Rare Navajo Sheep for Spinning and Weaving

Gypsy is back! With a flock of Navajo sheep, given to her as a gift she has been a very busy lady. But we welcome her back, and are thrilled to see her latest article, as I know a lot of you are too.

Just as some background to the article below. The Navajo-Churro sheep, as it is formally known, is a rare American breed of sheep; descendants of the Iberian sheep from Spain centuries ago. There are very few of them in the USA, around 6000 sheep, and Gypsy is one of the lucky ones with her new flock as it is the Churro yarn that is considered the best yarn for weaving and much sought after.

There are 2 kinds of Navajo Churro wool, Biil, the soft under coat that is not crimped so much like spinning a cotton ball and the traditional wool that is left in tact.  Both wools are very different from spinning the British type of wool. The Navajo-Churro sheep wool has been traditionally used for weaving rugs and wall hangings, rather than for jerseys.

However, there is also what Gypsy calls the "Agency Special", that is a sheep that is pure Churro for all recorded purposes, but somewhere, and it could have been back in the Kit Carson days, it was bred to a government ram, always a British breed with grease and crimp, so you have this one odd sheep that looks Churro, but has no guard hairs and has crimp and grease and this is the wool that is very soft! Gypsy is lucky enough to have one of these in her small flock of 15 at present.

So, here is here article on her new babies, her Navajo-Churro sheep!

It has been a very long time since my last entry. There is actually a good excuse for this. My life, as most lives do, has gone though a lot of changes in the past year or so.

I met a wonderful man, who is more than supportive of my "live off the land" lifestyle. So much so that he bought a flock of Navajo-Churro sheep as a gift last year.

Neither of us had every owned sheep before, let alone rare Navajo sheep! I don't spin, I don't knit, what was he thinking? He won't even eat lamb! We had talked about doing something on the farm together neither of us had done before, so when he saw an advert in the local paper placed by an older woman who could no longer care for the flock, he called and she was just 20 minutes away.

The Navajo sheep were in horrible condition. They had not been sheared in years; some their whole lives. I made calls to every shearer I could find well before the sheep came home. No one would return my calls. No one wanted to shear sheep that badly off in over 125 degrees during the worst heat wave on Iowa's records.

One man, an old friend and a talented sheep man did come to my call. God bless Rocky Anderson! He sheared 15 of the worst clotted Navajo sheep you can imagine in that heat, on August 4th, 2012. All the wool had to be dumped. I didn't care. I didn't know what to do with it anyway.

Dave and I got everything they needed, the loose minerals, the protein tubs, the calcium, and turned them out onto our drought ridden pasture. There they stayed all winter. No hay, nothing but what mother nature had left from months of no rain. It may have killed normal sheep, but not the hardy Navajo sheep. There was in my defense 30 acres of hay ground that had gone unmowed for 15 sheep.

That November the older woman called and wanted to know if we wanted the llama that went with them. We did!

In December she called and said she had bags and bags of wool, did I want it? Ha! No... I don't spin, I don't knit, I'm not Suzy homemaker. She talked me into it and soon I had bought my first carders and a Navajo spindle for $30.00 Why spend any real money on this stuff if I don't know if I will even do it?

There was washed wool, some rovings, some just nasty stuff. Llama, angora rabbit, Angora goat, you name it, it was in there. I got to experience so many different fibers and learned in stages since the wool was in stages. I started with some that only needed to be carded and spun. Thank goodness for YouTube!

My first yarn was what we will call "art yarn" very... do I dare say "rustic"? It was thin and fat and a mess. 11 balls of yarn later I was spinning like a pro.

Then came our own shearing day again. Rocky showed me how to bag and pack the fleeces and keep them clean. This helped as the wool I had gotten from the old woman was a mess. My own wool was clean and wonderful. It needed very little picking to remove the hay and debris. It was nothing to wash and prepare. Yes! Now, I was in love with fiber!

3 year old Navajo-Churro sheep Cup Cake and her 2 lambs.
3 year old Navajo-Churro Sheep Cup Cake and her 2 Lambs

All the little lambs that needed  to  be docked, castrated, tagged and vaccinated were a lot of work.

We had a series of bottle lambs from March to May. I was getting no sleep and was totally grouchy all the time. One bottle lamb can suck down a month of your life when it lives with you 24 hours a day. The house was dirty, laundry was piling up and dinner was being served at midnight, or later. If it wasn't the bottle lamb it was up waiting for lambs to arrive.

I was there for every birth, but one. I only had to assist on two. One had a front leg turned back and his brother was breech. The other were just big lambs. I'm sure she would have had them eventually but why make her go through that? I added a bit of pressure and helped out. We had one with a bad bag, so that accounted for 2 of the bottle lambs.

One Churro ewe is just crazy and I didn't want the lambs to be nuts so I pulled them from the ewe. The other was a first time lamber who dropped the lamb in the middle of the pasture and just kept going. Not bad for sheep with unknown histories.

Between the skirting, picking, carding, spinning and daily care of the Navajo sheep, it's been busy around here.

I have given up having a garden this year. There are no eggs hatching in the incubators, everything is at a dead stop except for the sheep. Some days I hate it, every day I know this is exactly where I'm supposed to be in life. I don't know where it will take me but I do know this is a new journey, with new lessons and at almost 50yrs old, there are still fantastic adventures on the horizon.

Little Nicky our Navajo-Churro ram at 1 years old.

Little Nicky our Navajo-Churro ram at 1 years old.

By Gypsy, our resident homestead blogger from One Sky Ranch

Gypsy's Wanderings Homestead Blog

Navajo-Churro Wool For Sale

For those of you who are into spinning and weaving and looking for the best yarn for weaving, then you have come to the right place. Churro wool is well sought out by artisan weavers and crafts people. However, it is always in short supply because there are so few of this sheep breed around.

From next year, after the shearing season, Churro wool will be available to you from Gypsy through this website. If you would like to put onto our waiting list, please contact us though our Contact Us page, and we will add you to the list.

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