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.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Wink, Swifty, Hap, Posie, and WILD sheep!!

Time sure flies! The last three weeks have been very fun and busy. We wrapped up shearing, washed fleeces, and prepared for our sales season, plus tried our very best to keep ahead of the weeds, trimmed hooves, mowed, mowed, mowed, mowed.......add a little traveling and well, I'm sleeping good at night!

Wink here, in the photo below, is a really pretty moorit color. Shetlands have such outstanding colors! I had him sheared with a clipper since his wool is too short to handshear decently. The skin line was a brilliant moorit rich chocolate brown that we all drooled over. He is SUCH a nice ram, but not breeding stock. His baa is distinctive...very deep, raspy, and short. Here he is waiting in a stall for his shearing moment.
Winky waits...

For those of you new to our blog, this is our farm dog, Swifty (purebred Border Collie). He's just one year old now and a HUGE delight to have around!! He brings life into new perspectives of joy. Here, he continues to watch the sheep even though he's hot and needs a quick rest in the shade.
Swifter waits...

Next, comes Wooly Bear's Posie! Can you believe she's out of a little black/grey Shetland ram?!? Gives me giggles. Her wool is going to be so much fun, and she's growing very sweet. Another WILD addition to our flock! Such a reputation to have! Posie is easy to take pictures of, always watching me for an opportune attention time.
Posie waits...

Let's see...who's next? Oh! That's another WILD sheep in our flock! Hard to catch! Watch out! Whew!! Oh Maewyn! You're so unsocial! Please, don't tear my jeans! Notice her LOVELY longish and wavy fleece? Nice woolly poll, too.
Maewyn doesn't wait...for attention!

And last, comes little Hap. He is sooooo cute! Hey spinners out there, did you see that awesome article in the latest issue of Spin Off magazine about the Soay sheep (Summer 2011 pages 86-91)? Check out the fleece samples (p. 89, especially sample number 2)! You can definitely see where the Shetlands get the fleece characteristics with soft, fine undercoats and very distinct hairier tips to shed the constant onslaught of rain. I again (this happens all the time) found that what the campers are saying about Soay sheep to promote their cause (of a shiny new shetland sheep) is unfounded in other areas! Notice that the Soay fiber is NOT super crimpy, super short OR super consistent??? It's (GASP!) longish and wavy!! And HAIRY! Is it possible that hobby farmers in America, who don't spin, or knit, know soooo much more about the Shetlands that they are credible redefining the breed and making everyone else breed for that?? Or should we believe all the rest of the well-researched, consistent information from the rest of the world, over a period of hundreds of years that reiterates over and over, Shetlands are what we've HAD in the US for the last 25 years (well, before AI that is)? I'm going with history, not the camp! I'm not culling longish and wavy, I'm keeping them, because that's what's right. Longish and wavy is beautiful. The camp and their changes will either fade away or start their own breed organization, and we'll all be able to get back to normal.

Back to Hap! Hap reminds me of the little lamb in the photo on p. 86, bright, sweet, with upright horns and a beautiful Shetland expression! You can see Shetlands do NOT have huge, wrinkly noses and super broad heads, but rather more refined and expressive faces. You can see the alertness. I think Hap has excellent Soay/Shetland expression, something we strive for here on Wheely Wooly Farm. Hap is out of a spotted ewe (my only sheep with spotted genetics, so to say). He was born with moorit tips, but just below that is lots of light whites, creams and some light grays over his hips. Upon his first shearing, he'll look totally different!
Hap waits...

...wait....what is Hap waiting for? For the pasture to be under control! I can testify, reed canary grass brings FAST growth, soft fleeces, and very healthy lambs, er, if you can find them that is!

Happy summering everyone!

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