Friday, January 26, 2007

Minwawe Pan 4-18-2002 to 1-26-2006

Farewell to our Pan, a handsome and gentle ram. Born in Wisconsin at Memengwa Hill, Pan came to Missouri and became head ram at Meadowwoods. He was our first black and white spotted ram. He was always stunning, and lived in the head ram pen by the road. His horns were different and he passed this trait of forward curving horns to many of his ram lambs.
I'm too distressed to write the glowing descriptions of Pan's many off-spring.
I'm sorry.
He was one of a kind.
There will never be another ram so amazing and calm.
We are hoping there will be a Pan-too among his spring lambs.
But he will never be replaced in memory.
His sad shepherd,

Saturday, January 20, 2007


It has almost been two weeks since I was inspired with some subject to write about.
The yahoo shetland lists have 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 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, 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 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 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 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.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

making life beautiful

Wow, I looked, there is nothing on the yahoo groups I care to discuss.
So lacking my camera batteries....which were mis-filed during the Christmas holiday....I will just comment on life as I see it now.
OK, I am a little older than last year.....but we managed a "moderately rough hike" for a few miles in the mountains for Christmas. A lovely day with the young folks leading the way....Yes, I was slower than anyone. But I made it and stood on the edge of the tallest waterfall in Missouri.....with my son holding on to me, so I wouldn't fall off.
So, I can still do some interesting things....even at my extended "middle age".
I was making a list of resolutions....ha ha.....still optomistic about keeping some!
And....being a forward looking person, I started with where I want to be in ten years. Above the ground is a good one. Having fewer sheep to tie me down to the ranch is another.
For one husband did not choose to raise sheep. It didn't matter what I was doing on the farm in Wisconsin. We were tied to the house anyway....caring for our parents, in their later years. Children could always stay for a few days to feed sheep and chickens. But, out here in the middle of the woods....we can't expect to have family step in for us.
Did you know that we lived in the same house, on a 45 foot lot in the city for 25 years?
Moving to a farm in Wisconsin was part of my beautify-life moves.
What do you find to be beautiful? Right now, today.
Can you enjoy that beauty every day...once a week...once a month?
If can you change your life to enjoy the beautiful things in life more this year?
One of the beautiful things here in Missouri is the blooming of the witch-hazel. Although I don't remember it happening this early last has been blooming on warm sunny days for about a month. What a lovely smell....sometimes it stops me. Sometimes I actually walk around to get into an air-stream carrying the heavy perfume. More mild than roses...but kind of heady that way. I enjoy watching sunsets. When I was a child we lived about two blocks from a lake....Minnesota, you know.....and I would ride my bike to the lake in the catch the sunset over the water. In Wisconsin, we didn't have water....but the house stood on a hill, and I could see both sunrise and sunset from either side of the house. Here, we have a small pond by the house....I can sit by the pond or watch sunsets from the computer room....which has windows overlooking the same pond.
Here is a some people just love being inside their homes....doing stuff? Like cooking, and spinning...and knitting....and reading, or family stuff?
I must have gotten tired of being inside our home when we lived in the city. I remember it as kind of a was hard to work in the yard without talking to was hard to take a walk without running into a neighbor. We spent a lot of time wandering around Fort Snelling. There were always chips of pottery washed up on the shore. Deer running on the island, birds reeling on the cliffs. I guess, even when we were first married....we liked to explore. I remember putting two dollars in the gas tank of the old 55 chevy and driving until the tank was half empty....then coming back. So when I think of making time for beautiful things....I am also thinking of jumping in the car and exploring.
There is a lot of joy in finding a beautiful new spot in the world. Sometimes, it is so want to share it with someone else. I will say, that I enjoy having a good friend to share my life. It makes me look less silly when I find something dumb to do. Like buying a fixer-upper....or making a pasture in the middle of the woods.
Right now I am thinking about the ocean....are you drawn to places where your ancestors lived?
I have only seen the ocean five times. I think I should explore the ocean in the next ten years.
I know I had an ancestor who was a marine in the revolution. ...and another who traveled around the cape from new england to maybe that is why I am drawn to the sea?
Have you noticed your ewes getting fatter?
Mine seem to be....and they are also bottomless pits.
More hay coming today.
Hope your day is pretty!