Farm goal: Soft fibers and tender lambs

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SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. – Barry and Linda Singley or Bearlin Acres Farm opened their farm June 20 for a Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture field day. The farm features handmade natural soaps, wool and alpaca fibers, and fresh lamb in season.
The Singleys bought their 13 acres near Shippensburg in Franklin County, Pa., 10 years ago.
Linda began with three sheep and two goats. She had wanted browsing animals, particularly Cashmere goats, but now admits, “sheep are easier to handle.”
She focused on raising and breeding registered Cheviots, but her current flock also includes Leicester Longwool/Black Welsh Mountain x Cheviot crosses, as well as a pair of Bluefaced Leicesters.
Four alpacas, a pair of Cashmere goats, several registered Nubian goats, and their offspring round out their present stock.
Don’t mix. Linda Singley told the group that she cannot leave the alpacas with the sheep. Naturally curious, the alpacas cause the sheep to move.
Alpacas are not maintenance-free, she added. “They’ll spit at you and nail you in the shins with their toenails.”
They love showers, lining up toward the end of the day for their turn at the bucket and hose.
Alpaca fleece is notably soft. Compared to other fleece-producing animals, alpacas produce less but their fleece commands higher prices.
‘A little strange.’ The Cashmere goats, Linda said, are “a little strange, afraid of people.” More difficult to handle, they also require brushing. And, they will pound on the dairy goats.
Bearlin Acres practices rotational grazing and monitors soil acidity and fertility. Because the operation is small, manure management is not an issue.
Information sharing. Consistent with her background as a high school chemistry teacher, Linda plans and documents the significant aspects of the farm.
She shared vital records such as her pasture rotations with the group and gave the participants handouts on raising ruminants. These detailed activities by week, provided a checklist of points for ruminant start-up, charted cash flow, and listed university and private sources of information.
Specialty market. Bearlin Acres’ products reflect special items. Interested in knitting since she was a child, Linda’s naturally dyed fibers boast a luxurious assortment.
The Singleys make yarn for knitting and weaving, quilt batts, and roving for hand spinning, felting, and rug making.
Seasonal lamb sales and weaned yearlings can be reserved. They are raised as close to organic practices as the Singleys can reasonably manage.
Glycerine, cold-pressed, and goat milk soaps from their herd are all handmade.

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