Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving and Destashing

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. We had a wonderful time visiting both sides of the family with our boys. The food was really great and the weather cooperated for our 160 mile round trip. The best part was that I didn't have to worry about getting back early to feed the sheep and close up the barn.



Now that we're down to only 20 sheep here and no chickens, life has been much simpler. After breaking up Bombarde's breeding group, I only have three breeding pens to keep fed and watered. I've fed the last of the whole corn that I had bought to flush the ewes, so now they're back to hay, water and mineral until March. Hopefully not having grain around will cut back on the mouse population in the barn this winter.

I'm happy to say that Amber, Brita and Geronimo went to live in Missouri at Mark Tucker's place. I met Mark on Nov. 18 at the Mall of America and we loaded the lambs into his well-built trailer for the ride down south. It was a cold day, but they did just fine I'm told. From his reports, Amber and Brita are already coming up to him for treats but Geronimo is still a little suspicious.

The next day I drove Bombarde up to Grand Rapids, MN so that he could live at Boston Lake with Sabrina's flock. I have to say that is the very LAST TIME I will put a mature ram in a dog kennel in the back of my van and drive through the middle of nowhere all by myself for two hours. Bombarde has always been a well mannered ram. I hand-sheared him last spring and he was a perfect gentleman, he walks well on a halter too. So I expected him to be no problem at all during the trip. But after about 45 minutes of driving, he decided to start bashing the kennel. And it was quite startling to me when he did. The whole van jolted! The wire panel door bent and the lock was wrecked. Thankfully, I always tie a strand of twine around the front of the door for just such an instance and it held up until I FINALLY got to a gas station in McGregor. I tied more twine on the door and turned the kennel so if the door got bashed out, he would be bashing the side of the van rather than the back window. It was pretty nerve-wrecking, but we managed to get to Grand Rapids right on time to meet Sabrina. Being the sensible shepherd that she is, she drove her new truck with a really nice wooden crate in back that Bombarde was happy to walk into. Fresh air and fresh hay!

Now I just have two Shetland rams left...Boggart and Eli. I've put them on the MSSBA sales site as well as the NASSA site and my own website because I'm hoping we will not keep any Shetland rams this winter.
The day after dropping off Bombarde, I sold my Ashford Traveller. I shocked myself by doing that. It was my very first wheel and it was so pretty. A great little versatile wheel. But I do have three other wheels, each with it's own purpose. I'm fine with that. And I'm glad someone else will have a nice little wheel to learn to spin on. I guess it was good Karma to pass it on because that day Stan won "dinner for two" at the grocery store where he works. He came home with two thick rib eyes, twice baked potatoes, a salad, fancy loaf of bread, and a pumpkin pie for dessert. Yum, that was so good!

The other night I got to go with my youngest son to the Guthrie and see "A Christmas Carol". The new Guthrie Theater is a huge building which houses smaller more intimate stages so they can do different productions at the same time. I was in the fourth row and it was just fantastic. I hope we can see more plays there now that I know how to get there. Matt had to go to the play for his psychology class and I didn't want him going all alone, so I tagged along.
It's great for me that he's taking his Liberal Arts generals, because he had to see the Georgia O'Keefe exhibit too. I got us some free tickets and we went there on the 18th (after dropping off the lambs with Mark) . It was so great to see so many of the O'Keefe pelvis bones and sky paintings in one room. She has such a way with color and oil paint! I was especially intrigued by her sculptures which were based on her goat horns studies. They are very much like Shetland rams horns.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Is this Weird?



My son and I went out to look over the 40 acres this afternoon and found that most of the big rocks in our pasture had been dug up and moved this summer. Stan told me about it months ago, but I didn't realize the size of the rocks or the extensiveness until I saw it for myself this afternoon. I hope you can see what I'm talking about in these photos, they only show a tiny bit of it. Yes, I know it's really rocky, that's why it's the pasture and not the hayfield. :-)
Our hay guy's cattle were grazing our 20 acre pasture this summer, but could they (or would they) have done this? Could it have been a bear? Those were some pretty HEAVY rocks that were dug up and moved out of the ground.

Here is a photo of the handy wire we use for a catch pen. It's really just a 16' hog panel that's been bent into a U-shape so that it's about 6' x 4' . We got it with a fiberglass calf hut from a dairy farmer years ago. As in the photo, I use the combo as a lambing jug in the spring. The wire portion alone makes a handy extra shelter when covered with a tarp. And I attach a 3' peice of panel for a door on the open end and it works as our catch pen when we need to move sheep around. It also fits perfectly inside the truck topper so rams can't butt the windows in transit. Really handy! I'm not sure how a person could bend the panel like that though.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Oh-oh, not again!

It must be the season for shepherd's to get sick. I read on Garrett's blog that he's been really sick lately and Nancy K's arm has been giving her a tough time too. Then I found out last night that I have Lyme disease. Fortunately this time I don't have a high fever and rash like I had in July.

I got the deer tick about 6 weeks ago when the neighbor dog killed those chicks and I had to spend a lot of time searching the woods for the other chicks.

I wound up having to have the tick's head removed at the clinic because it was really embedded in my waistline (that was also the day I made those felted slippers and I was bent over for an hour felting them on my feet).

Anyway, they told me to come back for a Lyme blood test in about 2 weeks. I was feeling fine so I didn't go back. Until about two weeks ago I started waking up with treacherous headaches, nausea, a stiff neck and hot flashes. Some days I felt fine, but more and more I'd been having those awful headaches and feeling sick, so I went to have that blood test on Monday. It's a good thing I did! Now I'm back on the doxycycline for three weeks. At least I don't have to worry about staying out of the sun this time. :-)


I plied my first big skein on my new wheel last week. This is going to be so great! It was 5 1/2 ounces and 345 yards. I think I could get more on next time. The yarn was from my white Shetland combed top which I had spun up on the Victoria. In the photo below you can see the size of the Louet bobbin on the left as compared to the Ashford Traveller bobbin in the center, and the Kromski Symphony bobbin on the right. The Victoria bobbins are about the same as the Kromski bobbins, that's why I needed a full size Louet wheel.
I'm glad to hear from Shepherdchick that she has more than four wheels. Now I don't feel so bad about wanting to keep all my wheels. :-)


I washed Harley's fleece already. Oh, it's so nice and silky! I'm really happy with the fleece I got from mating Windswept Boggart to my Bramble ewes. I just wish Harley's horns had been farther apart, he was such a great little ram lamb otherwise. This is another good reason for breeding polled rams. Every year we put most of the ram lambs in the freezer due to tight horns.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The sparks have been flying!

Well, the breeding pens went together on Wednesday (Nov. 7th) and the rams have been doing their thing. I think it will be RAINING lambs around here come the first week of April!

Thanks to my friend (and new Shetland breeder) Penny Simonson for all the help moving the sheep around. I hope she didn't get half as sore as I did. It may have been too much to ask of a friend. Since it was just us two, we did a lot of luring the ewes into a catch-pen and then closing the door behind them. The trick was to get the RIGHT ewes into the pen. There were times we had to settle for just one or two of a group of five. Then we would walk the pen across the yard and deposit the ewes in the appropriate ram pen. Of course Cocoa and her daughters kept going in the catch-pen and they weren't supposed to go anywhere, their ram was coming to them. We finally had to put them out in the back pasture.

The yearling BFL ewe, Lanora was too cautious and we could NOT catch her, so she stayed with Granite's group rather than go to Dougal's pen. At the end of the day I had four breeding groups and two non-breeding groups.

Then yesterday Kim came to get Dougal and she dropped off a black polled gulmoget ram lamb, Kimberwood Harrison. He is such a cutie! I put my non-breeding pen of ewe lambs in with him and we'll see what happens there. They were very frightened of him at first, it must have been the coat he was wearing. They ran away whenever he came near, but this morning they are all getting along just fine as you can see in this photo. He's got two nice katmoget ewe lambs and Shetland mule lamb in his group. He may get a few more mature ewes later. Our little musket wether Geronimo is in the pen too and they have gotten along very well.


Our poor little moorit ram lamb Harley was relegated to a small bachelor pen in the backyard. He's a very nice ram lamb, but his horns are fatal so he's got to go. This morning I noticed him looking over at Granite's breeding pen with great interest. So I followed his stare and to my surprise I saw my 3 1/2 year old wether, Willy, mounting Elsa! That was the first time he'd ever done that, and he's been in many breeding pens over the years. It wasn't so bad I thought to myself, he's definitely not fertile. But then I saw him pummel Granite who was also trying to breed Elsa. Well, that did it! Willy had to go. He's a BIG fellow and his hide will be really nice tanned. His fleece has always been one of my favorites.

So now, without Harley and Willy, my numbers are down to 25 sheep and only four pens. Two more lambs (and hopefully three) will be leaving this weekend to live down south. So things should be quieter, at least while breeding season lasts. It's kind of nice feeding small groups of 4 to 6 rather than a flock of 22. Of course it won't last, we all know what reuniting the rams is like. Not looking forward to that!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Breeding groups for 2008!

I said good bye to River Oaks Darcy, Grace and Jake this morning. They are off to greener pastures north of here. I love that little Darcy and yearling Grace finally got tame just last week. I know they are going to a good home and that's all I can hope for with my sheep.

I have finally got my breeding groups planned out! Now I just need a helper to get the appropriate sheep to the appropriate pens. With the hubby off deer hunting and my son at work, I'll just have to wait one more day.
Once they are in their appropriate pens, I'm going to hope and pray that they stay there. I don't have the best fencing and I remember resorting to electronet last year to keep the boys in their intended places. Well electronet seems like a great idea on a warm November day in Minnesota, but there's no getting it out of the ground in mid-December. We had to go out with many, many pots of boiling water during a January thaw to finally get that electronet put away for the winter.

Okay, here's what I'm doing for round one - starting tomorrow afternoon when I have a helper at home:
Sheltering Pines Bombarde, fawn katmoget (Ab/Ag) yearling ram, 44% UK, maybe half poll:

Bramble Jemma, F2 Minder black iset ewe, may be haf poll. Hoping for grey katmoget or nice Ag grey lambs from this paring. Bombarde should improve the fleece on Jemma's lamb(s) and maybe we'll find out if she carries Bb.
River Oaks Amber, F2 Minder musket ewe lamb, with long silky fleece, sale pending.
River Oaks Abby, F2 Minder fawn katmoget (Ab/Aa), long silky fleece. Hoping for a homozygous katmoget ewe lamb here with great fleece.
Brita, white ewe lamb 11% UK, carries modified genetics, long silky fleece, sale pending.

Bombarde gave us some really nice ewe lambs in 2007-- great conformation (great little tails) and improved fleece on all his lambs. He sired one scurred ram, so we're pairing him with Jemma to see what kind horns we'll get there.

Windswept Boggart, mioget yearling ram, dual coated:

River Oaks Eliza, white 2 year old ewe with really great fleece, this pairing gave me a very nicely fleeced white ram lamb in 2007, hoping for a mioget ewe lamb in '08!
River Oaks Hanna, F2 Holly dark moorit blettet yearling. Hoping to see some modified spotted lambs with this pairing. Also hoping for a longer stapled fleece.
River Oaks Hattie, F2 Holly black smirslet yearling. Again, hoping to see some modified spotted lambs here and longer stapled fleece.
Bramble Cordelia, F1 Minder, fawn katmoget ewe, 8 year old with long soft fleece. This paring gave us two great ewe lambs in 2007, so we're going with it again.
River Oaks Cora, F2 Minder musket yearling ewe. Very dense fleece on this girl, she gave us an absolutely gorgeous Shetland Mule lamb in 2007, so we're hoping for some nice purebred lambs in 2008.

Boggart sired several nice lambs for us in 2007, they all had friendly personalities and that distinctive soft fluffy shetland sheep look.


Beechtree Dougal, white BFL yearling ram who carries color:
Beechtree Lanora, white yearling BFL ewe who carries color
Beechtree Rhyn, natural colored BFL ewe lamb
Dougal has really nice fleece and he's a proven sire. So we're using him on the two BFL ewes and if we get white BFL lambs that will be fine. Just so they have Dougal's wonderful curls and luster.

Beechtree Granite, natural colored BFL ram lamb:

Cocoa, moorit 5 year old blettet shetland ewe who carries spots

Jasmine, yearling black blettet shetland ewe who carries spots
Mabeline, white 2 year old Shetland ewe who carries Ag and spots
Elsa, white 2 year old Shetland ewe who carries modified genetics
Derra, Shetland mule (50% Shetland/50% BFL) out of Cocoa and Dougal
Delia, Shetland mule (50% Shetland/50% BFL) out of Mabeline and Dougal


Granite gets our unregistered Shetland ewes. They carry spots and it would be fun to see if their colors and spots are manifested in the crossing program. The Shetland mule fleeces are long and crimpy and have the softness of BFL. I can't wait to see this type of fleece in colors too! The ram lambs will go to market. We've found the crosses outweigh the purebreds by around 30% at 3-4 months old. Of course Derra and Delia's lambs would be 3/4 BFL which should be great for fleece too...



This leaves River Oaks Lucy and Dot with River Oaks Harley for a couple weeks...unless I can find another pen for Harley until Dougal goes off to work at Kimberwood Shetlands... Then maybe we'll get Kimberwood Harrison, a black gulmoget ram lamb here for them and Abby. Dougal's ewes will go in with Granite's group for clean up duties.