In early March, Meridian Jacobs is an epicenter of cuteness: It’s lambing season. And if you have never seen a Jacob lamb, you are really missing out.
Jacobs are a striking breed of sheep, from the tips of their many horns (both ewes and rams have them) to the ends of their spotted fleeces. Mainly white, they have black facial markings and spots. The fiber is medium-fine, making it perfect for blankets and pillows.
Their medium-fine fiber also make Jacobs perfect for Robin Lynde, the owner of Meridian Jacobs. Robin is an experienced and talented weaver. When she was in college, she knew she wanted to learn how to weave (her mom was a spinner and knitter). In 1979, she made her first baby blanket (for her own baby!) and has been weaving, selling handwoven items, and teaching classes ever since.
Robin and her family moved to Vacaville, CA, in 1999 and started Meridian Jacobs. She primarily breeds her flock for fleece, which she then sells as raw fleece, sliver (roving), yarn, and finished woven products. She also sells the sheep themselves as pets, breeding stock, and meat (locker lambs).
While most of Robin’s sheep are registered with the Jacob Sheep Breeders Association, she occasionally cross-breeds a Jacob ewe with a Bluefaced Leicester ram. The results are usually big, black lambs that can’t be registered as Jacobs but are meatier than their pure-Jacob cousins. (Somehow, the flock’s Jacob-BFL mix ewe made it into almost all the pictures. Is it just that her black coat makes her stand out, or is she fond of the limelight?)
Breeding for fleece presents some challenges when you’ve got limited space. It takes time (around 12-16 months) to determine what a lamb’s fleece will be like when it’s an adult. But there’s only room on the farm for about 60 sheep. So, if Robin wants to keep a new lamb, somebody else has to go. As a result, she’s learned to make pretty good predictions about how a lamb’s fleece will turn out based on its first few months.
And now back to the lambs. Apparently one of the many jobs of lambing season is cuddling the lambs. This gets the animals accustomed to human contact and makes them easier to handle as adults.
One mama lamb is not too keen on letting her babies cuddle up to humans, though. “You can’t pick up her lambs–she’ll hit you.” The farm’s two dogs, one of whom has his own blog, have learned this lesson well. “Rusty doesn’t like lambing season. The ewes don’t want a dog anywhere near their lambs, and he’s been hit a few times.”
Toward the end of our visit, Robin shows us the Jacob rams, whose horns are enormous by comparison to the ewes and who are kept in a separate pen. “I’m still waiting for the perfect ram,” Robin says. And what makes the perfect ram? “His horns don’t require cutting, his fleece stays fine, and he doesn’t get mean after a year.” Sounds right to me.
- What fiber does Meridian Jacobs produce? Wool from Robin’s flock of Jacob sheep.
- What products does Meridian Jacobs sell? Fleeces, roving, yarn, horn buttons, and handwoven items from Meridian Jacobs’ own flock as well as yard from other nearby fiber producers. Robin also sells all the tools you would need to spin your own yarn and weave your own blanket. Additional offerings include a wide range of classes in the fiber arts: weaving, felting, knitting, dyeing–even one on sheep handling and management.
- Where can I buy these products? On Meridian Jacobs’ website. Robin also sells her handwoven items at The Artery, a gallery in downtown Davis, CA.