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.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Ok, how fast can I type this and get back to what I was doing? Quick Swifty update! That's our little Border Collie puppy, who is already six months old. He is deeeeelightfullllllll! Many decisions have been made about him (with deep thought) that are all a little scary, but he is proving to be capable of handling each and every one. He is now on the's not spring yet! Yep! He's on the sheep! This has taken much thinking on my part but I decided to let the chaos begin for a couple of reasons:
1. I have really nice sheep, whom I've tamed and befriended. They are trained to move out each morning, and move back in each night, with a human border collie and...
2. He has learned and shown respect for stock that might want to turn on him. He was bonked by polite stock that just sort of gave him the idea, without any umph in it...I couldn't have hoped for better. That taught him everything he needs to know to respect the animals and get out of the way if necessary. He even practiced how close he could get, and how fast he could tuck tail and get away. He shows great respect, yet he's aware he needs to keep an eye out. I've only let him around with ewes...he has zero access to rams for safety. My rams are so personable, I don't think I'd ever need a dog for them unless they prance off to the nearby town....HA! I'll probably be eating my words in a few weeks...

oh yeah, and 3. he has never come even close to sinking teeth into wool to date! If he ever does, playtime time! Border collie goes to kennel for boring time. He has also never sunk teeth into chickens or ducks, although he has now figured out how to circle around them and make them move just in his running around in innocence. This brings an immediate "Swifty! That'll do!! He comes off the birds excellently, tail wagging! GOOD BOY!!!!!!!!!
He has already learned the commands of away and come-by, and can be headed in that correct direction to snatch a toy out of the air lickety split! He is learning sit (this is a tough one for him!!!...usually results in rolling, thrashing, tongue to side, stand, leap, sit, rollover, thumpthump sit, rolloverthumpthump, leap, oh yeah....I get it! Sit!) The split second he gets it, he's verbally praised, and tail goes thump, thump loudly! My first Border Collie, Shimmer, could hit the deck so fast, she cracked up everyone who visited...I'd say "dog break!" and she'd fall flat chin and all, tail swishing. I think Swifty will be just as good at it as she was. That comes later, though. He is GREAT! And I LOVE to watch him creep up on know!...tall rustling grasses, Queen Anne's Lace dancing in the breeze, butterflies, frogs, sheep, crickets in the barn aisle, hula hoops, and such....!

He's also learning stay. This takes enormous practice but we expect full response to this command each and every time on one command. And he's learned how to swim, fetch a stick in water (I have to admit with total shock and surprise...I miss wet dog smell in my vehicle! Life is just not right...all's not well without a wet dog!!), and go along on a variety of car rides as we run errands. He no longer barks at dumpsters or fire hydrants, and he can be trusted alone in the car for a good 15-20 minutes. He'll run right into his kennel on command "kennel!". GOOD BOY!!! When he's in the kennel and it's time to go out after rest, he has a wonderful yodel! He loves hula hoops, bubbles, kids, and his farm. He's always around, with you but not under foot as you work outside or do chores. And...drum roll....he has already saved the day with the sheep....more than once! One day, the sheep missed the gate on the way out...daily routine! They love to pretend they didn't see it so that they can play around a bit. Then, Swifty just happened to do a run out! Around to the west he went, swung wide (while my eyes were wide open and my lungs not working...visions of gonegonegone sheep in my head!), got behind and turned the sheep to the east (no no!! we want south!) then I gave him a whistle, he swung around, got the sheep going south, and they realized game time was over, so the whole flock made a straight line for the gate, ran in, and acted like nothing was wrong...with Swifty behind them several dozens of feet with the expression on his face, "ok...oh I see how this works!! This is cool!!!" Then he positioned himself where he though he'd be needed next! WOW!!!! We were ALL rolling on the ground in happiness after that one!
Another day, Gwennie veered off sharply, in full prance in good fun. Swifty on the job!!!!!! He swung wide and ran up the lane...she oh so quickly veered back into the flock! GOOD BOY!!!!!!! Then one night, Honey decided to run past the gate going in for the night...Swifty on the job!!!!!!! He swung around, gained amazing speed, and cut her off nearly 25 feet from her! She changed her mind, cut around and pranced into the gate...all fine and happy! GOOD BOY!!!!!!!!

Ok, this is FUN!!!!!!!!!!! (we won't mention the roving Swifty found one day, next to his pen...gleeful Border Collie and soft roving....or the addition of teeth marks beyond what our collie, Rollie, did to the table my great grandfather hand crafted....did I mention compost piles??) Amazing things have happened! The sheep are relaxed around him, even Lil' Rainbow, who tried to butt our cat when she first came here! All of the sheep respect Swifty, and he has figured out he makes them move just by running behind them, or swinging out around them dozens of feet away. He paces himself naturally, and is half crouched sometimes. When he's done with his sheep work, time to run in the hula hoop again! Then nap time, where he sleeps completely upside down, paws straight up in the air, dreaming of catching more overgrown cucumbers out of the air as they are sailing from garden to compost heap! is sooo good on a farm!

Meanwhile, we'll be putting our breeding groups together soon, early November. Wheely Wooly Lerwick will be getting some ewes. I can't WAIT to see what he produces! He has an amazing temperment, very soft, fine fleece, and just the conformation the standard asks for, plus, he is very twinkly bright in expression with outstanding horns. I hope he'll pass all of that on to his offspring!

Well I guess that wasn't quick!

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