Shepherd and Romanov Sheep, Yaroslavl Region, November, 2011
| Many years ago Peter Hagerty went to the Soviet Union looking for a relationship with Russian farmers. His journey took him down many a muddy back road where he found so many interesting folks, handsome sheep and the heart of the Russian people. The Romanov sheep were the thread that usually connected these visits and stories. This breed is hardy, prolific and beautiful and for generations has provided its owners with food and fiber. Romanov wool can be very soft but always contains a black, wiry fiber called a guard hair. |
Even though Peter wore warm felt boots and rugged socks in winter made from this wool and for a time owned a small flock with a Russian partner, for years and years he stayed away from buying any Romanov wool for fear Peace Fleece customers would be bothered and horrified by these little black hairs. But after 27 years he and his wife Marty are now realizing that by including Romanov wool in Peace Fleece they are embracing the important role that these sheep play in Russian village life.
On their last trip to Russia, Marty and Peter had the good fortune of being introduced to Romanov breeder Omar and his business partner Ludmilla by their friend Galina, director of Friends of Russian Orphans in Yaroslavl. Omar comes from the south of Russia where he studied veterinarian medicine at university in Dagestan. Ludmilla and her husband met Omar when he moved to Yaroslavl to work on a large collective farm. When the farm collapsed with the USSR, Omar decided to raise sheep in the north of Russia like his family has done for generations in the south.
Having studied animal genetics as part of his degree, he embarked on an ambitious program to minimize the presence of guard hairs in his flock, keeping replacement ewe lambs that have a soft fleece and minimal black hair. Peter and Marty have brought back fleece samples that Marty has spun and knit into mittens. Their color is a lovely, smoky grey and they are warm and durable.
Peter and Marty are hoping to return to Omarís farm this coming summer. They plan to select high quality fleeces at shearing, work with a local mill to have the wool washed and then shipped to the United States. They then hope to make a special spinning of Romanov wool blended with the Native American Rambuiollet and maybe highlight it with nubs naturally hand dyed in Russia by our friend Luba Reutova.
Marty with her partially finsihed mittens
Detail of Omar's mittens
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