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Archive for the ‘sheep’ Category

(Please keep in mind that the following is happening in my area and may not be happening in your area. This is meant as a “forewarned is forearmed” passage of information…)

This past Wednesday, I vaccinated my flock of sheep for Rabies. For those of you following the news you’ll remember the infamous “Bobcat in a Bar” in Prescott, Arizona, where a bobcat wandered into a local pub, during broad daylight, and tried to attack patrons. Well, we’ve had a few similar happenings here in northern Arizona as well.
What prompted me to inquire about the prospect of having sheep immunized for rabies was an incident a few weeks ago on the east side of town. A gentleman left his house one morning to get in his car in his driveway and was attacked, and subsequently bitten, by a rabid fox. In Suburbia. Yes…the fox was found and yes…it tested positive for rabies…and yes, the man had to undergo treatment.
Being the inquisitive person I am, I started asking questions of the two veterinarians I use. The thought had struck me: Well, I put the sheep in the barn area at night to (hopefully) avoid predation by the coyotes, dogs, bears and lions we have in this area, but was I overlooking the smaller pests? We have skunks, bobcats, fox, raccoon and porcupines moving through all the time. And “What if…” one happened to bite a sheep and transmit the virus to the sheep? Hmmm…
OK…our county did place a quarantine into effect for the city of Flagstaff and parts north into the San Francisco Peaks, with all cats and dogs to be inside or under control of their owners for a certain time period. While that is going on, county and Fish and Game people were dropping vaccination baits all over the areas where rabies had been found in hopes to “vaccinate” any creatures who had not contracted the disease already. However, two things were very wrong with this implementation: one was that not enough area was included in this quarantine to cover the range of the rabies, and, from the feedback for various people involved in this scheme as well as local veterinarians, it isn’t working all that well. A third thought was did I really trust the county officials?
After talking to the vets, I decided it would be in my best interest to go ahead and vaccinate the sheep. One problem with the transmission of rabies, if a sheep does get bitten from a rabid animal, is transmission to humans. Although I doubt any rabid animal could even catch one of my “Puddlejumpers”, do I want to chance both their health and mine? I don’t think so.
When a sheep (cow or horse for that matter) starts to show symptoms of rabies, one of the first signs is coughing as if the animal is choking on something. The responsible owner then reaches in the mouth of said animal to retrieve the object d’jour only to find nothing but saliva all over their hand and arm. All you need do is have an open wound from a cut or torn cuticle, or to slice yourself on a sharp molar and there you have it.
Little did I know that one vet had already ordered the vaccine for me. OK…I get the message. I’ll vaccinate the Sheeple. So, everyone got their shot and the next day were not only grumpy with the Shepherdess, but just grumpy from the shot as well.

And as much as I hate to admit it, even though it cost me some money, I feel I did the best I could for not only my flock…but me and the Hired-Hand-With-Benefits as well.

NOTE: In my research I found out from a Vet-Tech that horse owners can become exposed just by bridling a horse IF that horse was exposed to the virus. Who would have thought that the simple act of placing a bit into a horse’s mouth could be a contributing factor?

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Lacey: “OK, Loretta. the Shepherdess said something about a “whiskey barrel” hiding somewhere in this mountain. I don’t know what a “whiskey barrel” is, or what it looks like, but if the Shepherdess needs it, it’s our job to find it for her. You look over there.”
Loretta: “Gosh, Mom. It would sure be a whole lot better if I knew what this thing looked like. But I’ll look for anything that shouldn’t be here on our mountain.”
Loretta: “Mom. You don’t need to watch me that closely. I know what I’m doing. Wouldn’t it be better if you looked on the other side of the mountain?”
Lacey: “I’m just watching to make sure you don’t slip and fall, Dear. It’s a mother’s job, you know.”
Loretta: “Mom, if you really want to be helpful, you’d get those other sheep up here to help look for this thing.
Gee, Mom…isn’t this mountain getting smaller? I thought it was bigger yesterday when we were out here yodeling. Isn’t this where you left your dirndl? Ole said he lost his dad’s lederhosen somewhere on the mountain. Can we still sing if we’ve lost our costumes?”
Lacey: “Just be quiet Dear and keeping looking for the Whiskey Barrel and leave mommy alone. I think I’m getting a headache.”

As you can tell, things have been very busy around Oleo Acres. There is so much to tell! Yes, we’ve had more snow, as you can see in the photos of the girls out in the pasture, but we’ve had our lives interspersed with visits from our friend, Lois, as well as the Hired-Hand-With-Benefits having surgery on a finger!
Yes, another surgery. My DH has had a finger that over the years has taken a nasty curl to itself. It had gotten to the point of being painful as well as frozen in a bent position that could not be straightened out. So, since he was recovering from the spleenectomy, he and I both thought it was a good time to have it fixed. So, on the 12th of February, he went under the knife again. This time is was a local and done as an outpatient. I knew he was in no pain after surgery when he asked to go to Cracker Barrel for a late lunch – a lunch of breakfast food, actually. I love restaurants who serve breakfast all day. He couldn’t have anything to eat prior to his noon surgery schedule, so I didn’t eat anyhing either. I think it a cruel thing when a person can’t have anything to eat, but everyone else does.

And, naturally, the day of the DH’s surgery would be the day one of our cats became very ill. Poor Ziggy was vomiting as well as having terrible diarrhea. He wasn’t responding to Slippery Elm or fluids given under the skin. I tried calling our cat-vet, Bill, but kept getting busy signals or the answering machine. Thinking they were in Las Vegas at the annual veterinary convention, I took a chance and called Rob, our sheep-vet (who also does pets). He was in and had an appointment made for poor Ziggy. I left the patient home, well drugged and feeling no pain. He (the DH) was in his recliner with the remote control. I knew he’d sleep most of the time Zig and I were gone.
Rob took xrays and blood from Ziggy. He suspected either hyperthyroidism or a form of lymphoma. We wouldn’t know until the next day when the bloodwork came back.
We found out it was hyperthyroidism! So, now we’re treating with medication to see if he responds. So far, so good. He’s perked up quite a bit, is eating well, and is not drinking nearly the quantity of water he had been. I was worried it could have been diabetes, but no – this was all a part of the hyperthyroidism. Keep your fingers crossed. We will have bloodwork done again this next Thursday to see how he’s responding. Years ago, we lost our daughter’s cat, Bandit, to this very thing. Nowdays there is one big difference. Every 72 hours, Ziggy gets a baby aspirin to prevent a saddle thrombosis. A saddle thrombosis is a clot or blockage to the rear of the cat, making legs and bladders uncontrolable. Bandit died from one. I pray that Zig will fair better.

And last weekend we got a treat. Our friend Lois, who is a radiologist, got to spend the weekend with us! 🙂 Losi works for a company who sends replacement doctors to hospitals in need of their services on a “fill-in” basis. She’s been working at the hospital in Tuba City, north of Flagstaff on the Navajo Reservation.
This is the second time she’s been able to come through Flagstaff. The first was around Christmas. That time we only got to have dinner in town with her as our schedules and the weather kept interfering. But this time she was able to come on Saturday and stay through until Monday.
It was a wonderful visit. Saturday we went to the Museum of Northern Arizona (leaving the HHWB at home) to give Lois a taste of this area. We took our time and stopped for an espresson on the way home. Even though she lives at 3,000 ft. in Oregon, and works in Tuba City at 5,000 ft. altitude, our 7,000 ft. altitude was starting to get to her a bit. We slowed down and pushed the water to help her stay hydrated in our extremely dry climate. Soon, she was feeling better.
But most of all, we got to talk sheep, and knitting, sheep, and spinning and weaving, and sheep! Of course we sprinkled in a few cats here and there as well. I think Lois got her “animal fix” while she was here. 🙂 Today finds her on her way home to her hubby, Brook, and to get ready for her flcok to be shorn on Tuesday.
It was really nice to visit with her. She is a wonderful, gentle soul. I am glad I finally got to meet her. Both the HHWB and I hope she will consider us as her home-away-from-home whenever she’s here to sub at the TC hospital.

As for me, I’ve been enjoying doing things around here. I’m catching up on sewing and knitting (or attempting knitting, I should have said), and reading. I’ve got a stack of books to read which only gets bigger as I add more books, but haven’t had time to read until lately. So, Dear Reader…I am here. I just haven’t been on the computer much lately. I try to time it so the HHWB has his time in the office alone, then later I will be in there. Our house isn’t huge and with him home until mid-March recovering, I still want each of us to have their own time without the other, hovering. We still watch TV together and are having fun cooking together, but I’m a big believer in also giving each other space once and a while.

Yesterday, my DH had the stitches removed from his finger. He still has a bandage on it but I think he’s feeling much better…so much so that I now hear the garden tractor running outside of the office window. I’d better go see what he’s up to and maybe yell at him to get off that thing. I don’t think I could take another six weeks of recovery. Well, maybe I could…if it was mine. 🙂

And maybe, just maybe, that missing whiskey barrel planter the plow-guys scooped up will actually be found before Spring!

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Bye, Bye Blessa!

SheepThrills Blessa left for a new home last week! Her new mum and dad, Karen & Ray, live in the Globe area of Arizona and were looking for a friendly breed of sheep to add to their “Menagerie”. Karen had been in touch with Michelle who graciously recommended to Karen to contact me as we are so much closer.
Well, Karen and Ray came for a visit and fell in love with Blessa. And from what I’ve heard since they took her home, she loves them as well. Win/Win!
While they were visiting we walked into the end of the barn where I had the ram lambs. Karen didn’t want Blessa to be alone and was telling me about a person in their area who had rescued Barbados Blackbelly sheep including a wether if they wanted one. As Karen and I stood talking, I noticed that Ray was singled out by our own Lucius Vorenus, a very friendly ram lamb. The next time Karen mentioned the wether from her acquaintance Ray shook his head no. Then he said he’d rather have Luke. So, soon Luke will be joining Blessa.

Below are pictures of Blessa both shorn and with this year’s fleece just before she left. Can you see the smugness behind that expression? From what I’ve heard she has taken reign over all things barnyard and child, as well as Karen and Ray.

Thank ewe, Michelle! And thank ewe Blessa! I can’t think of a better Shetland Ambassador to introduce that area of Arizona to the wonderful Shetland sheep!

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I was out in the pasture this past Friday looking for noxious weeds that might not be too good for the sheep to eat. After my walk, I let the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Plus One out to have some time grazing and stretching their legs. I had my camera with me and decided just to take a few photos…then I realized something…
We sheep people are always discussing our ewes and rams, whom to sell, whom to breed and so on. But it struck me that we often overlook some very important members of our flocks. The wethers.
For those of you not up on the “sheep lingo” a wether is a castrated male sheep. Male sheep are wethered for various reasons – horns not correct, conformation isn’t up to show or breeding quality, a bad disposition, for meat production – are just a few reasons to wether a ram or ram lamb. In other countries, most males are wethered during their first week of life. We here (at our farm) tend to wait a bit for a number of reasons. I like to see how a lamb starts to grow. More than once I have seen a lamb look like it would be a good ram only to have something come up like a bad temperment or bad horns become a deciding factor a couple of months down the road. But I digress…
Wethers have no agenda. They have no raging hormones that interfere with their dispositions. They live only to serve (or to be served, I guess). And I have to admit that some of my favorites in my flock are wethers. Let me introduce them to you…

Above is Shaun the Sheep. Shaun was the very first lamb to hit the ground here at Sheep Thrills. He would have made a beautiful ram except that sometime during the recovery from my back surgery, his horns went from nice to turning inward and downward, the points of which were rubbing the middle of the back of his neck. The horns were trimmed the same time Shaun got, ahem, “trimmed” by our vet Dr. Rob. His color is remarkable to me – a red iset, meaning he’s a mahogany red with white wool mixed in giving him that frosted look. It’s just beautiful. And is beautiful to spin!

Next we have Colin. Colin’s real name is Mountain Niche Colin P., but we just call him Colin. He was wethered for two reasons. The first was that he followed Ralph everywhere and wanted to be his pet. The main reason was that his horns were turning and very close to his cheeks. There would have been very little room had the horn girth expanded.
Colin is a gem! He is the one who inspects the newborn lambs and is very belligerent if you don’t let him in the barn to view the newbies in the lambing pens with their mamas. All the girls trust Colin and let him even sniff the youngsters. And it’s Colin we turn the weanlings out with. He takes charge of them and teaches them all things sheep. He’s actually one of the hardest workers on this farm, being both lamb-mentor and buddy to Skittles, the Ram. It’s amazing to think of all he really does around here. And I think I’m the Boss. 🙂

Then we have the two Do-Da Brothers, Sven (above) and Ole (below). Both of these guys were wethered due to pushy behavior. In Ole’s case it was very pushy, dangerous behavior. If left intact, Ole would have become a dangerous ram. Sven is really a very mellow guy who just is “there” and fits in anywhere. He’s not assertive, nor is he shy. He’s kind-of “vanilla” but a really good vanilla.
As for Ole…Ole is my joker. He would love to come in the house and be a dog. I suspect some of his earlier behavior is due to this personality trait. He wants to be in your hip pocket. When I go to feed in the mornings, it’s Ole who greets me at the gate, not pushing for food necessarily but just wanting to be pet and have someone say “Good morning, Ole”. He’s the pest…the one who follows me into the feed room to see if there’s anything interesting in there he should have.

Now I mention horns alot. There’s a sad fact in any kind of animal farming. The fact is that few of the males have what it takes to be a good sire. You have to be picky about that 50% of the genetics of your next lamb crop, so you look for the best: good horn growth that is open and clears the face, good conformation, good temperment (yes, a bad temper gets passed along) even survivability and resistance to disease and parasites. The sad fact is that most male sheep do not make the cut. Then what do you do with them? Well, mostly they go to market. Shetlands are valued for their quality wool, so if there is any chance of an animal “making a living” as a wool producer, we try to give it to them. But you can’t keep them all. Most people I know who have had an overabundance of ram lambs say this year they will probably go to market, wool or not. Feed costs are prohibitive. And we just don’t have the space for any more wethers.In fact, we may not breed any sheep this fall due to the economy, but we won’t go there here in this discussion.

As for me, I’ll just appreciate the guys I do have now. I love them all and each one for his own attributes…besides….they have the softest fleece of anybody!

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I know, I know…you’ve been wondering what I have been up to. Well, in the midst of kittens up to my eyeballs, a sick momma cat (from her shots) and an assortment of other daily life occurrences, I found out that our local wool festival was going to be held this past weekend. That started a flurry of activity around here – checking fleeces over to make sure they were ready for sale, gathering balls of roving, weighing them out, tagging them with pricing, and all other manner of things to prepare for the show. My DH loaded his truck with a pen for some sheep, tables, umbrellas and other accoutrement to accompany us as we merrily went from south of Flagstaff to north of Flagstaff for the Wool Festival.
We’ve had this festival for 14 years, but it never really has become very big. Advertising hasn’t been great, so usually there are only a few people there demonstrating and selling wool goods. There is now a new director and from hearing what he has had to say, I’m jazzed that this could grow into something much bigger.
To the right here is one of the Navajo-Churro rams that was attending the Festival on Sunday. He came with wool and left naked (and a bit nicked much to the dismay of many festival-goers. Note to self: tell them about Penny, our wonderful shearer!)
The first day we took Shaun the Sheep and Ole who were brats the whole day. My DH was the “Sheep Sitter”. With him taking care of the sheep and answering questions there, I was open to field the hundreds of questions we got about Shetland sheep, their wonderful wool, and what to do with that wonderful wool! I also conscripted, er….uh…asked my friend Melanie to come enjoy the Festival with me. After all…Misery does indeed love company! 🙂 When she saw how much I sold the first day, Mel hectically gathered her own “woolly shit” to sell on Sunday.
For a small festival I was very surprised! I sold ALL of my fleeces and rovings of Shetland wool for the year!!!!! As well as that, we made a few contacts with regards to selling some of the critters too.
By Sunday, I was almost sold out. People even bought some of the yarn I had spun up to weave a blanket for us. The price I got was top-dollar for the work. I couldn’t say no.
And then, close to the end of the Festival, Joe Meehan (who owns the above Churro ram and his buddies) serenaded my little Scottish sheep with Fireside Bagpipes! I was wonderful! Lacey and her lambs, Elvis and Jerry Lee, took to piping like ducks to water! Do they know they’re Scottish? I really wondered as I watch their reaction to Joe’s melodies played just for them. And I have to thank him for the beautiful gesture towards my sheep.
All in all, we had a very tiring, but great, time. And we didn’t do too badly for a first try at this event.

So today I took some of the money I made from the sales of the fleeces to the feed store to buy more feed to feed the sheep to grow the wool to be shorn to sell to feed the sheep…and so it goes. 🙂

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Nekked Sheep!

Yesterday was shearing day here at Sheep Thrills Farm! The shearer we found through Katie at Rockin-A-Ranch in Taylor, Arizona, is a gem! A good shearer is worth their weight in gold and Penny was more than we could have ever hoped for.

This is a picture of Penny and her daughter, Emily (aka “Ducky”). If any of you feel you’ve met Penny before dig out your DVD of Dirty Jobs, Season 1…Penny is the person who taught Mike Rowe to shear alpacas! We had a great day with her and her daughter. She was supposed to spend the night here before moving on to her next job but after a phone call home had to change her plans and head out for her brother’s place. She’s just started learning to spin. We had an evening of spinning and fibers planned but that will have to wait for her next trip through.
I can’t say enough about how professional and gentle to the sheep Penny was. The day went smoothly without major incident. It was long and we were all tired, but most of the fleeces came off smoothly with a minimal of second cuts. (Even though I have a couple of sheep who seem to have a spot of very, very dense fleece on their backs – to Penny’s credit she didn’t say anything until I mentioned it was tough going. Then we both laughed as she admitted some Shetlands were like that and were indeed a pain in the…)
Amanda: “Pssst! Hey, Everyone! Who IS that person who just walked into the barn with that motor and clippers? I think we may be in trouble here. Maybe we should take it on the lamb…”
Skittles was the first one in. He was all the gentleman we have come to know him to be. Penny thought he was awesome!
Here she’s finishing up with The Big Guy. She was so gentle with him. And he was very respectful of her. That impressed me. Skit doesn’t mess around with people he doesn’t care for. It was very apparent these two had a “thing” for each other. 🙂
Above is Ole after his first haircut. As I recall, all the wethers were making a raucous about this whole affair. Ole would bleat, then his brother would chime in and get both Shaun and Colin going as well. The rest of the sheep were really quiet, but not those four.

Shaun was next after Sven. What a beautiful fleece Shaun has! It’s a deep reddish moorit with just a few shiny silver hairs now and then that added almost a glint of silver to the fleece. This is one fleece I’m keeping for me! In the picture above, that’s not white on Shaun. It’s the reflection from the flash. Yes, Shaun’s fleece was that lustrous!


Colin’s turn. You can’t see in the photo, but he’s gotten way more iset, or frosty, in his fleece this year.
Above is Amanda, freshly shorn and fat with lambs. Penny said she felt at least two, with the possibility of more. we noticed that Amanda is definitely starting to “bag up”, an indication of lambing soon. She’s scheduled to lamb around the 15th of April – IF she doesn’t explode first! She had two huge ram lambs last year. I keep whispering in her ear, “Girls this year, Amanda. Only girls.”
And here are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in their pen after the indignation of having their wool removed. And they let us know it all afternoon too. How dare we throw them on their bums and run that vibrating scissors over their bodies! Don’t we know how warm that kept them?
As a matter of fact, we do! It’s either being shorn, Boys…or being eaten. Which would you rather we do, eh?
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False Spring?

Things have FINALLY started turning around, at least as far as the weather goes, here at Oleo Acres. The creek, once almost to the underside of the old bridge, is still high but not flooding. We have been promised weather in the 50s lulling us into the idea that spring is here. Those of us who have lived in this area for a long time know full well that “It ain’t over yet!” – we still will have winter until the end of May, or maybe mid-June. The birds are singing spring songs and scoping out nesting sites. The nurseries in town are getting in pansies and violas. All tempting gardeners to buy and plant now.

I have always said the definition of an optimist is a gardener in Flagstaff. I am guilty myself of buying plants early only to have Mr. Frost and his cousin Mr. Frozen let me know they are still in the area. My DH is the same…we both enjoy having lush green plants around and hate to have to wait until June to plant much of anything. But we know better. And even though I know better, I still look at the vegetable and herb starts in the stores and drool.

I happened to get this picture of Skit and Colin this morning. The sun is behind them so it’s not the best shot of them, but they had this “look” on their faces. I think they were almost glad to see me this morning. There was no pacing the fence line waiting for food and demanding “Hummpf!” on their lips, and no demand for cookies as I was late to the barn this morning. The young wethers are now in the pen with Big Brother and Dad. I will be able to clean out their pen in the barn and transfer the ewes to it while I ready the other end of the barn for lambing jugs in anticipation of our mid-April lambing. I find myself happily waiting as a child would Christmas. What will the Sheep Stork bring this year? What colors will they be? How many ewe lambs this year? I had to have a talk with Skittles about the abundance of ram lambs last year, telling him, “No, no, Skit. Girls only this year, Skit!”

The chickens have been enjoying the warmer weather. To the left of center in the above photo is Slick, our Ameraucana rooster. He’s a bantam rooster, but don’t let that fool you. We have the happiest 11 hens anyone could wish for. Nice to see a rooster happy in his work.

I had to remove the coats I had on the girls to keep their fleeces clean. They were beginning to resemble sausages ready to burst out of the casings. From the front they have the appearance of big fluffs of brown marshmallow on four toothpicks with all that fleece. Most have at least 5 to 6 inches of fleece. Keep your fingers crossed that I can find a shearer before the end of this month.

OK, Girls…remember…girls only this year. I talked to Skittles and he assured me he would do his best for girls. How about a couple of nice horned ewes while you’re at it? C’mon Loretta and Ailee…pass those genes on…I know you can do it!

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