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.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

3:30 AM

Several nights ago, I was awakened at 3:30 to this loud, chilling call in the night.  Click on the link, then select scream number 3 from the menu on the right, and you can hear it, too.

It was LOUD!  I flew out of bed and began searching out the windows, stumbling over the dog, bumping my nose on the glass, and you know...general 'still asleep' clumsiness.  It sounded like a wildcat of some sort.  My first inclination was a bobcat, but I didn't know what a bobcat sounds like.  As I continued to brave the windows (which took some courage after seeing video about that bear!!), I was frustrated that I couldn't see anything.  Then, I heard something jump through the grasses and all was quiet.  I missed it.

The next morning when I was more awake and not tripping over the dog anymore, I told others about it.  I wanted to do a search for the sounds of wildcats to see if we could identify it that way.  I was shocked when I heard this sound recording...a  near perfect fit!  I heard a lynx!!!!!!!!!!!  Yikes!!!!!!  Cool!!!!!!!!!!  Do they eat sheep?????????????

Upon doing some research, I discovered they like rabbits.  They scream while walking, usually when feeling threatened.  They are mostly nocturnal.  I knew they were small, weighing around 20 pounds, but remember, they are WILD CATS!

Clearly, all our animals were fine, as everyone but the rams and horses were in the barn.  TG for that!

Then, last night, during a conversation, we heard the screams in the night air again!!!!!!  It was back!  It was only 10:45 pm, and we were still awake.  DH ran out the door and could tell the lynx was just across our driveway, under Carrie Crabapple.  It ran east and towards the road, so he ran up to the road just in time to see it bolt across the road and into the hayfield's tall grasses, disappearing.  We heard multiple screams before it disappeared and I think they will be ingrained in my head for the rest of my life!  They are loud!  And they fill the night air.  One scream was not so much a scream as a threatening hiss/scream/growl that sounded positively fierce and unforgettable!  TG my little lambies were closed up in the barn.  We close everyone up at night...chickens, ducks, and sheep, except rams and horses.  All is fine.

The amazing thing is that Canadian lynx don't live here, and we are south of their documented range.  Clearly something has changed.  Is spring so late in the north that they've come south for food?  Are there too many wolves in the north that they've been driven south?  You'd think that as our climate changes, they'd go north, not south!  Many questions....

Back on December 15th? or 12th? of 2010, I blogged about mystery tracks between our house and apple trees.  Perhaps we have our answer?  Don't know.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Views and lambs from our farm

I took some more pictures the other day when the weather was so nice.  Today, we have very cool cool, the dandelions are refusing to open their flowers!
 Minty, a Friesian yearling (but probably crossed with something).
She's not a lamb from our farm, and is a project of someone.
I sheared her yesterday, and her first clip yielded about 3 1/2 pounds, is crimpy and quite fine.
 Here are Sweetie (Shetland ewe) and her lamb Pansy.
Notice how Pansy is following the lead from her role model mum?
Pansy is a very springy little lamb!  She is definitely a little Shetland rock hopper! :)
Pansy is out of Whirly, who was the most busy whirling rock hopper our farm has ever seen!
 Here's Wheely Wooly Rapport.  He cannot be registered due to problems with a breeder a generation or two before him.  His mother is definitely Shetland and his sire is Whirly, who is a purebred, descended from Wooly Bear.  Rapport has white behind his ears, so is easy to identify.  He's very sweet, playful, and fast growing.  Actually, all of our lambs are growthy this year on this wonderful spring grass we have!  Rapport is a twin to Rapunzel.  I love the name Rapunzel, for I think it aply describes Lil' Rainbow's lambs dilemma! :)
 The Ducks
Remember the fuzzy little yellow ducklings posted awhile back?  This is them!  They are Indian Runner ducks, or were advertised as such!  I actually love them!  They are docile, busy foragers, and work the farm all day, every day.  They cause no trouble, and stick around.  I think we have a female (far left) and two males (center and right).  Notice how they are darker than the one far left?  They quack differently, too.  The bad news?  We got two boys!  The good news?  At least we got one girl!

These next photos move me a lot, so I thought I'd share them with you.  I was standing out in our pasture the other day trying to get photos of boingy lambs when my eyes kept going back to this farm on the hill.  We live on some of the most productive land on the planet for food production.  Yet, look at these barren fields.  You'd never know it's spring!  It's so brown.  Bare fields like this cannot support wildlife or birds.   There is no place to nest or den, or find food. Barren, disturbed soils like this encourages invasive weeds.  They require gas guzzling equipment to look like this, which contributes noise and pollution.  When the wind blows, dust clouds blow off the hilltop  (That would be soil, blowing away), choking the leaves of plants downwind from the dust.  When it rains, soil washes away downhill, choking streams. When it's plowed, huge dust clouds form.  Only one crop is raised on land like this, and the land is only 'under crop' for about 3-4 months, which means the land in sparsely productive: only producing during one third of the year.  The rest of the time, the fields lay barren and exposed, meaning that land that could produce layers of food for humans to eat immediately, are being used for one layer of non-edible food that won't enter the human food chain for possibly years to come.  These fields have corn on them most years...corn that humans cannot digest.  Some years there are soybeans.  Soybeans have been labeled as one of the most contaminated and adulterated crops on the planet.  The 'harvest' off these fields will not be in the human food chain for at least two years, as the 'harvest' will travel great distances, using gasoline and coal-fired electricity (to run the elevators), to reach feedlots or production facilities, where it will be fed to cows, pigs, or who knows maybe next year or the year after next.   A neighbor nearby grows wheat in fields like this.  The irony of reality has not escaped me.  I can look at the wheat, but I have NO access to it.  I can not buy it for my bread.  It is not available locally anywhere, not even at the farm where it's grown.  That wheat is shipped all around, moved many times, and yet, I have no access to it, a human who eats.  In other words, these huge barren fields will produce only one crop this year, most of which is not edible for humans, and that won't be in the human food chain (through cow's guts or chemical lab alterations) for at least another year, if not longer, as these crops are usually stockpiled.  My taxpayer dollars are subsidizing this 'farmer', through no choice of my own.  He has a very nice house, nice outbuildings all neatly and freshly painted, huge tractors and harvesters worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and drives really nice vehicles.  The massive inefficiencies and pollution of a farm like this would never survive in food production without the umbilical cord of taxpayer cash givaways. 
The farm on the hill:  barren fields, death to wildlife, clouds of dust, 'farmer' wealth.
Where is spring?

Now look at the next farm, also visible from my pasture.  If this farmer wanted to eat, he has food at his fingertips NOW.  He could harvest human food whenever he wanted, as the land is producing food NOW, and does so year round.  The grasses make the meat healthier, and provide protective cover of soil.  There are never any clouds of dust, and invasive weeds have too much competition.  These grassy areas are home to coyotes, foxes, mice, and lots of wild birds such as meadowlarks, song sparrows and birds of prey, including owls.  This land is musical.  It is alive.  There is a lot of oxygen here.  As the wind blows, the air is fresh with sweet fragrance from all the blossoms, and you can see the waves of life blow across the grass tips.  There are never clouds of dust. Very little gasoline is used to produce the final human food product.  A human moves the cows, who looks them over and makes sure they are healthy and thriving.  The land is protected, it's producing food year round, and it's supporting not only the farmer, but the people who eat this food.  I can walk up to this farm, and buy tonight's dinner...any day of the year!  I wish my tax dollars were subsidizing this farmer!   I'd prefer that.
Here's spring!  Waves of green, immediacy of food, real nutrition, accessible every day.

I find these two types of "farming" fascinating.  When you live near these realities, the sharpness and urgency of food security hits home real fast.  My farm was once like that farm on the hill and not that long ago.  As I work to restore life back on this farm, I've discovered it is not easy.  I am doing it without a penny from any taxpayer except myself.  The seed bank of native plants is depleted in my soils.  There are no seeds hiding in the soil to grow back.  I've left certain areas of my farm to go back to a more natural state, and nothing is happening with native flora even though several years have passed.  Yet, we continue to struggle with aggressive invasive, non-native species.  I find this deeply disturbing.  Regeneration is not easy.  It will take longer than I thought it would.  In fact, I'm not so sure it will happen.  But my neighbor did it, so I hope our farm will achieve it, too.  I still have many things to learn, but perhaps the hardest lesson as been the difficulties of regeneration of native flora and fauna.  I've always taken it for granted that we can return the land to greater food production and native restoration whenever we want.  I've learned the contrary.  Regeneration is hard.  I no longer take it for granted.

My study of these two farms definitely distracted me from the task of snapping pictures of boingy lambs!  Just then, someone began nibbling on the cuff of my pants, and my mind came back to my own pasture.  As I reached down to pet the friendly little lamb who was nibbling on me, I felt very grateful for what I've learned.  I may be only one person, but I can make a difference, and a difference I will try to make.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

More lamb pictures

 Why do I want to call him Snowball?
This is little Polar Bear, and he is SOOO CUTE!
He is 48 hours old in this picture.
 Wheely Wooly Pansy...another cutie we are so happy to have!
She is a purebred Shetland ewe out of Sweetie, our only white ewe.
Did I ever mention how SMART Shetlands are?  Pansy is sleeping under the pine tree.  She seems to naturally know it's safer there from birds of prey overhead.  Course, her mum lost her and got very worried until she figured out she has a little genius on her hooves!  Pansy is about 2 1/2 days old here.
 Some of the flock out grazing this afternoon.  The lambs LOVE that old horse path.  They run up and down it over and over all in a pack every evening!
 Wait a minute...are you a sheep?
An American scene...ok, ok, ok...yes, those are Scottish cows in the distance!  (Did you know they growl like bears when they are calving? Teehee)  Our apple trees are in full bloom today.  Their fragrance is such a special experience!  Every year, ya just gotta go stand under their perfumed pink umbrellas and look up at the brilliant blue sky through all their blossoms.  The air was warm today and not real windy, so their fragrance just hangs on the air in a heavenly way.  I love hanging laundry out on the line on days like today!

That's the view from Wheely Wooly Farm on this beautiful day in May!  Hope you enjoyed it!  If you like what you see, and wish to support locally grown, sustainably raised wool, you can support the flock and farm from our Etsy Shop...just find the link on the right side of our blog.  We will also be heading back to the  farmer's market when it begins on June 15th.  Also, you can find us in the Farm Fresh Atlas of Northeast Wisconsin.  Hope you all had a wonderful weekend, and we'll keep posting more pictures of the lambs!

Friday, May 17, 2013

It's a girl and Posie's Polar Bear!

Well little Pansy is still know that birthing stuff is tiring business!  But Posie had one lamb this afternoon, with my help.  She's a first time mom so a single is no surprise.  Her lamb is a little ram, all white!  I decided to name him Polar Bear, P for Posie, and polar because he's all white, and Bear because he is descended from Wooly Bear's line.  Polar Bear is a Friesian, Shetland combo!

Little Polar Bear, you're so CUTE!

It's a girl! WooHoo!

Sweetie had her lamb about 1 am this morning, and she singled like we thought she would, but it was a girl!  And she is all white!!  And I think she'll be very photogenic.  We are so pleased, as Sweetie is a special ewe that technically doesn't belong to me, but someone else, who has wanted a white ewe lamb for four years now.

Sweetie is an experienced mom so we didn't need to do anything but get her in the jug and dip the little lamb's navel cord.  Her name will be Wheely Wooly Pansy, and she is out of Whirly!  Whirly is black, Sweetie is fun is that!

More news!  Posie surprised me this afternoon with her own little surprise! I was heading out to shear when I noticed right away something was up, and the whole flock was upset.  Then, I saw two little hooves!  Posie is a first time mom so I've been keeping a close eye on her and good thing!!!!!  She needed help so it was a good thing I was around.

I'll get pictures up as soon as the little lambies are done with their naps!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

OMG-If you're afraid of bears, don't read this post

Being afraid of bears is no unreasonable fear here in Wisconsin.  Here is the news today:

Bear Attack Story in Wisconsin, USA

Wisconsin's bears have been getting aggressive.  Awhile back, a homeowner near Eau Claire, Wisconsin was having trouble with a bear breaking into her house and walking around (making the floors creak) while her toddler took a nap!  The bear had gotten into the house more than once.  I don't know the outcome of that story, but there are more stories.  Also maybe two summers ago, a bear was killing calves that were housed near a farmhouse...because of bear problems.  That bear killed a calf, then came back for another one later.  It also threatened the owner of the calves, who was living in the house with a family.  These are not normal bear stories in our state.  The bears are on the defense, even when there is not a real threat to them.  I think I know why, but I'll keep my mouth shut.

Our farm is quite a ways south of where this bear attacked, more than a "bear's stroll".

We had a bear in our front yard just before we moved in.  Neighbors have a picture of it.  Then, a couple of years ago, a bear was circling my ram pen about 9 pm one night.  I hid in the barn until I could jump in the truck and try to get it in my headlights.  I think I shook the rest of the night, long after it had run away, and long after I had returned to the house.

And one night, on a late lamb check, I drug along DH.  He is always telling me I'm too scared!  Then, while we were in the barn awhile, we did hear deep growling.  It happened a second time.  We shushed each other and stood very, very raising on the backs of our necks, wide eyed and staring at each other, trying to make out the growling.  I saw a flash of genuine fear realization cross DH's eyes that night!  But it was only brief...turns out, we were hearing a cow push out a calf next door!

I think my zipline to the barn is gonna have to be a gondola...

PS...Sweetie is in labor.  She'll probably single a ram...still...can't wait!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

LAMBS!, Wildflowers, and AAARRGGGHH!

Lambie photos!  I actually got some today so here is a start!  I'll tell you who they are, then, after getting out my handy dandy NASSA Handbook, I will do my best to describe their markings for you! :)

 Wheely Wooly Chicory...Gwendolyn's ewe lamb...a cutie!
She's dark brown with a white spot only on top of her head.
So that makes her a krunet (which is dark colored with a white patch on top of head).
We are keeping her for future breeding as her bloodline is very special to us.  Krunets are wonderful for spinning, as their body wool is all one color.  Thus, she will make good sweaters and larger projects if so desired, but will also be really nice for many other projects.
Little Wheely Wooly Peat...Gwendolyn's ram lamb...another cutie!
He's also dark brown but notice his cute white markings!  Gwennie's lambs typically have this, even with different rams.  Peat's markings would be called smirslet (which means dark colored with white around the mouth, head, or neck).  In these pictures, Chicory and Peat are only 5 days old and they are VERY smart little lambies!  Tonight, they ran in with the flock like they'd been doing it for years...except they are so tiny!  Don't ever underestimate the intelligence of little Shetland sheep!  They are fast learners!
Wheely Wooly Peat will be for sale if his horns grow properly.  He has a gorgeous head, just like his sire's, with that genuine Shetland ram profile.  He is out of registered stock, so will be registered upon sale.

Side note:  Gwennie's lamb from a ways back, Wheely Wooly Splash (see right side bar) is another example of the color she throws.  He's tougher to describe as he remains dark, with white on his nose, forehead, ears and neck.  My guess is he'd be called a blettet smirslet, but don't know for sure!  Another thing about Gwendolyn, she is remaining a richer moorit color (not fading really), but had in her first two fleeces wonderful lightened tips, NOT caused by sun or element damage.  It was BEAUTIFUL, and made knock-out yarn!  Tips like that are known as blaeget, which is "a lighter shade of the outer part of the wool fiber, especially in moorit and dark brown sheep". (quote from Colors and Markings page, NASSA Handbook, p. 7).   It is my hope that Chicory and Peat will have the blaeget tips on their fleeces!  
 This is Wheely Wooly Moorwyn!  I'm positively SHOCKED at how much he's grown already!!  Just like his big brother, Lerwick, this little guy is very personable and friendly!  He will politely ease up to you and let you touch him under the chin for a sweet scratch.  His horns are starting to grow already!  He's all black, and 19 days old in this picture.  He's out of Mona, our flock matron/mascot and Wheely Wooly Moonlight.  Notice the extra fur on the sides of his nose?  All of Mona's ram lambs have that! :)  He is a twin, the other lamb being a ewe we named Wheely Wooly Mousa.  (Mousa is an Old Norse word meaning "mossy".)  She looks exactly like him, except the extra fur on her nose is not there like he has.  Moorwyn MIGHT be for sale, we'll see!...also out of registered stock.
 The other lambs were VERY hard to get pictures of with the limits of my camera!  So here is a good attempt!  This is Wheely Wooly Gansey (left), Peerie (in the middle), and I believe Rapport on the right.  Gansey and Peerie are Gracelyn's twin ewe lambs, and Rapport is the twin ram out of Lil' Rainbow this year (his sister, Rapunzel, looks similiar to Peerie).  We are keeping all of the girls, and Rapport will possibly be for sale.  (Rapport's sire is Wheely Wooly Whirlwind, Mona's ram lamb from awhile back, also a Maewyn!  Confused yet?  I'm surprised I"VE got it all straight...thanks to my pages of notes! lol)  He is growing very fast!  He has white whisps on his head around his ears, but probably not enough to give him a special Shetland markings name.  His horns are already growing!  Let's see...Rapport is one month old in this picture, Gansey and Peerie are three weeks old here.  Gansey has a slight bit of white on top of her head, Peerie is all black.  Will they fade or go greyish?  That's the fun of Shetlands!  I have no idea! :)  Gansey and Peerie are also Whirly lambs.  Whirly has dreamy fleece and an outstanding temperament.  He'll fade to soft gray in time.
 Trillium, one of Wisconsin's treasured wildflowers!  I love looking for these each spring!  They grow in deciduous forest floors and bloom just before leaf-out of the trees above.  Trillium stand about 9 inches tall (roughly).  The name comes from tri, meaning three petals.  They are always white, but can at times have a pinkish blush to the petals.  They can grow in 'colonies', creating gorgeous masses of flowers on the sun-dappled forest floor in mid-spring.
 Jack-in-the-Pulpit...see him in there?  Peep under the top leaf, and you'll see him in there, ready to give you a sermon on the importance of preserving our wild spaces!!!
Grows about 9 inches tall, but this one was tiny, only a few inches tall.
 Wisconsin's state flower, the wood violet.  These are tiny, but can grow larger.  This wild space is alongside a road near our farm. 
AAARRRRGGGHHH!  Sophie!  Get out of that wool! :)  Ok, but last time, though!  How am I supposed to spin it when you are in there, purring away????
Wool:  Kitty tested....and approved!

Hope you enjoyed seeing some of our lambs!  I still don't have a picture of Maggie Mae, Mousa, and updated pic of Daisy (she is CUTE!), Lark, and Rapunzel.  We are still waiting on Sweetie to lamb, and she looks about ready to go.  And Posie is STILL looking huge, with her udder FINALLY filling out! And Claire, well, we'll see yet!  Don't forget Primrose!  There is lots to come!

Last note: the whole group of 'black' lambs has drawn quite a bit of attention to our farm, and neighbors are all commenting on them with great surprise and delight!  Need advertising for your farm?  Buy Shetlands! :) (...ok...maybe I'm a little biased!)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Shetland Ponies in Cardigans!

THE cutest thing I've ever seen!!!!!  LOVE ITTTT!!!!  WANT ONE!!!!!!!!  Hugs to those CUTE ponies and to all of their talented people!!!!!!!!!

Go to then click on her wonderful blog, scroll down to the pony post (it's titled 'missed trip to New York').  Click on the post, then click on Shetland Ponies.

(Can you tell I've always LOVED Shetland ponies?  In the summer of 1986, I was working on a ranch in the Colorado Rockies as a wrangler.  We ran a string of geldings up into the high country near Long's Peak, Colorado's highest peak, every day with tourists aboard.  Left behind in the corral near the barn was this tiny little white pony named guessed it, she was a Shetland pony.  None of the other wranglers could handle her.  She bit people, stepped on people, was terribly hard to catch, and could throw out a swift kick if you passed by unawares.  But Sweetheart and I bonded.  I loved her!  She never bit me...not even once (or kicked me), always let me catch her, and as a result, I loved brushing her and caring for her.  She was delegated to me for the duration of the summer, and I loved every second of it!  She was very sweet!  She didn't like it when people treated her like a 'big' horse, and she didn't like that the barn's hay mangers were too big for her.  I understood that and found a way to put the world to her perspective, and she was very happy with that. One day, the boss told me to saddle her up for a little boy (a toddler, really) to ride.  With reserve and caution, I did what I was told.  The minute Sweetheart saw the little boy, she softened and turned into the gentlest, kindest pony I've ever seen.  She was very careful to not move her feet around or swat a fly on the boy's side with her tail.  She stood perfectly still when the boy petted her, and was slow and careful when he rode.  I saw in her a gentleness that is rare, and I loved her even more that day!  At the end of the summer, it broke my heart to leave her, for I had to move on with the next thing in my life.  I never did get to see her again, but I have photos of her stashed away in a box.  She was a very special pony that I've never forgotten.)

My DH knows...and is forewarned...that if a cute little white Shetland pony ever crosses my know what will happen! lol  I'm just waiting for the day!

Have I also mentioned how much I admire Hazel Tindall's work?  I can only hope to aspire to be half as good a knitter as she is someday!  What a joy it is to see her knit in the videos!  I knit the same way, only not nearly as efficiently and graceful as she can! lol  Maybe someday I'll get there. I loved seeing the knitting belts on her blog, so be sure to check that out, too.  Oh, but the patterns!!!!!  They are amazing!  WAAANNNTT OONNNEE!!

Now combining knitting and ponies?  LOVE IT!!!!!!!!  Thank you to Hazel Tindall for posting these amazing photos of ponies, knitting belts, sheep, patterns, history, and things Shetland!

Later edit...again!...I forgot to mention that today Gwendolyn was taken outside with her twins for the first time.  I put the halter on her (she's been halter trained for years) and gently led her out the gate of the jug.  I have this wonderful fence panel system this year that is improved each year for jugs.  Previous years I had my lamb pens around the ewe loafing area in a circle on the outside, which was really nice for tending the new moms and interacting with the little lambs!  This year, I moved the ewe and lamb pens across the barn to a side that has better natural lighting, more security, less draft, and more peace.  Love it!  So anyway, I took Gwennie out and gently guided her out the door, being sure her little lambs learned to follow.  Once out in the sunshine (it was quiet and lovely outside this morning!), we walked down the 'runway' to some delicious grasses.  Little Peat was delighted and began boinging right away!  I stayed with them for another couple of hours as I needed to unhalter Gwennie and let them mingle with the other sheep and lambs on the pasture.  Plus, Peat and Chicory had to learn how to find their mum if lost, and how to respect the fence.  Moorwyn was VERY curious about his new playmates!  If Peat baaed for his mum, Moorwyn came a runnin'!  Silly lambs!  As the day progressed, I needed to get some spinning done, but had to check on the sheep every little while to make sure no one was caught in the fence.  Meanwhile, Goldie the farm clown (cat) watched while rolling around on the edge of the chicken coop roof!  SOMEDAY, he's gonna roll right off there!  That's how I spent my morning!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Chicory and Peat

That's what I've named Gwendolyn's little lambs!  Wheely Wooly Chicory for the ewe, and Wheely Wooly Peat for the ram.  That is not a spelling error.  Do a search for the word peat, and you will learn more than you ever thought possible about the stuff!  It has such major historical significance for a number of reasons, including heating the homes of shepherds in the Shetland Islands in times past.  After watching a marsh burn near our farm last summer for weeks and weeks, I realized the value in boggy materials in sustained fires!  Peat not only provided warmth, but also a means for cooking in a land without trees.

Chicory is a wonderful plant that is good for livestock to eat, if you can get it to grow well in your pastures.  It is plentiful on the roadsides around here, blooming with outstanding beauty in July along with the white, lacy Queen Anne's Lace.  (It's flowers are a brilliant bright sky blue...very cheerful!) It seems to like dry, gravelly areas and doesn't mind the blast of breeze cars make as they speed by!  But that's not why I named this cutie little ewe lamb Chicory.  She was given that name as a way to remember her special bloodlines for us.  Little Chicory is a very special ewe lamb for me and I hope to propagate her line as she matures!  And I noticed something.  She's not black!  It's darker in the barn on a cloudy day.  Right after she was born, we had very cold air move in and lots of rain.  In the dimmer light, she seemed black, but upon seeing her in brighter light later that day, it was obvious she will be a moorit, possibly fading to musket.  Peat is a little like that as well.  We'll see when I get them out to graze in brighter sunlight.

In the meantime, I'm working on getting pictures and shearing!  Always hectic on a sheep farm in spring!  And I'm lovin' every minute of it! :)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Sheep Milk Soap-LOVE IT!

Over the winter, sheep milk soap has become something I don't ever want to live without again!  Being on a farm means we go through the soap, but I was so sick of chemical burns from fake soaps!  No more!  I also like goat milk soaps.  Both are wonderful and a true pleasure in hectic days.

Find Sheep Milk Soaps on this etsy link here!


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Gwendolyn has twins today!

Quick update:  Gwennie had her lambs today!  Twins again!  One ewe, one ram, both black with little bits of white on top of their heads.  The ram is a lot like Splash, Gwennie's ram from a previous year.  I hope his fleece will be like Splashy's as his is the softest our farm has ever produced!  Gwennie is a great mom, and I have very little to do.  I got them in the jug and navels dipped, got her nice hay and a good drink.  That's about all I need to do, and she does the rest.  I think she's tired.  She gave birth in the main ewe pen, which is where we have all our ewes lamb cause the other ewes have never really been a problem and it's natural.  However, the other little lambies in there kept her plenty busy!  It seems they could hardly wait to meet and initiate their new little playmates and she was continously gently butting them away from her new babies!

In the meantime, I'm still trying to get those photos!  Things have been very busy around here, and yesterday was a" got loose, broke, not working" kind of day!  When a farm is running harmoniously, it's all because of the shepherd's hard, attentive work!  

(Read: lots of repairs and clothing changes!) lol

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Look! Wooly Bear's sweater is done!

I guess you readers have to check my blog often to keep up to date! lol  I don't really mean to do multiple posts in one day, but a nice little thunderstorm rolled through this afternoon and kept me inside.  So I used the time to sew the buttons on my sweater and take some pictures!  I am sssooooo DEEE-lighted with my new sweater!  I'm actually wearing it right now as the showers brought much cooler air into our area, with temps dropping from the mid-fifties to about 40 degrees now.

If you are a new reader, this sweater project began late last fall...well actually, it began years ago with the acquisition of a foundation ram for our flock of Shetland sheep.  It took me a long time (2 years) to figure out how to 'shop' for a good ram, as I had never done that before. (I grew up in the city, on a lake, usually in a boat.)  I eventually picked a young black ram lamb...whom we found at 3 pm on my birthday one year.  I hemmed and hawed...should I buy him??  His wool was VERY fine and long.  I ended up bringing him home and haven't looked back since!!!!!  He has changed my life.
 Done!  Notice the blue ribbon to the left?  That's Wooly Bear's Grand Champ. ribbon.
I think it's cute with his sweater hanging next to it!
I LOVE the natural colors!  The yarn was all handspun by me.  
The sweater took one fleece, plus one skein from the prior year's fleece, which I thankfully still had!
The buttons are grey sheep with black faces and white swirls on their wool.
I also shear him myself every year.
He's a very good boy, but don't be fooled!  He is still a powerful whacking machine!!!

Here is a close-up of the cuff detail.
The cuffs are six rows of garter stitch, of which I used Maewyn's fleece for.
Maewyn is one of Wooly Bear's daughters, and she's a moorit color.
Wooly has given us black, grey, moorit, musket, and white lambs!!
After the sleeve was finished, I crocheted over the edge.  Fun!

 Wooly Bear a couple of days after bringing him home.  How to be around our to walk on a halter, etc.
His previous owner hadn't named him yet and papers were part of the deal.  I paid $75. for him.
Don't faint.
His previous owners were not up on the breed standard, so they had NO idea what they had in this fellow.
They thought he was 'wild' because they couldn't catch him.
I decided on the way home to call him "Wooly Bear" after 'woolly boards' of Shetland.
Woolly boards are used to block knitwear in Shetland after they are finished being knit.
I dropped one letter l in the word woolly, to match our farm name: Wooly Bear of Wheely Wooly Farm.
 Here is what his fleece looked like that day.  It was extremely fine, longish and wavy.  Perfect!!
As summer progressed, and he became accustomed to being handled, I realized he could go to the shetland show in Jefferson.  It might be fun!
So the decision was made to take him.  We did nothing to him except trimmed his hooves, and cleaned his breakfast out of his fleece with my fingers the day of the show.
 What????!!!!!????  I've never shown my own animal before, but always wanted to!!!  Here's how we did!
The judge was Letty Klein.  That was in 2009.  He won Grand Champ., AND got his photo in many, many newspapers and sheep publications!  Letty had asked me why I hadn't entered him in Best Fleece on Hoof class...cause he'd have won that, too!  There's a Best Fleece on Hoof class??  Oh!  Didn't realize that, or think of entering it! lol

Coming out of the ring, we met the people we'd bought him from.  Did we receive the papers on him yet?...they asked.  Yes, we had, but I hadn't opened them yet, cause we went to the show, and the letter had just arrived.  Later at home, I opened the envelope, and discovered they'd named him Rocky Swamp Disco!!!!!!!!!!  
 Here's his fleece after I sheared it with these handshears last spring.  This fleece is now my sweater.
It is very soft, was very easy to spin, and has some luster to it.

Someone else LOVED the coziness of this sweater while it was being knit! 
This sweater is kitty tested, and approved!

Wooly Bear has now sired many lambs in our flock.  He has covered EVERY ewe we've given him, even when that ewe could only be with him for less than a week, and I had no idea when she was last in heat.  Not one ewe has been left open.  He lives outside pretty much all year, with his ram lambs, whom he adopts when I give them to him around 7 months of age.  He loves his boys and keeps watch over them, but some days, I can see it in his eyes that he worries that someday, he might not be able to control their powerful, youthful exuberance.  When that day comes, he will get his own pen, with his lifetime buddy Wilbur.  He is king of the flock, and every sheep here knows it.

Wooly Bear today (STILL wearing his breakfast on his head...some things never change!).   He's an amazing ram and has given us so much!  I'm sssooo glad I have keepsakes from him, for I know he won't live forever.  How nice it is to be warm on a cold day, with style!

Some people think livestock are just things to give us a commodity or product.  I would strongly disagree!  Livestock should live with owners who know them and utilize them for what they are and can give us, with care and as much longivity as you can reasonably give them!    They have emotions, feelings, and personalities just like we do.  They can bring so many contributions to our lives!  Wooly Bear is a testament to that.  

I hope you enjoyed this little documentation of his life, and how a Shetland ram can move into our hearts and give us so much!    

I promise I won't do another post today...

Shame On Me!

Shame on me for not getting those pictures of our lambs for you!  Last Friday morning was blustery and chilly.  Much warmer weather was predicted for the weekend, so I decided to take a chance and get our rotational fencing up.  I wanted to start easing our ewes onto grass, but you have to catch just the right moment for two reasons:  first, you don't want to throw them out there without caution as they would bloat up and possibly die from too quick a transition to the lush grass with a higher moisture content and second, you don't want to have them walking on ground not yet ready, as it will make the soil rock hard, and delay the growth of the grass, yet you want to get them out there to adjust as grass greens up.  I was really hoping this weekend would result in good grass growth, so I began the slow transition from hay to grass.  It's a lot of work!  Also, the little lambs have to learn the routine.  They have to learn to run with their mothers to new and unknown spaces.  They have to be able to find their mothers if they get separated.  Then once out there, they have new things to see and explore, including the fence and how that works!  It's during this transition that I don't get too much else done, as I'm checking on them a lot, or sitting out there with them, making sure things go ok, that nobody gets overheated, stuck in the fence, or not able to find the water.

For example, Mona's little lambs, Moorwyn and Mousa didn't know to follow the flock.  So Mona wouldn't run with the flock, being such a great mom as she is!  The first day, we had to carry her little lambs out in front of her to get them all out. (...a good excuse to hug a little lamb!!...)  Once out there, they did fine together.  Meanwhile, Lacey was following little Lark everywhere and nearly passing out from the new heat in the process!  Lark is a strong, vigorous, active little lamb, very playful and full of mischief.  Rapport and Maggie Mae are like-wise, and were the leaders in lamb races and silliness.  How fun to watch them!  I kept thinking I'd forgotten my camera, but I didn't dare take the time to leave them for awhile.  Gansey and Peerie would occasionally lose their mum, Gracie.  Gracie would run around, trying to find them, and eventually, they'd be back together.

The weather did indeed warm up!  We were in the low 80's by Sunday!!  Sure 'nough, the grass exploded!  Then one night, we got a nice, well-behaved thundershower.  That always jump-starts spring!  The birds are very busy, the wren arrived, the lark is singing constantly, and the bluebirds are checking out our birdhouses. How nice it is!  By Sunday, the lambs were getting the hang of the run out, and how the pasture works.  Lamb races were on!!!  One spot out there has a mound, and there was lots of play there as well.  And us shepherds were in t-shirt sleeves all weekend!  Finally, we could shed our down coats, wool socks, and wool mittens.  Up 'til Friday, we were still wearing all of that.

As the lambs adjusted to the pasture, we slowly migrated the fencing down hill to taller grass.  Yesterday, they were on grass that was several inches high and pretty rich.  I think we could say they are now eased onto it well enough that I won't need to worry much anymore.  No one came in bloated or in worrisome condition.  So work on the garden has begun!  Peas, carrots, lettuces, spinach are all planted.  The garden was cleaned up, things pruned.  I found nice potato seed and the onions we always like to plant.  It was a very busy time as all these things must be done in a small window of time.  It's all done now, so perhaps I can get back to sewing the buttons on my Wooly Bear sweater!

Crocheted flowers make fun embellishments on other projects!
We have several for sale.  

We also have popular Shetland headbands for sale, in many colors.

If you enjoy our farm blog and learning about the sheep, you can support the flock by purchasing products from our Etsy store.  Your support is greatly appreciated and helps keep the flock going and growing!