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The Newbies

It’s been a very busy few weeks around Oleo Acres (one of the cheaper spreads). The lambs are growing so fast now and the Lamb Races have officially begun! A few times a day the girls and their babies are turned out into the pasture area for some noshing grass and running excess energy off. It’s funny to see the moms running after the speed demons the lambs are – huge udders weighing them down from joining in fully.
It’s amazing to me to see each ewe taking turns as the “babysitter”. The sitter watches the lambs while the others enjoy the grass or have a long drink of water at the trough. One will spell the other and the process begins again.
While I sit and watch the goings-on I have noticed the boys in their pen. At times I see the wethers and Loki running the fenceline just begging to be let in with those babies to show them what running is really all about. Then I will see Loki, his head gently resting on one of the wires of fencing and looking my direction, batting his eyes. What a ham. “No one’s paying any attention to me and I should come first!” I go over and scratch his chin through the fenceline. “Later, Lok-ster. I promise.”

Here are a few photos our friend Lois, from Stonehaven Farm, took as she came through on her way to the hospital on the reservation. More will follow…I have finally figured out a better way to load them to the blog.

A kiss for the shepherdess

Lacey and her two, ewe and ram, lambs

Lacey’s pretty ewe lamb

Ring around our Mum! (Amanda and her triplets)

Oooo…..wht’s inside here?

Proud father, Jehovah’s Skeld Loki

These are just a few photos. It seems when I take my camera down to the barn I either have nose prints on the lens or the lambs are running so fast it’s hard to get good shots in even with the “Sports” setting.

And, if you get a chance, please stop by my sheep-friend Michelle’s blog. Michelle lost the ewe to a beautiful little ram this morning. I know her heart is hurting very much over the loss of her Brava – one of her first Shetland sheep. She could use some “hugs” right now. Thanks.

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Anticipation

I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while. Usually, this time of year anyway, is kind of slow time for shepherds. We’re waiting for our “Christmas”. We’re waiting for the lambs to be born.

Most of us plan our breedings carefully. I do have friends who have experienced a few “oops” this year – mainly when a ram with other ideas than cooling his heals jumps a fence and parties with the ladies he finds in the next field. Most of us know who was in with whom and in approximately 147 days or so, the results will make an entrance to the World.

This is the first year I have used a ram lamb – ever. I like older rams. They know their job, the main reason for them to be around anyway, and take their work very seriously. Skittles was that way…just show him the girls, turn him in with them, and be prepared to remove him a couple of weeks later. “Nuf said. The older guys show confidence and smoothness which the ladies seem to like. You can almost hear the Barry White music in the background.

Loki, on the other hand, is a young punk. I say that lovingly as I do enjoy watching him bounce around the pasture for the pure joy of life, nothing more. He was too young at fall breeding season to have an agenda. The world is/was his oyster, so to speak. Then he gets put in with a bunch of girls. Most are old enough to be his mother, too. What the heck is that shepherdess thinking? Why am I in here?

Then it hit him. Hmm. Maybe there is something to like about girls after all. Clumsy and not assured enough of himself to make things go smoothly, he courted the girls one-by-one. I remember the looks on the girls’ faces back then, looking at me as if to say, “You’ve got to be kidding, right? This punk?”

So, now we wait. Approximately 145 days ago, Loki was seen to, ahem, cover one of the girls. Almost two weeks now, it was obvious after shearing that apparently Loki did both figure out which end was which and huge fleeces (even back last fall) not-withstanding, did figure out what this Ewe Dance business was all about.

Right now the Waiting Game is going on with the shepherdess. The girls are playing their cards very close to the vest even though they look like water balloons on toothpicks. When they lie down, bellies spread out on the ground around them. Ripples can be seen if you watch long enough – babies trying to move around or find room in cramped spaces. And as the girls move about, you’ll see one suddenly stop, mid-stride, lower her head and wag her tail furiously. Those darned kids are kicking me again. Quiet down in there!

But just let me get the barn ready for the new arrivals and we get a day of horrific winds as well as the chance of snow again. The high temperature for tomorrow is supposed to be in the 30s F. I was just getting used to the 60+ F weather, too, darn it.

But spring is the shepherd’s Christmas. We hope everyone does fine through the lambing and moms and babies all are healthy…

…this is when we get to see what colors, patterns, and “flavor” our best laid plans have made. We only hope Mother Nature will give her approval. C’mon, Amanda…I’ll take three little girls this year instead of the two bruiser boys you usually have. Please? I’d really like to show my granddaughter what a lamb is.

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It’s that time of year again. Or rather it’s been that way for a while here. Time for turning the ram (or ram lamb in our case) in with the girls and let Nature take its course.

“What the heck is going on at the barn? And most importantly, why aren’t we wethers invited?”

And here he is himself, Jehovah-Jireh’s Loki. This youngster is the sire for next year’s lamb crop – er, um…provided he figured out what he’s supposed to actually do with the girls. I have seen him try to court the girls off and on, but not I haven’t actually witnessed Loki and any of the ladies “in action”, so to speak.
Loki is the result of AI breeding. (Artificial Insemination) His sire, Island Skeld, is quite a nice looking and very well-bred ram. All of Skeld’s F1 lambs (the first offspring resulting from an AI breeding) are white, like Loki. But when I started looking at the F2 generation, I saw lots of spots and colors showing up. We may have white, or some very interesting colors this spring. As most shepherds will tell you, lambing is very much like Christmas morning…you can be very surprised at the outcome as well as excited in anticipation of what you might get.

Three of the girls in the Breeding Group: Loretta, Amanda, and Ailee.

Lacey must be gone walkabout or in the barn finishing up what everyone else left in the feed pans this morning. Lacey was the first ewe I placed in with Loki. I’ll need to start watching her next month for signs of impending birth if she settled soon after they were penned together.
I’m not really used to having breeding spread out this way – a ewe every week until they were all in with the ram. Loki was supposed to come with another ram lamb his age, but for some reason that didn’t happen. I needed to put him in with other sheep for company but the wethers would have really bashed him as he was so young and small at the time. Lacey is the sweetest ewe I have as well as the smallest so I decided she should be the first to meet Loki. She’s both protected him as if he was her lamb and also become smitten with him as her paramour. She thinks I was looking at something else, but I saw her batting those big brown eyes at this little Hunk-O-Ram. 😉

Lacey early last year after shearing.

So, c’mon guys and gals…I’ve missed having lambs around and I know you girls have too. Who knows what we’ll get? I’m not sure, but I can hardly wait for spring and lambing. 🙂
…and we have a growing list of people wanting Sheep Thrills Farm sheep. Time to get to work, Loki!

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The Waiting Game

While I’ve got the older ewes together for lambing to begin this weekend, I’ve separated out both Ailee and Loretta, along with the notorious Blessa, by themselves. Ailee and Loretta will be lambing in a couple of weeks – depending on when they settled.

You can see by Loretta’s udder development that she IS indeed with lamb(s). You can also tell that Loretta is not the dark brown/black lamb she was when she had to have her horn scurs removed. She’s becoming much more steely blue-grey. I think she’s becoming much prettier. I can hardly wait to see the lambs both she and Ailee will have, being one-step away from their mothers I’m hoping for some color this year other than black and brown. 🙂

This picture below is of Pearl, my favorite bantam Ameraucana hen. Nosey Josey just thinks she runs the place, but it’s really Pearl who does. She is the hen I’ve seen keeping all others in line and chastising other chickens if they don’t follow appropriate protocols around here. When chasing chickens into the barn at night, usually the dawdler is Bluey, another Ameraucana hen. Well, Pearl will jump on whoever is last in the door for being late. They all mind her. And she watches me, when I’m out there, just to keep tabs on what I’m doing in HER pasture.

Even Slick, the rooster, minds his peas and cues around Pearl. He’s a handsome devil and he knows it.

And below you see a picture of the reason why the songbirds are in hiding and the chickens are in the barn today. This little guy is one of the raptors we have in their area, but he wouldn’t let me get close enough to get a great picture. He was bigger than a Kestrel…he could even be a dark phase of one of the falcons we have here. The wind was bothering him and when I came out onto the deck to get a better picture, he took off, showing me his tail and backsides as well. He might have been a Cooper’s Hawk. I hope to see him again. So far, the birds have not started singing again so I know he’s still in the area.

Watch out, Chickens! Keep your eyes to the skies today. He sure looked hungry to me and Bran took all the mice this morning.

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My two older Shetland ewes should be lambing in about 10 days. That is, if they don’t explode first. I don’t worry about Lacey, but Amanda is the one who always looks like a tick about to pop. She had two very large ram lambs last year – and the way she’s looking this year, it’ll be the same or triplets.

Amanda is the darker of these two ewes. I also took a photo of her from the back as it illustrates just how big, wide, and explosive she really looks but it was a bit too graphic and I wanted to keep my PG-13 rating here. Trust me…she’s b-i-g and it ain’t all fat!


I’ve had to separate the two ladies from the younger girls as I noticed Lacey’s ewe lamb from last year, Blessa, was trying to nurse Lacey. Blessa had a total look of surprise after her mom’s fleece came off. It was almost as if she said, “Oh, look! There IT is!” It was a look as if Linus had found his blanket after Lucy hid it for a long time. And seeing her mother’s developing udder, she dove in again, looking at her mother then complaining “Got milk?”. The answer was no, but that didn’t keep Blessa from trying.
So, Blessa and the younger bred ewes are keeping each other company while Amanda and Lacey get a bit of a rest – and a more restricted diet as they both tend to pack on the pounds while pregnant.

At least they haven’t asked me for pickles and ice cream…yet.

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Yes, Folks…it’s THAT time of year again! All the promises are over and the hormones are running rampant. About all I do this time of year is stay out of the way and let Skittles do his job. 😉 I had been promising him that he would get twice as many girls this year. The poor guy thought I was tormenting him on purpose, I’m sure. But no, I just wanted lambs coming in the middle to late April next year. Most of our bad weather is over with and fly season hasn’t started – perfect weather for being born. That is except if it turns out like last year when we had terrible winds out of the NE and straight into the ewes end of the barn.

Hmmmm…Amanda is trying to figure out what this black, swingy-thing is and why Skittles doesn’t want to share it with anyone. I thought I heard her say it really didn’t taste like anything she wanted to eat, but would still lick on it if need be. Silly girl! Don’t let Skit see you messing with his tire swing, Amanda…he’s very possessive of it. You’ve been warned.


It was about this time I thought I heard Skit say, “Darn it, Amanda! Take off that stupid coaty-thing! It’s getting in MY way!” Poor Amanda.

At this time of year, rams who are normally placid, even downright sweet, turn in to demons on four legs with only one thing on their minds. Nothing will stop them in this Seasonal Drive of theirs either – or at least I should mention that you need really good fencing to make sure they stay in an area YOU want them to stay in. Many a shepherd has gone out to check sheep only to find rams not where they were supposed to be. I have known rams to go through electric fencing, welded wire fencing, well…just about any type of fencing in the need to carry out their mission in life. And a shpherd knows not to place his or herself between a ram and his ewes. In the heat of passion that’s asking for it. Yup. Cruisin’ for a bruisin’ unless you’re prepared to deal with a protective ram concerned that you’re going to take unsettled ewes (non-pregnant ewes).
Now, any time of year you should not turn your back on a ram. But especially now when they have first been put in with their chosen girls one needs a sharp eye and a good shepherd’s crook. Maybe even fast feet too! LOL In watching Skittles with his girls these past few days I find myself thinking about how much Mother Nature intended these creatures to succeed as a species in this world. Sheep are suspicious by nature with a great sense of “Fight or Flight” (mostly flight). They are also fast on their feet as many a winded shepherd might experience once or twice in their lives. And with good feed timed right, you can usually get a 200% lamb crop making sheep productive even for small farms. You can wear them, pet them, milk them…and yes, even eat them. No wonder we’ve been teamed up with sheep for hundreds of years and more.

Yes, I hear you, Skit…grunting and groaning like WhiteFang and Blacktooth talking to Soupy Sales back in the 50s. Just wait…in 6 weeks you’ll be begging me to put you back in with the boys when you’ve got 4 pregnant “wives” on your hooves. I’ll remind you…you asked for it!

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Nothing Yet….

For those of you who are checking back to this blog on a daily basis for a “Lamb Report”, I wish I had more to offer. Absolutely nothing has been happening with the girls other than normal, everyday activities. You can tell I have a following…yessiree…a following right up to the open feed room door by sheep and chicken alike. Here you see the mob hot on my heals when I went into the feedroom looking for a handout, or better yet, something snatched while they think I’m not looking. Sure fooled them, didn’t I? 😉 This is Amanda trying to sneak up on me from behind. From this angle she doesn’t look too rotund, but believe me when I say she’s waddling everywhere. There are certain angles of viewing her that lead one to believe in litters in sheep…yes, she’s really big. I was sure she’d lamb before Lacey. Lacey *should* be due on the 19th. At least the 19th is 147 days from when we last saw her in “active negotiations” with Skittles. The only thing I’m sure of now is that both ewes are indeed pregnant. And Skittles isn’t saying a word about it either, just looks at me, snickers, then goes back to eating or hitting the tire-swing-toy!
So, we wait. I’d rather have everyone “late” than have problems, so I’ll just keep watch and wait for signs of the impending births. I know we’re getting very close…yup, any minute now…any day now…anytime…getting closer…

And I leave you with this picture of Amanda who was planning a “hit and run” on my pants just before I turned around. This must be a new game they’ve come up with – “Let’s see who can plant a nose-print on Mom’s butt and run without her knowing who it was!”

Fools. don’t they know there are better things they could be doing….like having lambs?

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