Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles

Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles! Our farm mission is to enjoy and promote the wonderful diversity of the Shetland breed by fully utilizing to the best of our ability all they have to offer historically. We believe the best preservation and management of this breed includes it's full spectrum of history. We encourage old and new shepherds alike to join in the fun by engaging in fiber arts, especially spinning and knitting, as this breed is so intimately linked with those aspects of the arts.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Honey, spinning, and Shimmer

Sweet Honey! She is a lovely lamb, and is so sweet, she'll steal your heart in no time. She was really wild when we bought her, as all our sheep seem to be when we get them. She came from a loving flock that was closely bonded, and I felt terribly guilty for taking her away from that. She baa-ed louder than any other sheep I've transported on the way home, and was so restless, I worried for her safety. In this picture, you can see a gap of wool missing around her neck. "Rats!", I thought when I went to look at her! She is a lovely ewe, but will require being fenced in a way that prevents her from sticking her head through to graze the other side, causing her wool to be rubbed out. In this little pasture on our farm, she is still fenced by squares large enough for her to stick her head through. Fortunately, I now rarely see her do that, and her wool is actually starting to grow back. Why she does it less here than she did on her home farm, is a mystery to me. Since she is an "09 lamb, she won't be bred, and is living with Wilbur and Lil' Rainbow.
Her wool is fine and soft, and will change color after her first shearing, to a fawn. Actually, her wool was coarser feeling when she came here, and now seems finer. I don't know if that is my imagination, or if there is truth to that. She is a honey color now, as a lamb. She was actually born dark brown! She has a white "collar" around her neck and a dark brown face with white fibers on her forehead. She has a wooly poll and cheeks, nice bone density, great conformation, a very sweet, bright expression, and a tail that falls correctly to the standard in terms of length and taper with a hairier tip, but somehow, I don't like her tail as much, and almost didn't buy her because of it! It falls in the standard, but somehow, isn't what I like to see...maybe too wide.
Someone else around here is liking spinning, too! In fact, I'm not sure I'll get my wheel back! I did buy the Kiwi for lessons, and for kids. This little wheel is so simple, smooth, steady, and short that kids easily learn on it; adults, too! Check out how fine that yarn is she's making!!! Makes a Mom proud!

After posting last time about Annabellie the silly puppy (who's now actually just over a year old), I realized I don't have any pictures on the computer of my first dog. She passed away several years ago, before the age of digital cameras and ease of picture manipulation. It will take me awhile to get a picture scanned in and figure out how to do that. She was a Border Collie/Heeler mix, out of champion stock on both sides. The male she was out of was a mulitple champion herding dog out of a northwest Colorado sheep ranch (I was working on ranches in Colorado at the time). One day, as an older dog, he was working sheep on the family's extensive private ranch, when he put his foot in a trap at a full run!!!! That was nearly his death. They released him as rapidly as they could, angry that a trapper would place traps on private land without permission, took him to Fort Collins to the vet school there, and made the decision to amputate his leg rather than put him down. A junior vet student there that day offered to AI him to a bitch he had, a champion working cattle dog who was a Queensland Heeler. The agreement was made to have crossed pups, as the Border Collie's prognosis was not good. Infection had set in and they thought they were going to lose him. There wasn't much time to mess around.

I got one of those pups, lucky me!! After doing much research, I kept coming back to the Border Collie as the ideal match for me. I was very active, living in the Colorado Rockies, and working on ranches. I took out pack trips on horseback, taking tourists above treeline, and on overnight pack trips. I also provided drop camps for elk hunters, although, fortunately, I never had to tie an elk head onto a horse!!! If you want interesting stories, ask any drop camp wrangler about getting elk racks out of the mountains on horseback (read, trees, blood, and bears)!!!! Not fun. I know I hated those days, but the rest was great fun.

Anyways, I rode horses all over the mountains, did lots of hiking, and skied all winter. It was a free and wild time in my life. And my little Shimmer was with me for it all. She put countless miles on, following me like an extension of my right arm. One day, she helped me retrieve a runaway pack mule. Another time, she alerted me to a bear near the trail. She became legendary in my area for never taking off after a deer, elk, or anything else. She made me, a first time dog owner (my own first, even though I grew up with a German Shepherd), look really good! I was so humbled by that. One whistle, and she was alert, on whatever you needed. She was fast, totally attentive (had that intense Border Collie stare), and a cinch to train. You asked something of her...BANG...she gave it to you!

Of course, as with all stories about dogs, there is much more to tell, but that is enough for now. In the end, the male she was out of made it through his surgeries, and lived on as a three-legged dog. I surely would love to have another pup out of him today. So why is Annabelle such adaptation? Ask something of Annabelle, and she'll think about your suggestion for awhile, or do the opposite!!. Ask something of a Border Collie (a good worker, anyway) and you'll get a response (the right one) on the spot.

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