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, 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.

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