Animal Corner: When Fleece Becomes Wool

The 2 resident sheep at Filbert Street Garden, Edie and Lorna, are due to undergo their annual sheering tomorrow during Easter Fest!

Lorna in full fleece

Here’s how it went last year: The process was completed by Geri Lackey, who has been helping keep our sheep well groomed since 2021. Afterwards, Edie and Lorna’s wool was bagged up and taken to Nancy Newman of Butchers Hill. Nancy has years of experience spinning wool into yarn and has been gracious enough to share some of her process!

The wool must first be cleaned, as both Edie and Lorna picked up quite a bit of dirt living at Filbert Street Garden. Any matted wool, stained wool, or anything coated in manure is unusable and cannot be saved. After the salvaged wool is cleaned, the wool is thoroughly air dried, and then ready for carding. Carding is the process of combing out the wool fibers to ensure there’s no tangles and all fibers are aligned in one direction. Carding also helps ensure that the wool spins easily and evenly. After carding, the wool is ready to be spun on Nancy’s spinning wheels. Once spun, the yarn is bundled into skeins of ready-to-use yarn.

Filbert Street Garden is so thankful for both Geri and Nancy for helping keep our sheep happy and healthy. Stay tuned to Filbert Street Garden’s newsletter to find out what the next steps are for our skeins of yarn. Maybe a scarf? Or mittens? Or even a hat? We’ll follow up with answers!

Animal Corner with Charles: Animals Trying to Beat the Heat!

As we enter high summer, our animal husbandry program is on the look out for heat injuries among our animals.

Our fowl and waterfowl can often be found flopping in the shade with their wings held up to let heat escape their bodies.

Our goats and sheep are usually lying in the shade or in front of the industrial fan during the hottest parts of the day.

All of our animals “pant”. Their mouths open and their breath hard to exhale heat from their bodies. The ability to sweat is rare in the animal kingdom. Only horses, monkeys, apes (including humans), and hippos can sweat to cool themselves.

Heat injuries are extremely dangerous for animals and are often a sign of neglect. Like all other injuries, the prevention is preferable to the cure. The garden takes the following steps to reduce the likelihood of heat injuries.

  1. The garden has shade in each and every habitat. Lack of shade structures and/or foliage can easily injure or kill animals.
  2. Clean water is abundant for both drinking and bathing. Both mammals and avians can dehydrate quickly in the intensity of Maryland’s summers.
  3. Our goat barn has a ventilation fan running 24/7 throughout summer and autumn. The goat play area has a large industrial fan during the hottest hours of the day.

Each week we carefully monitor temperatures and often check the cameras for signs of heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or heat stroke in our animals.

Animal Corner with Charles: The Nigerian Dwarf Goat

All 11 of our goats at Filbert Street Garden are Nigerian Dwarf Goats. The breed is a “dairy breed” of domesticated goat that comes from the West African Pygmy Goat. The breed hit American shores during the Great Depression in the mid-1930s as a milk alternative that was less expensive than cows, but did not become widespread. The breed has been popular in American zoos.

Here are some facts about the breed!

1. Nigerian Dwarf Goats and their Pygmy Goat cousins are the two miniature goat breeds.

2. The Nigerian Dwarf Goat has been cross bred with shaggy Angora goats to create “Nigora” goat. They produce a cashmere-type of fabric.

3. All goats typically have twins, but among the Nigerian Dwarf Goat breed triplets and quadruplets are common.

4. Nigerian Dwarf Goats are among the most popular livestock show breeds and are a popular companion animal.

5. Only miniature breeds are allowed in Baltimore City. Goats require a permit.

6. Cheese is currently the oldest goat at 6.5 years old. They can typically live up to 15 years.