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.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Shetland Quiz Answers!

Here I am! I didn't mean to leave everyone hanging for the answers to our first time ever Shetland Quiz. I know a lot of you have had lots of fun with this. There is news to report so let's get started!

First of all, we took our spring time off of work at the end of March. That means, no spinning! That was hard! I really enjoy spinning, but I know it was the right thing to I stopped. I had left my wheel in the ready for a quick and pleasant return to work at the end of the week, so when I started up again, I worked on Wheely Wooly Gracelyn's fleece. I had sheared her and washed up the fleece before break, and had left the fiber to dry. Being a sweet little lamb, her fleece was a quick spin-up of a beautiful heathery mocha brown! The skeins are all washed and ready for labeling. (Pics coming soon)

Another great thing that happened in Wheely Wooly Farm news is that I found a BEAUTIFUL cabinet in which to store yarn that is for sale! I am very excited about this! Pics will be coming in future posts...

In flock news, all the ewes got their CD-T shots and pedicures, and shearing has begun. We had a wicked storm one day with much freezing rain and sleet, so I had brought the boys in for the duration of the storm....that raged on...and on....and on. We had wicked lightning, wind, and incredible rain/hail combos that made everyone uneasy. After the storm moved out, the temps took a dive and remained very cold for a week and a half after that! They are just starting to rebound again, finally! The boys are back outside with spiffy, clean fleeces just waiting to be sheared.

With that nasty storm passing through, we were very thankful we were not expecting our lambs yet. I had waited to start my breeding groups so that our ewes would start lambing mid-April. That way, they can be outside for "green-up". That's the time when our grass here goes from dormant brown to lush green. Putting the ewes out on green grass with new lambs would be a very bad idea! So we get them started AFTER mud season, but before green up, so they get the fresh air. In the meantime, they get to enjoy living out of the mud and in the sheltered space of the shed, with the big doors thrown wide open for warm sun meant for dozing off winter's bone-chilling memories.

Speaking of lambs (!) day 149 is coming up on Friday!!! This day, day 149, is counted from the first day our rams went in with the girls. That means, if a ewe lambs in the average day of gestation, we'll have lambs around that time....or not! Or earlier! Some ewes might not lamb for awhile yet. So how does one tell? Udders. Every day, I'm out there checking udders. It looks like three ewes are getting ready to go so we'll see!

Whew! Lot's of news from the farm this time! So let's get to those answers to the Shetland Quiz now! Ready?!?

1. False!!! Col. Dailley was not a knowledgable sheep man. He was very talented in many, many other ways, but felt lost on how to manage the sheep when they got to Canada. For example, he was not a knitter or spinner. He didn't know how to feed, fence, or breed them. He also didn't know how to deal with the fleeces. Having been told the fiber from Shetland's was "too long for machinery", the fleeces ended up in his garage for years...and his wife lost her car's parking spot! These experiences can be found in the memoirs of the couple who brought most of his Shetland sheep to the United States...people who had worked very closely with the Dailleys over a period of years. Here at our farm, we are very thankful the Dailley's were willing to commit such a large part of their lives to an animal they knew little about! They did not have an easy time. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

2. False! Some people have actually tried to spread this rumor!

3. False! The judge's packet that was thrown out WAS. Crazy! 'nough said.

4. False! Mr. Bowie himself has written that if the tips are blocky, it's NOT Shetland.

5. False! Another rumor some people work hard to propagate.

6. False! Sigh! This one is really shocking!

7. False! Sigh again!

8. False! WHERE are we going as breeders?!? A good, level topline on many kinds of livestock is well known as more than cosmetic, but essential for good health and fitness of a breed. So why are Shetland breeders going so backwards??? Cull sheep with ski-slope or satellite dish backs. Do not breed them!

9. False! This one goes along with question 18.

10. False! ....and all that tasty stuff in those single serving wrappers is healthy for you!

11. False! This one IS fascinating! Color is a tough one, and even the longtime breeders that kept these sheep for centuries sometimes had trouble with color descriptions. This is a beautifully diverse breed. We embrace that diversity, and love all the surprises!

12. False! Hand! Hand is the way to select a Shetland fleece. HAND! HAND! Put it in your HANDS!

13. False! As university and fleece experts will very happily chirp over, and over, and over, and over again....your micron test is just ONE MOMENT in time. Your fleece changes daily.

14. False! This rumor is REALLY crazy!

15. False! Our approach to this question is this: I think the Shetlanders knew what they were doing! THEY protected the sheep. THEY made them famous! Who am I to amend that or change it?? The textiles mean everything. They are the words on the pages of the Shetland sheep story.

15.a. False! Oh boyohboyohboy! I better not get started on this one! (Does not the chef taste their creations??)

16. FALSE!

17. FALSEFALSEFALSE!!! Wheely Wooly Farm will continue to breed the sheep she knew and loved, whether NASSA is on board with us, nor not.

18. False! Don't believe it? Check out the Shetland Textile Museum's video on youtube. Watch for the looms. The museum is near the dock in Lerwick, Shetland's famous port where so many textile products were traded or sold over the centuries. The wonderful spinner in the video is spinning on the same wheel I use. Go watch it! You're in for a treat!!

19. giggle, giggle....FALSE! The islands received 54 days of gale force winds last year. That's typical. It's mild, wet, and it's windy. How many different ways can you describe precipitation? Think Lenice Bell's "bums to the wind"..."bums to the wind"...."bums to the wind". It's a clue.

20. False! Shetlands have SWEET personalities and are very friendly and easy to handle, unless you look like Big Foot to them!

That's all of them! Hey!...they are all false...silly me! :) (Ok, I did that on purpose.) We hope you enjoyed the first ever Shetland Sheep Quiz! Remember, Shetland sheep are personable, sweet little things with exceptionally soft, drapey fleeces that hang to their knees! They are for spinning, spinning, spinning. They make the most sensational knitting yarn! It's for wearing, wearing, wearing!!! Put some Shetland fleece in YOUR hands today!

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