Archive for the ‘sheep’ Category

I have been asked by a few individuals what the rovings from the sheeps’ 2007 shearing look like. I hope this picture helps.
Alphabetically from the left we have: Ailee, Amanda, Colin, Lacey, Loretta, and last but not least, Skittles.
Ailee is Amanda’s daughter and it really shows and feels in her fleece. She’s lighter in color than her mother, but both of them have incredible softness. I have been spinning some laceweight yarn out of Ailee’s roving and can hardly wait to get a skein finished and washed to see what it does. Colin’s fleece has been spoken for – well, most of his and Loretta’s, his sister’s. I want to make something for my DH from Colin as they were the best of Bud’s when Colin was small. I think they would still be that way if it had not been for so much going on this past summer.
Next we have Lacey. Lacey is the mother of both Colin and Loretta, so I guess it’s fitting her sample is in between the two. Lacey is the Leader of the Pack. She’s the first one to investigate what’s going on, the first to be friendly, and the first to the feed each morning! 🙂
Loretta’s is next. I was surprised to see that Loretta was more of a dark brown than her brother’s black although if I were to put both on either side of Skittles fleece, they would both look brown to Skittles black.
And last, but not least, is the Ole Man’s fleece…Skittles’ fleece is more coarse than the others. You can definitely tell a difference, but I have to mention that his fleece is still softer than, say a Karakul fleece, or a Romney ram’s fleece. It’s all relative…I have spun a skein of his roving up and while I would not wear his fleece next to my skin, it will still have many uses. And like me, he’s getting more grey with each year that passes. At least I’m in good company.
I will have to assess our 2007 lambs to know what type of fleece he’ll throw. And we have a batch of 2008 lambs cooking as we speak. Ah, Christmas in April for this shepherd! 🙂 I also have been toying with sending in fleece samples for micro evaluation. Whle a lamb’s fleece can give you a “taste” of what their adult fleeces will be, I still wait for a sheep’s first fleece after their lamb fleece has been shorn to make a determination of whether or not that individual will be a good fiber producer.
All of this will be in each sheep’s file and will help me make decisions about who to keep, who to sell. We can not keep all the sheep we produce here as we are not a very big operation with limited space. So I know that soon, I will have to start letting sheep find new homes. Until then I will enjoy each and every one of them.

And if I listen and observe, I may just learn a thing or two from each one…

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Sorry I haven’t been posting lately, but we’ve been mighty busy here at Oleo Acres, one of the cheaper spreads.(aka Sheep Thrills Farm) For the past few weeks, we have had one storm after another batter us. The strange thing is was that these storms came from a very unusual direction. This has caused a very big, large, humongous, giant ice dam on the north side of the house. We started noticing water dripping from the windows in the office, then in our bedroom, then making it into the kitchen. Did I mention this ice dam is really big? 🙂 I have been on the phone with our insurance company getting everything set up for a roofer, plus a restoration company, to come and deal with this problem. We have never had a problem…until this year. Normally our storms hit from the north or northwest. This one came from the south and southwest. Instead of dumping snow, sleet, ice and more snow on the south elevation of the house where it melts off quickly, the storm dropped the snow on the north side. Not good.

I will try to keep you posted…but I am heartbroken at the prospect of having to have half of our newly finished kitchen torn apart. I know they will fix everything after the ice dam is removed, but part of it is opening the walls up to make sure they dry completely before replacing damaged drywall. All I can say is “Oi!” with an “Uff Da!” thrown in for good measure.

But, not being one to try to dwell on a situation that can’t be changed straight away, I noticed that the storm did leave some beauty behind as well. It’s not often we get Killer Icicles hanging off the bedroom eaves right in front of the windows.

I let the girls out for a bit this afternoon when the snowing stopped. I could just hear Ailee saying to her mom, Amanda, “Gee, Ma…is Aunt Lacey heading back into the barn? I don’t think I like this cold deep stuff.” and “Psst…hey, Mom…Loretta is eating the white stuff! Eew!”

Meanwhile, The Ole Man, Bluff Country Skittles, stayed guard over his Tire-Toy. But notice, Folks…HE is HIGHER than the tire! That tire hangs with a two foot clearance between its bottom and the ground! Skittles is standing on top of more than two feet of compacted snow and ice!
-Sorry Skit, ole Pal…I think it may be spring before we see the ground again!-
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Shetland Shepherds…

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Another Shetland shepherd, a friend, lost one of her sheep this week. I stopped in to check her blog this evening to catch up on what had been going on with her. I have been fighting an infection and hadn’t been up to sitting at the computer much as the medications I had been on had terrible side effects.

There, reading her blog, I found a beautiful tribute to a ewe that had served my friend well. By the time I finished reading, tears were falling from my face to the keyboard. The entry was a gracious account of the relationship these two had together. Not real close as a favored dog might be, but you could tell of the love and respect my friend has for this ewe who was 15 years old at her passing.

Shetland shepherds are different than most other sheep people I’ve known in my life. Most other people view sheep as a commodity to buy, to sell…to trade. Others I’ve known aren’t really callous, by any means, towards their sheep, but they don’t hold their animals in as high a regard as Shetland sheep people hold their sheep. There’s something special about both these little, tough, intelligent sheep and the people who shepherd them. Most – and I’ve noticed even Shetland shepherds with very large flocks who don’t necessarily have time with each sheep, each day – come to view these creatures more towards, for lack of a better word, “friends” rather than “livestock”. More than one of them will make time to slow down and sit among their charges. It’s not unheard of to have a sheep lie down next to its shepherd, even putting its head in the shepherd’s lap. There’s a bond there that goes beyond investment, wool, lambs, markets, feed rations. The bond is from heart to heart, soul to soul. Kindred spirits, I have come to believe.

My friend’s ewe had loved apples. She knew when the old girl would not touch the favored treat that the end was near, so she made her as comfortable as possible in a warm, quiet place with plenty of bedding to comfort the gentle old one. By morning, the ewe had passed on to run in lush green pastures by cool brooks of sparkling water.

Tomorrow, I will take my sheep apples to honor both the memory of the old ewe, and my friend. And I will tell them of their bond and respect they had for each other…as we cherish our own…

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Benefit Auction #2

Our past floods here at Sheep Thrills Farm pale in comparison to the devastation left by the flooding in Washington State endured by the Gregory Family of Black Sheep Creamery. I can’t imagine losing almost everything you have, especially most of a flock of sheep upon whom you depend for a living.

I would like to urge you, Dear Visitor, to go to the website WashingtonWool dot com and bid on one of the beautiful items donated by fiber enthusiasts and (Shetland) shepherd alike to raise money to help one of their own get back on their feet. As we all found out when Katrina hit New Orleans, flooding is not usually covered by insurance companies. And these people were not aware that their 100+ year old farm, which had never had any flooding occur in its history, would have a river rise so fast as to barely have time to get out of the house themselves.

The last auction raised $4,000.00 for Black Sheep Creamery. Let’s make this one even better!

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Above you see the six bags of fleece I sent off to be processed into rovings, ready for spinning! Yay! They arrived! I sent the fleeces off just before my back surgery last year. And I was delighted to see the return of the fleece in ready-to-spin form not only for me, but for a few people who have been patiently waiting for roving from my flock. Hooray! From top left, going clock-wise, we have: Amanda, Colin, Skittles, Lacey, Ailee and finally, Loretta.

For the past couple of days, I have been rolling the rovings into smaller balls making it easier for me to handle, store and meter out to customers. I was generally pleased with the rovings. Rolling them into the balls also gave me the opportunity to assess each sheep’s fleece, making notes on each to enter into my flock records. Three of the fleeces were from lambs: Ailee, Colin and Loretta. Lambs’ fleeces are the softest fleece you can get off a sheep. They really aren’t great examples of what the sheep’s fleece will be like as an adult. You really have to wait until the second shearing to get the true characteristic of each individual fleece. But lamb’s fleece is so very soft and rolling the three lamb fleeces felt like rolling soft butter. They were truly delicious!

One of the things I noted was whether or not each fleece had vegetable material in it or if it was fairly clean of bits of hay, seeds, etc. (See the previous post picture for an example of the debris sheep can have in a fleece) Some “vegetable matter, or vm”, as it’s called, is easily removed and most was picked out by me before I sent the fleeces in for processing. Some is terrible to deal with and it seems no matter how well you pick a fleece over before you send it off, there’s always a few bits you miss. One thing I did notice in the fleeces of the adult sheep was that I had very small bits of vegetable matter from plants that are not native to my area. Remember, these were fleeces worn by the sheep since 2005, when I bought them. From Lacey and Amanda, I found some seed matter from the Pacific NW area, where they came from. And from Skittles’ fleece, I saw just a few examples of a few seeds from Minnesota. As well as you pick over a fleece and the processing also eliminates most of the vm, there are a few bits that can still cling to the wool fibers. I have always been careful to dispose of any seed matter in the woodburning stove. I don’t want to introduce any seeds of plants that might be considered weeds here in Arizona. My Master Gardner friends would drum me out of the group should I let loose some “noxious weed” in my area. LOL!

I had been rolling the rovings while watching a movie on TV. As I was working the phone rang. When I came back to my work, I found one of my “helpers”, Pixel, had taken advantage of my absence to avail herself of a nice, soft, warm place to curl up in. I didn’t have the heart to move her.

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Oh, well…I needed a coffee break anyway, didn’t I Pixel?

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Before we had the big snow this past weekend, I had tried out the new camera a bit. Here are this year three little boys, aka “The Do-Da Brothers” during their breakfast time. I shudder every time I give them something to eat as they feel they must wear said meal on or about themselves, then be cleaned off of the offending tasty bits by a sibling later in the morning. I can only imagine these bits of hay are being saved as a snack for later in the morning.

It’s not just the boys, either. I’ve noticed this tendency in other groups. The funny thing is that by the time I go out to feed in the evening, all these bits of dried green vegetable matter have disappeared. Gone. Totally gone. Then I get the big doe-eyed look from everyone as if I never feed them and they are starving.

I guess it’s a good thing I don’t listen to them pleading….They lie, they lie. 🙂

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Coming back from the barn this morning, I heard what sounded like one of the Mallard ducks with a bad head cold. The voice was deeper and more of a “honk” than a “quack”. It was such a different sound that it made me stop and look up and around at the field behind our place. There, in a small patch of open water, were Canadian Geese! What a treat! (Click on photos to enlarge)
We do get the odd delta formation of these geese through here in the fall. Nothing like the massive migrations we used to see living in Kansas, or up in the Great Lakes when I was a kid. This was a real treat! Poor things must be saying something like, “Gee, Martha, I thought Arizona was going to be warmer than this. I’m all for heading farther south. How does Mexico sound to you?”
I had walked out into the snow in our pasture to try to get a better photo of our visitors. It was still pretty cold but the sun had come up, starting to warm up the earth again. I stood there watching the birds to see if they would stand up for a better picture. It was then I noticed the other beauty in the morning light…the sound of water still running in the stream, the sunlight bouncing off the snow, turning it into a field of glistening diamonds before my feet. As cold as it was, the stream was still running under the snow and ice. It hadn’t frozen up solid.
On my way back towards the house I heard a shuffle from the direction of the barn, then silence. There were the small band of sheep I had just put out for their morning meal. They had all stopped eating and were looking at me. In the hush of the morning I thought I heard our wether Colin saying to the others, “Hey, guys! Guys! Mom’s got a camera with her…everybody look her way and say, ‘Grass’!”

There’s another storm coming tonight, Guys…better get a move on down towards the south.

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