We posted this picture on Spin Off’s Facebook and Instagram feeds in the spring, asking readers to suggest names. We received some great ideas on social media as well as via email. I was especially taken with the name Willa since I was reconnecting with Willa Cather’s short stories at that time. And Gus. Who wouldn’t love a sheep named Gus? Thank you Peter and ph_lip715 for these lovely names! And fun fact: Spin Off readers named the twin’s mother two years earlier. Do you remember seeing little Molly pop up on your feed during the first months of the pandemic?
Molly, also named by Spin Off readers, was born in 2020 and had her first lambs, Willa and Gus, in 2022.
How does my wooly garden grow?
One of my favorite things as a shepherd is to see how my flock changes over time. Some genetic lines, which you might think of as branches in a family tree, have strong characteristics that appear in every generation. Other characteristics might fade but pop up generations later.
Willa, Gus, and Molly’s family line goes back to a very special ewe named Nora. Nora was born into the first generation of lambs in my very own flock of Border Leicesters, and she was petite, shy, and had a glorious fleece. As happens sometimes, none of her descendants ever had her beautiful fleece character . . . until now. Maybe.
Willa’s lamb fleece is fine and supple with a regular, crimpy wave. Will her yearling fleece be the same?
Willa’s fleece looks like Nora’s did at this age. Like many breeds, Border Leicesters are born with a tiny curl, which soon grows and changes as they begin to produce more wool. If you look at the image at the top of this post to see the size of Gus’s and Willa’s curls and then look at Molly’s, you’ll see that Molly has larger curls. Currently, at five-months of age, Willa’s 4- to 5-inch locks have a crimped wave pattern right that I often find paired with fleeces that remain fine and supple as the sheep ages. Sometimes this remains a flat wave in the adult fleece, sometimes shifting to a corkscrew curl.
This week, we will begin shearing the lambs so they have time to regrow wool for winter warmth. What will their fleeces be like in the spring? We will have to wait and find out.
Willa (5 months old) and Kate
Kate Larson is the editor of Spin Off and spends as many hours as life allows in the barn with her beloved flock of Border Leicesters.