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.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Who Likes Rockhopping?!? :)

Baby Shetland sheep! We have had a smashing first lambing season here on Wheely Wooly Farm...well, sort of (giggle, giggle). Wooly Bear did a great job covering all his ewes! Every ewe put in with him lambed! If I was a meat producer, I'd be disappointed with the number of ewes that singled (all of those being first-timers), but since I am not a big meat producer, I am very, very happy to report that we had no deaths, no rejections, no thefts, no bottle lambs, and we got everything I was hoping for! Plus, all ewes lambed during the day!! Not bad for the first time around!! :)

The first lamb born was out of Sweetie; a little ram lamb. I was stunned at the lush, dense covering of wool he had!! Yippee!! There wasn't a speck of skin showing, and the locks have a beautiful curly/wave to them, are LONG! and oh so soft, with lots of cush!! He is a "solid" color (yippee!), with a pink tongue, so I will really enjoy spinning his fleece as he grows and lightens! Since this ewe belongs to Holly, and was the ewe she showed and won ribbons with, she got to name the lamb. So his name is Wheely Wooly Pumpkin! How perfect for Wooly Bear's first ram lamb, as pumpkins are Wooly Bear's FAVORITE treat!
This picture was taken in the jug a couple of hours after he was born. Sweetie has a wonderfully sweet temperment and took to motherhood immediately with love and gentleness. He was up and nursing in ten minutes!! So they didn't need to stay in the jug for more than a day or so. Then they were moved into a larger "play pen", (mixing pen as most know). Here, little Pumpkin found many interesting things!

Since these are Shetland sheep, and Shetlands come from very rocky terrain, the lambs need little lamby rocks! :) Boy, did that draw this little guy!!! He LOVES his little rock!! Countless times, he hops on and off, on and off, leaping straight up most times to launch himself off! But hopping on is equally fun. This is a very nice rock in that it has wavy texture to the top, so he doesn't skid off.

Then, there are hens to explore! Who are those ladies that scratch up all the straw?!? Why are they doing that??
Then, time to eat! Wait a minute! I'm not big enough yet!! Maybe if I pretend, I'll look all grown up, just like Mom!

Ok, back to my rock!! How fast can I race around my pen and leap up in the air before landing on my rock again?? I'm really good at it now and don't miss anymore!

Let's see how I can launch myself off this time! I wonder how high I can get? Notice my wool?? It is very dense, thick, and cushy, meaning my Mom got good nutrition and little stress when I was inside her! I'm nice and warm in these cool winds!

I'm so tired after all that rockhopping! But I just cannot give up my rock! I tried sleeping on top of it, but it was kinda hard, and I kinda rolled off. So I think I'll try snuggling next to it...ahhhh....I LOVE my rock! Sleep tight!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Longish: An Algebra teacher's perspective.

With the funeral and everything, I didn't get a chance to put this on my blog, so I'm just getting to it now. DH wrote his thoughts on the NASSA Appendix A issue, which got much favorable feedback.

Here it is, for your enjoyment (or torment, depending on your position! Giggle, giggle!) in his words:

While Amy is the Shepherdess around here, and I merely the wonderful, supportive husband, mostly in the background where the sheep are concerned, I feel compelled to make a few observations from a little different perspective.

Sorry, this message is a little "longish." I guess it runs in the family!

I am a high school teacher of Math and Computer Science. The current debate around Appendix A reminds me of a common problem I see in Algebra students.

In the chapter where we solve inequalities, some students get tripped up on setting up certain word problems correctly. Students need to interpret words like "at least" to mean "greater than or equal to" and "at most" to mean "less than or equal to". Many students often reverse the way they interpret these, because they see the word "least" which is related to the word "less" (and so think "less than), and relate "most" to "more" (so they think "more than"). Understandably, this is especially a problem for students whose primary language is not English, but you'd be surprised how many primarily English-speaking students get tripped up by this as well.

Stay with me here.

When these students interpret these words incorrectly, their interpretation is not a matter of "opinion". There is a correct and an incorrect interpretation. Words mean what they mean. Misinterpreting them is not just another opinion, it's an error – an incorrect understanding.

Now, the word "longish", too, has to mean what it means, and not the opposite, just like "at least" or "at most". The "-ish" suffix is MEANT to add a vagueness, a LACK of specificity, to the meaning of the word in front of it. Many NASSA members have already correctly pointed out that if a maximum length were intended to be included, it would have been. I would like to go a step farther and point out that if the original writers of the breed standard chose to add "-ish" to the word "long", we don't even have to assume that they would probably have set a specific limit if that was their intent. They have used language that clearly indicates that specificity was not intended. Again, this is not my "opinion", this is simply what the suffix is intended to mean.

This leaves only the word "long" (what the "-ish" was added to) to still be addressed. The current board UNANIMOUSLY, as they LIKE to point out, agreed that an UPPER limit (i.e. a "LESS than or equal to" interpretation) needed to be "clarified" for us. This sounds a lot like confusing "at least" and "at most" in my Algebra students. The word "longish" clearly needs to be interpreted as "not too short", NOT as "not too LONG"! As I said, this is a surprisingly common misinterpretation, but I find it highly improbable (and I understand probabilities pretty well, too) that ALL of the current adult, English-speaking board members could simply have ACCIDENTALLY made this misinterpretation. Again, a misinterpretation is what this is – it's not an "opinion" issue. Words mean what they mean, and this Appendix A is trying to tell us that a word that means "not too short" should really mean "not too long." So please don't try the tired old line here that "just because someone has a different opinion than you, that doesn't make them wrong." The Appendix simply IS wrong. The probability of ALL voting board members simply interpreting it wrong by mistake is implausible. Now, I know a little about logic, too (think Geometry, remember proofs?). Logically, the only remaining conclusion I can come to is that the board is intentionally trying to change what the breed standard says, presumably (why else?) to suit their own preferences.

The thing is, it doesn't take an Algebra teacher, a logician, or a language expert to know that "longish" doesn't mean "shortish" (or, by the way, that "wavy" is not the same thing as "crimpy"). It doesn't take a sheep expert, either. Any honest, impartial, reasonably intelligent, English-speaking adult should be able to understand the difference. There's no mystery here about why the members of this organization are up in arms about a board that UNANIMOUSLY voted to REVERSE the meaning of such fundamental portions of the Breed Standard, without letting anyone know what they were doing until it was already done. It seems only logical to me that many are upset with what this board has done, and how they did it. Actions, too, mean what they mean. They reveal people's "true colors." And as we all know, they speak even louder than words.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

There's no preparing in saying good-bye

No matter how prepared you try to make yourself, no matter how much something can be expected, there just is no preparing to say good-bye to someone you love.

Two hours after my last post, I watched the last whispers of breath fade away from someone whom has cared deeply for me my whole life. We knew it was coming. What we didn't know is that you cannot really prepare yourself for a loss like that.

How do you say good-bye to someone who laughed with you? Hurt with you? Worried with you? How do you say good-bye to someone who guided your life through smooth and turbulent waters? How do you say good-bye to someone who thought every sneeze was a cold coming on? Someone who was always just a frequent phone call or pretty letter or car ride away? Someone who shared countless meals and many miles of joyful travel? Someone who gave so much? Cared so much?

Well, I had to say good-bye. I had no choice. There is nothing I can do now, except understand that change happens for a reason. Change is all part of the plan. It's really a good thing, even if it's sad and hurts sometimes. However, we have our memories. Memories are that reveal someone special once shared your life. My memories are many. I'll never forget, for they encompass so many areas of my personality and life. They are the trees and flowers, in the sun, in the meals, in the house, in the car, on the road. Perhaps some of those memories become one with my own life, blending time past with time today. I can hear it in the way I say something, caught unawares suddenly, hearing her. Or in my thoughts as I go about my work, realizing I've just done something just as she would have.

Change is all part of the plan...there's just no preparing for it...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

My Voice I am going to post about our breed organization here in North America. I have supported this organization in good faith with my dues and sheep registrations. We produce fleece for handspinning, and I sell every drop...well...except the ones I can't bear to part with! I think my many followers now know who we are.

I am posting this blog today because I am deeply concerned about the activities within our organization that have been occurring over the last few days. Things are just not right. For example:

1. An insult has been made on the official group list, directed to our fellow shepherds over in Britian. I want it to be clearly known that I found this very offensive, unprofessional. I found it embarrassing and as soon as I saw it, I requested it be removed. I do not want to be linked with that, and I feel bad it was allowed to happen, as many people read it. I have many followers from Britian, and I am so sorry our organization allowed that to happen!! I am amazed it was allowed to post.

2. Even though I paid my dues a long time ago, and am a member in good standing, I have not been given the impartiality allowed me in membership rights. I have attempted to engage in the exchange on our organization's group list, and some of my posts have gotten through, most have been repeatedly censored off. I knew certain people don't like the facts I've found, because they support "longish and wavy" to mean just that, "longish and wavy", historically accurate, and well known. So I guess that even though I am a paid member, hmmm...and I've learned I am not alone...

3. I have found it amazing that the representatives of the organization are saying all input on the posts were members' OPINIONS. The continual implication that members don't have any facts is, well, not correct and disrespectful to the membership.

4. In my many discussions with Shetland shepherds over the last winter and previous years, I hear the same thing. Long fleeces are loved. They are desired. They sell fast for higher prices. They are a joy to spin. They make beautiful yarns ideal for wearing. They look beautiful on the sheep. They are most often what drew people to the breed. We have excellent documentation in a variety of places around the world that they are historical. Plus, it is a fact that the textiles produced and made famous in Shetland reveal that longer fleeces ARE what the breed is. That is a fact. I have also learned from many of you that sheep bearing these fleeces tend to thrive and become great producers with very little input in your flocks. The mortality rate in these flocks is low and ewes are kept, and remain productive well past a decade. Hum..

5. If anyone who enjoys longer fleeces tries to engage in friendship with other such shepherds on the list or at Shetland events, a small, but very combative group interferes with a vengeance, creating a lot of hard feelings and sore minds by those observing. This is not right. These are sheep. Something is seriously amiss, and we are, it seems, on a bloody battlefield of some sort.

6. I will be continuing to raise the sheep described above, because that is what's right. I do not agree with the way things have been handled in our organization and I am entitled to my voice. I used to be proud to belong to this organization. Now, I'm embarrassed. And clearly, I can no longer trust that those in control can function with integrity and impartiality and equality, as the By-laws and Code of Ethics dictate. Therefore, I can no longer refer future shepherds and customers to the website, for I feel they have proved to negatively affect my ability to engage in commerce, professionalism, and friendship.

FACT: Decisions have been made in our organization. The handling of concerns from members has not been handled well. Members who offend in inappropriate ways get through time and again, while members who don't offend are censored out or descended upon for their opposing view. Our greater membership is hiding under the table.

FACT: Many members are not able to use the computer to get information.

FACT: I am surrounded by small flocks whom no longer belong to this organization, or never joined for these very reasons. They are raising Shetland sheep with NO Standard, and NO support. Fact: they sell many, many lambs for nice prices.

Whether a board in an organization has full power or not, they ARE representatives of the membership. They control representation of Shetland sheep to members who own farms, flocks, fiber related businesses, and hobbies, as well as to prospective shepherds and customers. I feel our board has failed miserably on this. Members and friends cannot engage in dialogue and friendship, commerce and participation without getting verbally beaten up. Something is WRONG.

And now, I have to go. I just got the call as I was typing this. My Grandmother whom I have been very, very close to, who loved daylilies and peach pie, is dying. Her birthday is in two days. She'll be 95. So here's your chance people! Begin your next attack, because I won't be around for awhile to hold you honest.