Sunday, December 31, 2006

happy new year

Hoping you and your families all have a wonderful joy-filled new year.
A very few have wondered why I have not been posting on the yahoo boards.
Sorry, I don't miss me posting at all. I find many of the discussions to be bizarre at the least.
Take the recent posts about heating rams horns....yes, on live order to turn them.
Now just in the glances I have seen of the posts....I have to assume that the horns are to be bent away from the head.
Why? One guess....they are going to be bad horns....and the ram would need to be culled?
A second guess....they are bad horns and the ram could not be sold?
What ever happened to the laws of genetics?
If the paternal ram has bad horns, might he not pass those bad horns to his sons...and his daughters? Why would a breeder take a chance on breeding such a ram?
Spots are a dime-a-dozen....modified colors are a-dime-a-dozen. As far as I can see rams themselves are a-dime-a-dozen.
What then would cause a busy breeder to bother to heat horns, put weights on horns...or even cut the horns?
Is it possible that there are so many rams out there breeding with close or bad horns....that breeders feel forced into trying to physically change the horns?
Hey, if this idea catches on...we might as well dye the lambs into the colors that are selling for that spring! Rosey-gold, and lavender-brown. Order your dye packets now.
What in the world would induce breeders into such behaviour?
It confounds my imagination. Has any breeder out there heard that genetics are passed from adult sheep into their off-spring?
Now, I have know several rams who had beautiful wide sweeping horns....but couldn't produce nice horns in his ram lambs. And, I have bred rams with tea-cup...ugly horns, who produced beautiful wide horns in their ram lambs.
How CAN this happen? That old word genetics again. The ewe will also carry horn genetics.
My guess from the adult rams being that these close-horned rams produce many bad horned ram lambs who have to be culled. Their daughters may also be carrying bad horn genes....but these daughters ARE being sold.
Go look at your adult rams. Can the shears get between the horn and the cheek? If not why are you keeping that ram? He is only going to pass those horns down to all his off-spring. Go find a new ram with nice wide horns.
Some things just defy common sense.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

spots outside the box

I know...I miss photos too. when I last took my camera outside the batteries said... cold! And immediately died.
So I will have to find some photos to illustrate my spotting trends here.
Boy, that took a long time....I couldn't find the place where I kept the photo.
These are Crissy's twins in 2006. Crissy was registered as a sponget....I can see the sponget in her face....but her body is kind of a mottled shaela color. Crissy is single coated, I don't know why....I bought her as a yearling.
Let's discuss the photo. Ram lamb on left is moorit and white, a yuglet flecket. The odd thing I find in this ram is the brown shoes on his feet. Now, fleckets can have spots anywhere....but he had a coordinated form of shoes on his four feet.
Of course, his twin, tu-tu....hasn't got the same markings. She has more refined and "perfect" markings from her mom and dad.....bigger black eye patches, ring around her neck that goes down her chest too....and a mostly solid black body. Now....a couple of years ago, I did some research into the names for spotted markings on shetlands. I found older breeders who called this form of spotting on tu-tu "fronet". However, I found the community of Shetland breeders were unwilling to use that term, and prefered to call this form of marking by a long string of names....thus: tu-tu would be yuglet, bielset or bronget, and sokket. I had to give up my research and conform to the more common terms used. Why would breeders prefer to use several names unstead of one? You figure it out.
What appears to make tu-tu more interesting is her polka-dots on her feet. Do other sokkets have polka-dots too? way to the polka-dot a smaller form of her twin brother's shoe-markings?...perhaps. It could be a "leaking" of the flecket spotting into tu-tu's more solid markings. Now according to common mis-conceptions....this pair of twins couldn't happen....fleckets are considered to be a different form of spots. Well, I have had lots of these pairs....which makes me a big sceptic of the "need" to only breed solid body spots. I guess I consider it impossible. If breeders continue to breed for spots....I expect that question will be answered, one way or the other.
On the prior genetics end of the question....Crissy has other yuglet sokket off-spring....and yuglet fleckets, too....this set of twins had a moorit yuglet sokket sire.
However, I know that the concept of shoes is carried by Crissy. I am using another ram from Crissy. I think he is three now. Captain is solid moorit. He has a swirling smirslet face and is not a sokket. He does have white markings on the back of each back leg. These markings come where a sokket would lie....but do not go all around the leg. Captain can , and has, had lambs with sokkets on all four legs. But, he has also had many with two back legs that show white. Sometimes even one white back foot. Captain, as Crissy's son....has also given me several lambs with shoes. Only on their back feet. I showed one ewe lamb at naile who appeared to have cow-girl boots on....the white markings were so exact.
Captain continues to breed here because he also has a solid dark moorit fleece at three. No white hairs. He has got to be one of the ugliest little rams I have...but he seems to put nice spots and fleeces on his lambs. As long as he stays brown....he can stay here.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


That time of year again....time to get more hay to hungry mouths. To this end I now have a small truck piled with small bales and a load of big round bales coming next week. Yes, I used to always feed small bales out. Our barn was twice as big....plenty of room for feeders for forty sheep, and the hay was out of the winter snow there too.
Forty sheep....hmmm....there are more than that now....hmmm?
Here in the sinkin'valley, we usually don't have snow on the ground. I have a smaller barn with more concentration on rain shelter, and less on feeders. At least until lambing season starts. Besides one makes small bales any more....we are lucky to find round bales for sale and delivery. Yes, I have to worry about hay falling on ewes. Usually you can see the hay bales being eaten into mushroom shapes, and push the top over before it endangers any slow sheep under it's fall.
I wasn't interested in hay, however...maybe Christmas cookies...but not hay.

What I am questioning is the total lack of posts about spots on sheep. The only recent posts I have seen have been sheep for sale. I'm sure there used to be a flury of posts about shetlands and their spots. We have an entire yahoo group dedicated to that theme. But, no thoughts about questions about excitement, what-so-ever.
I have two thoughts about this ho-hum attitude. was a trend. something different that everyone wanted to hop-on-the-band-wagon. When I started breeding shetlands in 1999, there were very few black and white spotted sheep anywhere. And I'm sure there were some brown...but no one talked about them. Grey and Musket sheep came in spotted profusion....but then, those could very well not be spotted anyway. I knew only two midwest breeders who had or wanted to breed spots. When I traveled to the west coast, I asked about spots, and was met with...well, shock may be too strong a word...but there was no enthusiasm or interest in spots with the breeders I talked to. Bungling along, a few of us developed black and white spotted sheep....and eventually brown and white sheep.
Consider the fact that white spots on black shetland sheep is a recessive. Then consider the fact that brown...called also a recessive. So spotted brown sheep were only achieved after years of breeding. What happens when a spotted brown sheep is bred to a non-spotted black sheep? brown...unless mister black has a recessive for brown. And spots? likely in two generations those go away too. So it became trendy in recent years to flaunt spotted shetlands....and now some may continue to breed them, but more likely the spotted lines will start to disappear in the smaller typical shetland flocks. After all more than half of all registered shetland flocks have less than 10 sheep. No room for genetically different lines of spots.

Second point.....if there is a ho-hum attitude in the shetland breeder world, what caused it?
Spotted sheep are easy to buy. We now have plenty of black and white spotted ewes and rams, who can produce spotted lambs with ease. If a breeder has the room for one or two spotted rams, these spotted lines can reproduce lambs for years. So now....if a breeder happens to have a spotted lamb arrive, it doesn't get the awe and admiration that they used to get.
See, now, here is the point where I get off the band-wagon. I find the arrival of a spotted lamb way too exciting. Why? Because I never know what form those spots will take!

I believe the excitement has been mis-placed. The poster of Shetland spotting shows many many types of spotting. These sheep can come in a wild array of stripes and spots. I have been trying for years to develop a bielset spot.
For those of us not familiar with shetland names, that is a full ring around the neck of a different color....I would expect it's most common form is in a white ring on a black sheep.
Have you ever heard a breeder bragging about a bielset ring?....I'll bet you haven't. The breeders have been led to believe that the "perfect" spotted shetland only comes in one array of spots.
In fact, people jumping on the band-wagon only want one kind of spotting on their shetland sheep. They only want to buy those spotted sheep. I am coming to believe that the emphasis on that one set of spotting may well kill the interest in spotted shetlands. Boring!
If I never hear the expresion used again...I won't miss it. A yuglet is a yuglet. That's all. A sokket is a sokket....and believe it or not....there is no term in shetland spotting names for a white tip on the tail. All the common term bandied about for a spotted shetland has done is banish the true names for spotting in the breed. And along with it I guess, the excitement.
Ho hum....another one of those.
People no longer mention if their true spotted shetland has a ring around it's neck...that isn't included in their short-hand name for spotted sheep. I miss the term: yuglet, bielset, sokket....and who cares if they have a spotted tail?

What is wrong with a wildly spotted shetland? The term flecket was the one first used with S0555....he was a flecket. Flecket has been termed a bad it has been referred to as a "breeding mistake". Spots are spots....what is wrong with trying to develop a bielset without the yuglet or smirslet face? Why not try to get a yuglet without the body spots? How about the body spots with a plain black face? How about our own brand of oreo sheep? But, no.... the emphasis has been re-directed to only one form....that "perfect" spotted sheep.
The one that fits in the letters. How sad.
The brave spotted breeders have been combining patterns and spots....oh, you won't hear anything about the spotted grey or spotted musket....which is actually a spotted pattern.
I reallly don't know why they are so maligned...they are a lovely thing, and their fleeces are usually great!
What you hear about is the rare yuglet katmoget and spotted gulmoget. Now, I will admit, they are dramatically different. I never understood why people would intentionally "break" a patterned sheep with the addition of spots to it's line. Doesn't that diminish the idea of a katmoget or gulmoget in the first place? The idea, I thought, was to have a dominant pattern that covered everything else. Well, having brought a katmoget to my place...I now see the charm. Breeders get bored with katmogets...and eventually they will get bored with gulmogets.
If I had a lot of them sitting around, I would try to combine them with spots myself.
But, along with the-spotted-wonder in large or small letters....the spotted katmoget, spotted gulmoget, and gulmoget-katmoget will lose their trend.

I may have to start an underground spotted list...where people discuss spots without prejudice. Fleckets are valued for their wild spots. Where other topics are left to other lists....and bislset, and fronet can be heard and spelled out again. I get my excitement in small wiggling packages....not at Christmastime....but in the lambing time.
While I am waiting for a rare post about spots, maybe I should start a batch of cookies?


For those few folks who like to look for the worst in their neighbors. I have a short note.
Don't assume you know what I am thinking. Don't assume I have a secret purpose in writing on my own blog.
It's my blog...not your's.
I do have friends, they know that I am writing to what I think might be a problem with the subject of spotted shetlands. Not to discuss anyone elses' breeding practices. You can breed green sheep. I don't care, I'll even have a perfect right to promote your own spotted green katmogets...or whatever you breed.
Good for you! I may want one someday.
I simply miss the discussions of spots as exciting marvels of creation. They do not all fit into one box.
And while we are at it.... there is entirely too much emphasis on "political correctness" in our world.
Stand your either hot...or cold....otherwise we may all wake up one day to find another culture has over-come us/US without a fight.
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

ho ho ho

Way cool!
I like this time of year. I especially like the weather here in Missouri. Yes, I know you are having warm weather up north where I used to live.....but the witch-hazel is blooming. Wow, that will stop you in mid-step. What a heavenly smell in the middle of winter. Opps....sorry winter hasn't started yet. But my time-clock is still set to northern time. Winter starts the first of December and lasts until the first of April. Ish....I used to hate winters.
We are still having frost in the valley. That is slowing down the grass, up on the top of the hills it is really green. Witch-hazel is a bush and has these little waxey looking blooms. Little thin leaf things open up in the the middle of a flower....about the size of a berry. I grabbed a branch on the way back from the little-ram pen and inhaled. Witch-hazel grows along the creeks. I really wanted to cut it off and take it inside....but it is a living thing....and I have a problem with that.
Isn't that a funny thing?....My yards and gardens can quickly be over grown with living things that don't belong. I have a great deal of trouble pruning, or cutting trees down....or catching fish.
Which is why I mentioned fishing without a worm. I like the anticipation of fishing....but not the catching.
As any older person, I seem to be thinking a lot about my youth....especially all the sights and sounds and smells of Christmas. Glass ornaments were real glass, if you dropped them, trimming the tree, they broke in a thousand pieces of glass and could cut. Tinsel was real metal. Ornaments could be wound with real wires and little pieces that could be eaten. The cardboard chimneys had real spun "angel glass". If I was lucky, someone might use real candy canes. My best-friend was my cousin Dicky. We spent all our waking time together until his family moved to town. Dicky and I spent a lot of the Christmas season prowling under grandma's tree...poking at ornaments. Folding and unfolding the shiney cardboard ones. Snitching candy canes to eat. One of our best games was unscrewing one of the bulbs....which were real big and loose bulb turned off all the tree lights. Then we had to go around and round testing each bulb to find the one that wasn't tight. Must have driven the grown-ups to distraction.
I still have one of Grandma's old german seems to be the only thing that goes on my tree, besides lights and candy canes. If we don't have a tree, I cut a branch (only one that is on the ground already) he he....and hang santa on a branch.
When we were walking the dogs down the road yesterday, I found a big white pine branch that had broken off in the storm. Today, I am going back and cut off all the greens for the porch.
Free greens...gott'a love it.
Go hug's gonna be Christmas!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

what do you do for fun?

Good morning all you holiday shoppers.
While I was shoving a couple of ewes into a pen with a ram yesterday....
Yes, I am still breeding, I had to break up all-but-one group during the storm.

And, now, while you DO understand that letting a wagging tailed ewe in with a ram during breeding about as fun as it gets. I was thinking we almost never discuss real life here.
Yes, sheep are a big part of any shepherd's life.....but there is more.
The judge at Naile asked me half-way through the show's classes...."Are you having fun yet?"
Yes....I have fun going to shows....I like dragging my little sheep around on halters. But that's not all I do.
My best friend is my husband....and I still get a kick out of doing anything together....from a walk in the a ride to the store.
Yes, I can wander around the pastures petting sheep some days....but I like other stuff too. Right now, I am halfway through buying children's books from an old favorite author from my childhood. I used to love getting lost reading a book!
Now, I feel a twinge of I have grown-up duties that are being neglected. But, I am working my way through the many books on my list....and some days will just read them cover-to-cover. When did you read a book.....just for fun?
And wow...don't you just love getting stuff in the mail?
Some day I am going to read all the Raggetty Ann and Andy books!
Remember how they used to go out in the deep, deep woods.?...that's where I live!
I know I have those books here in a box out somewhere in the barn.
And when I retire....I have boxes of old Uncle Scrooge comics to read.
I've been saving them for years!
My other passion is geneaology. I have been working on my own family since 1980. There are always a few lines of ancestors who seem to elude the written records.....and finding stuff out about them is as good as any mystery story.....which is what I am reading right now.
This year I found dna testing....and we are working our way through distant cousins for the information that dna testing tells us about our own ancestors.
I suppose loving a good mystery is why I love spotted sheep so much....although we can now say with a lot of certainity....that a certain pair of sheep will turn out spotted lambs....there is almost no way to know just WHAT those lambs will look like.
Just this morning, I was shooing do-si-do....a little black ewe with white in all the right places....away from old Pan and his horned friends. Now I enjoy a good mating, but there are limits to my breeding....and this girl just has to wait until next year!
I was also out casting a line into the pond this morning. It's staying above freezing and the pond is right where I walk from barn to house. Molly the goose is laying next to it right now. We have a few poles standing against the fence out by the bench.
I made a few casts, and Angel, our great pyr jumped in with two feet to see if there were any fish. Someday, I might even put a worm on my hook. There is something relaxing about casting a bobber into the water and just watching it.
Kind of like watching the bobbin going around with the yarn forming on it.
Which I also like....but never have a chance with 7 cats in the house.
I like to cook too. We bought a little waffle maker for the holidays. All our children are coming for a few days....and I wanted to try something more exciting than toast.
My favorite thing to make is dessert.
When my mom lived with us, Christmas dinner was the most important event of the year. All December we baked cookies. That was so we could test them properly before the day came.
One of her specialties was a lemon torte....we called it angel pie....and it always disappeared even after the big meal was done.
My grandmother always had Christmas dinner while we were kids. She lived next it wasn't a big trip. My Grandmother was a German lady, and she made a form of Springerly cookie. It was a big production, and took years to figure out how she made them. They have no butter....but "frost" themselves while they are baking.
The other wonderful thing Grandmother Mary Kay made was holiday bread. A sweet dough with raisons and fruit and cinnamon. Any holiday of the year....Grandmother made a round loaf for all her families. If we didn't have home-made just wasn't a holiday.
My mother, Irene, never caught on to Grandmother's bread...but I snitched enough raw dough during my childhood to know how to make it taste right. So I am not bad with the sweet bread making either.
Unfortunately as we grow older....the good things often hang around our middles after eating I don't bake much right now. The two of us are always trying to lose a couple of inches.
It's looking pretty green outside today....with a week of warm weather coming up...I expect the ewes will be grazing on new grass in a couple of days. I will still have to get some round bales delivered....but it takes the pressure off.

What are you going to do for fun this week?
Take some time out while you have the energy....and do something fun!
bopeep, looking out for you.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

winter comes to missouri

We had heard that Missouri had ice storms....but had never been in one in the two years we have lived here. In some places the ice was some places there was no ice....We were as I mentioned, lucky.
We traveled west from our valley for an hour. going to the nearest wally-world. There were hundreds and hundreds of trees that had been cut out of the road. That's just the ones that happened to fall in the road. And....they have snow....not just a dusting...not just a couple of inches....but mounds of snow!
That's what I came here to avoid. There were snow piles in the parking lots and corners of the streets higher than the looked like the piles that remain in the big lots in the spring up north. I would be sooooo depressed if we had snow on the ground. They all mentioned that the snow was deeper north of there.....I was glad we had no reason to go north!
We hurried back to our greenish valley thankful that wew didn't have more damage to the woods....and happy the sheep could still graze. Yes, I still have a couple of round bales sitting out there in the pasture....but the girls spend most of their days looking for fresh blades of grass to munch. If we had inches of snow on the ground....I would be in trouble.
Yesterday we traveled is two hours to Cape Girardeau....there was some ice damage to trees, but nothing like the snow adventure to the west. We spent the day doing Christmas shopping.....keep the credit cards away from me....I am a dangerous woman in a shopping mall. Fortunately we don't get to shop in real stores very often.
Today it is a windy cold day....I think if piglet were here he would be hanging up in a tree....a good day to watch the sheep from the window.
May you all enjoy the holiday spirit,

Monday, December 04, 2006

there's weather...and then there's WEATHER

It's amazing how much I can talk about the weather!
When I last left the storm was coming....I thought of firewood...buckets of water....cooked people food.....shelters for the sheep....getting the loose sheep into the barn......but not how to open a can of tuna without electricity!
We are some of the lucky people living in Missouri who already have their electricity will still be days before some of the wires are repaired. I love my electric company. You have no idea how much you miss the electrical things in life until you have to do without them.
Our closest neighbors called us about 10 the night the storm was raging. They wanted to warn us we couldn't get out because of the high water in the creek. During our brief conversation the lights went out, along with the phone....the computer was already shut down....the TV stopped telling us the storm news....and we started a fire in the wood stove. I had candles going in the front room and the kitchen. Someone had to stay awake to add it is a very small wood we could keep an eye on the cats. Soon they were all sleeping in the living room to be near the stove.
Don't you wonder what the cats and dog think about living in the dark? Do you think they wondered why we were all sitting in a dark room with not much heat? "Why don't they turn on the lights??"
About 4 in the morning, with gale force winds husband woke me to say someone was baaing. One lone ram lamb was outside in a pen. He was terrified of the flapping noise from the wind and the tarps....but while my husband held the flashlight, I tried and tried to catch the little guy in a pen...and couldn't. We closed the back door of the barn....keeping the dog inside....the sheep who had been so wet the night before....after 5 inches of had frozen fleeces from the cold wind. The minute that the rain changed over to ice, the lights went out. We couldn't see the water out there....but we could hear the roaring noise of high water going over the dam by the rams....and running in a circle outside our fences. Boy, when the lights go out and there is no is DARK out here.
We kept the wood stove burning all the next day...and into the my husband went into the dark, cold bedroom to lie down, he mentioned running out of wood. ARGH!!!! I though we had plenty....but it seems that if the weather stays way below use up a lot of wood. Fortunately for all our critters, the electricity came back on before morning the second night.
Enough cabin fever....I needed nuflor and some more small bales of hay for the sheep penned inside the barn. I couldn't let the girls out into the fields because the water was running too high behind the barn for them to cross. They had to be content with what little grass they could thaw, and the hay I fed in the barn. We wondered why we hadn't seen a single car go by since the storm started. When we drove a mile or so....we saw the reason....a big oak with it's leaves still on, had ripped out of the soaked ground and fallen all the way across the gravel road. Someone with a chain saw had opened a tunnel through the smaller branches at one side....and we drove through. But we couldn't make it to the highway, another pine tree...too heavy to move, was across the road. It was on a steep hill and a few 4-wheel drive cars had already gone around it by driving in the ditch....but with out little truck we couldn't take a chance. So we backed down the hill and took the fork in the road. Fortunately, that road had been cleared of trees and the water wasn't too high to drive through.
We are still cold here...the pond outside froze last night. I am trying to keep the cats in until the edges thaw. Our big cat fell into the middle.... one Christmas....and he had a really hard time getting back to the shore. Fortunately I went out side at the moment he ran for the house....there were wet tail patches frozen on the ground where he ran for home. Flash freeze the cat.
Just wanted you all to know we are fine here....we can again drive across the creek. The computer and tv's work. I can cook, run hot water for dishes....and open tuna cans without a church-key. I'll add can-opener to my christmas cookie shiopping list.
Wishing you all good weather and friendly sheep. May you stay healthy and enjoy all the Christmas-time preparations.
This was our first ice storm here in Missouri. I will say, after the fact, that is it beautiful!