The FOREVER Flock Ethos
Most folks graze sheep for the health of the sheep, however, Rebecca and Dave graze their flock for the health of the land.
At North Greenovens, in South Devon the resident flock of primitive Shetland/Icelandic sheep are managed as part of the ecosystem.
The way this flock works with nature is simple. The flock’s grazing is carefully managed to increase the health of the soil, by improving the soil health this increases the health and diversity of the pasture plants, which in turn gives the sheep an incredibly healthy diet, while simultaneously increasing the land’s wildlife. The flock help create the wild habitat around them so everything (including them) can thrive.
But that’s not the only difference with this flock, Rebecca and Dave wanted to find a way where their animals could create financial worth by staying alive.
They took their animals out of the food chain and came up with the idea of ‘The forever flock’, creating an ethos where the sheep spend their days ‘grazing for nature’, as Dave coined it.
The sheep earn their keep through the sale of their wool and the wildlife they bring back to the land.
Since working this way, Rebecca and Dave have witnessed barn owls, peregrines, green woodpeckers, mistle thrushes, hobbies, hedgehogs and pearl-bordered fritillary return to their pastures. In addition, there has been an increase in meadow pipits, wagtails, yellow hammers, swallows and house martins feeding directly around the flock’s feet as they graze.
The other great thing about this flock, due to using this special form of ecological grazing, the flock are also building topsoil and locking down carbon as they graze. These sheep are not just carbon neutral they are carbon negative.
Reason’s to like these fleeces.
1: Rebecca and Dave use a form of grazing called ‘holistic planned grazing’, it means they move their flock to fresh pasture every one to two days. This results in the sheep always eating fresh flowers and grasses, meaning don’t need regular worming and they keep very clean tails.
2: It also means their sheep stay incredibly healthy. Just like us when we’re healthy our hair shines, so it is with the flock and their fleeces are glossy.
3: The flock stay outside year round, with no extra feed/hay. So their fleeces stay particularly clean and fresh as they would if in the wild – no hayseeds or straw to be found.
4: Rebecca and Dave view their sheep as part of the ecology of the farm, and wish to keep them as naturally as possible. So they don’t use any of the nasty chemicals which most farmer’s use on sheep fleeces/backs. Instead, only herbal remedies are used.
5: With the forever flock being a cross of the two colourful breeds, Shetland and Icelandics, they boast an array of differing coloured fleeces. With no two sheep looking the same, as such they all have names. When you buy one of their fleeces, Rebecca supplies you with the sheep’s name, so you know which individual it came from.
6: The lovely husband and wife team, Chris and Emma Stacey from South Dartmoor come once a year to shear the flock. They work beside Rebecca on shearing day, Emma drafting the sheep ready to shear, Chris shearing and Rebecca hand sorting the sheared fleeces. The Staceys are employed for the whole day, so Chris doesn’t need to rush, and there’s minimal stress to the animals throughout.
7: Due to this flock being ‘forever’, it means the sheep aren’t going anywhere. So once Rebecca’s knows which fleeces a crafter likes, the following year she’ll put those fleeces to one side for that customer to purchase and craft once more.
8: Rebecca and Dave only breed a handful of lambs each year to replace any old souls who have naturally passed away. How old does a sheep live for? Well, Smudge is their oldest ewe and she’s currently 23 years old.
When someone buys a beautiful rug from Felted Sheepskins, not only are they supporting an ethical hardworking rural business, they are also supporting this flock that get to live out their lives grazing for nature, benefiting wildlife and lock down carbon, how cool is that! If you would like to buy a Forever Flock fleece click here. the Forever Flock are on Instagram – you can follow them here.