This was a conversation I had back in January of this year. To be precise I'd 'adopted' a sheep, and to the relief of Dear Husband the sheep lives in Sweden so won't be coming to stay for a city holiday. The response was fairly mild (he's used to stange things entering our lives via me by now) so encouraged, I adopted a 2nd sheep. Yes, before you ask, we're still married and talking to each other.
It all started on Ravelry - someone posted in Blacker & Beyond that a flock of 70 sheep, including a number of rare Spelsau sheep, was in Sweden in Police custody awaiting slaughter having been neglected and underfed by their previous owner. Some of the sheep had originally belonged to Renee Darley. She posted about their plight on Ravelry and people responded. Renee lives in a remote part of Sweden with enough land for the sheep and the experience to shepherd a flock of this size - all she had to do was deal with the Police and transport them 700 miles. After which she had to house them during the Swedish winter, feed them and return them to good health.
The whole story of the flock and the rescue and fundraising is best read on Ravelry in the Sponsor a Spelsau Sheep group and the Longbacken group. The great news is that the flock has now been rescued and enough money was raised to cover this.
This photograph shows some of the sheep when they first arrived at Longbacken - yes, some of them are very thin, but all survived the journey.
So, back to 'my' sheep. It seemed obvious that they should become Blacker & Beyond group mascots. This immediately gave us the name for the first sheep who is a rather magnificent 3 year old black ram. He's 3/4 Jacob and 1/4 Wensleydale and has the 4 horns found in some Jacob sheep. He just had to be called Blacker. This is a photograph of him taken after he'd eaten his way through a mountain of hay.
Some of the sheep in the flock are a mixture of breeds, but having looked at a few of the north European breeds of sheep in the B&B Sheep of the Week I was very keen to adopt a Spelsau as well and Renee found me an absolute beauty. She's a Spelsau gimmer and after a lot of thought and consulting lists of Nordic girls names we chose Dagrún. The D and the R in the name aren't a coincidence. We wanted to link her name to Deb Robson because the whole Blacker & Beyond group was started during a workshop Deb led in the UK last year. The participants came from 3 different continents and we wanted to continue sharing our enthusiasm for breed-specific yarns and fibres and sheep on Ravelry.
So this is the beautiful Dagrún.
It doesn't stop there. If Dear Husband had managed to remain calm while I adopted 2 sheep, he was bound to notice if my fleece/fluff stash grew with Blacker and Dagrún's fleeces. Plus I wanted to find a way the group could share the fleece from our mascots. That's where the link with p/hop comes in. P/hop stands for 'pennies per hour of pleasure' and is a fundraiser for Médecins Sans Frontières. So if you enjoy knitting something, especially if you use one of their donated patterns, then you make a donation to reflect this. An international charity for an international group.
So the fleece from Blacker & Dagrún will be going round the world to group members who want to spin it or felt it and make a donation to p/hop. The quality of this year's fleece is obviously going to reflect the ordeal the sheep have been through, but we're looking forward to next year when the sheep will all have settled in and be in tip top condition under Renee's experienced care.
So we now have this on our group front page:
There is of course more. The flock had a number of rams in it and although it was thought that most of the ewes were in too poor a condition to have carried lambs they defied their ordeal and started giving birth - mostly to little boys! An alarming number of lambs came out looking like their father - Blacker. It is now a running joke in the Save A Spelsau Sheep group. He has a lot of good qualities that Renee would like to pass on as she improves and develops her Spelsau and spinners' flock, but he won't be allowed the same freedom this coming autumn as he had the last.
The Spelsau ewes seemed to lamb later than the other breeds and I think we all thought Dagrún was too young, but she surprised everyone by giving birth to a little gimmer (female) lamb. The lamb has been adopted by another member of the B&B group and we're just waiting to hear her name. She is as beautiful, if not more so, than her mother and I'm delighted to say that this time Blacker is not the father!