Saturday, June 30, 2007

Stuff I Made - Jen

I completed a few projects this week, and now want to show them off!

I just finished hat this morning. I modified a v. simple two needle pattern which I am going to type up and offer with yarn I am selling in my local yarn shop. Well, the yarn isn't selling, more like just sitting there on display. In order to actually sell my yarn, I was advised to create some patterns to go with the yarn with knit up examples. So here it is. Yarn is from Cihat, exceedingly soft. The stripes are created by randomly combining his black and white wool as I spun it (I spin from locks that I flick out in front of my little 13" tv in the basement). 200 yards makes this cute little chapeau, modeled by Will, who probably didn't even realize I put it on his head and took his picture, so absorbed was he by his Saturday morning cartoons.

Next, I needle felted a miniature version of our uber ram, Cihat, as a suprise for Rich when he came home from work one day this week. How cute is this!!! The horns need work. Only poked myself about 6 times.

Then, just a skein of some black yarn from a wether who will be heading upstate in the next few weeks to a very nice handspinner I just met this year. This was his lamb fleece, as black as black can be. Its a little scratchy, which suprised me since his wool was pretty soft. I think the locks were so short and so a lot of ends are sticking out, making it feel a little itchy. We may have sheared him too early, plus that, the shearer was struggling to get his clippers through the dense lamb fleece, so there were a lot of second cuts and stuff. Kind of sad, really. Not sure what I'll do with it yet. I was only able to salvage enough fleece to get this 300 yard skein and another 100 yard one that is till on the two spokes of my kitchen chair, waiting to be washed. This is how I hang my skeins to dry after I spin them in my washing machine. Works like a charm.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Whispering Pines Farm Breeding Goals - Rich

Every once in a while (once a week), we sit down and talk about what our goals are with our Shetland Breeding program. We are bringing in some new sheep this summer with the goal of establishing what we think will be a solid group of rams and ewes for the next two years.

When we originally purchased our starter flock of four ewes and one ram, we didn't have anything in mind except colors. We started with a grey, a black, a brown, and a white. We didn't know how spots were created, knew nothing about genotypes and phenotypes, and had a vague idea about conformation. Once we attended the 2003 AGM in Canada, we (like a lot of people) got a better appreciation for what this breed has to offer. We had no idea! I think visiting the original Dailley flock was quite a pilgrimage for us.

Earlier this year, we decided that even though we had our best lamb crop ever, we needed to diversify a bit. There are simply a lot of avenues to pursue in the shetland world, and we really didn't have much in our flock in terms of patterns and colors. I look at shetlands like video games. There are a lot of hidden genetics to unlock! It helps to know the cheat codes.

With that in mind, we decided to add some katmogets, gulmogets, and modified colors for the first time. We didn't have any sheep with these characteristics.

Our goal is to produce high quality shetlands with the best fleece, markings, and conformation that we can. Jen is really into the fleeces, while I find the patterns and markings to be quite exciting. It just occurred to us that we could have all of that in one animal! All of the sheep we are bringing in meet those requirements (as do most of the ones we have kept). My goal is to have the best sheep we can with the full range of colors, patterns, and markings. We'd like to be one stop shopping for people new to the breed, so that they can learn from our mistakes.

This ram (currently unnamed) is a grey katmoget out of Thelonius Monk. He's quite beautiful (although if you tell him I said that, I'll deny it). He carries spots! He is from Sheltering Pines in Michigan. Thank you Stephen! Picture courtesy of Stephen.

We are also excited to bring in this...handsome mioget gulmoget! He's our first gulmoget ram. I've never seen one this color, but I'm sure many people have. It's a color we don't have. He doesn't carry spots, but he's modified. He is from Under the Sun Farm in Indiana. Thanks Theresa! Picture Courtesy of Theresa.

I'll post more pictures as I get them, but we're also very excited about this spotted black gulmoget ewe lamb that will be arriving soon. Who knows what she will look like in a year, but I love the way she looks now! She is from Twin Springs Farm in Pennsylvania. Sandy took the picture.

The other lambs in the picture are really cute as well.

It's always hard to bid farewell to some animals. We've made these tough choices because we feel it forces us to get better. The following picture shows two animals that we recently parted with. One is a ram and the other a wether. This was back when the boys all shared a 200 square foot studio apartment.

These are the moments that we all live for as breeders! Those individual shining glimpses into an animal's soul.

In closing, even though selling our sheep can be difficult sometimes, I look forward to bringing in the new genetics that so many breeders have worked so hard to create. We owe a lot to so many ground breaking, risk taking breeders!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A summer night - Jen

It didn't rain yesterday, Rich was watching the storm clouds on the computer, but they went right around us. This morning it looks like it might still happen, we are supposed to get showers today. I really hope we do, the air is very thick, and it is hard to get motivated in weather like this.

Last night, after it cooled off, I took a walk around our yard with our camera, all excited about the new blog, and the positive feedback I've received from friends.
Andrew and Will were out in the front yard playing a pickup game of baseball. Katie and I used to do this for hours, "Ghost man on second! It was a foul, no it wasn't, yes it was, nu uh, yuh huh" etc. etc. They take it a little further, with their drama background, each at bat is a different person, with his own personality and quirks. One time I saw Andrew switch to hit left handed, I asked him why. Well, the guy he was portraying was a lefty, of course!

Cody was stuck in the house, as usual. Rich was mowing Cody's play yard (the North pasture), and he can't go in with the sheep in the south pasture, as he would run them to death. So, he has to watch the activities from the screen door. Everyone thinks we should have a real dog, like a border collie, or sheltie or something with the sheep. But no, perverse as we must be, we have a whippet. Who, if he gets out of the house without a leash on, will sprint down the road at 35 mph. Then when he finally stops, he will have no idea where he is and will not be able to find his way home. This happens all the time with whippets, and we can't train it out of him. Fortunately, every time he has gotten out, we have been able to follow him and cooerce him into the van and safely back home.
Ahh, bliss. Not only does it offer shade, but its a great scratching post as well... Too bad we didn't start this blog before Rich started building the ram shed, could have chronicled that joy filled adventure. Anyways, its almost done. A few more details and then it will be PERFECT! As you can see, Cihat, the ram inside the shelter, is the higher ranking ram, at least for now. Mahogany (Bucky) gets the second spot outside, but next to the shelter. Poor Brome (not even in the vicinity) is keeping his distance until Cihat and Bucky decide that he may enter without getting the hell kicked out of him. Gotta love rams.
Last photo, Rich is mowing the north pasture, knocking down stalks and chopping up seed heads in the hopes they will spread and germinate. On his brand spanking new tractor, which he had to buy since he set the other one on fire. I will let him tell you that story...I have been watering this pasture, this one is third in the rotation, after a new pasture we just fenced in over the weekend. I say we, I mean Rich. I do the clips, but that's about it. Notice how he thoughtfully leaves the thistles (redneck shrubberies) at their full height, makes it easier for me to dig them out. whatta guy!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My Favorite Sheep - Rich

Whispering Pines Buttercup S23372
DOB 4/21/06
Sire: Sheltering Pines Mahogany S20984 (Bucky)
Dam: Whispering Pines Fern S19991
Status: Whispering Pines breeding stock for 2008

Buttercup is a very small (about 48 pounds) yearling ewe born in 2006. She is special to us for several reasons: She was our first smirslet socket lamb born at Whispering Pines, she was also the first one out of one of our own ewes (Fern), and she nearly died during birth.

Fern was also a yearling ewe when she gave birth to Buttercup, but she was very small (less than 40 pounds) and shouldn’t have been bred. During our spring shearing, our shearer cut off one of her teats and we were sort of glad that she didn’t appear to be pregnant (she had no bag and wasn’t showing anything).

One day we were in the barn (fortunately I was off that warm spring day) watching one of our ewes give birth, and after we had just applied the iodine, and were turning to go to the house, we saw Fern starting to have contractions on the other side of the barn. I know it sounds bad that we didn’t know she was pregnant, but she didn’t show anything at all. After about 40 minutes of pushing, we saw one socket front foot and a head, but nothing else. We couldn’t get a vet out there for at least an hour, so I went in and discovered that her right knee was caught on the pelvic bone and I couldn’t quite get my finger behind it.

We were able to get a vet on the phone and she gave me some really bad advice about trying to push the head back in. Fortunately, I quickly determined that wouldn’t work.

Finally, we did get a vet to come out, but the head had been flopping around for more than 30 minutes. After many unsuccessful attempts, and muscle relaxing shots, the vet was able to get the leg and the lamb was born with no problems. Fern was fine as well.

Unfortunately, she didn’t appear to have enough milk. We tried to hand milk her but came up virtually dry. So, from that point on, we supplemented with a bottle.
The vet recommended giving milk at the rate of 10-15% per body weight. In this case, that came out to be about 4 ounces per day with her for the first few days.

Anyway, that’s her story and she probably has the nicest conformation of any of our ewes. She is really extremely nice. We will breed with her this year for the first time. We haven’t decided who will be the lucky ram. Buttercup is out of Sheltering Pines Mahogany.

Registered as Lofty Pine Molly S11881
DOB 3/25/01
Sire: Lofty Pine Greycloud S8347
Dam: Lofty Pine Ellie S4096
Status: Whispering Pines breeding stock for 2008

Myrtle is the old woman in our flock (she’s six). She has a very correct conformation and Jen says she has the nicest fleece (next to Cihat’s, but I digress). I have her listed among my favorites even though I don’t personally like her. Myrtle is the enforcer in the barn, no question about it. She keeps the peace. She is AgAa/BBBB/SSSs. This year’s lambs were her first spotted offerings, but then this is the only the second year we have bred her to a spotted ram (last year she had a solid black ram who was spectacular!). Why is she one of my favorites even though I don't like her personality? Because her lambs are always extremely nice! Here are her lambs from this year:

Whispering Pines Robert E. Lee S24246
DOB 4/9/07
Sire: Twin Springs Brome S23419
Dam: Lofty Pine Molly S11881 (Myrtle)

Status: Available for Sale

Whispering Pines Poppy S24244
DOB 4/9/07
Sire: Twin Springs Brome S23419
Dam: Lofty Pine Molly S11881 (Myrtle)
Status: Sold

Sheltering Pines Cihat S17465
DOB: 4/11/03
Sire: Sheltering Pines Darius S13662
Dam: Wind River Jubilee S2552
Status: Whispering Pines breeding stock for 2008

We got Cihat last fall from Stephen Rouse in Michigan. Stephen has said that Cihat is the last of a line. He is out of Wind River Jubilee and Darius. He is a distant relative of the famous spotted ram S0555 (pictured below). Cihat has a very correct conformation, very soft fleece, great horns, clear markings and a very gentle disposition. He is the nicest ram we’ve ever had and we feel quite fortunate to have him. We only had four lambs out of him this spring, but they were all spectacular (one black, one brown, one white, and one black and white yuglet (pictured below). We will use him on more ewes this fall. I can’t wait to see what we get next year!

S0555 (who we don’t own because he is dead)
he's the one on the right.

Whispering Pines Jeb Stuart S24247
DOB: 4/17/07
Sire: Sheltering Pines Cihat S17465
Dam: Sheltering Pines Black-Eyed Susan S24073
Status: Sold

Jeb’s picture doesn’t do him justice. He is my favorite lamb from this year’s crop. I hated to sell him, but we really don’t have a use for him. He’s virtually a clone of his father. Someone is getting something pretty special, in my opinion.

Whispering Pines Lilly S18755
DOB: 4/15/04
Sire: Whispering Pines Cottonwood S15948
Dam: Lofty Pine Shelia S11880
Status: Whispering Pines Breeding Stock for 2008

Lilly is also home grown. She and Fern were the first sheep our kids took to the Niagara County 4h fair. She has a good conformation, but I was thinking about selling her this year until we installed a wireless CCD camera in the barn this spring. I had no idea what a great mother she is. She would often cuddle with her lamb like a child hugging a stuffed bear. None of our other ewes did that (at least not on camera). Now we can’t sell her. Myrtle, on the other hand, is very aloof and business like about the whole thing.

First Post - Jen

Rich and I are planning a trip to Indiana and Michigan in mid July to pick up 8 sheep from 6 different farms. Our intent is to introduce new genetics, colors and markings to our flock. Will be a whirlwind sheep tour, leaving early Wednesday AM, visit three farms, and then return Thursday night, driving through the night when the air is cool and the sheep will be comfortable in the back of the truck. Mom, I know I have like a thousand cousins in the area, but we will not have time to visit them. I'm really sorry.

Dreading the drive, but excited about bringing in the new additions to the flock. Also, its going to be fun to meet with other shetland breeders and to tour their farms.

Going outside now before it gets too hot to work with the lambs.

Back in now, and it was in fact too hot. But we walked them all, and the four fair lambs were set up square and also led around the barn by the head, which is a requirement for the Niagara County fair.

Here is a photo of Will with Lily from last year's NC Fair. No halter allowed, must lead the lambs by placing your hand under their chin. Hand on top of the head is allowed, but not optimal.