Berger

And that is your French word for the day – “shepherd”. We were able to visit a very interesting place today, The Shepherd’s House in Champoleon. It is an educational program for the public (with 12,000 visitors per year) and support program for shepherds.

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It is in a beautiful area in the French Alps.

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We were pretty high up – a fun trip on a big bus!

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We learned so much today but I will try to just pick out a few fun facts.

* transhumance is this whole process of getting the sheep back and forth from lower areas to mountain pastures and back. The owners come and check on their flocks once a week. The sheep are marked to identify town and owner.

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* “The flock manages the grass.” This is the sheep’s job. Their daily schedule is: 6-10 AM – graze; 10 AM -4PM – ruminate; 4 – 9 PM – graze; 9 PM – 6 AM – get fenced in for the night. There were sheep up by the Shepherd’s House and I again noticed I keep seeing sheep in groups of threes!

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* Shepherds’ have a pay system based on diplomas they have and the number of sheep they care for. Pay ranges from 1500-2500 Euros/month. They live in small cabins with supplies such as fences, minerals for animals, food, wood for heating brought in by helicopter. The cabins use solar power and get water from local streams. They can use the Shepherd’s house to sleep, eat and shower. This poster shows a typical cabin.

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* There are two things which the sheep carry with them that help the shepherds. First, sheep in leadership positions wear bells. These help the shepherd know where the sheep are. Second, when the sheep are sheared, sometimes two round poofs of wool are left un-sheared on their backs. These are often dyed and identify the leader sheep. These are the very tame sheep who know the paths and where to go – and not go – on their transhumance. These sheep are called “foucas”. We think we might want to shear some of our sheep this way!

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It was hard to stop taking photos of the interesting and colorful sheep…

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…but we had to move on. We next visited the ski resort town of Chantemerle to meet with a wool association, meet the founder of “Wools of Europe” and see a small mill. The Wools of Europe has produced a beautiful book (also coming home with me!) showing the breeds and photos also of things made from each breed’s wool. In their office they had a wonderful display to educate people about each breed. These are very portable and I will be making some of these for our breeds.

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The mill had some interesting equipment, including a different style of picker (to open up the wool for carding)…

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…and we were shown some socks from the sock machine, ready to be cut apart…

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…and a loom warped for blankets which then get put into a machine with soap and water for fulling (expanding the woven fibers). The mill is run on water power so they do not have enough electricity to run all their equipment at once.

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Here are some beautiful samples and a blanket getting its edging put on.

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Finally, remember the yarn I received from the Australians? I was lucky enough to receive a hand spun, hand-dyed skein from my friend,Colleen, who I met in Australia. Well, I finished the scarf just in time for the cool weather near the French Alps! Thanks, Colleen!

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Published in: on May 27, 2014 at 10:27 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. That was a very full day. You can put blue woolly spots on your sheep. I’ll just shear mine all the way!

    • Yeah, probably best. But they sure were cute that way – and didn’t seem embarrassed by it, like our sheep might be!

  2. Thanks for sharing your journey–so insightful of how lives are lived elsewhere.

    • You’re welcome! It has been a wonderful education into the rural culture, at least as it relates to sheep and agriculture, to some extent. We learned a lot about sheep breeds we have never even heard about before so that made it well worth the journey.


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