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.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Shetland Showcase 2010

Now's the time. It's time to address our upcoming show in Jefferson (Sept. 2010).

Many of you know the Shetland Showcase was entirely of my own creation and design. (See prior blog entry back in March). It is also well known that my desire in putting together such an event was to restore education, camaraderie, and integrity back to our organization, all while restoring excitement in the breed by bringing people back. (Shetland numbers had been declining, while the rest of the festival and other breeds were growing.) Shetlands are a breed with fascinating history and textiles, which deserve celebration and embrace, for these things set it soaringly high above what nearly any other breed on the planet can boast.

Upon presenting my idea to Juliann Budde, then Education Chair of NASSA (and MSSBA member) back in Sept. of 2009, my idea was forwarded to MSSBA (Midwest Shetland Sheep Breeders Assoc.) President Chris Greene, with my permission. Chris responded that she loved the idea, and asked me to be Chair. I accepted. She wrote that I should wait, so I did. Then all went silent. Worried, I blogged about my Shetland Showcase event in March. What I didn't know, was that Chris loved my idea so much, she went ahead with planning the event without me. Upon writing my blog entry about it, Chris responded. On March 11, 2010 she wrote, "I know that Shetland Showcase was your original idea. And that when we talked about it some months ago I asked you to be Chairman of the committee." She went on to say, "This was discussed by the MSSBA Board and we decided that if we continued with the idea to add an educational program to the WSWF weekend we would have to call it something other then Shetland Showcase and would have to design a program that would meet with the standards of the WSWF Committee (Amy here...of course)...and the majority of the MSSBA members." (italics mine...MSSBA is the root of and home base for much of the camp)

So! Now's the time to begin addressing this. Why? Because it is obvious the camp was in control here. They know my farm comes with representing the truth of the 1927 Breed Standard, and they didn't want that, for my representation conflicts with their intense desire to create a new, more modern and different Shetland. Many of these campers have piles of lambs to sell each year, so the "new" event would become a new tool to market these lambs and their fleeces.

My goal was to improve education, support, and joy to the event. For example, I designed classes of 45 min. to teach halter training skills so Shetland enthusiasts had the support they needed to prepare for showing, and not come to the show with beautiful ewes in HUSKY HARNESSES! I think husky harnesses and dog collars on sheep in the show ring smack of an ununified organization that is failing to dispense support to it's membership farms (same with showing Shetlands in a meat sheep carcass hanging grip). I designed textile judging opportunities, and fun 45 min. class sessions into Shetland Showcase to help re-connect the textile history with the fiber we produce, among other things. I wanted to welcome people BACK to the Shetland barn, and restore joy. I wanted to utilize all these things to help the current stiff tension erode.

But as you can see, the camp had other ideas. They loved my idea, and took it, renaming it the "Handy Shepherd". If you look in this year's Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Catalog, you will find my Shetland Showcase event disguised as the the "Handy Shepherd". I, as Chris informed me, was NOT welcome. In the same March 11, 2010 email she wrote, "I hope you will forgive us for not including you. You can be happy that your idea was a good one and that it will go through, even though you will not be a part of the design committee." I believe this tactic was to prevent the truth from being displayed, that Shetland sheep are a breed with longish and wavy fleeces of soft, fine texture. Since the camp was working so fiercely hard (and hence all the tension) to redefine the breed, they wanted no representation by my farm which sticks with the original, genuine fiber. So they continued attempts to slander my farm and sheep (you know...that I'm a self-centered hairbreeder...for example).

We all know now that the camp controls nearly all internet communication amongst Shetland farms. We all know now that farms whom represent the true, genuine Shetland have been censored off heavily and not allowed to "speak" much. We all know now that farms are told to cull longish and wavy as hair by the camp. We all know now that the camp members have utilized NASSA tools to pitch their own, more modern view of fleeces as the only fleece. We all know now that this more modern fleece-type sheep has been self-dubbed "classic" by camp breeders...a true misnomer. We all know now that this board has been extremely busy changing things within NASSA from their own disciplinary policy...which came first the definitions of the breed, all while delaying the flow of information SIGNIFICANTLY to the membership. And of course, we all understand that the camp is responsible for the stiff tension and driving away of Shetland enthusiasts, orchestrating coordinated blog monitoring of Shetland farms and timely slams in comments on those farm blogs. We know of their combative nature and ongoing misrepresentation of basic sheep language, such as long-fibered Shetlands are longwools, or that wavy means crimp, or that Shetlands were "never rug sheep". We know that their sheep look very different from the genuine, historical Shetland, and that they breed for short wool at the expense of long treasured conformation, such as bright expressions and straight, strong toplines, with plans to "fix that later". And of course, we all know that the camp acts as enablers to bullies who bash our membership around with inappropriate content not related to sheep, by allowing such bashings to post and remain posted on official NASSA sites, unless pushed HARD to have such posts removed by concerned farms. And of course, we have all deeply felt the loss of integrity of our "representatives", and the loss of interest in our breed by the general public, for everyone is truly battle weary... many frightened away.

So many of us have felt these problems so deeply. Why are we still putting up with it? It's time to send the camp on it's way, to the new ground they so desire. With some recent campers threatening to not renew their memberships, I think they are realizing that membership comes with ethics...ethics that involve integrity and adherence to the 1927 Breed Standard. If you don't want to breed for and support "Extra fine and soft texture, longish, wavy, and well closed" and "level" backs, then you shouldn't register lambs...and maybe you are in the wrong place. While I've had good influence on all this, I cannot do it alone. Unlike many in the camp, I have no monetary motivation for creating, designing, or implimenting Shetland Showcase. I am a teacher in my off farm life, and I love creating opportunities for others to make friends and celebrate the good things we have that bring us connections, advances our skills, inspires us and brings us joy. I am also passionate in preserving and protecting the unique diversity we have been SO LUCKY to have been given by the unbelievably hard work of some who've gone before us. How much longer are you going to put up with camp losses to our breed? Let's take action and fix this problem once and for all. Please come to the Shetland Showcase (i.e. Handy Shepherd) and demand that the breed representatives (mostly campers) return to the genuine Shetland sheep detailed for us in the 1927 Breed Standard. Demand that the campers who bash inappropriately with societally insensitive, insulting, at at times threatening language be removed from NASSA membership, for they shred our breed's farm integrity. Amazingly, these campers and their "friendfarms" have become the poster children for our breed...horrifically in a very bad way. Do not buy lambs or fiber from these campers and their friendfarms, who enable the bashers. Do not buy sheep with their farm prefixes. Instead, work to restore faith in the general public that if they buy a Shetland sheep or two, that they can trust the bashing won't be turned on them. Insist that the Shetland Showcase is for those who love and appreciate the genuine Shetland sheep, it's historic fiber, and the amazing textiles that result ONLY from genuine longish, wavy fiber, for these things give us heights over nearly any other breed on the planet. Demand that actions are taken to protect member farms, and future buyers. Demand that our current representatives stop busying themselves so excessively with changing the breed so something so common and start supporting our membership in saving our unique fiber and fortunate conformation so that we may begin repairing the damage these representatives and their supporters have caused, and begin the healing.

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