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Tanning A Sheepskin Naturally


That's right, the Parks got a new rug!

My casual, totally normal, down to earth hobby this Summer was tanning my first sheepskin straight off the rams back that we butchered. You know those bleached mohawk sheepskins at Ikea that look more like the abominable snowman than a sheepskin? Well, I did the complete opposite of that... Zero chemicals, lots of sweat (like seriously), all organic. Why? Because almost every carpet on the planet is a toxic wasteland of synthetic fibers drenched in synthetic chemicals that "outgas" into your home. Because of this, Mike and I are in a slow transition to have all organic and natural fiber carpets, rugs, bedding, and even clothes. So this year represents only the first of many sheepskins to flood our floors and all other amazing uses...

So here are my non-comical steps to how I did it (which I learned with the help of this awesome tutorial) accompanied by semi-comical photographs. So for those who actually wants to know how to do this, can read, and those who just love the weird things I do, be my guest and photo binge!





SUPPLIES NEEDED


Tanning Stage:

  • A raw sheepskin
  • Large container of salt (get this at your local livestock feed store)
  • Palette or board
  • Large container with lid

For Frame:

  • 4 long young tree trunks for frame (longer than hide width and height)
  • 4 short thick branches (crossbeams for frame)
  • Handsaw or jigsaw
  • Screwdriver, hammer or rope
  • 50 feet of small rope 

For Treating the hide:

  • Organic/natural dish soap
  • Carding brush or dog brush with metal inward pointing bristles
  • Bristle/scrubby dish sponge
  • Sandpaper between 200-300 grit or pumice stone ( Can find these at London Drugs)



1. FLESH THE SHEEPSKIN

Once the hide was off the lamb, I took a sharp and small knife to separate any leftover flesh from the skin. The boys left me some lovely holes in the very center of the hide when they were stripping it... But because it was their first lamb skinning, I didn't give them a hard time ;) Thankfully holes, although inconvenient in the process, do not ruin the hide as you never see it as a rug or you can stitch them up after.








2. STORE IN SALT FOR AT LEAST 4 MONTHS

After fleshing, I put an a layer of salt of about an inch thick all over the skin, and had it slightly angled on a palette for two weeks to drain any excess blood. Once I reached the 2 weeks mark, I folded it in half, skin to skin, and in half again, then into a big plastic container with a lid. Let it sit for at least 4 months. While in storage, the salt actually tans the hide and preserves it.







3. BUILD A HIDE FRAME

Once the weather was warm and dry in July, I created a simple frame made out of young trees from our woods notched and screwed together with smaller cross beams for more support. You can also bind the beams together with rope or hammer them with nails. Layout your hide, (skin side up and a board underneath to keep wool clean) to measure how large your frame needs to be. My frame had about 1-2 foot spacing between itself and the hide.










4. CUT HOLES INTO THE HIDE

When cutting holes I used an exacto knife making all cut about 2 inches away from the edge of the skin, and 2-4 inches apart. I cut the small slits parallel to the beam that the particular hole would be roped to. So all cuts are completely horizontal, vertical or angled  (for the angled cross beams). That way the rope won't tear through. You also want to aim your holes at ever hill and valley of the hide.








5. TIE UP THE HIDE

I used about 50 feet of small rope for the entire frame. I started in one corner, tying a slipknot to the hide as my first knot, taking the rope under the frame and over , then through the next hole from the top. It's important to always have the rope enter in the hide from the same direction with every knot. After doing one corner, stop, and start the opposite corner, that way your hide is centered and you can adjust the two corners instead of adjusting the whole thing. For each corner, I had the first and last knots on a horizontal and vertical beam, and then diagonal in the middle for the cross-beam. Continue to the other corners and then fill in the gaps. Keep a good consistent tension that lifts the hide off the ground but not too tight to rip it. I used slipknot's to easily adjust tension where needed. Make sure you always have a knot tied to the hide consistently around as the rope can slip in the beams but not on the hide.










6. SET UP

Lift your frame up and place it wool side facing the sun and where there is no grass or trees. The salt from the hide will drop down into the soil below and will kill any plant life near it! You also want the wool side always facing the sun because if the skin side is showing, the sun will actually heat up any fat on the skin and burn a hole in your hide! You also don't want your hide in the rain because if it's wet for too long the wool can fall out. I covered mine with a tarp when it was forecasted to rain, and moved it completely under cover if it was going to downpour for a long time.







7. WASH

Pick out any big thistles and sticks, but don't worry about the small stuff. Get a hose and natural/organic dish soap, and SOAK and SCRUB the wool side intensely with your hands. Using your fingers to dig in and get all the way through. You'll want to wash it when there will be a good stretch of hot dry days so that the hide can dry completely. I used my two hands as a "Squeegee" by flattening my hands and putting them at the top of the hide and then, with a good weight and not all my body weight, moving all the way down to squeeze the water out. This speeds ups the drying process.








8. BRUSH

Once the hide is dry (usually takes 2-3 days with good weather) get a carding brush or a dog brush (cheap at pet stores, metal bristles that are angled inward) and brush the WHOLE THING! This loosens up the dirt and fluffs it out.








9. REPEAT: WASH, DRY, BRUSH

Do that whole process one more time! It's worth it!







10. SAND SKIN SIDE

Take the hide out of the sun and flip it so the skin side is facing you. First take a dry scrubby dish cleaning brush and rub it all over the hide to smooth out any salt or dirt chunks. Then take sandpaper between 200-300 grit, or a pumice stone (get these from London Drugs) and sand the skin until it become linty and velvet-like to touch. In my case my dad has an air hose and I hooked it up to a disc sander, saved me hours!






11. SHAPE AND CUT!

Final step! If you cut the hide from the wool side your knife will become dull VERY quickly, but the wool side shows you what you want to cut out. That's why I flipped it back to the wool side and made a few small cuts at the main point I want cut out, so that I have a template to cut out on the other side.
Flip it back to the skin side and start cutting at the bottom to the top (so the skin doesn't fall on your while you're cutting it!). Then pull that baby out and voila! I got myself one VERY expensive sheepskin that I paid in full with sweat!










There you have it!

I hope you enjoyed this episode of "What strange thing will this non-traditional millennial do next?"

Till next time!

Victoria Rose Park








A Wee Life Update



Hello my fellow homosapiens!

(If on a computer, here is your reading music) I know, not much posting to be had in the last month of summer. I guess that's what happens when you've got so much dirt stuck in your fingernails from farming things, and burning the midnight oil for your own business. But I thought I'd whip up some quick muffins (updates) from the last month and put them in the oven (the internet) for you to eat (read). My writing is a little rusty, so it will either be all too entertaining or all too uncomfortable!

Cool photos by Hannah Carter




For any who don't know, I run my own company call Young Colour, which specializes in branding for small business (graphic design, illustration, photography, creative juices). After work and on the weekends I embrace my second life of working on my hobby farm.

So there's kind of two Victoria's... First one can be found looking professional, showered, meeting clients in cafes, eyes locked with her MacBook Pro, clicking her mouse 1 billion times a day, with a brain totally wired for anything digital and social media...





...And then there is the second Victoria, who has grease soaked locks, wears no bra with an oversized flannel, finds comfort in the smell of her stinky sheep, gets lost in deep thought while scooping presents from her livestock's butts, hands are covered in dirt from gardening (and doesn't wash them), consistently leaves her phone miles away, and is more than content to hang in fields and forests far away from the wifi beast.





August and September has been lots of time with the first Victoria. Oh hey guuuurl! Let's work, like, all the time. It will be fun! (And very busy. hence the lack of farm posts.)

I'm currently growing my company, like a smart Victoria #1 would do. It's been incredibly fun but also means no more normal hours, working 9-6, and some nights, back at it after dinner till midnight. Not to mention trying to pin the tail on the donkey for Young Colour's new website (Still working on it) SO much learning about hiring and growing my team of creative/brilliant people. Empowering other creatives with fun artistic work and a healthy work environment, gets me SO excited! I've been waiting for YC to move into this growing season for three years. God has been dumping so many branding jobs and opportunities for me to grow without me even marketing it! Knowing that God is on board, makes it even MORE exciting.




But don't you cry! Your dirty hippy Victoria #2 is not dead! It's getting colder and darker, which means she's crawling back in her bear cave, which means more blogging about all things farmy and healthy! Stay tuned for my natural sheepskin tanning post, 1st year garden review, and so much more dirty, stinky, sweaty, and tasty posts to come!

I appreciate all of you who put up with my strange metaphors and rambles! Blogging has always been a refreshing and free place for me to share things with you lovely humans (or should I say homosapiens?! #newfavoriteword)

BYEEEE!

Victoria Rose Park







Project Happy Eggs + Chicken Rescue COMPLETE!



If this post was an egg, let me simply boil it down for you guys: 


Past Scenario:
  • 23 chickens in a space made for 12
  • They've exhausted their little pasture and so have no grass or bugs to eat
  • Their pasture hasn't been sifted through so it's rock hard from poo drying up and they can't dig
  • Since they got no pasture (& bug proteins) they've become bored and need more protein, so they eat each other's feathers (Feathers are made of 85% protein!)
  • They also were infested with mites
  • As a result from this, the majority of chickens now have bare swollen bums and are ugly/stressed
  • The coop is a VW bus that is now infested with rats that live inside
  • And to top it all off, it just doesn't look awesome....







Our Solution:
  • Cut the amount of chickens in half to 12
  • Rebuild a new larger coop with no rat hostels
  • Doubling the chicken pasture size
  • Tilling our own sawdust & sheep manure into the pasture dirt to loosen up the ground and promote bug and grass production
  • Give chickens mite treatment
  • Installing a tray in the bottom of the coop to collect organic compost for our garden
  • All garden weeds/grass clippings are fed to the chickens

The Goal: 
  • Less feather plucking and more bug/grass eating 
  • Happier full feathers chickens 
  • Better egg production
  • A sustainable and awesome garden compost system

Now for a smorgasbord of photos of how we saved our bare bummed friends!


1ST STEP: Cut flock size in half and build the new coop.





2ND STEP: Remove the VW bus.






  
3RD STEP: Give chickens mite treatment and put them in the new coop. This is why we don't play Pokemon Go...


Here's Mike. Catching them all.





4TH STEP: Take down the old fence & rebuild new fence/chicken run.






RELEASE THE CHICKENS!!!!




Watering poultry nipples underneath the coop.

Lunch amiright?!


One happy chicken.

The chickens may not be able to smile ear to ear with a beak on their face, but it sure looks like they're loving their new home! Digging around, eating bugs and compost, not room for rats to build a nest in their home, and overall looks WAY better! Hoping these ladies get their feathery self esteem back...

Pssssst! If you'd like to see the chicken coop structure that Mike used as a main reference (Mike doubled the size), check it out here. Low cost, simple, and will last much longer than a VW bus ;)

Blog post of my first all-natural tanning sheepskin adventure in the works!

Peace out my homies,

Victoria Rose Park

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