Monday, January 28, 2008

calm before the storm

Happy monday.
All is quiet here....flurry of activity is winding down.....progress is bing made but slowly.
No sign of fluffy wool instead of a ram in the back pasture. It is cloudy with a little drizzel once in a while. Warmer tho. We ran out of our own clover hay this week, so have started feeding the only hay available in an hours drive...Alfalfa. Yup.....that crumbly mix of stems and leaf bits that covers the sheep as her neighbor happily chews her mouthful.
With that thought in mind....I am wondering if I can afford to have my sheep sheared this year.
Shearing costs nearly doubled here last spring because of gas costs mainly. So I have been wondering what I could do myself.
To that end, I would love to hear from anyone who has clipped away the wool from their own sheep....I'm not expecting many fleeces to be usable. so what did you use? How many times did you cut the sheep? How long does it take? Would you do it again?
Peeps trying to cut costs, and feed the sheep.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Full Moon

Guess it is a full moon week. We were doing pretty well with the ram downsize. We felt that we were making progress....even if it was slow. Do you ever see it coming? The full moon seems to have thrown me a curve. It has been a busy couple of weeks.
We were taking turns doing chores this afternoon. That meant it was dusk when my husband came back. He was feeding at the ram pen across the creek. "How many rams are supposed to be over there now?" I counted them on my name. Three old guys, three yearlings, and four ram lambs. "Which one is missing?"
It didn't take us long after we got a flashlight. The rams were still eating grain in their pen. Closing them in, I scanned the hill for a dead ram. I already knew it was a ram lamb that was missing. Yup....found him. Well, what was left of him. Four piles of black wool tufts. Circular piles, showing where the cat had set the carcass down and pulled the wool off. It was dark now. I wasn't able to see if there was any evidence the cat had eaten parts on the way out of the pasture. The first pile was near the middle of the pasture...the last two were at the edge of the woods. I couldn't go any further in the dark. Not even with two guns....We opened the gate to the feeding pen. I wanted the remaining rams to be able to run away. No sense in closing them in. It will likely be a week or so before our cat comes back for more food. Maybe I can get the game camera set up by them. I sure would hate to lose a pregnant ewe. I didn't get a good count on the ewes this morning either. Darn....hope they are all there tomorrow.
Full moon....figures.

Monday, January 21, 2008


This was a discussion I saw on the new shetland list. If you haven't been invited to that list can contact me. I don't have the time to indulge, but I would be happy to hook anyone up that does.
I'm not talking about new years goals....I'm talking about life goals.
My new years goal list has lose-weight on it again....I had one new years that didn't include that.....that was fun to not worry about my weight. he he.....I have gained over 40 pounds since I moved south. Now here is an interesting thought. Why? I am mainly a binge eater....emotional eater....sweets fancier. I shouldn't have gained weight from a move.....??? Or should I. all those folks trying to take off a few pounds and get healthier....let me know when you find the answer.
What are your life goals?
How are you doing at reaching them?
If you are a younger may just be trying to hold onto a house or job long enough to raise your kids. Life goals would be family centered. Raising sheep, where the home is in the country is a really good way to keep the children involved in your life.
If you are a middle aged may be trying to balance caring for parents along with your growing family. My parents would have enjoyed sheep dad loved to build things and play with our cats when we lived in the city. My mother loved the cats too.....but didn't want to live on a farm. Too much like her own life, I guess. If you are a care-giver for older parents, get help. You won't be able to do it all yourself. Some parents have a way of out-living their children.
If you were as old as I am would be balancing life goals realized, with life goals not experienced. What have I done in my life that I did well.....did badly....didn't like...loved? For years....I said that if I was given a terminal time for my life....I would go out and join an archaeology site. The pleasure of being outside, with team members....finding some lovely rock or bone...or bit of silver.....was so exciting to me that it colored all my life goals there-after.
You have to understand the city life. Cars, busses, shops, people, jobs, wages, fancy houses, achievement. Being in the newspapers, on tv, at parties, holding parties, dancing, newyears eve parties, getting raises, promoted, being boss.
I have recreated myself several times. I'm not complaining about what I have done....but I've done it already. For the last ten years I have been living in the country instead of the city. That is a joy right there. When I was standing at country auctions, I was so jealous. The country side is so much more relaxing than the city. I'm finally there. Whooppee!
So now what? Well, I did bring some bills with me. And some sheep, cats, a goose, and now I have dogs too. I had already mentioned that my sheep were a substitute for my care-giving job. But I developed goals along the way.
What were my goals for raising sheep? First, I wanted them to have lambs. Don't first year everything happened to keep me from that goal. Once I got them to reproduce, I wanted spots. No....really!
New shepherds may not understand now that spots were rare when I started. There were a few breeders who had occasional spots, from certain lines.....but few breeders who actually WANTED them. I wanted them, and bought as many sheep as I could find and afford, that might have spotted lambs. It's been a few years now, spotted lambs are everywhere. If you don't have any go down the street and get a few. So why am I still breeding spotted sheep?
Well, there has been a recent emphasis on patterned sheep...on A-I sheep....on crosses of those lines....even with spotted sheep. I'm not involved in those breedings. I like rams....most of them....and I don't like poking holes in my girls. I have been doing a little breeding with colors, just for my own fun. I even bred with a grey ram this year to see what that would do to my fleeces.
my life's goal is not to provide you with a show sheep.
I have no interest in building a better sheep.
What I like having are the cutest lambs in the world. I want to breed little fluffy lambs with spots that are cute, different, and permanent. I want to sell the type of lamb that is so cute you want to pick it up and hug it. I would not be happy if all my spotted sheep looked the same. For that reason I collected several different rams with different types of spotting. I figure I did fine. I do have cute lambs. I've even sold lovely lambs who were friendly.
I want one more big bunch of spotted lambs. Lambs who race by in a blurr of spotted colors as they round the fence in their lamb races. I think that will make me happy. Then I want to find homes for them all. If the lambs born this year all lived out their life at my would take me until 2020 to find time for some of my other life goals.
No, I don't want to wait that long.
I kept three spotted ewe lambs that were black and white last year, and one that was grey. Of the other three ewe lambs who are now yearlings...only one is registered. I would like to breed those four spotted ewe lambs next fall, and see what they produce. The three are Minwawe Pan's last girls. So it appears that my life goals of breeding sheep are winding down. I have a few friends, and cousins in this world that I would enjoy visiting. It would be fun to go away from home WITH my husband, instead of separately. We could call our kids and say..."WE are coming to visit" instead of just one of us.
I NEED time to walk on the beach. That has become my new life goal.
What a funny goal for a midwest girl raised near a lake. Our family didn't take many vacations when I was a kid. We went fishing often. I remember one winter when my dad and my brother made a wood fishing boat in the basement. It had four seats, and as smallest, I got to sit on the little one in the front. My dad was really good at fishing. He had a little phrase, when he got there. "Let me show you how to do that." He used that a lot as he showed me how to fish. I remember riding in his work truck out on the lake in the dark of winter. Windows open, hands on the door....ready to jump out if it went thru the ice. The ice that cracked and goaned in the cold darkness. One year we had a warm spell that threatened his ice-fishing house. Dad and I doned ice-skates and sloshed thru the water every afternoon to move the house out of the water and let it dry as the ice refroze. We skated fast along the shore as big chunks of ice cracked under our weight and tilted on the surface.
By the way....they had to break a hole in the basement wall to get that boat out in the spring.
I wonder if lack of planning has anything to do with the way I have lived my life? Who cares.
It's been good.
So what I have to say this January as we wait for those wet bouncing take out your life's goals. Unpack them, and see how you are doing. Maybe a little planning will get your boat out of the basement.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Goodness, fellow shepherds.....I am sooo sorry you have all that cold. Fortunately, usually the sheep do just fine. But I hate drawing water and having it freeze over before it gets to the sheep....don't you?
From the looks of our forcast you are going to stay cold all week. Ish!
That means we have lots of days that may not get above freezing here. cubes in the buckets. Frost on the dogs, and the sheep.
Snow.....snow! Argh!
Glad we have some freshly ground meat for the dogs. Our younger pyr doesn't know how to curl up in the hay on the barn floor. The older pyr does. We have to give them enough calories to keep them going this week. So many times....I will get up in the night, and go out to listen. What are those dogs barking about????
If our little dog in the house hears a noise.....especially a car....she barks and the other two dogs start to bark too. I have found the dogs barking at airforce jets, trucks miles away on the highway.....crows. The crows here are as big as chickens. And sometimes the dogs hear coyotes or dogs. We have only heard a cat once down here, but have lost more sheep to big cats than to other predators. If there are coyotes near-by feasting, we go out and shoot the treetops. It seems to move them away. I get up because I don't want coyotes or dogs to think my prys are their only problem.
I was glad to hear that I wasn't the only shepherd who didn't get all their wool skirted, washed, and sold. I had to work on fleeces this year because I needed the room in the barn for our hay. Unfortunately some fleeces got rained on before I got them clean and in boxes....I would have burned all the fleeces...except some of them were hauled from wisconsin to missouri. Now that I had them here....I sure didn't have the nerve to waste them all.
Maybe some year we will figure out what to do with all that wool.
Think warm thoughts...wear extra clothes....and keep your mittens on!
Almost February.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Is it over yet?

I know I shouldn't wish my life away....but I'm not enjoying January. Wow, do you think it will be warmer in February? I know there are lots of you up north of me who are below zero....But....that is a relative experience. Relative to what kind of cold you are used to. People here in the almost south ask me why I moved here. I answer....the cold. Not the cold like we have in Missouri....but the bone chilling unrelenting cold of Minnesota, and Wisconsin. 26 below this morning in northern Minnesota. That's throw-the-water-up-in-the-air time. I always add descriptions of water vaporizing in that kind of cold. People here stare and consider that possibility.
Now I will admit...I got my husband up this morning to light a fire in the wood stove. Even in the middle of the living room it was too cold to sit and watch the political pretend news. Consider that these homes were built before insulation. The windows don't always have storm windows. This year, I was going to add window we used in the north. First isn't at the end of every aisle in these stores. Wouldn't you know....I have a hair dryer now.....bought to dry the puppys after a bath. Great pyr puppies look like fuzzy santa-bears when they are young. But it is January and I haven't seen any 3-m window kits yet. Oh well, soon we will have to put an air conditioner in the window anyway.
I am lost in thought about shearing. My sheep start the rise earlier here. By March, they are sticky and matted. We have discussed the possibility of shearing in February. But it's pretty cold right now. What will February be like? I know when I shear, I will have to close one or both west doors on our little barn. The winds has been whipping thru for weeks. Hard to even feed hay without freezing from the cold wind funneling thru the barn. The doors have been propped open to keep them from more breakage in the gales. We have had a few storms thru this year.
What are you going to do about shearing? There are lots of folks who make it a party. Food and crafts....selling fleeces as they come off. I have always had food. But I can't imagine talking to guests during the long hours of catching sheep and bagging fleeces. I used to have index cards with the names of the sheep to drop in the bag. Unfortunately, if I have to catch each sheep to hand them to the shearer....I am not the one who bags the fleece. I'm the only person who can tell the names of the sheep. It is really easier to find a certain color if the fleeces have the names of the sheep with them. Oh well, I have never had the time or money to add value to these sheep by selling wool. You have got to be kidding....skirt all of these 90+ many years would that take me? Besides, my sheep were dirty in wisconsin. We had trees, and thistle, and burdoc....I fed alfalfa hay when I could find it. Yup dirty sheep.
Now my sheep are half fenced into the woods. I don't mind ordinary woods....but cedar trees hurt when the sheep stand under them in the rain. They are as bad as thistle...but cover the backs of the sheep more evenly. We have small "stick-tights" instead of burdoc.....I can pick them off the dogs....but not the wooly sheep. The biggest problem is in the sheep doing the job of clearing the land. It had been a long time since there was grazing on my land. The rose bushes pushed out into the grasses. There isn't a day that goes by, that I don't have several sheep wandering in with rose bushes caught in their wool. Sometimes the branch is trailing behind and I can step on it to remove it. Sometimes I have to judge the moment to pull and not lose my hand from the thorns. If you can shear your sheep....go to it! I've never been too excited about doing it myself. If you can skirt the fleece...wash or spin it...or even afford to send it out....Congratulations! Go for it. Get some added value! I told someone sheepy that I had spent several days in 90 degrees skirting fleeces. I did! I took out any really veggy places....ripped out backs...skirted legs....lost necks.... packed the wool in open plasitc bags and stuffed it into large plastic storage boxes. Then I stacked the boxes in the back yard. They winced at that fact...."you mean you left the wool outside in the rain?" Yup.....oh well. The boxes haven't blown away yet. Going on 9 here. Time to go feed the girls and let them out in the hay ground. They have pretty much eaten everything out there..... so it is no langer a hay's pretty much a hay ground. At least they get lots of exercise.
Almost February.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Watching hay

Are we half done yet?
Do I have enough hay to get thru the month?
Can I afford enough hay to get thru next month?
Should I worm them now?
What about CDT shots?
Wow, there are so many questions we have to answer before we can claim shepherd status.
This is usually a down time in sheep-life.
This year we have the newest thing in talk groups. I am definitely too old for this stuff.
Not only can I think of ten things more important than spouting my opinion, but I can't even figure out how to do it. Honest!
I spent minutes there today, trying to find the last comments in a "group". I didn't.
Oh well....better to do the dishes. Besides, in this "close-knit" group of shetland shepherds, there are never any disagreements that can make me chuckle. It might raise my eyebrow to see who is who's friend.
Really? I didn't know.
Shepherds are a singular folk. We have to be. It's hard enough to find a vet when we need one. We sure can't tell some other breeder we don't agree with their color concepts, or marking choices. I came really close to being "friends" with the older group of breeders. You know, the ones who didn't mark down anything involving "white spots". Horrors! Broken fleeces were spoken about in whispers....not posted on any board that would accept the breeders bragging rights. "that spot will go away when you breed her" Now discussions include eye spots that are too big...too small....too connected....too much the same color of the sheep. OK....which end is 50% black???? Should I use yuglet or not? If the white isn't perfectly fitting into the most recent marking discussion....maybe I should cull. Produces poor spots....doesn't come up for cookies....won't walk on a halter. Got dirty eating hay. I just don't get into this new stuff.
A sheep is a sheep is a sheep.
What in the world is wrong with that?
Pretty soon they will be building sheep to show by cloning. Whoops, they already do a straw...get the perfect sheep.
I'm too old for this stuff. I don't appreciate the beauty of percentages. I appreciate the beauty of sheep. If I should decide that a sheep has several bad points...and I should "cull" sure aren't going to hear about it. I may want to sell that sheep to you. Then I'll put out a list showing all that sheep's good points...and likely add that I HATE selling this sheep, but I've run out of room. Here's a clue.....if a breeder has really run out of room, and loves all their sheep.....they move or stop breeding. Well, there is the alternative. We get older and change our priorities too. Do you know how amazing it is to have a breeder with the flock number 1.....10.....200? Imaging having sheep for ten years in a row.....20? Wow. Those folks are settled!
They really must love sheep.
I have, since I started buying sheep and breeding the rams to the ewes....saved certain lines of sheep for myself. Sometimes, it was the best marked sheep. I almost lost a very good friend because I wouldn't sell my first yuglet bielset sokket ram to her. I kept him...he was mine! I kept him pretty well until last January when I lost him to a couple of rams who should have been pulled out of his pen. Maybe I should have sold him....too late. I'm still learning some of the in's and outs of sheep. This year, I pulled. There were times when I refused to sell lambs at all....yes, I lost clients then too. But, I always found someone to sell them sheep. In the last couple of years, I have tried to part with some of those special lines...those special sheep. I have actually sold them. Some of them have been sold again....I regret having my little sheep moved all over the country. In some cases, I think they are well placed....and likely happy. Maybe happier than they would be in my flock. Better fed. I know many ewes depend on their daughters and dams to help out at lambing time, and I see sisters eating together when their daughters are sold....I regret selling some of those sheep. I, like some of the other breeders (who I chide for doing the same thing) I may have to buy back those sheep if they go up for sale.
Then there are those breeders and new clients who buy sheep from me....that are for sure better than I am. I am so happy to hear from them, they send photos, brag about their friendly sheep....and treasure the fuzzy little ones....just like I do. But better.
Yes, I think of my sheep like they were personalities. You shouldn't do that. Don't!
My shepherding came at a time when I needed to replace the care-giving roll I had played for over a dozen years. The sheep took on replacement rolls. They replaced my job with a different one. They helped me survive. For that reason, they matter to me. Their faults, real or imagined, are not important. They are a parallel life form that I have the honor to walk with every morning. What an honor to have sheep who will follow me, trusting my judgement about where they are safe. Some sheep like me....some, like the people they substiture for...don't.
I'm willing to put up with them. Just the way they are.
Now, I have to go feed out some more hay.
Wonder if I should buy hay today?

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Yes, the witch-hazel is blooming. The rams are must be spring.
Does anyone else have this happen? Breeding has been over for maybe a month. The ram pen is away from the ewes. No one can touch noses....rub fences....or be seen wagging tails. Why in the world do the rams suddenly decide to fight?
I looked at January's blog from last year....and quickly turned it off again. Yes, it still hurts to know my head ram was killed in an afternoon in January. If I was forced to choose just one would have been Minwawe Pan. But he is gone, and I have to deal with the rams I have now.
My husband brought the water to the ram pen....and all was was maybe a half an hour before he brought them grain. In that half hour, three of the grown rams were in a fight.
Yes, in that half hour they were a mess. Two were head getting both of them from the side and rear. It was the scene of a playground brawl. Grain didn't stop them. Pat went to get his gun. I stood and passed judgement. It was number three, taking on number two. Hopalong, who had been put into number two position after breeding this year, was getting hurt. Getting pretty wobbly, he would not last the night. But Hopalong would not come to me at the gate. Finally I got a hold of the other main fighter....and pulled him out. Covered with the results of his fight.....he trotted past me to the ewes pasture. Surprising my husband who was ready to drop them all.
Perhaps they had gotten wind of a ewe who was not bred. There were a whole flock of ewes gathering around the loose ram at the girl's gate. A couple of the girls should have been bred, by the very ram they now coveted. Oh's least if he has some willing girls, he won't break out into the girls pasture. So I let my newly-multi-colored ram in with those girls. Luckily, the butcher will take him tomorrow. My husband didn't want to eliminate him. The main shepherd....that's me....decided if he was let back in, he would again go after Hopalong....and then the head ram in that pen, Cinder. I happen to like Cinder. As head- shepherd of this flock, I get to make the call. If they need to be culled...they are culled. They have to fit in my flock. Sorry, ambition is not an excuse.
After we pay for this one....the "dirty fighter" is going to go too. Bless butchers. They can remove the condemmed from our sight....and make these decisions, and results easier.
Don't think that I take these culls with no emotion. Anytime we have to drop an animal....or lead them to slaughter....we retain that picture. I know it is my decision. In another time, and another place....that creature would be safe and live out a happy life. Playing chief judge and jury is part of the whole life cycle. It is a price I pay for the joys of birth. And those joys are very powerful. Don't let the downs of raising livestock, the culling, the predator deaths, the timely or un-timely deaths inside the flock....don't let those take top place in your mind. It is the joys of seeing births and watching growing lambs that brings joys to the shepherd.
Right now, the girls are showing, I'm making judgement calls about uping rations. Timing worming...when to shear....setting up jugs. Good's that time again.
Yes, it's spring. The witch-hazel is blooming.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Oh Dear!

Here I am trying to stay out of trouble. And I may be considered offensive. Whoops.
Is this new list a way to count friends? I didn't know. That's OK....I am so remote, I don't have anyone around to be friends with anyway.
For all the people I know....who think I may be on the new list and avoiding'm over here trying to live my life the best I can.
I'm so glad there are breeders enjoying the new format.....but I have been getting enough emails to cause problems with my computer activity. In the middle of form-emails last night, I got two frantic emails from my children warning me of storms in my area.
Matter of fact...those storms are coming in again....and I'm have to sign off to keep from getting hit by lightening on-line.
Enjoy your day.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Peeps, where are you?

Yoo hoo, over here. Yes, I am internet provider seems to be more remote. There is a new place to talk about shetland sheep. It looks like lots of fun. You can join any discussion that has been started....without interrupting everyone else. I can ask the first very nice friends who invited me as a friend to join them. Lovely to be wanted.
By the next time I went to my inbox it was full of replies to something. You realize, with dial up in the country, it can take minutes to find a new read the reply.
Wow....information age, by the time I had made a inbox was full again with replies that others had written and posted before I could even rewrite my reply.
Yes, I had to erase some of my answers. There are things about breeding shetlands that push old buttons. I'm trying to clean up my act.
Actually, I don't have time. On the computer or off, to get excited about shetland genetic theory. I don't walk around all day thinking about spots. I can't afford to spend time composing answers to questions in my I can write them in the middle of the night with my two fingers on my keyboard.
I hate to tell anyone that I can think of other things more important than my sheep.
I have plenty of goals for the new year that don't include shetland sheep in them.
I worry about things other than my breeding goals or sales for the year. For example, I worry how I forgot to add bread to the "bread pudding" I baked a few days ago. After that I worry about how long it took me to realize there wasn't any bread in my "bread pudding".
Fortunately, I am not the only spot-breeder in the shetland world. I may have bred a few hundred spotted shetlands.....and I may have my theories about what they should be called, how they should be bred, and why they should be valued. There are other breeders out there who have bred more spotted beauties....and fewer spotted beauties. They have reputations as "spotted breeders". Good.
Shetland breeders don't have to be exposed to my theories. They all seem to have their own theories, opinions and, experiences.
We started a yahoo group last year to sort out some theories on what certain spots looked like. Everyone wanted to join....but no one was willing to agree. Breeders wanted to debate certain spots, and what they were called.....but only if the spots were on their own sheep.
My dream is that shetland breeders in North American can post a picture of a yuglet, a flecket or sokket, or a fronet. Somewhere. Somewhere that beginning shetland breeder can find it and compare it to their own lamb. We have the history and experience as a group to answer lots of questions about how and why spots appear and what those spots should be called. We even have experienced breeders who have tested color genetics. Why are these answers buried in talk groups? I suggested some hard and fast rules to breeding spots on this new list.....others suggested exceptions to those theories. How often do those execptions occur? Once in a lifetime?
Once a year? Every other birth? Does that mean you believe there is no genetic rule?
If you breed the same two sheep together every year, and they don't have the spots you want every have the wrong sheep together.
To my mind it is a simple problem.
I must have a simple mind.
I appreciate all the folks who have started this new list, and all the nice folks who want to join in the discussions.....and many many thanks to all the friends and clients out there who have invited me to join. When there are hard and fast decisions about yuglets and smirslets....about sokkets and fleckets....maybe some one will share them with me.
In the meantime, my special family christmas cookies didn't turn out. I would like to make some that do. I need to bake a loaf of fresh ground wheat bread, today.
I never did get the refrigerator cleaned out. The litter boxes need to be cleaned. And I need to walk my girls out the half mile to their winter pasture. You can see by the time on the clock....even writing here, takes more time than I have.
Go have some fun, join in the wonderful won't miss me at all.