It has almost been two weeks since I was inspired with some subject to write about.
The yahoo shetland lists have been...to me...boring.
The political scene is depressing.
The weather is frightful.
I did start a new blog about family geneaology...which is what I am spending my time on right now.
But inspiration comes in strange forms.
I like Shetland sheep. My daughter actually uses that phrase as a cuss-word when I am not on-my-game. Which means, I am not being an efficient mother, or wife, or carpenter, or house-keeper, or antique-dealer. Whatever I am failing at in present life....can ultimately be caused by "Hi, I'm Mary Ellen, and I like Shetland sheep!" ( add sing-song music.)
What started out for me as a way to clear some old pastures near our new house....and began with three Shetland ewes. Became quickly an obsession. I wanted shetland sheep....I needed shetland sheep...I bought shetland sheep!!!!
My first fall as a shetland owner, I had two rams...my original three ewe lambs....and a small flock of older shetland ewes. First mistakes...OK we all make some. My old ewes hadn't been bred for 5 years. Now, we all know that is a bad start. My first Shetland ram was kicked out of his happy home before I had the fences up, because he was beating on someone. Yes, I HAD to have him because he had spots in his pedigree. My second ram had lost his sire in a fight....another big no-no.
My first lambing season was a disaster. My babies didn't breed, my old girls were divided between didn't breed ... bred and lambs died..... bred on their other farm to a non-shetland, and had twins!....and....bred and produced a ram....who had to be pulled!
So the first spring I had two lovely shetland/icelandic crosses....and a black ram lamb, with a big head. Not a very good start.
Does that explain why I bought and bought shetlands from others?
No, maybe not....add to that bad scene: a dear mother...who I had failed to care for....now, in a nursing home. My life of 14+ years had run-amuk....I felt guilty. I was not doing my job of care-giver. I failed. I was seeking success in something...anything. Shetlands were my chance. In raising Shetlands I could recover my life. I ran full-speed into the second breeding season with maybe 30 sheep....including 4? rams. We won't even mention the chickens.
The second lambing season was better....if you ignore the ram that bent every gate breaking out in the fall to breed every other ewe. I tried 350 pound test chain to hold him...but small as he was...he had to go. One of my old ewes tried to go into labor, my vet said... wait, she'll be fine...she wasn't. Another hole in the ground. Poor old girl. Lisa, one of the old girls who hated me and every other human had a c-section. I didn't wait. The lamb died. It was OK...it was another black ram. Trial by fire. I STILL liked Shetlands.
A few long years later, lambings are going better....well, not last year....but maybe this year.
Why am I still doing this? I kind of know who I am now....I'm lots older than I think I am....I like where I am living. I don't feel I have to prove myself...which is a nice place to be.
I'm perhaps, content. Oh, sheep still die, and are born. I'm hoping my "real" life doesn't NEED shetlands anymore.
But, "Hi, I'm Mary Ellen, and I LIKE Shetland sheep."
Which brings me to the subject of this post.
WHY do I like Shetland sheep. Well, maybe first...they are sheep. There is a big difference between cows, llamas, pigs...chickens....and sheep. Oh yes, they do bolt....they can be shy....they can be forward, especially with a grain bucket in your hands. They ARE sheep. They step on my feet, they dance on their hind legs...they run and jump in the snow. ...which may be on my ground by morning.
They are curious...to a fault. They will wiggle into spaces too small for a mouse. They will have a sheepy-fit at the worst possible time, like when you are trying to convince a new client to buy them. They have a somewhat tender health system....which means you have to be psychic and know they are sick before they show any symptoms. They can be both frustrating and endearing. There is nothing more rewarding than running out of hands as ewes come circle around to be petted. So sheep are something special....but why Shetlands?
You know...all the reasons....they are smaller, they have lots of colors...they have lots of patterns....and then there are spots. You might have noticed I love spots. I marvel at those lambs who appear with sweet spotted faces and feet. I study the difference in the spots between ewes...rams...lambs. I like the variety. I have had llamas...I have had other sheep breeds. My girls didn't like to mix. They seemed happier with just shetlands to jump with..to butt...to push away from the hay. Wool is wool...If you can't appreciate the personalities you can have any variety of sheep....or other fiber animals. If you are lucky enough to actually BE a farmer...they may just be sheep....not "people" like Buttons, and Do-si-do, and Polka, and Velvet, and Donna and Kitty. Yes, two of my first three sheep still live with me. I decided years ago, there was too much to learn about Shetlands...I needed to spend all my time with one breed.
I am happy with that decision. I still hope my life will evolve...I can almost imagine a life without my girls....but not quite. I think cutting back is upon me, but I would like to keep my old girls and try to out-live them. I highly recommend Shetlands. They are a learning experience. They could be your best friends.
Did you see the published obituary from Julie in the NASSA news? How beautiful. Everyone of us seems to have that same love and respect for those old Shetland ewes, when we have had the opportunity to live with them for years. I hope you have the opportunity, too.
Yes, I still like Shetlands.