milk sheep) fiber, all 36oz of it. Alan said they wanted to sell him two kilograms at first, but thinking of his packing situation, he asked for half. Can you imagine what over four pounds would look like? Alan probably would have gotten some raised eyebrows at the customs counter!
Let's talk about milk sheep for a minute. It's silly I guess, but when I think sheep, I think wool. I don't think milk or cheese, but some of the world's favorite cheeses come from sheep. A quick trip over to Wikipedia and I learned, "Well-known cheeses made from sheep milk include the Feta of Greece, Roquefort of France, Manchego from Spain, the Pecorino Romano (the Italian word for sheep is pecore) and Ricotta of Italy."
The same article also shared that sheep's milk is not as commonly used for drinking. It's very high in lactose, so people who are lactose sensitive would have an even harder time with sheep's milk. It's also higher in fats, solids and minerals which is why it's ideal for making cheese. Sheep don't produce a very high volume of milk so perhaps this explains some of the cost behind our imported cheese.
I also learned that organic farming is very popular in Germany. The term they use for organic is bio. The sheep on this farm have an all natural diet. I also noticed, just looking at the picture, that all of the sheep's waste has been covered with fresh dirt. It will naturally fertilize the earth and help new grasses to grow after this flock has moved on to the next pasture. That's the beauty of nature!