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Noah’s Flock

Barbara Ann Dush
Fullerton, Neb.
Noah Spagnotti with several of his Jacob sheep: "There's fewer than 5,000 left in the entire world."

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What started out as a hobby for 13-year-old Noah Spagnotti has turned this teenager into a young entrepreneur.

Noah owns his own flock of Jacob sheep – a rare breed of black and white spotted, multi-horned sheep.

“The project started when (my brother) Josiah nagged and nagged for his own goat. Then my other brother Elijah wanted his own pig and he nagged and nagged and he got a pig, and I was left out of the loop,” Noah explained. “I wanted my own species of animal so I started researching and found this amazing breed of Jacob sheep, a heritage endangered breed; there’s fewer than 5,000 left in the entire world. They seemed so cool, so I bought a flock from a lady in Sioux Falls.”

The hobby eventually evolved into a business, “Mess Around Jacobs,” and Noah began selling breeding stock and handmade products such as wool-felted dryer balls and wool-felted soaps.

NOAH SPENT SIX months researching the breed and learning how to take care of his new flock; however, since they are a hardy, low-maintenance animal “it made things easier,” he said.

Jacobs most distinguishing features are their impressive four horns, although they may have as few as two or as many as six. The horns are normally black but may be black and white striped.

Their origin is somewhat obscure; however, historical documentation indicates that these Old World sheep may have originated in what is now Syria around 3,000 years ago. They were imported into the United States in the early 1900s for game parks and zoos.

Jacobs are easy to handle and rarely need veterinarian care. They are an old, unimproved breed; and as a result, they’re slight in build with ewes averaging only about 100 to 120 pounds.

“It makes it easier for them to lamb; they don’t need as much medication as other sheep,” Noah said. “It’s very common for them to have twins and triplets. It’s a very common gene that they all possess. My flock of 16 grew really fast.” He recently sold some of his sheep, keeping the number in his flock to around 25.

Jacobs do not show much flocking behavior and with daily handling make good pets.

“They’re tame – I spend a lot of time with them. And they’re fun,” Noah said of his flock’s personalities. “Normal black and white sheep all look the same. With my sheep, you never get one that looks the same. They all look different in their own way, just like their personalities. When they lift their eyebrow or shake their head, each one of them does it differently.”

JACOB SHEEP ARE usually raised for their wool, meat and hides – something that wasn’t in Noah’s plans when he bought his flock. “It wasn’t really in my mind to turn it into a business when I bought them. It was just my own species, my own little hobby.”

But when Noah attended a 4-H entrepreneurship camp this past summer in Albion, “I really learned a lot,” he said. “We even got a chance to open our own mini-business and that was where I realized this could be a business. The wool is valuable to hand spinners. They’re a wool breed, that’s one of their special things they’re known for.”

The fleece is light, soft and springy and is known to be “prized” by weavers and hand spinners. The colors can be separated or blended to various shades of greys.

PREPARING THE WOOL for Noah’s finished products is an arduous process.

The last couple of years Noah just sorted the wool “because we didn’t know what to do with it,” he said. “But this year we’ve really been starting to use some of that wool.”

After researching the Internet, Noah found a process of cleaning the wool in the washing machine which he gets some help with from with his mother, Linda Spagnotti. “You have to be very careful with the wool, don’t agitate it. I usually do that part of it, then turn it over to Noah. He’s very good at carding it,” Linda said. “We got the drum carder off Craig’s List, along with a loom, spinning wheel and all kinds of accessories. It’s really expensive to buy the equipment, and the process is labor intensive, so finished wool will go from $3 to $8 an ounce.”

Carding is a process that breaks up the locks and unorganized clumps of fibre, then aligns the fibres so they are more or less parallel with each other.

“There’s several different ways you can card. One’s with a drum and the other is with a brush,” Noah said, “but there really is no easy way to do it. You really have to be patient. It’s a time consuming process and you have to know what you’re doing, especially with a drum carder.”

The dyeing process takes place next.

When Noah first began experimenting with dyes, he tried natural dyes with dandelions, tea bags and choke cherries: “The choke cherries gave the wool a purple color, the tea bags gave it a bright brown color and the dandelions a bright yellow color. The other dyes we’ve used have been Easter egg dyes and different colors of Kool Aid.” He has also used an acid dye; however, the only acid in the dye is vinegar.

ONE OF THE products Noah makes and which has proven to be very successful in sales is 100 percent wool-felted dryer balls, the size being like that of a softball.

The dryer ball saves money, energy and time by cutting the dryer’s drying time and by not having to use softeners. It also replaces the dryer sheet completely. To add scent to the clothes, add a few drops of essential oil on the ball.

When using four balls in a dryer, consumers can cut up to an average of 25 percent off their large load drying time and cut around 30 to 45 percent off their small load.

The balls circulate and separate the clothing and get the warm dry air to the core of the laundry. Noah’s mother recommends three dryer balls in a large load. She has been using the same three dryer balls in her dryer for nearly two years.

NOAH RECENTLY TOOK the dryer balls to a craft fair and sold out, and took in orders for 27 more that he had to fill when he got back home.

Along with his brother Josiah, Noah also sells handmade 100 percent wool-felted soap. The wool creates a rich lather, has natural antibacterial properties, acts as a natural exfoliate and makes the soap last longer.

As business progresses, Noah also wants to learn how to shear his sheep. But for now, the winter months are busy with filling product orders.

“If you start from scratch with the wool, it can take a lot of time: the washing time, drying time and the carding of it,” Noah said of his work.

However, the hard work doesn’t deter his goals.

“I’m planning on keeping my Jacob’s sheep forever I guess. I’ll continue to sell their wool as years go by and keep doing this,” Noah said. “This really could become a business for the future.”

Writer’s Note: To purchase the wool felted dryer balls or wool-felted soap, contact Noah Spagnotti at Cedar Rapids, Neb., at (308) 357-1142 or tankandhenry@yahoo.com or visit his website at http://www.freewebs.com/messaroundranch. The dryer balls sell for $5 each or three for $14.

What started out as a hobby for 13-year-old Noah Spagnotti has turned this teenager into a young entrepreneur.

Noah owns his own flock of Jacob sheep – a rare breed of black and white spotted, multi-horned sheep.

“The project started when (my brother) Josiah nagged and nagged for his own goat. Then my other brother Elijah wanted his own pig and he nagged and nagged and he got a pig, and I was left out of the loop,” Noah explained. “I wanted my own species of animal so I started researching and found this amazing breed of Jacob sheep, a heritage endangered breed; there’s fewer than 5,000 left in the entire world. They seemed so cool, so I bought a flock from a lady in Sioux Falls.”

The hobby eventually evolved into a business, “Mess Around Jacobs,” and Noah began selling breeding stock and handmade products such as wool-felted dryer balls and wool-felted soaps.

NOAH SPENT SIX months researching the breed and learning how to take care of his new flock; however, since they are a hardy, low-maintenance animal “it made things easier,” he said.

Jacobs most distinguishing features are their impressive four horns, although they may have as few as two or as many as six. The horns are normally black but may be black and white striped.

Their origin is somewhat obscure; however, historical documentation indicates that these Old World sheep may have originated in what is now Syria around 3,000 years ago. They were imported into the United States in the early 1900s for game parks and zoos.

Jacobs are easy to handle and rarely need veterinarian care. They are an old, unimproved breed; and as a result, they’re slight in build with ewes averaging only about 100 to 120 pounds.

“It makes it easier for them to lamb; they don’t need as much medication as other sheep,” Noah said. “It’s very common for them to have twins and triplets. It’s a very common gene that they all possess. My flock of 16 grew really fast.” He recently sold some of his sheep, keeping the number in his flock to around 25.

Jacobs do not show much flocking behavior and with daily handling make good pets.

“They’re tame – I spend a lot of time with them. And they’re fun,” Noah said of his flock’s personalities. “Normal black and white sheep all look the same. With my sheep, you never get one that looks the same. They all look different in their own way, just like their personalities. When they lift their eyebrow or shake their head, each one of them does it differently.”

JACOB SHEEP ARE usually raised for their wool, meat and hides – something that wasn’t in Noah’s plans when he bought his flock. “It wasn’t really in my mind to turn it into a business when I bought them. It was just my own species, my own little hobby.”

But when Noah attended a 4-H entrepreneurship camp this past summer in Albion, “I really learned a lot,” he said. “We even got a chance to open our own mini-business and that was where I realized this could be a business. The wool is valuable to hand spinners. They’re a wool breed, that’s one of their special things they’re known for.”

The fleece is light, soft and springy and is known to be “prized” by weavers and hand spinners. The colors can be separated or blended to various shades of greys.

PREPARING THE WOOL for Noah’s finished products is an arduous process.

The last couple of years Noah just sorted the wool “because we didn’t know what to do with it,” he said. “But this year we’ve really been starting to use some of that wool.”

After researching the Internet, Noah found a process of cleaning the wool in the washing machine which he gets some help with from with his mother, Linda Spagnotti. “You have to be very careful with the wool, don’t agitate it. I usually do that part of it, then turn it over to Noah. He’s very good at carding it,” Linda said. “We got the drum carder off Craig’s List, along with a loom, spinning wheel and all kinds of accessories. It’s really expensive to buy the equipment, and the process is labor intensive, so finished wool will go from $3 to $8 an ounce.”

Carding is a process that breaks up the locks and unorganized clumps of fibre, then aligns the fibres so they are more or less parallel with each other.

“There’s several different ways you can card. One’s with a drum and the other is with a brush,” Noah said, “but there really is no easy way to do it. You really have to be patient. It’s a time consuming process and you have to know what you’re doing, especially with a drum carder.”

The dyeing process takes place next.

When Noah first began experimenting with dyes, he tried natural dyes with dandelions, tea bags and choke cherries: “The choke cherries gave the wool a purple color, the tea bags gave it a bright brown color and the dandelions a bright yellow color. The other dyes we’ve used have been Easter egg dyes and different colors of Kool Aid.” He has also used an acid dye; however, the only acid in the dye is vinegar.

ONE OF THE products Noah makes and which has proven to be very successful in sales is 100 percent wool-felted dryer balls, the size being like that of a softball.

The dryer ball saves money, energy and time by cutting the dryer’s drying time and by not having to use softeners. It also replaces the dryer sheet completely. To add scent to the clothes, add a few drops of essential oil on the ball.

When using four balls in a dryer, consumers can cut up to an average of 25 percent off their large load drying time and cut around 30 to 45 percent off their small load.

The balls circulate and separate the clothing and get the warm dry air to the core of the laundry. Noah’s mother recommends three dryer balls in a large load. She has been using the same three dryer balls in her dryer for nearly two years.

NOAH RECENTLY TOOK the dryer balls to a craft fair and sold out, and took in orders for 27 more that he had to fill when he got back home.

Along with his brother Josiah, Noah also sells handmade 100 percent wool-felted soap. The wool creates a rich lather, has natural antibacterial properties, acts as a natural exfoliate and makes the soap last longer.

As business progresses, Noah also wants to learn how to shear his sheep. But for now, the winter months are busy with filling product orders.

“If you start from scratch with the wool, it can take a lot of time: the washing time, drying time and the carding of it,” Noah said of his work.

However, the hard work doesn’t deter his goals.

“I’m planning on keeping my Jacob’s sheep forever I guess. I’ll continue to sell their wool as years go by and keep doing this,” Noah said. “This really could become a business for the future.”

Writer’s Note: To purchase the wool felted dryer balls or wool-felted soap, contact Noah Spagnotti at Cedar Rapids, Neb., at (308) 357-1142 or tankandhenry@yahoo.com or visit his website at http://www.freewebs.com/messaroundranch. The dryer balls sell for $5 each or three for $14.


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