My name is Jan Gillanders. I live, work and play in Quilcene, WA. The incredible mix of water and mountains here allow the creative process to flow.
I share my life with sheep, a big cat named Bob, and wildlife of many kinds. The health and happiness of all my animals is a top priority for me. I consider it an honor to live among these incredible beings.
I have great appreciation for the process of creating something from “scratch”. Each one of my sheep has a distinct personality that often comes through in the finished product. — Jan
Please use the following links to find out more about Jan and Jacob’s Fleece.
Shave ’em to Save ’em!
The Livestock Conservancy has long said that the way to save endangered breeds of livestock is to give them a job. In the case of wool sheep, we need to start using their wool again. In addition to encouraging fiber artists to try using rare wools, the program also educates shepherds about how to prepare their wool for sale and how to reach customers and fiber artists, thereby making it more profitable to raise heritage breeds.
The Jacob Sheep Breeder’s Association (JSBA)
Despite a steady increase in numbers, the American Jacob is still listed as a rare breed by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. This organization is dedicated to the continuance and conservation of the breed.
Below: This article was published in the Black Sheep Newsletter, Winter 2002
Confessions of a Novice Shepherd
The Learning Curve
Early this past spring a miraculous thing happened, our small pet flock of three registered Jacob ewes suddenly exploded into nine!!!!!! I guess I should back track and fill you in on how this all came about.
One evening 4 years ago my husband came home from a long day at work (he’s a farrier). Scuffing his toe in the dirt, he asked me if he could have a lamb.” He’s free, won’t eat much and I’ll take care of him”….. uh huh! ( I‘d heard that one when we got our “free” house rabbit and now have $1000.00 fence to keep him in). He let that sink in and then said “If you’d just come see him, I know you’ll love him, he’s sooooo cute!” Needless to say, off we went to his client’s farm and came home with our 1st Jacob sheep. He was only 3 weeks old and would need to be bottle-fed for a while.
Our learning curve started that very night. You can’t have just one….. He cried all night. It was with sleep deprived red eyes and a very tired body that I went back and BOUGHT a second one, a ewe. She too was only 3 or 4 weeks old. Little did we know; we’d been hooked. Our flock had started with “Jacob” and “Lorraine”
We sort of had to fly by the seat of our pants with these adorable little creatures. They spent nights in our bathroom with old sheets on the floor, and their days in our fenced house yard. Feeding was our second lesson. Finding the right formula was easy. Finding the right ratio of milk to water proved a little trickier.
The mixture on the outside of the milk replacer bag was for much larger lambs so after some experimenting and math memories we were able to find the right mix and amount.
We are usually early risers, having 6 horses, 2 cats, 2 dogs and 2 house rabbits that will tap dance on our heads if we aren’t up and at ‘em with the feed dishes. However lambs proved to be yet another early morning adventure. They would start baaing at the first sign of noise in our direction, usually around 4:30 am. We would stall them off until 5:00 then we’d cave. Coffee in one hand and a bottle in the other Bob and I would head for the front porch, sit down and watch these perfect little beings suck down their breakfast, as the sun slowly rose up to greet us. What a wonderful way to wake up.
After a romp in the yard they were content to come inside and crash somewhere. Mostly on our couch…… We soon realized that we had invented a new dance. ” The lamby twist” You know the one, see the lamb go, drop the towel on it and twist. Hence we discovered “pampers” whew!!!!! That cut down the laundry.
At the end of the day we’d close the same as we’d open, with their bottles, sitting on the porch as the sun set behind us , and then off to bed in the bathroom. Ahhhhhhh. Quiet (until it started all over again the next morn.) Looking back on it now we actually miss it.
Several years later and six lambs richer we are still smitten with our Jacobs. We now have a flock of seven. Jacob went to live with some friends when Rainey (Lorraine) had her first set of twins, Iris and Ivy. He just wasn’t very happy with the situation and needed more room and more friends. Two years later we bred Iris, Ivy, and Rainey and they each had twins. Iris and her ewe lamb, Gwen are now living with another family, my first sale wow! We kept her ram lamb (now a wether) Graham, Rainey’s twins Grover (wether) & Gloria, Ivy’s twins, Gracie and Glenda. So our flock numbers seven and all are happily living amongst our six horses.
Graham is another storey in himself. He was rejected by his mother Iris and so hence another bottle baby. We had learned from the first two and this one was somewhat easier. Hahahaha. We didn’t want him to be totally bonded with us and so after all the lambs had been born and were about 2 weeks old I started to introduce Graham to the others. What a riot. I was just like one of those older mothers with the geeky little boy in orthopedic shoes and glasses, who comes to the park in hopes that the other kids would play with mine. The others would either ignore him or run after him and send him running to hide behind me. I was almost ready to give up when I decided to just put him with the others and leave. No one would be home for about 3 hours and thus we couldn’t hear him holler. Well From what I saw when I got home he never looked back. He and the other lambs bonded and he was even able to get a little milk from Rainey and Ivy. We still bottle-fed until he was 3 months old and because of this the most wonderful thing happened. He told the other lambs we were really nice and all the lambs started coming up to touch us and say Hi everytime we fed Graham. Months later they are still very friendly, which really helps at vet times and also came in very handy when we had to load them up in our trailer to go to the new farm.
Since all this began we have traded our 13 acres farm for a 40 acre one , I have learned to spin the wonderful fleeces from our flock and am learning to weave. Who knows where all this will go…
All we know for sure is that they are a true blessing in our lives and we can’t imagine living without them. In these times of strife, fear and unknown all we have to do is go out and walk among our friends and come back to all that really matters LOVE.
Written by Jan Gillanders, Winter of 2002