Monday, June 5, 2017

Top Lambs - Part Deux

I promised to introduce some of the other lambs that we've had this year and in my never ending quest to get pictures of them, I had some success.

The first one is out of English Garden and Mr. Darcy. English Garden is an F2 Jericho ewe that was born here on the farm out of Itasca. She's currently the coarsest ewe in the flock at an SF of 26.7 microns. Not too shabby considering her nice staple length and great density (one of the densest fleeces in the flock). Mr. Darcy is a two year Canterbury son with an SF of 18.8 microns, which is close to his father's.

English Garden also had a ewe out of this pairing, but I could not get her in the picture. Both lambs are excellent and very similar. The ewe is a little smaller and that's about it.

This black ram is out of one of our moorit ewes that are all pretty similar. He was the last lamb we had this year and I believe he is out of Kelly Kelly (I don't have my notes in front of me). His father is Mr. Darcy. Pretty nice black ram.

This spotted ewe is out of Nitro and is quite nice. Lots of presence with this one. The grey katmoget ram behind her in the bottom picture is out of Mr. Darcy.

This black ram is out of Reawick and Mr. Darcy. I think this guy is going to be very nice. He just has a good look about him.

I'll close with this guy out of Jany Eyre. He continues to be my favorite and the camera always finds him.

I also like this dark chocolate ram, however, out of Mr. Darcy.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Top Lambs 2017

It's difficult to pick my favorite lambs at this point in the season, but over the next few weeks, I will post some of them (which may help me pick a favorite).

This first guy is probably my favorite so far out of Jane Eyre. He just stands out in terms of build and fleece quality. Nitro is his sire. Jane Eyre's two year old Spinning Fineness (SF) this year was 18.3 microns, which in addition to being similar to last year's, is also the finest we have in our flock. Jane's father, Canterbury, has similar numbers. That happens to be another factor in why I like this lamb so much. Here we have a great grandmother (Pearl), a great grandfather (Khan), a grandmother (Florence), a grandfather (Canterbury), a mother (Jane Eyre), and a father (Nitro) who are less than or much less than 24 microns as adults. I could go back one more generation and both Pompey and Bond were also less than 24 microns as adults. That's a lot of generations of the best genetics I've been able to assemble over the years.

I believe (and I have been wrong before) this lamb will be nicer than all of them, even if he isn't finer.

Elizabeth Bennet is another excellent ewe out of Canterbury. Her two year old SF was 23.4 microns this year. We have finer, but for a moorit, that's pretty good. This year, she had a ram (moorit) and a ewe (moorit and spotted). I like both of these lambs out of Nitro. Both were born outside on a cold rainy day when I wasn't home. The ram had a faint pulse and was ice cold when I found him. The ewe was in surprisingly good shape. I milked the ewe and fed the ewe to warm her up. The ram seemed like a lost cause. I did, however, try feeding him with a bottle, and was quite surprised he took to it (albeit weakly). I gave him two ounces, covered him with some towels and then went back to work, fully expecting the worse when I got home.

Wouldn't you know it, when I got home, he had shed the towels and was jumping around like nothing happened. It was another first for us. If I had found him 30 minutes later, it would not have turned out so well. It was also interesting in that the mother rejected both lambs at first because they got separated and were wet from the rain. That's the first time I was able to get a ewe to unreject lambs, but it was the second one this spring. Anyway, I like both of these lambs.

This ram out of Emma and Nitro is also growing on me. I liked him at birth but thought him to be nothing special. A few week's later, he's looking to be quite nice. Emma's two year old SF was 23.0 microns. Emma is a Canterbury daughter that I was lukewarm on at birth also, but who has grown into a nice spotted ewe. This ram might end up having a spot here come fall. Sometimes you don't know which ones can help you and which ones are just sentimental favorites. It really comes down to how they grow and whether their fleeces bring us something we lack. All three of the lambs behind him are nothing to sneeze at either.

Once I get more pictures, there are a lot of other really nice lambs that are worth mentioning. As I said previously, all of the rams our superb. There are several noteworthy ewes also, however, and I will post them when I have good pictures.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

2017 Lambing

We had another good lambing season in 2017 here at Ye Olde Whispering Pines Shetland Sheep Farm! Time isn't allowing me to post all of them, but I will post some of the noteworthy ones. At this point in our breeding program, the bar for what is noteworthy is quite high now, so there are really nice lambs that don't get noticed like they once would have.

In general, we had more rams than ewes, which isn't terribly helpful, but once again, the quality of the rams is off the charts. If anyone knows why we consistently find our ram lambs to be consistently of higher quality than our ewes, I'd love to hear a theory. I don't have one, but it happens every year without fail.

This has been a year of firsts for us in many ways, but I would say, the biggest one had to be Genoa's lambs. We've been doing this now since 2002, and this is the first time one of our ewes has had triplets.

Two black ewes and a moorit ram. All very nice. It's also the first time we have had lambs born 5 hours apart. The second ewe lamb arrived five hours after the first one! The ram very soon after. I just could not get to the second lamb, so I opted to wait it out. These lambs are out of Nitro. Nitro's two year old fleece micron tested very well at a Spinning Fineness of 20.2 microns. We have rams that are finer, and some very close, but none have the full package of fleece traits that he has. It would be nice  to get that in black. I've also often said I would take a full flock with Genoa's fleece, so I would be happy if the lambs took after either parent.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

2016 Breeding Groups

We approach breeding season each year the same way. We always ask the same question: How do we end up with every lamb being exactly what we want? We know that isn’t realistic, however. In the old days, we knew it was going to take several generations to accomplish the task. Our goal then was to make sure we took big steps forward each year so we had a good foundation for future improvement. 

This year, all 26 lambs met our requirements. That means all were good enough to retain if we chose to do so. That’s never happened before. We have had an 80-90% success rate the past two years, which is really good, but I never expect all of the lambs to be that good. We surely won’t be able to keep all of the 17 yearling ewes that we will have next year. I would be shocked if I still believe all of them fit our needs next spring. Right now, I see potential. The bar gets raised as yearlings. At that point, they have taken the next step, or they haven’t. Some don’t quite develop into what you thought, and others actually mature better. I would say you get one or two on each side of that coin each year. 

It’s with all of that in mind, that we have elected to go with the following groups. I’ll discuss each in more detail.

Ok Acres Nitro

  • Whispering Pines Jane Eyre
  • Whispering Pines Emma
  • Whispering Pines Anne Elliot
  • Whispering Pines Marianne
  • Whispering Pines Elizabeth Bennet
  • Whispering Pines Fanny
  • Whispering Pines Sherrie
  • Whispering Pines Blue Sapphire
  • Whispering Pines Pearl
  • Whispering Pines Genoa
  • Whispering Pines Treviso
There are eight Canterbury daughters in this group, and I think each one is a perfect fit for what Nitro brings to the table. I’m calling this my moorit group, but I have Blue Sapphire and Pearl in here also. 

What we have here is a group of ewes with outstanding fine fleece genetics. Nitro has a near perfect combination of fleece length, conformation, handle, and fineness. He also has a color that we want more of. So, if I were to succinctly describe what we are after here fleece-wise it’s: fineness, softness, fleece length, density. The lambs should have all of these things along with correct structure, good legs, body length, size, etc.

All of these ewes are really nice and each one is superfine. Although these ewes are outstanding, I also believe that each one has room for improvement, and I think it’s possible that their lambs could be better than they are if everything comes together. In reality, that’s not going to happen because the bar is set really high with each ewe, but I think we could get several really special lambs here.

Whispering Pines Mr. Darcy

We used Mr. Darcy on a handful of ewes last fall and were extremely pleased with the lambs. As a result, he got more ewes this fall.
  • Whispering Pines Kyrie
  • Whispering Pines Rosanna
  • Whispering Pines Pamela
  • White Pine Reawick
  • Whispering Pines English Garden
  • Whispering Pines Mustang Sally
  • Whispering Pines Kelly Kelly
  • Winter Sky Vogue
  • Whispering Pines Siena

Mr. Darcy has many many fantastic attributes that I hope will be passed to his lambs, but I also hope that these ewes add some of their own magic. As much as I like Darcy, he also has room for improvement. It was a tough call this year deciding which rams to use because we also have three yearlings that are waiting for a shot and one could argue that they are better than Darcy is, but two of them are fawn katmogets and I decided I could not use another fawn katmoget ram this year under any circumstances.

This is not exactly a black group because we have eight ewes in it who are brown-based, but I am hoping to produce some black-based lambs out of this pretty awesome group of ewes. That will happen, but even if we don’t get 50% black-based lambs out of this, I have a lot of confidence in the quality that he will produce based off of this year’s crop.

Ok Acres Aries

I brought this ram in for four reasons and all four were necessary to convince me to do it: He’s fine with nice staple length, he has great bloodlines, great structure, and he’s black. It’s hard to find excellent polled black rams that are also fine. The opportunity was there and we took it. Now, we are hoping to pair the best sheep with him to produce more fine black Shetlands. Here is his group:
  • Whispering Pines Georgianna
  • Wintertime Itasca
  • Whispering Pines Elinor

Okay, that’s a very small group, but it could be a good one. I originally penciled in a few more ewes with this group, but I rarely give ram lambs large groups. I would like to have given him a spotted ewe, but opted to go this way for a number of reasons. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

November Saturday Morning

Planning to wash this fleece - Blue Sapphire's.  She has a lot of white with pretty steel grey spots.  I plan to spin her up and use yarn for the Sheep Heid kits.

Here is what I got from Caramel Mocha's fleece:  3 oz of batts with the darkest parts, 10 small skeins for the Sheep Heid Kits, and a couple nice rich skeins of yarn.

Still working on carding Pearl, looks like I will get three shades of grey from her, plan to spin up a light grey, medium and dark grey. 

On the needles I am working on a new hat pattern to make kits for next year's fiber festivals, Baa-ble hat its called, really fun to knit - 4 colors.

Rich is busy finishing off the new barn.

And the girls are enjoying breakfast

Have a nice weekend!


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Rhinebeck Weekend

I never did get the last minute call from Rhinebeck to be a vendor at the fiber festival which is going on right now as I type.  In order to overcome my disappointment, I am going to devote the entire weekend to fiber related activities.  Should work, but I still REALLY WANT A BOOTH AT RHINEBECK!!!!!   *pout*

So here are my plans:

Wash this fleece.  Its Pearl, a grey katmoget, I'll card/spin this and use for the fair isle knitting kits I am planning for next year's fiber festival season.

Card this fleece and spin it, its from Caramel Mocha, aptly named as she is a lovely creamy brown color.  This will also be used for the fair isle kits.  Beautiful crimp.

Wash and hang this skein, gradient yarn from the last of Sarah.

Also planning to card up all this lovely neck wool for single batts to sell next year

Pack up the yarn I've spun over the last couple weeks, the black wool from Garrett Ramsey's black fleece I bought in Wisconsin, Elizabeth Bennett's moorit yarn, and some britch wool for the basket liner pattern:


Feeling a little better already.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Another use of Whispering Pines Soft Shetland Wool

English Sheep Gal emailed me this photo to add to my collection of items made by our wool, I love the natural colors and the clever use of bits and small skeins.  Very sweet little hat!