Thursday, August 31, 2006

I'm thinking

Silly me, I have nothing to say.
Would you believe it?
I haven't finished worming yet...I haven't finished shots yet, I haven't finished my rug, I haven't halter trained my sheep. I have book work up the you-know-where to do.
I have sheep to deliver, I have sheep to pick up, I have clients who need sheep, I have other breeder's clients, who need sheep.
Then there are the dishes, the dog fur in the corners of the floor, the tuna fish from this morning, when the dog scared the cats and they ran over the dishes throwing them upside down.
I need to bathe the dogs....pick junk off the sheep, put ear tags in....and drive through three states.
Maybe Monday, I can take some time off.
Maybe by then I'll have something to say....but don't hold your breath.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


I just heard the news that Bill of Sheltering Pines has passed. I know Bill has had a long seige of illness, and I'm glad that he passed surrounded by family.
Bill, like many of us, likely became a shepherd later in life. I met him my first trip to Michigan. Stephen was playing the organ at church, and our first tour of Sheltering Pines sheep was done by Bill. He knew as much as Stephen about the sheep, and was particularly excited about his fiber studio. It was plain that beside loving and caring for sheep....Bill loved working with their fiber. He already had several looms in his studio, but we helped him to move another later from it's spot on the second floor of Sheepy Hollow's beautiful home to a trailer for travel back to his studio. He was as enthusuiastic about the loom as the new sheep in the trailer.
I'm glad I had the opportunity to purchase a fine woven rug from Bill. It has a place of honor hanging at the office. I have always been afraid to put it on the floor. I didn't want to get dirt on the fine bright weaving design. I will always smile as I look at that work of art, and remember Bill as a good shepherd and loving artist.
For that is the best we can expect when we we all be remembered fondly by someone for our talent, our kindness, and who we were.

Friday, August 18, 2006

what am I doing?

Actually, I ask that alot during the day....but most of the time it is just age-related memory.
I did get to see part of the Indiana AGM and their state fair....I didn't see the big pig. Sorry.
There were 150 Shetlands registered....a nice turn-out from lots of local breeders...and some from a ways.
I heard both talks about color....ask me anything....ha ha ha.
I did about 20 cdt shots this morning...that's really late for me, but it has been too hot to chase anyone for a while.
We have some grass growing, maybe more rain this weekend...and maybe not. But I do have grass growing where I didn't think there were roots left.
I have to catch and pen the girls for the Jefferson show....none of them have been on a halter least the boys like to be on one...they can eat in the back yard while I hold on.
I'm just about to the point of starting my rug....maybe....I'll let you know later today....also a ha ha. I figure stringing the warp is the biggest part...right?
How about "rug in a bag"? "Perfect rug kit"? "Rug thoughts"? "Tied with a string"?"Trashed"?
OK...I'll try.

Monday, August 14, 2006

things I like about missouri

Just a note, to show you the friend building it's web over my bags of wool. Fortunately, I didn't look in the bags holding this pretty web up....

I won't show you any photos of the snake the cats were playing with....we disposed of that one.
Happy looking in the barn!!!!

I have been told that this little spider is called a golden orb weaver, by my daughter who just saw some in the weeds....I did break the web of another one working away in my barn....when I pulled a bale of hay yesterday. Fortunately that one didn't get in my hair either.

Friday, August 11, 2006

blessed rain

It is sprinkling here this morning. The first sign of rain we have had since the beginning of July. We have had rain...all around. It just didn't come down in this valley. The pastures close to the barn are brown...they are past yellow....the ground is showing through. I'm not sure they will come back this fall. Maybe if we get some rain during the winter. The sahara....fondly named last summer during the 17 year drought, has some green on is all new volunteer grass. If we could get another sprinkle this week...that will come back...and maybe something in the hay fields to the west. The hay fields will provide some winters grazing for the girls. All I need is about three rolls of fencing to finish the south side. I can skimp on posts by using the trees along the edge. That may also help keep the fence upright in case of flash flood....Which tends to drop 50 or 100 feet of fence when rushing past the pastures.
Waiting for the heat to lessen....and for the clouds to drop rain here...where we live, has made me wonder why the rain hasn't fallen on my little strip of grass.
I'm guessing it must be the higher powers tellng me to get rid of some sheep.
Of course, I had already written that I couldn't do that....they were too nice, some very friendly, all have the genetics to produce nice spotting....and my lambs are....well MY lambs.
There you go...sometimes we can't even make up our own minds.
On the subject of ram lambs....had to change the subject. I have a yuglet flecket black and white ram...nice...shy...first lamb for dam, she is one of those big white spot sheep....only showing black spots on her ears. She is tiny...a yearling...he is short but filling out, I expect him to be a normal size. His sire is a brown yuglet flecket...from a line that may not iset. He has a half brother going on three who is very even in tone. Which is what keeps saving his rear....when I look at culling rams.
I also have a small yuglet sokket ram....mainly black body....dam has a nice fleece, she was a yuglet flecket but carrys Ag...her twin was an hst black. The ram is from a yuglet sokket moorit sire, so he carrys moorit. Thsi ram has a flecket twin, they both have nice horns...(but the twin has dramatically wide white horns) although he may only carry hst ....I can't be sure if he is not bred.
I have a hst musket...nope...moorit wonder his body looked dark....I would swear i parted his fleece and saw musket....but maybe his brother looks too much alike......nice dark body...strong yuglet sokket markings. His dam is a musket yuglet sokket. His sire a moorit yuglet sokket. His twin is also a yuglet musket......but the body is not as well defined.
I have a nice dark moorit krunet ram....he is from a line of smirslets...his sister is a smirslet. He has nice wide horns. A pleasant personality....gets out of my way. I just know he will produce hst lambs....but I may not have an opportunity to try him.
That's just mentioning a few...who could be used in test breedings.
Thanks to all who mentioned how dumb I was getting heat stroke. I was out all afternoon in 99 or better. I had on a hat....I was chasing sheep....and carrying lambs...who now weigh as much as an elephant! What I didn't notice was that I stopped sweating.....not good I guess. Anyway, I got a great lunch out of it the next day....amazing how nice it is to eat out!!!!!
As soon as I resigned myself to selling a bunch of great ewes....we got three inches of rain.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

spotted sheep and hst

Photo of and white yuglet flecket...from a spotted grey ewe and a plain black ram....polka had two siblings...both black...neither has had a lamb....Polka had a perfect hst black ewe lamb this spring..bred to an hst moorit ram. I don't know why she has scurrs!

Good morning,
I hope the temps are nice where you live...we are again expecting 99...or better. Since I got a touch of heatstroke yesterday...if it gets hot today I am heading in my air-conditioned car to an air-conditioned place to eat...or bookstore....this is as bad as cabin-fever in the cold north country.

We had maybe a break through on the subject of spots yesterday. Breeders on the regular shetland list...can you believe it...we used to get thrown off of there! A breeder mentioned having a "double" hst ram....And it got me to thinking about hst and flecket again.....What if there is REALLY an hst ram....or a double flecket!!!! We don't know yet because there haven't been enough folks breeding repeatedly for spots yet.
I repeat....yet! Nancy K has been speading hst through out the north american continent....and we may have enough folks breeding with spots to get some sort of idea how it works soon.
So...what I want you to look spotted sheep who have one type of spotting in their pedigree.....can you trace hst or flecket in the pedigree of one sheep on your farm? Then breed that sheep to another one with JUST THAT TYPE of spotting in their pedigree too....I don't quote another breeder...if you get green one for us!
May be we can get enough of an idea at the end of this season to know if there really ARE two forms of spotting.
It occurs to me that I cross back ewes to other rams who may carry flecket....and maybe I have mixed the two in my own I can't tell that the two forms are actually different.! Yes, I get hst from flecket...and hst and fleckets who are twins....but maybe I STARTED that.
You can contact me if you need another ram...I still have some of each who don't want to get shipped...they told me so.

HEY!!!!!! maybe there are two forms of spotting in shetlands!!!! Maybe there are more than two.
Let's get out there and find out....let me know if you find anything...and I would love to post photos here too.
bopeep in a quest for the unknown.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

talk about the weather

Well, this was our second day over 100 here. In fact, as it climbed over 102 on the north porch, where our great pyr likes to nap....we brought her inside.
She hasn't been inside for over a year...and her feet slipped on the new floor, until she lay down by the air-conditioner and went to sleep.
I couldn't bring the sheep in.
There were girls and lambs standing in the sun all day trying to find grass in the dust.
We had pretty good grass until this last few weeks of drought. Now it's dry. The hay fields have some clover still alive, but there will be no more hay made this year.
I put out a couple more small bales of hay in the barn for the girls tonight. I have been feeding the little rams hay for over a week. Their pasture dried up first. Two days ago we had the farmer bring a couple of round bales into the big ram pasture. Big rams...not big pasture.
I suppose now, I should have had him bring the girls hay too. But I really don't know how far we will have to go for winter hay this I am hoping to hold on to the round bales we have still in the field to use for fall breeding pens.
Did I say I didn't want to sell my girls? They sure deserve better than this.
talk about the weather.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

sheep and more sheep

OK....I have tried.
I really did try to make a list of everyone I didn't HAVE to own...and sell them
I can't do it.....they are nice girls...I can't sell any more right now. That's it.
I am looking down the road to a time when I can't keep so many having a small having no flock.
I know there are other breeders out there older than I am....not many...but a few.
No matter how many times I tell myself that a big flock of sheep in the middle of the woods ties me and my nice partner down.....I still am not ready to give them up!

Hello, my name is lucky, and I am addicted to sheep.
Maybe if I put the sale of these girls off....I can schedule it on the calendar...and work up to it.
I was just reading about a breeder, who bought their own sheep back....I have done that!
They do have personalities....they are little sheep-people.....I learn who they are after they are born....and wave good-bye when they are sold....sometimes with a tear in my eye.
So what to do?
Shetland sheep can have a good long life. Panda just died after 13 years.
So can I just out-live them?
Not unless I don't ever breed again...or don't ever keep another lamb.
Fat chance!
so here I am...thinking out loud again....I would love to be down to twenty or thirty sheep again. maybe that is still too many....especially if I have to leave and need someone else to take care of them.
Does anyone out there have an answer?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

spots and spots

Twins.....a great example of genetics at work! One a perfect hst....shorthand for yuglet sokket with a white tip on tail, you can throw bielset in there too.....see what a nice shorthand it makes! The other twin a yuglet flecket, he might even be a perfect spot producing breeding ram?....typically shetland he is also another color.

As an off-shoot of breeding choices, I suppose I should mention spots.
You likely know my entire breeding history has been in search of the ellusive bielset. All by itself!
OK, so I have seen a few that looked good...but never developed it in my flock. Oh well, it gives me someplace to strive to....he heh.
So I like spots....yes, I like spotted sheep a lot.....half of my breeding groups are dedicated to spotted sheep and spot carrying order to produce spotted lambs.
How do you start producing spotted sheep?.....well, there is the way I did it originally....collecting lines of plain sheep who had some history of spots in their background.
But, I really think there are so many spotted sheep developed from the different breeders who have spots ....that the best way to have spotted sheep is to BUY some.
Not one....some!
The reason I mention this that you can go out and buy a nicely spotted ram, and breed him to your girls....who may or may not be spotted....and get nothing. Well, OK, you get lambs.....but, nothing --as we like to say---flashy. So who's fault is that? Yours.
The ram is doing the best he can....he is SsSs and you gave him SSSS or SSSs girls....what do you expect? Now the next year in breeding....if you keep all the lambs from that ram, you could breed those plain looking lambs to another spotted ram.....and get flash! or not....depending on what the lambs inherited. In the do you market those plain lambs?....."Carrying spots" what we see most often. Buyer beware....carrying spots, could be carrying spots for a long time, until producing spots.
Sheep are no longer terribly expensive. If you can afford to buy hay for the can afford to buy a couple of spotted ewes to go with that spotted ram.
What are the genetics of spots?....I don't know, I"ve only been breeding a few years...since '99.....we know spotted sheep have spotted lambs.... There is no way that I know confine spotting to one area of the sheep....unless we are talking about sheep who are not know those little sheep with the spot on the head that goes away in about three months.

I have rams who produce yuglet-sokkets.....and the same rams will produce yuglet-fleckets.
I also have ewes who will produce both...often as twins....
Now, think about it.... can I turn around and market that one twin who is a yuglet-sokket lamb as only producing yuglet-sokkets?
No....because I know that lamb could just as easily produce a yuglet flecket. I have it's twin at my ranch...down here they are called ranches.

The history of our present love for spots goes back a few years, spot breeders were considered stupid, and breeders who couldn't understand why a person would WANT to have a "brokened fleece" sheep.
Now, I have seen many highly spotted fleeces from spotted sheep. They spin wonderfully....they can be lightly combined to produce heathery tones. They can be blended to produce wonderful greys, and tans....they can be pulled apart to produce two or three colors. I consider those fleeces to be very useful, and pretty. So what can I say to potential clients coming to me asking for only certain spots on sheep. Gosh!!!! I have never had one like that? I have bred enough spotted sheep to assume there is no such thing. Those sheep will eventually produce a flecket. I can't guarantee that they won't. I get the impression that these folks have been led to believe that spots in a fleece are a bad thing....amazingly, by folks who are selling spotted sheep. Spots in a fleece are NOT a bad thing....they make a very pretty sheep....and, they make a very nice spinning fleece.
I'm sorry, I got on my soapbox there....Maybe there are sheep who only have white spots in certain places.... they just aren't born into my flock. I welcome flecket lambs into my flock...they are often very pretty....I certainly don't want breeders out there to think that fleckets are some sort of failure....or mistake. I'm not "creating" that flecket...the sheep I put together in breeding groups are creating it with God's help, or maybe the other way around....yes, I believe in God....I'm not going to question how perfect that lamb is. If it's's perfect...I've even had little ones that lacked that live-quality...and they were still perfect. I only have 70 or 80 lambs born in a year(ok maybe more than that)...let's say 20 of them "well-spotted". Maybe I haven't had enough spotted lambs over the last three or four years...20 times 4 =80. I'll bet I haven't had enough spotted sheep in my lifetime to know what goes into yuglet-sokkets vs. yuglet fleckets. But I believe with what little experience that I have had...that a spotted sheep can produce both kinds of spots.
See, it's my fault...I have no experience. ...don't believe a thing that I say.

On another note. We spot producers limit the number of Ag sheep in our flocks. Why? Because, if you have a flecket sheep that has Ag ...the body spots (fleckets) fade in appearance. They are there...but you might not see them.
Now here is a real questionable stance.
If a person wants the body of the sheep to be plain....why wouldn't they breed all Ag spotted sheep? I really have no clue. It would seem to me that all these folks clamboring for sheep that are spotted only in certain places....should LOVE Ag sheep????? We all know that greys and muskets are wonderfully popular fleeces to why hasn't this change over to spotted grey and musket sheep developed?
I have no idea. Perhaps it is the hype over spotted sheep. They started out rare....remember I didn't find any to buy.....and I haven't been breeding that long. So now breeders are still marketing them as rare? Nicely spotted sheep are not rare. I'll bet you could find them in every state. So, if you want some spots out in your field...go out and buy a few sheep. There is absolutely nothing as exciting as having white hooves and nose coming out of a black ewe....I just have no idea what that lamb will look like....
I don't want to miss a single lamb.
I'm a nut....
But then again, maybe.... I need to breed more spotted sheep so I become an expert.
There are experts out there....real gerus of spots.....ones who have HUNDREDS of lambs a year....
go ask them how to breed for spots.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

choosing breeding groups

Well, believe it or not----it's August.
Yes, those cute little ram lambs are growing long horns. There is a variety out there. Long and tall pointy horns, wide and curving horns, little round curves that hold close to the head....maybe you even have some rams with very small horns, they might have genes for polled rams.
Well, did you look at your big lovable old rams yet? Are you going to breed them again?....or are you going to let someone rest for a year and try out a new little boy?
How and who you breed depends on your physical setting. If you have a place for rams to stay out in the pasture without putting them near your breeding groups, you might be able to hold some rams over. It is harder to keep a grown ram from a breeding group than keeping a ram lamb do have to have strong fence and visual barriers for that to work.

Let's say, you have an ideal situation. You have a nice ram with nice horns, a good tail, and good fleece. Now how do you choose who to breed to him?
Leaving spots and katmogets/gulmogets out of the mix....Let's start with color.
White....Awt is dominant....If you have a ewe who is Awt can put her with any ram, and she likely will have white lambs....if she also carrys Aa(solid color)....either black or moorit.....she could also produce a lamb of that color. You can test breed that ewe to first a black and then a moorit ram to see what she carries. She could also be Awt Ag....that is, any lamb she has with color will carry grey or musket....a mixture of light and dark fibers.
Ag, grey or musket....a pattern that mixes the colored fiber with a light almost white fiber, resulting in a lovely soft heathery color.
If your ram is Ag grey or would likely mix him with black or moorit ewes, that way you could get a mixture of lambs born. There is a limit to the number of lambs of the same color we can sell in a year. So we try to mix the potential colors up, and get enough variety in the lamb colors.
Black and moorit rams seem popular, but remember that black fleece usually feels harsher to our hands, if you are going to breed with a black ram....he should have other quatities that make him desirable....big beautiful horns.....tiny tail...great wide rump and legs.....AND....he has got to have the best fleece you can find! Given the choice between rams...I would tend to pick the moorit ram over the black, because folks like moorits better.
The other condition that would impress me for a black ram is that he is also recessive for moorit. You can tell on your ram lambs...they are the ones with a moorit dam or sire. For older rams you just have to breed them to moorit or musket ewes, and see if they can have a recessive lamb. I have always felt that the recessive moorits are much deeper in color....especially if they are recessive from both is grey, sire is black...lamb is moorit.....that is a recessive on both sides.

What are the other factors you try to balance for your breeding groups. Tails are a big one.....if your ram has a perfect tail...and if he doesn't can you tell me three good reasons why you need to breed with him? Then you choose ewes to breed to him who have a less than perfect tail....fuzzy long tipped tails can be improved....can you put a couple of not so great tailed ewes with your "perfect" ram?
What if you have never gotten good horns from your lovely it her fault? is where you choose a ram with big tall wide horns for her.....never put a ewe back with the same ram who produced terrible horns with her last year....ram are cheap....don't throw that ewe's genes away by breeding her to the same ram.....this should also be considered when looking at the lambs tails....Did your ewe produce questionable tails....or maybe one lamb looks good, one looks fuzzy. Try a new ram on her. YOU are in charge of the lambs you produce....the only excuse you have for producing a bad lamb is that the ram or ewe jumped the fence!
Every year you must look at your product....the lambs....and try to improve.
Legs....ho boy! I get so many questions about legs....did you know that shetlands are small? Did you also consider that the width of the rump can figure in the appearance of the legs? We can catch the lambs that have one leg dragging because the leg is turning out and doesn't bend the way it should....I personally feel that is far different from the narrow rear end on a small shetland....remember I breed small shetlands. The more narrow the rear end...the more the legs look imperfect. Your resulting lambs each year should show some improvement from the dam....if not you are not doing your job.
So we can already see that a breeding group could be formed based on several different purposes.... some of the ewes are brown, one has a long tail, one is white, one grey, one had bad horns with a different ram. What about fleece?
Have you tried micron testing?...this is helpful in choosing which ewes to breed to who. I prefer a medium wavey fleece with luster. So most years I breed with a short fleeced crimpy ram, and let his crimp produce more wave in my prefered fleece. This year I have a medium to long light grey fleeced ram lamb. He has good luster, and his fleece holds soft locks. Sorry, can't remember what that is called. I'm going to try breeding him to a few ewes with a similar fleece, and see if I like what happens. Usually, I am happier with the fleeces where the ram has crimp down to his rump....but isn't really single coated.
I spin in the grease....can you imagine me combing out the little tiny locks on a single coated fleece like those katmogets have? No way would I take the time, especially when I am working toward a rug.

Go get a sheet of paper, and try out your breeding groups.....think about each ewe as you choose her mate....and don't put your little ewe with a big fat ram....wait for another season when she is bigger....or he is smaller....or you got a new ram for her. Over the years, I can tell you that ewes are fussy about their potential mates. Ewes like horns, they apparently like a musky smell, and they really don't like ram lambs. Try not to disappoint your older ewes, if they only have a few years of breeding left...give them the best!...A ram they are proud to be with.....maybe you raised him...maybe you have to buy him....At least when folks come to look at your sheep they won't be struck by a puny little ram lamb trying to woo a mature ewe. I have also found that ewes like knowing that ram before breeding. I have ewes going up to the rams they bred with last year, and doing a little nose touching....they will breed faster with a ram they already know....and they may just produce a totally different lamb with him too.

You know the best lamb we can produce?'s the one that folks pick out in the field and say....I like that that one for sale? Go do it....I might just get to your farm and see that lambs...I know I will say I want that one.....I'm a sheep-aholic!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Total unknown

I am so sorry to leave my blog for such a long time with a sad story.
I know we are all bombarded right now with sad stories. And I don't want to make light of the sadness and lack of control we have over the world news and the heat affecting our own nation.
But...there is a truth to be learned, we can only control ourselves.
That's it.
Oh, you might exercise some control over small folks until they grow a little and reach that "unreasoning" age. You might think you exercise control over your partner...or your pets....but sheep.....they definite lack our control!
My own bunch of four-legs let me know each morning, that they will go where they please, and eat what they want....thank you very much!
When they see me in the area of grain distribution....they attempt to control my movements, and my piling into the back of the barn demanding food....which by thier way of thinking, has been with-held as a malicious act. If I yield to their pleadings, they climb on my person and stick their collective heads in my professional grain bucket. That's the one that froze in my other winter home....and won't hold water any more. If I am slow in redistributing the sugary grain towad their hungry mouths....the ring leader, Dutchess, orchestrates a sneak attack.
By coming from the rear and pushing....she can cause the favored grain bucket and my obtuse fly to the ground, where the bucket and any limbs under it can be trampled by the other desperate ewes wanting immediate gratification.
This tangle of un-control repeats itself daily. Affording the human room for thought about why I should subject myself to such indignities. It has occurred to me, that any control I think I have in this world, is upsurped by my interest and duty to those four-legs.
So now, getting back to the title, I appear to lack any self-control what-so-ever....and therefore am plunging into a world of unknowns....of my own making.....and it's all those four-legs fault!
Well, it's hot, and I'm in the middle of the woods, and who cares anyway!
Maybe I'll go get some grain.