Archive for the ‘Skittles’ Category

In Memoriam

Bluff Country Skittles Bluff Country Skittles – May 7, 2003 to Summer, 2010

It is with deep regret that I inform long-time readers of this blog about the passing of one of the great Shetland rams. Bluff Country Skittles passed away in the high pastures of Colorado this past summer. Skit was a young ram, just 7 when he died, but he left a large impact, as big as he was, on many hearts during his life.

Skittles had gone up to Jared Lloyd’s ranch the summer about this time last fall. I needed new bloodlines for my small operation and Jared was very keen on adding Skittles genetics to his flock as well as “collecting” him for posterity and keeping his genetics available to future generations. Sadly, that was not to be.

One morning this summer, Jared said he walked into the sheep shed to find Skit lying down, front legs crossed and his chin resting on them the way he slept many times. But he didn’t move. When Jared went over to rouse him from his sleep, he discovered that Skit had passed on. There was no sign of trauma or markings in the dirt of a struggle or thrashing. Just Skit, asleep.

I know I will miss him. He was one of my first Shetland loves and a truly majestic ram in so very many ways. He had almost perfect conformation, was large but well-built and had personality to spare. I couldn’t have asked for a better ram to begin earnest breeding with. He had it all.

I will miss our walks around the place, Skit…and how you would gently sway me towards the apple tree for a snack of leaves if you could get away with it. You left some mighty big hooves to fill, Buddy…

…and I will miss you.

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Subtraction and Addition

Skittles left yesterday. His new home is with Jared Lloyd in Colorado. Jared has a bevy of beautiful ladies just waiting for Skit! And yes, I had a few tears in my eyes when Jared walked him into the trailer. Skittles was my first Shetland love. Oh, I loved the girls when they came with their babies, but it was Skit who turned my head and heart the Shetland direction.

What made it easier letting him go was knowing that his genes will have more of an opportunity to be best utilized at Jared’s place. The fact that Jared is interested in collecting and saving Skittles genetics (for AI) showed me that he really appreciates all Skit’s attributes. The fact was that I needed some new genes in the flock and Jared had a young up-and-comer I was interested in.

Meet soon to be named, Jehovah’s Loki. Jared had wanted me to pick out a name for this youngster and after seeing that impish look on his face, “Loki” seemed like a fit. His sire is Skeld, a top ram on the Shetland Isles. No, Skeld didn’t visit Colorado…except in a little tube. 😉 Loki is the result of an AI breeding.

All the lambs we get from Loik will probably be white. White is a color that has been lacking in my flock. I am hoping to use Loki for a few years, then he may have to do some traveling as well. When you have a very small operation, you have to make hard decisions as to whom to keep and whom not to. It’s the one aspect of this sheepy-business I really don’t like. But I do not have the luxury of having different fields in which to stockpile sheep I want to keep. We have limited space. I would never want more than two rams on this place at any one time. The fact is, it’s easier to replace the rams than the ewes, so most rams do not get to spend their lives on one farm. sigh.
Loki’s fleece feels just like soft clouds. I realize that this is his “lamb fleece”, which is always the softest fleece any sheep has, but his fleece is softer to the hand than some of the others we’ve had here. I can hardly wait to see what he throws next spring.
Normally, I don’t like using ram lambs for breeding. In fact, this will be the first time I’ve ever done it this way. We’ll just have to see how it goes. I am a believer in letting a sheep mature before breeding, usually not using them until they are a year old at least. Since we did not breed last year, and I have a growing list of people wanting lambs from us, I think this year we’ll just have to see what Loki can do.

Bye, bye, Skit, my love. I will miss you and always cherish you in my heart. I know you’ll make us proud.

Welcome aboard, Mr. Loki. Just in case you didn’t know it, you’ve got some mighty big hooves to fill.

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…’cause when you get older, you need a break now and then. 🙂

Yes, I’m still here. It has been three whirlwind, crazy, busy, beautiful, weeks around Oleo Acres. Our daughter and granddaughter were here to spend three weeks with us! WooHoo! While the original intent was to see Miss Julie before she passed, Kelly still came over to go with us to a neighborhood get-together in her memory. While she was here, we made use of her wondrous abilities to: have her help me get my new (on my lap as I write this) laptop computer up, running and connected up; set up a server for all the computers in the house (which backs up all the computers’ files every night so we’ll not lose anything again), clean out the office with a fine-tooth comb (something Hizzoner hates to do because he can not throw anything away); eat lots of Mexican food with us; and share her daughter gracefully with two beaming grandparents. I don’t think Gwen’s feet hit the ground while she was here. We loved it!
Truthfully, we did come to realize that having a baby around illustrated just how much older we’ve become. We’re not ancient by any means, but I know I could tell that bending, carrying, car-seating, buckling anything Gwen was in to actually keep her in, and going-going-going all the time did take me down a notch or two. I loved it!
Here’s just a few of the pictures I took:

Best Friends. Grandpa and Me

OK, Pixel…You’re In For It Now!

“Who? Me?”

Ninja Warrior Baby? -or- Up-and-Coming Pool Shark?

Along with everything else going on, I have been finalizing something for Sheep Thrills Farm. I haven’t really wanting to say anything yet, thinking it would jinx everything, but I am working out an exchange of sorts. It looks like Skittles will be heading for Colorado. A fellow Shetland breeder and someone appreciative of quality rams, Mr. Jared Llyod of Jehovah-jireh Sheep and Cattle LLC. , was very interested in Skittles. Would I be willing to exchange Skit for one of his rams? Jared knew I needed some new genetics and had a number of candidates for me to choose from.
While logic dictates this is a no-brainer, I have to admit that I will really miss my buddy, Skit. With the exception of breeding season when he takes on the appearance and personality of a shark in a feeding frenzy (I swear, those eyes of his would roll back in his head if a ewe in season was anywhere near), Skit has always been a big teddy-bear.
I hesitate to make friends with any ram, espousing a more “ToughLove” approach as my friend Lois, of Stonehaven Farm, calls it. Skit and I respect each other, but that never stopped him from asking for his tail to be scratched or that spot between his shoulders rubbed a bit when I let him out to pasture. He always gives me a look to say, “Thank you.”, then goes on his way. Apparently, he believes this is a duty that every shepherdess must provide when asked nicely.
It was only when Jared promised that Skittles would be used for breeding, then when he’s older, he’d be retired to a pasture with another of Jared’s beloved rams to live out his days. Skit will have more ewes, plus have a larger place to roam. He deserves that and it’s something that I cannot provide on our small place. So, I said yes. Soon Jared will arrive to pick up Skittles and deliver two ram lambs, one of them sired by a ram from Shetland. Yesterday the veterinarian came out to examine Skit and fill out his Health Certificate for travel. He’s ready to go and fit for this year’s breeding season. And I will miss him.

I don’t know if he realizes it or not, but I will have to explain to Jared how important having a “Tire Toy” will be for Skittles.
…I so hope there’s room for one in that new pasture.

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After a month of hard thinking, waffling over it and driving my DH crazy with discussions, I have decided that Skittles needs to find a new home – hopefully one with many more ewes than I have.
Skittles is one of the best rams I have ever seen! He has darned-near perfect conformation and a wonderful disposition which he passes on to his offspring.
Another plus is that his offspring all seem to keep their dark, rich coloring. The muskets do turn their brownish grays, but the colors always seem to be rich. Even Shaun, our red moorit iset wether, is keeping his rich red color with the iset frosting.

Being a very small sheep operation, we have to continuously keep genetics moving here. We don’t have the acreage to swap out rams or make different breeding pens. As we won’t be breeding this year, I don’t think it fair of me to retain the great genetics Skit passes on. And each morning I see the longing in his eyes as I let the girls out into the pasture. He should be “working” for someone, not cooling his heals.

And so, we offer:


Bluff Country Skittles
NASSA Reg. #15379
(To Approved Flock only)
Skittles carries spotting genetics when crossed with ewes also carrying spotting genes. Every single lamb he’s sired for us has been born with a white krunet (crown) or a few white fibers on the top of the head. Skit’s also a very respectful ram who only gets a bit feisty when it’s fall and the girls go over to the fence line to tease him. Even then he’s always respected the fencing.
The only caveat is that whomever would like to add Skittles to their flock must make a Tire-Toy for him. I don’t think he could live without his Most Beloved Tire-Toy!
And thank you, Skit…for everything you have done for us. I just think you’d be much happier in a bigger flock, Bud…

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When I got up Saturday morning, I immediately went to: 1. Turn the coffee pot “on”…and b. Checked the monitor in the office running “Sheep-O-Vision”. Loretta had been acting suspicious on Friday and I had wondered if she had progressed along. Well, at first I thought it was something wrong with the camera in that part of the barn, but I saw what appeared to be the beginning of something working its way out of Loretta’s posterior. To the tune of “There’s mucous! (Only another shepherd or person living with one would understand the excitement those words bring to a shepherd’s heart) She’s in labor!” I ran back to the bedroom to get dressed. I barely had time to tell my DH I was headed to the barn when I heard, “Don’t forget your phone.” from my beloved spouse.
Loretta’s labor progressed very fast, even for a first-timer. I checked on her then went about my business feeding the other sheep and making sure the others weren’t around to bother the expectant mom. After feeding, I went back in and spied two big feet where feet aren’t usually found on a sheep…but no membrane! No fluids! Oi!
Loretta was up and down. She was in the throes of deep, painful contractions without making any headway in getting this “pod-being” out of her body. By that time I noticed a nose and mouth with a big tongue hanging out of it. The tongue was pink, but if things didn’t progress along it wouldn’t be pink for long.
By that time my Dh had arrived to help anyway he could. I donned gloves. Enough time had passed and Loretta was getting weaker with each contraction. The nose was even starting to move back inside! I had forgotten how slippery these little guys can be, so I asked Hishonor to hand me a towel so I could get a good purchase on the front legs. With the next contraction, I pulled while Loretta pushed and out he came! Yes, damn it! Another HE!!!!

Above is a picture of the unnamed ram lamb Loretta presented to us. (I repeat…”Damn it!”) He had a bit of a problem finding the right spigots on Mama, the problem being that he had such tall legs. Soon he had his first meal and Loeretta continued cleaning him up.

He has the Skittles Stamp, a krunet marking, on the top of his head. And Loretta is a fierce protector of him. Her sister came close to inspect this new wind-up toy that her big sister had and Loretta tried to bash away all relations in protection of her new son.
We are almost finished lambing here for this year. But I may have to start thinking of another ram. Since we’ve had my friend, Skittles, out of ten lambs so far, only one was a ewe lamb. The rest have been carbon copies of their sire. It’s like Skittles has created his own army of Mini-Me’s running around. My talks with him have fallen on deaf ears. He’s out to create an army of rams under his control. So far, it seems to be working.

Darn it, Skit! I hope you remembered where you put your suitcase as you may be leaving…or at the very least you may have a roommate – with horns as impressive as yours! Got the word now?

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Last evening, I had to take the wethers out of the pen they were sharing with Skittles. Except for Colin, I noticed that Skit kept herding the smaller wethers into a corner at the bottom of his pen. He would not let them near the water trough, or near any of the spots I had placed hay in – trying to have separate areas that everyone would be able to eat. Somehow, Skit would keep chasing all of the others away from any of the piles of food liked some crazed fanatic. He hogged it all, trying to gorge himself with all of the food. He was getting everything plus keeping anyone else from getting much of anything at all.

What alarmed me was that he wouldn’t even share with Colin, his best buddy. I had an inkling about this and was watching his behavior for the past few days. Usually, Skit would eat his hay sharing with his buddy but keeping a wary eye on the smaller wethers as he munched. Everyone got to eat what they were supposed to. I suspect he felt he needed more, pig that he can be, which started this behavior in the first place. Then, he became hopped up on hay and timothy pellets, causing the abusive behavior.
The “last straw” for me was finding poor Ole absolutely covered in grass and hay when I went out to feed yesterday. It was very apparent that “someone” had broadsided Ole, causing him to be thrown flat to the ground and then on his back. Ole was also walking around as if stunned, just very slightly limping. He was in the far corner with his brothers, Colin placing himself between the smaller boys and Mr. Piggy, in full “I am the Protector” mode. Enough.
I opened the gate to allow the wethers into the barn-proper. Skit can still be nose to nose with them, even share hay with them through the fencing if he wants. But he can’t block them from eating. I knew it was the right thing to do when the four wethers went straight to the water and drank their fill. I then put out some hay, hay-pellets plus a pan of minerals and bicarb-buffer. After feeding the ewes and giving Skit a much smaller protion of hay I sat on the stoop watching the little boys and Colin eat in peace. As I sat there, each of the boys, in turn, came over to me, put their head in my lap (still happily munching on hay) and looked up at me as if to say, “Thanks, Mom. I was getting so very hungry and thirsty.”
I suspect that Skit will settle down when he gets back to having only his portion of feed. I will watch behaviors to see if Colin wants back in with Skit, or wants to stay with his babies. Colin loves the little ones. Yup…I think it may be that Skit will eat alone in his pen, in full view of the other sheep, until he settles back down. All the boys will still be turned loose together in the pasture where they all have room to run if need be.
Space can be a problem when you have animals in intensive farming situations. I’m sure there are a few Shetland people reading this, on small places of their own, nodding in acknowledgement of having the same problems. Whom do you put with whom and do they have enough space? How can I manage the pasture so everyone gets some pasture time without overgrazing the land? We rotate pasture areas to try to keep the grass and land healthy. This can be a very hard thing to do in Arizona. We are blessed with a stream and green grasses for about 2/3 of the year. I have even had neighbors come over and ask how I still have grass when they can’t keep any growing on their places. I try to explain the concept of rotational grazing and that it works for even small spaces, but it doesn’t seem to sink in. I explain that a horse will eat pastures down to dirt if allowed to be in an area for a long time. For some reason, they just don’t “get it”. Sigh.

On the UP side of things, we may have a shearer lined up for next Friday! I am so jazzed about the prospect of having the flock shorn! I may not have the pregnant ewes shorn even though we’re not close to lambing until mid to late April. The shearer that’s coming is a woman with much experience and is known for her gentleness and quality of work. I will defer to her judgement as to whether or not it would be safe to shear the ewes. Or she may have them stand for shearing, I’m not sure. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, I expect. Bless Katie, in Taylor, AZ, for offering to contact this person and share her with me! I will have more to tell next Friday, I’m sure! 🙂

As you can see from the above photo, snow has melted to where the hens can get out and “Talk a little, peck a little. Talk a little, peck a little.” Come to think of it, maybe everyone here at Oleo Acres is just plain ready for warmer temperatures – the snow has melted from everywhere but the north side of buildings and hills, the sun is shining, and the birds are definitely into their “Spring Songs”. But the wind is still very cold.

I think we all just have Cabin Fever. The days are lengthening and all signs point towards moving toward summer. And IF the wind dies down a bit, I think all of us will reclaim our sanity or at the very least head towards normalcy…any day now. 🙂

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Appreciating Himself

These are not the best photos I have taken of “Himself”, but I took them to show you something I noticed about Skittles that wasn’t there last winter. This all came about from letting all “The Boys” out together in the pasture yesterday. I wish I had my camera then for what did I behold, but a ram ponging and jumping around the pasture with all the rest of the boys – kicking his heels up in pure joy! I never thought “The Old Man” could move like that! 🙂

It was then I noticed it…the sun was at my back as I hung over the gate to watch and so afforded me the opportunity to see what the dull greys of winter had hid so well from sight. Can you guess what it is?

Now, in his defense, he wasn’t posed for any of these shots, but it’s still visible. It looks so much better in person, too. I just wish the camera had captured “it” as I had witnessed.

The above shot is a good one showing “it” off. Any guesses? Look closely at the LUSTROUS FLEECE The Old Man is sporting this spring! WaHoo! I have had only one shearing from Skit since I bought him from Nancy. And I have to be honest – his fleece showed the stress of shipping such a long distance plus his having to acclimate to this high altitude. The altitude will definitely take the wind out of your sails until you get used to it. Skit had only 6 weeks before breeding season that fall, very little time to adjust to all the changes in his life.
Altitude was a big concern for me…at high altitudes some strains of bulls will keel over stone-cold dead during breeding season as their heart can’t take the stress. I had never heard or read of any sheep doing that but I sure didn’t want my buddy to be the first. What a tough cookie he is.
That’s right, Skit…you guard that barn area from all comers! You’re looking awesome, Buddy! I ‘ve just got to get you a dribble bib for that hay under your chin.

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