Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Shearing day - Jen

Our shearer from Minnesota arrived in NY ahead of schedule, so we had him over Monday vs. our original plan of Thursday. I had to make a few frantic phone calls and scramble to the hardware store for bags and cords, but we were ready when he pulled in the driveway. We are similar to other shetland breeders I've read, shearing is a nerve wracking, exhausting and stressful day that you really just want to be over with. So we were glad to have him 3 days early.

We use Jake Sirek, he is very careful, and provided the rise is right, does a good job of preserving the fleece. We had a lot of inexperienced lambs this year, and as usual, the lambs seem to object a little more strenuously than the more seasoned veterans. It seemed to help if Rich or I held the back legs so the lamb couldn't kick herself into a fury. We found that quite a few of the lambs fleeces were resistant to the shears, but as as I said above, its over and we are glad of that!

Did anyone else look at this photo and wonder why Doris (my mother) is helping with shearing? ... She wasn't there, but for a split second when I first looked at it, I was all, "What the...oh, its me."

Jake does the feet on all the sheep for us, which is a terrific bonus.

Jake surveys his work. I get the feeling the rams feel a little emasculated without the added bulk of their beautiful fleeces!!

The final bounty, now its time to get to work! My friend and fellow Shetland breeder Linda Geiger laid down the gauntlet yesterday, questioning whether I will be able to process and spin all these fleeces myself. So, those of you who know me and are now rolling your eyes, yes, well, its all Linda's fault that I must refuse all social invitations and volunteer opportunities, as I am now forced to toil away like Rapunzel in order to get these done by next year on this day, 3/25/09.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Anticipation - Jen

We bought a second lamb cam, so we can watch both sides of the barn on our tv in the living room. We used it last year and I highly recommend getting a lamb cam, for a lot of reasons. Obviously, it was a great way to keep an eye on lambing. We were present at all of our lambs' births last year. But the other benefit is we get to see stuff that goes on after we shut the barn door. No, they don't break out the card table as I always like to imagine when walking back to the house after the evening chores are done, but there is a great amount of socializing and you learn a lot about your ewes. Plus, after the lambs start arriving, you get to double the time you can spend watching them playing. The darker lambs look like Peter Pan's shadow bouncing around the barn. We spend hours watching what we call "The Barn Channel" during prime tv viewing time, its our favorite show. V. addictive.

Three weeks to go until our first due date for lambs. Three weeks seems like a long time to wait, and I am really getting restless.
The barn is clean, we scraped the floor down to the clay last week.
There is plenty of straw and hay in the loft.
We stocked our supplies cabinet, towels, gloves, iodine, cdt, colustrum replacer, lubricants, stuff I've never heard of but Rich wanted to get.
Rich and the boys are going to build lamb pens this weekend.
We've started graining for the final stretch.
The ewes are drinking twice as much water than usual.
Our calender is clear for the entire month of April, Rich is not taking business trips and I will be staying close to home until the very last little lamb arrives.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

More stuff I made - Jen

I am officially out of fiber, and am saving what yarn I have left for a fiber show we are doing in May. The only project I have left is a really hard lace shawl that I am a little afraid of, I put it down last year and can't remember how to do it.
I know I have a purchased skein of pink wool stashed somewhere, but I can't find it. I wish there was a metal detector for yarn.

So that said, I am really really looking forward to shearing. TV is really boring when you just sit there and watch it without doing something else...

Here are some projects I've completed over these long winter months:

My neighbor (how blessed am I to have a fiber person right down the road!!?) gave me a big bag of onion skins she pilfered from a mucker to the east of us. So, I dyed some white roving to make this pretty golden color. I'll be interested to see how our new miogets spin up as and how they compare with this.

I made these cable socks for Rich, they are so soft and warm. They are from Sunny (Rich blogged her a few entries down). I was suprised to see how taupe she came out after spinning, I thought she would have more yellow/red in her.

And here is my first and last attempt at a braided rug from roving. So many things went wrong with it, which I will not bore you with. I really hate this rug. Thanks to my cousin Gwen who showed me the correct way to stitch it up, I was on the totally wrong path until she set me straight. I just finished it up yesterday and my needle finger is really sore.

And another project that I hate - this sweater. The brown is from a ram we sold last year, the white is from a ram we culled last year, the tan is from Sunny. I had to add the stripes cause I was running out of brown, originally I wanted it all brown (moorit). Still need to block it, but in no hurry because - I hate it. Don't feel sorry for me, I've been knitting for 30 years and fully expect to hate 75% of completed projects. Just the way it is, I guess. I've finally realized, I love to make the stuff. Don't so much like using it. And that's OK.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Queen Anne's Lace - Rich

Whispering Pines Queen Anne's Lace (S23371, 4/06) is Lily's first lamb. She's a two year old ewe out of Sheltering Pines Mahogany (S20984), a moorit yuglet HST ram that we sold last fall. We were on the fence about selling her last year, but Jen and I both liked her a lot and decided to hold onto her another year. She was
bred to a grey spotted ram last year and had a very nice spotted ewe last spring. The spotting wasn't as strong as we would have liked (and the ram wasn't either) but the lamb was very nice. We know Queen Anne carries nice spotting, so we'll see what she has this year. I expect more white lambs, but who knows? She has a very good conformation and perfect tail. Also, we always felt like she had a very nice head, if
that makes any sense. She's a very nice white ewe and you have the love the potential to have spotted lambs. Of course, any white lamb she has might also be spotted and we won't know it. She doesn't have many flaws. She doesn't have that patch of wool on her forehead like many shetlands do, but that's about as close to a flaw as I can find. Although that's mentioned in the standard, it's way down my list of attributes I'm concerned about.

So, this is our last posting in our series that features our breeding stock. We have way more sheep than I ever imagined. Right now, we have 17 ewes (16 of them bred), three rams, and
two wethers. Although I like all of them, we need to cut back a little bit this year, which means we need to sell a few of our adult ewes. It's going to be tough to decide and I'm not even sure how many to part with. Some of that depends on what lambs we keep this year, but I think we may have to let four adults go to get down to a number I'm happy with for next year. If anyone out there sees something that they really want, let us know and it might help us decide. There are probably 10 ewes out there that I wouldn't sell right now, and another seven that I really
don't want to sell, but might have to. Picking four of those isn't going to be easy.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Black Eyed Susan - Rich

Sheltering Pines Black Eyed Susan (S24073, 3/06) is an HST yuglet that we brought in to jump start our spotted program. Last year we bred her to Cihat and we were blown away by her lamb, Whispering Pines Jeb Stuart (s24247). This is a recent picture of her, her fleece is a little shaggy as we sheared her last year before she hit her rise.

We're hoping for twins this year from Susan and obviously, we have high expectations given last year's results. You can see that she has very strong markings, so there is a lot of potential with this year's breeding. She also was an excellent first time mother, which is another thing that we value highly in our ewes. BES is two years old, so we should see our first set of twins from her this spring.

Jeb is a copy of his father with soft fleece and striking markings.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Lilly - Rich

Whispering Pines Lilly (S18755) is one of the few linkages to our 2001 starter flock, along with Myrtle, Buttercup, and Queen Anne's Lace. This year we bred Lilly to Sheltering Pines Cihat (S17465)

We have shown Lilly at our 4H fair a few times because she is very quiet and gentle.

When she was born, she had a 3" diameter brown spot on her neck that still shows
when she is sheared. I never could understand that whole thing. Her
mother wasn't spotted, nor was her father, and one wouldn't expect a
spotted sheep to be all white except for one small brown spot like that,
but it has stayed with her and goes right down to the skin. She's had
two lambs now, both solid white, and both out of spotted rams. Of
course, that's not all that surprising because she is white which would
explain the two white lambs. I think the real test will be when she
finally has a colored lamb. I expect that to be this year. If that lamb
is solid, I'll have no choice but to conclude that she isn't spotted. My
feeling is that she isn't, but that spot is a bit of an enigma. After
all, spots are white.

Lily is also an exceptional mother, which is something we didn't realize until we installed a camera in the barn last spring and discovered how she cuddled with her lamb. None of the other
ewes did that. She's only three years old, which is another nice thing.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Buffalo Zoo - Jen

We took a trip to our Buffalo Zoo, and were happy to discover that the tiger cubs that were born in October were out for viewing. V. playful and adorable, naturally. We took so many pictures and videos, our batteries ran out.

Going to the zoo is sort of bittersweet, isn't it? We love to see the animals, but wish they could be out in the wild where they belong. There was some consolation watching the zoo employees taking care of the animals, its obvious they are devoted to the animals and they are getting loving care, and the animals love their caretakers. Take for example the elephant enjoying her bath.