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, January 15, 2013

A January Day

What is January like in northeast Wisconsin?  Usually cold and sunny!  And today is just that.  The sun is shining brightly but the air is very cold.  The sheep are not fazed too much by the cold air.  They are mostly outside, watching the birdies flit about in the trees.  The chickens are tucked in the coop so that we can find all their eggs as they lay.  The sun shines in through the windows, warming the space nicely.  Occasionally, you can hear "Brights" or "Red", our roosters, crowing through the walls.  Love that!

Just outside my window, the chickadees are busy, busy, busy!  They are singing their sweet little chickadee songs and frequenting the feeder for black oil sunflower seed.  I could literally be entertained by them all day!  The nuthatch has been visiting a lot lately, too, and we've had two different types of woodpeckers come for homemade suet.  The finches come for thistle seed we've put out.  I love the bird feeder!  I should get a picture of it for you!

I think everyone knows how much we love sheep and fiber around here...but did you know we have a growing love of African Violets?  How positively lovely they are on a cold winter day!  Their flowers simply glow.  They are a bright, perky spot on otherwise socked-in, snowy days.

 A feast for winter eyes!

As my spinning wheel whirls, I love to take peeks at this glowing violet.  She's sitting on furniture right next to my wheel.  How pleasant!

I don't think I'll mention all the work of frozen water buckets...sounds too much like January chores!

So here's Clairey again.  She is SUCH a fun ewe!  I positively LOVE her fleece, even though it's not quite as nice as genuine Shetland fleece is.  It takes dyes beautifully.  She's very easy to shear, and I can shear her early if I want because Friesians don't roo like Shetlands do.  Claire has a very sweet temperament and is very easy to handle.  I halter trained her as soon as she was home.  Training her to have hooves trimmed took much longer however!  She weighs probably around 200 pounds, so her kicks are very powerful.  

Did I mention that I don't flip anyone when trimming hooves?  All of my lambs are trained to accept hoof handling as baby lambs.  I 'imprint' them right away as newborns, touching them all over and pretending to trim hooves.  That sure makes things SOOOO much easier when they grow up!  Claire came to our farm as a nine month old so I didn't have that opportunity with her.  I gotta admit, flipping dozens and dozens of  panicky sheep, and trimming their wild hooves upside down doesn't sound like much fun to me!  Human backs get thrown out, sheep struggle in fear (BAD for wool growth), and an occasional hoof strikes a face.  Flipping Claire is out of the question for me for when she's in full wool because she's massive!  Just bending over all her body and wool would take a giant.  We both like standing hoof trims MUCH better!  It's very fast and efficient.  Another dirty wool!

We now have some 'downtime' coming on the farm...a period of winter rest.  The breeding groups are all back to normal, the hens have begun laying like crazy, and everyone is just spending their days chewing cud and growing woollier!  Our lambing is scheduled to begin in April, as March is a very busy month for us family wise.  Lambing in March is probably my favorite time, but it always conflicts with family requirements. Plus this year, everyone has sparse forage supplies as a result of the drought.  So we put our lambing off this year until April, when the grass begins to 'green up' around here, which is super great for milk production in the ewes, and more cost effective.  Again, I've staggered the lamb window, so we don't get the intense rush.  I did that last year...trying to mimick more the natural way sheep lamb on the Shetland Islands.  It was wonderful!  I'm doin' it again.  And besides, then I don't have to stuff my pockets with cookies....

Have a great day, everyone!

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