Friday, August 31, 2007

Personalities - Jen

I just came in from working with 6 of the lambs that Rich brought in from the midwest, or as I like to call them, "The Heartland Girls". I love halter training after about the third day. Those first few days are very character building...

Anyways, one of the best things about a daily routine of working with your lambs is you really get to know their personalities. Here are my observations about the six I am working with now:

Seraphim - total athlete. I am planning to enter her in the sheep olympics for the "Hop, Skip and Jump" event. She is really energetic and seems to really like the walks, since she always jumps in the direction she is being led.
Chiffon - Absolutely indignant about the whole thing. She is telling me the entire time, "I don't have to put up with this. Do you know who I am? I am Underhill Chiffon, a beautiful Shaela Gulmoget. See that you treat me with more respect". Of course, when the halter comes off, she is very nice and friendly with me. She the one that always comes right up to the camera when you are trying to take sheep pictures, and you have to shove her away to get a good shot (she is the one in the photo, chewing on my knee.)

Betulina - She is mature beyond her years (months?). She is obedient, calm, kind and gentle. Kind of reminds me of Meg from Little Women. She was halter trained the second day. I always save her for last.
Tiara - Tiara will walk on the halter provided you let her go first. If I go ahead of her, she will pull like a donkey. Its her way or the highway.
Fantasia - She is very unpredictable, likes to keep me guessing, perhaps even a little moody. One day she walks great, the next day she is just not up to it. Some days we make it all the way around the pond, and others just to the driveway.
Tinkerbelle - She is just so cute I don't even care. She is actually really good on the halter, but even if I had to pick her up every two feet, it wouldn't matter. She is like the youngest child in a family of 10, everyone loves her, she knows it and is unspoiled and sweet as the little fairy that she is.

Sheep commentary - Rich

Photo at left is V Creek Fantasia, a yuglet sokket grey katmoget. She represents our first foray into spotted katmogets, and the start of our journey along the trail of producing the perfect yuglet sokket. Fantasia has a different look compared to most of our shetlands. Notice the soft lines. She is very correct with a very nice light grey fleece. My goal to cross her with Cihat(above) and get an offspring with the best features from each of them (although Cihat has very few weaknesses). We are really looking forward to her lamb next spring.
Then there is Twin Springs Dahlia, a spotted gulmoget ewe we just brought in last weekend. She will be bred to Cihat as well. My goal is to get sons and daughters out of Cihat with a variety of colors and patterns. A spotted gulmoget is one of those patterns I covet. Cihat is nearly perfect as a ram, but I would like to get offspring with more color and “wild spots” (as my friend Stephen calls them). Cihat has a very nice flecket fleece, but he has a lot of white. Although, there’s nothing wrong with that (and it’s quite soft), I like splashy colors and spots. In my opinion, spots look so much flashier with a good solid base of color. Cihat is great at producing loud spots out of spotted ewes with small amounts of white. That’s my objective with this ewe. She doesn’t have the flashy spots that I like, so I’m very interested in the outcome of this breeding.

The next ewe is Under the Son Betulina. Betty is a very pretty moorit gulmoget. I like her a lot, for some reason. She has deer-like features with a very delicate frame. Man, you have to love the genetic diversity in shetlands!

Next is Twin Springs Rose, a yuglet ewe that we just brought in. She has a very nice conformation and is just striking to look at out there. Although she is Ag, I can’t comprehend the color. She appears to be musket on the surface, but underneath, she’s very grey. I think she’ll be bred to Cihat this year, but we’ll have to see how she grows. This could end up being another flashy breeding for us.

You’re probably getting the impression that we like Cihat a great deal, which is in fact the case. Although it seems like we’re breeding everything to him this fall, that’s really not the case. We had four lambs out of him this spring and foolishly sold all of them. All developed so nicely that we started kicking ourselves in June and continue to do so. I won’t show you the bruises. There’s so much potential there! Once we saw what he could produce, that really triggered our mission of bringing in all of our new ewes. Not only are we introducing new genetics into our flock, but we’re also gaining new colors and patterns as well. Each year, our lambs have gotten better, and we are really looking forward to this spring. Growing up on a horse farm, I have a soft spot for excellent conformation and that is my secondary goal in our breeding program. Our primary goal is good health! Fortunately, if you keep the farm conditions up to speed, shetlands seem to be a healthy lot of animals, so that makes the first goal pretty easy, thus allowing us to place most of our emphasis on conformation. Hopefully, we’ll end up with some nice fleeces in all colors, markings, and patterns (including white, black, and brown).

The last ewe I’ll introduce today is Underhill Chiffon. She is a gorgeous, very correct shaela gulmoget ewe. I’m tempted to breed her to Cihat as well, but we also have a gorgeous mioget gulmoget ram, Under the Son Clover that I want to use quite a bit this fall, so I think he wins the dating game on this one. Neither sheep carries spots, but we should end up with a nice modified lamb (probably emsket or shaela). Of course, I still have a lot of time to change my mind.

Hopefully, all of this works out well, but I do know that it will be interesting next spring!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Happy Sad - Jen

You know how it feels, happy for them but sad for you... My eldest sister Connie is leaving the state to start a new chapter in her life. I am thrilled for her, she is so happy and excited about this change. I am sad though, because I can't see her whenever I need to. Connie is always there for us, and the hole she is leaving behind won't be filled. We'll be fine, just a little sad for a while. Had a nice lunch with mom, Katie, Connie, Andrew, Will and Angelina yesterday to say our goodbyes. I regret having the fries, but man they were good.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Queen Zabrina - Jen

At first I didn't think Bluff Country Zabrina, our new black ewe, was very happy here. We bought her from a farm in Minnesota and she is older and therefore bigger than the other lambs we brought in, so perhaps she was more set in her ways. While she was in the quarantine pen with the 5 other lambs, she was very shy with us and didn't appear to have any bond with the lambs.

WELL. Segue to the sheep merge a few days ago. We put them together in the morning. The pasture is big enough that they all were able to keep their distance, no major skirmishes. However, that night, we closed them up in the barn and it was like WWE lets get ready to rumble. Lots of sniffing, side swipes, some head butting and chasing. At one point, they were all jogging around the perimeter of the barn in one direction like the lions in Little Black Sambo. We thought they were trying to make a whirlpool or something. Then we noticed that the 5 new lambs were huddled behind Zabrina, and as long as they were behind her, no one from the old guard bothered them.
So it ended up Zabrina's posse was settling in in one corner of the barn and Sunny's was camped out on the other, and this is how we left them. Zabrina's benevolent leadership is now evident in the pasture, she protects the lambs, doesn't act as the aggressor but gently asserts her strength. The old guard keeps their distance. Zabrina is the black ewe on the left side of the photo. Saturday we brought two additional quarantined lambs to the main flock, Zabrina welcomed them to her entourage with a loving sniff to the butt, and they are now officially under her protection. Long live Queen Zabrina!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Sheep merge - Jen

Oh happy day, the quarantine has ended for the 6 ewes from Minnesota, Indiana, and Missouri. So the original seven, plus the new six are all happily converged on the new south pasture. We still have a few more lambs in pens that are reaching the end of their quarantine periods, and two new sets of arrivals yet to come and be quarantined, but this is a big and happy step. Thankfully all are healthy and doing very well. And aren't their colors and patterns so pretty against the green grass and the blue sky?

Monday, August 20, 2007

More fair photos - Jen

This is probably going to take me all day to do because my internet connection is terrible, but I had a few more photos of the Erie County Fair I wanted to post. Also wanted to thank Katie, who I forgot to mention in prior post as she so gently reminded me...anyways, thanks Katie, if you hadn't been there that first day I know I would have had a severe meltdown. I think I totally blocked that day out of my memory and hence neglected to acknowledge your most appreciated help at the fair. sorry.

I just love this picture of Will calmly reading with his feet propped up on the tack box. How was he able to tune out the chaos from 60 sheep bleating, barn radios blaring, sheep shearers buzzing, clippers snipping, streams of people walking and talking, and then add on top of that all the typical fair sounds - rides, horns, motors, etc. etc. Will is so centered.

And here I sat for 6 days, petting my lambs, spinning and talking about shetlands to whoever would listen. Flicked and spun 2 full fleeces! Woo hoo!

Me and the boys and the girls on deck, waiting for the Miscellaneous Wool Breed classes.

Rich showed Heather, I did Poppy. Boys got to take a break this time.

And I lied, it actually took me three days to get these photos uploaded. Gotta love dialup...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

America's Fair - Jen

We’re home from the Erie County Fair in Hamburg NY. What a great time we had! We met really nice people, ate lots of bad for us but delicious food, and had fun talking about and promoting our Shetland sheep. This is a photo of Poppy, who as it turns out is a total lap sheep! She sat on my lap during the entire sheep show from 1 – 4, with a few short potty breaks in between. Then when she and Heather went out in the ring as the only participants in the Miscellaneous Wool breed lamb class, well you would have thought they were Suffolks the way they strutted their stuff. We were so proud of them. Thank you Grandma Doris for spending the day with us during the sheep show, and great to see old friends like the Clemens clan, Katie M., Patty and Denise Foss and Harold, Beth and Joey Frey. Definately going back next year!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Muskrat love? - Jen

OK, first of all let me say, I love nature. I love nature shows, looking at it from the car, watching it while sitting on the front porch. Not so much when confronted with it face to face. I don't often admit this, but I really hate nature in person. When nature is in my grill? I turn into a squealing, shrieking, freaked out wreck.
So I'm doing chores, out in the quarantine pasture. Beautiful sunny breezy morning, tra la la la. I notice one of the ewes is in the playhouse and she's all worked up, bamming into the walls and twisting around. I thought - BEES! right? So I get her away from the playhouse and cautiously look in, searching for a nest on the ceiling. My eyes were drawn downward, and there, was a spitting mad, nasty rat tailed funky mouth buck toothed MUSKRAT. I'm squishing my nose as I write. GHAAHuhuhuhu. shiver.

I slam the door shut to the playhouse, and in a panic think I will run over to mom's and get Sam, her Jack Russell, since he is the big muskrat hunter now. But then I think, "No this is ridiculous, get a hold of yourself." Plus that, I know I would fall to pieces if I had to watch him kill the varmint. So, instead, I run into the house and in my emergency voice call Will to come out and help me. Bless his heart he was outside in a few minutes (unusual). We grabbed a bucket with a lid and the fishing net. We managed to get the (gg h h h shudder) muskrat into the bucket, lid snapped on tight. Ran directly to the van, and took him to the swamp. William kept on threatening to crack the lid a little so the "poor thing" could breathe. I said under no circumstance was he to open that *&%$ lid, in my "I'm not kidding and I will take away tv/video games until you are 18" voice. I kept replaying in my head that movie scene with Deborah Winger driving to her doctor with that nasty lice infested pigeon glued to her hair (Forget Paris).
So, we (Will) released him and hopefully the muskrat is now happily digging holes in the swamp bank and will live a long healthy life, miles away from my sweet sheep and me.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Tinkerbelle - Rich

Over the next week or so, I thought I would slowly introduce some of the new sheep that we've added to the flock recently. It's pretty tough to pick a favorite, so I'll do it randomly.
The first entry is Tinkerbelle, a very pretty grey and white yuglet flecket sokket ewe from Mary Ellen Kelly in Missouri. Tink is very quiet and friendly compared to some of the others. It will be interesting once we put the new sheep in with the main flock. We put Violet with them a few weeks ago and they still haven't accepted her. All of the new sheep seem to get along with each other well, so we'll see. It could unleash a gang war once we put the eight new ewes in with the main flock.
Friday will be our third week of quarantine with our new sheep and it's getting old. We've never had a serious illness on the farm (knock on barn wood), so we're proceeding cautiously. Fortunately, the new ewes have a cool playhouse to use (and they are making good use of it).

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

4H Fair - Jen

Our Niagara County fair was July 31st - August 5. Our show was at 5:00 on Thursday night, temps were in the 90's and humid. Not the best conditions for dragging lambs around a ring, but they did great. We had a great support group this year, which really means a lot to us. Grandma Doris, Katie, Grandma Johnson, Shari, Lindsay and Tanner all came to cheer the boys on. Shari had at least an hour drive to get here, after a full days work. Can't adequately express our gratitude for the support.

Picture above is Will and Poppy in Jr. Showmanship. Far left, as if you couldn't tell.

For the costume class below, Andrew was Darth Vader and Heather was a Jedi something or other. Will is the wolf and Poppy is Lil Red Riding Hood.

Its hard to describe the mixed feelings we have for our fair. Its great for making friends, showing off our lambs to fair visitors and educating people about shetland sheep. I am so inspired by 4H animal science children - v. hard workers and so motivated. I brought my wheel, and spent practically the entire time spinning, stopping every so often to pat the head of Poppy or Heather when they popped their heads through the pen slats to see what I was doing. Poppy was showing off - wagging her tail whenever anyone pet her. I carded and spun an entire grey ag fleece and got a good start into a second moorit fleece. The kids were making friends left and right and cruising the barns to keep tabs on everyone and their animals. On the down side, I wish there were more fleece breeds at our fair (we are the only ones). It would be nice to have more competition, and it would be nice to have a judge that is excited about fleece breeds. Other side of the coin is we are really a novelty and get a lot of attention, which is really fun and rewarding.