Interdisciplinary. Community. Advocacy. Humor.
"North Ronaldsay fleece
"North Ronaldsay is the most northerly island in the Orkney archipelago. It is an ancient sheep herding community, which has persisted for 5000 years. The flock is unique in part due to the isolation of the island lending itself to sustaining the purity of the bloodline. Additionally, in 1830 the Laird (Lord) of the island determined that it would be more profitable to raise cattle on the pastures. A six-foot, dry rock dyke was built around the perimeter of the island. The native sheep were cast out on the beach side of the wall to fend for themselves. To the surprise of the islanders, the tough breed adapted to their new conditions and began to forage the seaweed that washed up each low tide. This diet and their ability to adapt to it helped them flourish. It also resulted in the flock evolving physiologically different than any other sheep on the planet. Their digestive tract is unique along with the fleece they produce and the taste of the mutton.
"The islands isolation has prompted the crofter’s to herd the flock and harvest the fleece clipped from the flock cooperatively in an effort known as “the pund”. Every summer a favorable week is chosen by the sheep court, made up of island elders, according to tidal charts. Each day the majority of the islanders meet on a different quadrant of the island, to herd and clip together. It is both an efficient way of caring for the flock and a social event.
"Rather than sending each year's take off island for milling, the fleece is processed in the small mill on the northern tip of the island at Sinsoss. Housed in the former residence of the lighthouse keeper, the mill is one of the last left in the UK, and the only mill to process from a single farm.
"Traced Material History
"North Ronaldsay sheep subsist on a diet of foraged seaweed, on the beach side of the dry rock dyke
"Sheep communally herded by islanders on foot, beginning the annual event known as the pund
"Sheep herded into dry rock punds (pens)
"Sheep clipped using hand shears by crofters, their families and hired hands
"Fleece collected into large woven bags and transported to the island’s mill at Sinsoss
"Fleece scoured to remove lanolin in 90° C water and detergent and air dried on wire racks
"Fleece tumbled to remove vegetable matter
"21,000 meters of roving ordered on February 7, 2011at £20 per kilo
"Coarse hair removed from fleece in the de-hairing machine
"Fleece opened for carding in the picker
"Fleece carded into batts and fibers arranged parallel in the combing machine
"Fleece processed into roving for spinning
"Fleece packaged at the mill by Jane Donnelly into two kilo bags
"Nine packages mailed airmail from North Ronaldsay, Orkney on February 22, 2011
"Packages arrive in Champaign, Illinois on March 15, 2011
"Roving spun into yarn on an Ashford Traveler spinning wheel beginning March 16, 2011
"Projected yield – 20.9 kilometers of single ply yarn; the total length of the dry rock dyke."
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