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, November 15, 2012

Haven't seen this yet...

We've had really nice weather lately after getting a harmless snow the other day.  The snow came down fast but melted upon landing.  The grass is green now, after being brown all summer, while the fields and woods are now many shades of ambers, russets, and other browns.  The juncos have arrived at our feeders and the chickadees are finally fattening up.  I was shocked at how tiny and thin they were when I decided to put seed out.  Starving, the chickadees came fast...a whole bunch of them...and ate, and ate, and ate.  I think summer was rough on them, too.

The farm has been a busy place.  There is always work to do.  Sheep are getting rotated around to new pens for breeding groups.  This is a noisy time of year, as sheep settle into new, but temporary groupings with rams.  Wheely Wooly Whirlwind, affectionately dubbed 'Whirly' is getting some older ewes that are not related to him.  (Remember Whirly?  He's the CUTE little lamb that was born as a tornado was passing just northwest of our farm on a stormy spring day!)  Wheely Wooly Moonlight is getting ewes, too!  We are very excited to be using these rams, as both have yarns that sell out fast for their softness and richness of color, and both rams have outstanding personalities.  Other rams are getting used as well.  Wooly Bear of course will get his girls, and Wink is getting a couple as well much to say!

Poor Wilbur...he's stuck.  He's stuck babysitting...

Planning the groups is great fun, and takes many months of pondering and diagramming to get things just right.  Then, after getting breeding pens set up, after trimming dozens of hooves, attending to meal plans and giving everyone a good once over to verify gleaming health, the big day arrives!  I've got my list smartly on sticky notes this year so I can just stick them to the beam in the barn. The sheep seem excited!  Some are waiting to stick their noses in the halter in anticipation of their unique to them move, while others, after years of chin scratches suddenly play hard to catch...sigh!  Silly girls!  Rainbow plays this game with me every year.  When you finally get close enough to catch her, she stands perfectly still and patiently waits for the halter to be placed nicely on her head.  She has long been halter trained and feels just fine with the routine...walking easily and loosely where ever you want to take her.  It's getting CLOSE to her that's challenging on grouping day!  Meanwhile, Wheely Wooly Lacey seems to have forgotten her halter skills and is leaping ten feet off the ground (or so it seems through all the giggling!) instead of taking steps!  She knows the routine of halters and walking, but seems to take joy in leaping instead, even through gates.  So we just let her, being careful to open the gates wide enough for her to leap through rather than squeeze through.

Other chores are getting done around all the sheepy excitement.  There are many things to do in preparation for winter besides planting garlic and cleaning up the garden, such as getting leaves over the soil in the garden to smother weeds, feed worms, and enrich the soil.  There's pruning to be done, general clean-up, and things to bring in for the winter.  Plants get divided and relocated, the coop gets winterized, and the barn gets an overhaul of cleaning and repairing.  Well, maybe that barn thing is more a dream in my head some days than it is reality.  Seems there is always something needing fixing in the barn!

Next up, why it's important to halter train your rams!

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