BL Vianne I worked really hard through the good weather this weekend. I'm tired and my joints hurt, but so much around the farm is now ready for winter! All the sheep were moved from the outer pastures to the sturdy pens near the house. Grain-trained sheep are such a pleasure to move. The ewe flock actually preceded me into their new pen and stood waiting by the grain trough. Good Girls! Even the ramling flock, which has not received grain, followed nicely. It took longer, but no one went astray. Once Courante and Ash (the friendly ones) got a taste of the oats, they were eager to follow. The rest of the boys didn't want to be left behind, so they caught up after a few nibbles of grass. One look at the piles of alfalfa hay in their new pen and they galloped right in. Good Boys! I moved the two breeding pens yesterday. I had one hand on Bombarde's horn while Anna ran loose beside us. The hold was mainly to keep any unwanted pushing from having momentum. The grain pan did the steering and I tried to keep up with the locomotive that is a full grown ram in determined motion. Arvada was a totally different story. He dug in his heels and refused to budge. So I pulled. About half-way to his new pen, we passed the bachelor fence and he decided he should fight to protect his harem. Needless to say, I didn't allow this, and my interference was not appreciated. A little closer to the house, my arms felt like spaghetti and I gave up on trying to stay in control of Arvada. I let go and focused on getting his ewes to the pen. THEY at least had the sense to follow the grain. I left Arvada on top of the hill intently contemplating a charge down toward the bachelor pen. About the time the ewes and I got to the winter pen, Arvada came charging toward us and ran right into the confinement. I guess he decided it wasn't any fun to show off if his girls weren't watching.
After everyone was settled with hay and water, I pulled all the electronet up for storage. I brought up all the extra buckets, tubs, feeders, and temp posts. My yard hasn't looked this tidy since last fall. Feels Good!
Beautiful Rachel Breeding Season '09 is shaping up differently than I expected. Lack of time and space have been factors; as well as the projected departures of Bombarde and Arvada. I'm employing two practices that I don't usually favor: breeding ewe lambs, and breeding early.
For better or worse, here are the decisions I made for this season. I'm hoping for the best.
ShelteringPines Bombarde is paired with Bramble Anna Belle for a third time. She has been with him since November 3. I plan to keep her with him until about Dec 8. Hopefully I will get another dynamite set of twins from this cross. My wish is a polled ram lamb. But I wouldn't mind more ewe lambs either.
WhitePine Arvada was given Boston Lake Lyneth & Nhu (Anna's '08 twins), and also Little Red Oak January. January is the only ewe lamb I'm breeding this year. I wanted to put the girls most likely carrying polled genetics to Arvada before he left in hopes of some keeper ewe lambs. The fleece pairings of this group are also exciting. This group was put together November 7 and will disband around December 12.
Sometime this coming week I will put the 3 remaining adult ewes with their rams. Currently, I plan to put LRO Ash over WhitePine Silverthorne and Boston Lake Sian.
S'more Courante will get SheepyHollow Rachel. I feel bad he won't be getting more girls his first year, but I plan to use him heavily next fall. Sitting out the breeding season this fall are the ewe lambs Boston Lake Darla Gay, Qdy, Vianne, and Leil.
Lambs should start arriving around the last day of March. The first four ewes will hopefully come in well before the other three, thereby keeping the barn from becoming too crowded. As mentioned above...I'm hoping for the best.
I was excited to get my micron reports in the mail yesterday. Here are the results for the seven sheep I had tested. Each sample was scissored from midside, just behind the last rib.
I wasn't too surprised with any of them. While I don't think in terms of microns and numbers, the reports did not change the standing I had already given each sheep according to my own assessment of fleece characteristics. It feels validating to know the numbers support my personal preferences.
Bombarde had a higher micron than I expected. I thought long and hard about how that could be and suddenly I had an epiphany: Last spring's micron report was from a rather large lock sample that was dangling off his rump. This was likely snagged by Unicorn's horn in some tussle. I suspect that this sample was not the full spectrum of fiber I would have obtained had I scissored off the same lock. Perhaps some of the courser fiber remained anchored while the finer fiber ripped out? Probably. Although it is evident from both reports that Bombarde is very consistent. Maybe this is just the difference in his third fleece and his fourth fleece? I shudder to think of how naive I was of the whole micron sampling process back then. Whatever the reason, I appologize if the initial report was misleading. I understand now how carefully samples need to be collected and how they are difficult to compare unless they are collected in the same manner.
...for Breeding Season to begin. S'more Courante This is the time of year when I want to throw the girls in with their designated boyfriends and just get it all over with. But no...later March or Earliest April is NOT the best time for lambs to hit the ground at my farm. I'm still working at my seasonal job...the world is still cold and frozen or cold and mud...and the grass won't show up for another month. I tried it once, and it wasn't worth it. So I hold out a little longer. Sometime after Thanksgiving I'll match everyone up. After that I keep an eye out for "evidence" in the pens. Guesses and suspicions get scribbled in my sheep date-book. And I long for that run of three tolerable warm days after the first of the year to tear down the breeding groups and put the rams into some sort of squeeze pen. I don't want them to kill each other with space to fight, or freeze to death from lack of room to bed down properly. Why do I do all this work? By January I've forgotten. Sometimes the only reason I keep going is because it would be a crime to let these sheep starve in the dead of winter. Keep it all going until spring when I can sensibly sell out. Nature has her tricks, though. About the time I start crying at the slightest provocation during the daylight because I've been sleep-deprived from doing 2am barn checks since the beginning of April, there comes a perfect lamb. And if it's not perfect, the next one might be. One whole year...to create this promise of hope that carries enough momentum to perpetuate my love of being a shepherd. Ram Lambs early October As it happens, my ram situation is still in flux and might change dramatically before Thanksgiving. My original published breeding plans have been thrown out the window. I'll need the next few weeks to come up with new ones. But time to reflect and consider is something I have.
I took the camera straight out to the sheep pastures this evening when I got home from work and the driving kids to their sleepovers. The sun was actually shining and I didn't want to miss my chance to take some pictures. Here they are running to see me.
I've missed the girls. Chores have been done in the pouring rain or well after sunset lately. A sliver of new moon was lovely the other night...but that isn't exactly enough light to assess the flock or photograph by.
LRO January So I indulged myself with a little sheepy time this evening. My main objective was to get some nice fleece photos of the girls. Silvy, Leil, and Qdy tried to nibble the zipper pulls off my jacket and the pocket flaps off my backside. Very hard to steady the camera with little sheep yanking on one's clothing. They are very persistent animals! Then Leil likes to run up behind me and bump me as high up on my back as she can whenever I'm walking away from her. It's a game with her...like she's seeing how high she can fling herself through the air and she's using me as her measuring stick! It doesn't hurt, but it doesn't feel good either. I admit she's got me, though. I have half-turned a couple of times and caught her in the act and it's truly hilarious. Surely she could get some votes on America's Funniest Videos.
...that I traditionally post an old photo of myself on my birthday.
Here is one of my little sister and me. This may have been the last photo of us together where I was still TALLER than my younger sister. Weren't we so cute?! We were wearing the dresses Mom had bought us for Auntie Kim's wedding in 1980. But this was quite a while after that... I'm guessing 1982? That would make me 10 and Selena 7. Since I never seemed to grow, I wore my simple yellow dress for years afterward. Selena, whose blue dress was designed for the role of Flower Girl, continued to wear her extra fancy frock for as long as it covered her little bottom. I do recall a disagreement between Mom and Selena over her wearing "the little blue dress" the day this photo was taken. Obviously, Selena had her way... this is no surprise for those that know her! LOL To this day, nothing is too luxurious or too extravagant for my dear sister... and nothing is so worn out that I won't wear it in public. I guess somethings just always were, and always will be. :) Happy Memories!
Note: Please be aware that I have sent Jchen's fleece in for a micron report. I will hold him until that info comes back. If it is as good as I hope, I will post his numbers and he will be available for a limited time before I send him to the processor. Thank you. Boston Lake Jchen is still available for sale. I would love to see this fine young ram go to a breeding home. If anyone has even the slightest interest in this boy, please contact me. I am willing to be flexible with arrangements. My contact info is at the bottom of this site. Fleece sample from last rib taken 10/09. Micron info on sire, Sheltering Pines Bombarde. This sample was gathered Spring '09 from Bombarde's RUMP. I know the numbers are difficult to compare to last rib numbers in other flocks. But this is the info I have to offer. And I think these are nice numbers from a rump sample. Anything in front of that sample will be finer.
Micron info on dam, Boston Lake Sian. This sample was also gathered Spring '09 from behind Sian's HIP. Again, it is not exactly comparable to last rib microns, but it is what I have at this time for info. Sian is a glossy black, with iset showing up on her rump not until three years of age. Her sire and dam were uniform, crimpy, soft, and well conformed with tiny tails and good lambing history of twins. Jchen carries moorit and spots. He is wide and straight in the hind quarters, with a tiny tail. Jchen is also well behaved and reserved with people.
My new sheep are out of isolation now and have joined the ram and ewe flocks. Surprisingly, there wasn't much tussle in the ram pen when I added Courante and Ash. Distracted with a new plot of clover, there wasn't much fuss in the ewe pen either when we added January and her companion Qdy. I'm thankful for small mercies. :) With Clancy's help, I caught some of the rams today and took fleece samples from their last ribs. I am pleased with the handle and style of these fleeces. I will send them off for micron testing as soon as I can. S'more Courante.
I know it's a lambs fleece...but ooh-la-la! This boy is NICE. I feel so lucky to have him. And he's polled! Yippeeee! Little Red Oak Ash
I wanted Ash for his bare little head. I had no idea how beautiful his fleece was going to be.
Boston Lake Jchen
Jchen is for sale. He is soft and gorgeous. His conformation is just spectacular, with a long loin and wide straight hindquarters. He carries moorit and spots under his black katmoget. Jchen is exactly the type of lamb I'm trying to produce-except he has full wide-spread horns. I'd hate to send him to the freezer. I am willing to consider offers for this lamb to go to a breeding home.
White Pine Arvada
Consistent and soft from head to tail. Boston Lake Roux
Decided to sample this boy on a whim. This photo shows a sample from his shoulder, last rib, and rump. Roux is way softer than I expected. I'm going to micron him and if the result is terrific, I may have to rethink his trip to the freezer. My main interest in him would be retaining a Bomby son that is obviously carrying polled. Little Red Oak January
Well, she isn't a ram. But since we were moving her to the ewe pen I decided to get a sample. Her fleece is not exactly my favorite type, but everything else about her is superb. And she should be carrying some influential polled genes. I think the rams I have should help her throw lambs with my favored fleece type and carry my breeding program forward. She is turning out to be a little dear, and I love having a moorit kat ewe for once!
Blogger considered the image I wanted to upload toxic. Go figure. So I had to load this alternative picture instead. This is Sheltering Pines Bombarde's fleece sampled today from the last rib. He is consistent front to back. Super soft as well. His staple is rather short. However, all the offspring he's ever thrown here have had longer staple.
Dan & Bence I think his grandsire, Sheltering Pines Darius, and his sire, Windswept Unicorn had something to do with the horns on this boy. And I suspect there are some major spots under all that white. His little face just cracks me up! I hope he performs well for his new family.
After weeks of scribbling out various breeding group combinations on paper, I finally came upon an exercise that helped me make up my mind: On lined paper I wrote a ewe's name. Under her name I listed her qualities in six different traits. The traits I quantified were polled genetics, fleece character, pattern, size/build, hind quarters, and color genetics. Across the line from the ewe's name I put the three rams I intend to use. Then, in spreadsheet style, I listed the lamb attributes resulting from each pairing. In the end, I had three potential lambs from each ewe to compare. I picked the lamb I would like best and that is the ram I went with. This is the first year I let the polled gene be my main priority. Thankfully I have good conformation, tails and fleece in the flock. Quality in those areas should not suffer-at least I hope not too much-by favoring polled pairings this fall. I gave the hornless girls to the polled rams. I let Arvada have my polled girls. Hopefully I will get some good polled-potential keeper lambs next spring and I can move out my known horned sheep. It will be sad to part with these good ewes. But if I get the lambs I'm wishing for, these ewes will have left their mark on my flock and they can go on to other flocks that value good horns. The ewes in this list are Sian, Rachel, and Silvy (Silvy may or may not have a polled gene.) Here are the breeding groups for each of the following rams:
I did not anticipate how incredibly busy my work and the boys' school activities were going to become this fall. I need to lighten my load. I need to sell most of my ram flock. On and off I had been thinking of this, but I was waiting to see Courante in person before I made any decision. With Courante and Ash being as promising as they are, I feel I can part with many of the others.
All the '09 ram lambs are for sale except for Dan-reserved white lamb. Three are available as butcher lambs: musket Roux, grey Rigg, and white Bence. These lambs are grass fed, and have not had de-wormer or CD&T shots yet. $50 each, delivered to Headwaters Meats in Bagley, MN. Headwaters does an excellent job of processing. Katmoget Jchen is the best lamb I've ever produced and I would like to see him go to a breeding home. He is excellent in every way. A full-horned Sheltering Pines Bombarde son out of a non-fading black ewe named Boston Lake Sian. I do not have space to winter him over here. Nor do I have any need of a horned ram. Please inquire if you need an excellent single-coated ram. He will go for butcher if there is no other demand for him.
And now for the hard part: I am ready to sell Sheltering Pines Bombarde. I have four of his daughters and they will serve me well. I'd like 4 more but I do not have the room or the energy to keep more than 2 rams this winter. Bombarde is simply an exceptional, half-polled ram. He should be given the opportunity to sire as many offspring as possible in other folks' flocks. I will only allow this gentleman to go to an excellent home. And what about White Pine Arvada? Well...I haven't quite decided yet. I want to capture his genetics, yet I want to move out the horned rams. Stay tuned for his story. As always, my contact information is at the bottom of this page. I'd be happy to send fleece samples and extra photos on request. Thank you.
Forgive me for being too tired to tell a long story...
In short, Garrett picked up my new ram lamb, S'more Courante, from Tori Gygi at the Jefferson show. And just this Sunday I was able to get down to Perham to pick him up. Oh! is he ever beautiful. Just as gorgeous and solid as I was hoping for. Thank you, Tori! Gail and I had also arranged to trade a ewe lamb and a ram, each. We met in a parking lot in Long Prairie for the exchange. Thank heavens a very sweet couple offered to help us with the switcheroo! We now know that it takes at least 4 people to switch 4 sheep around in a parking lot. I'm sure we would have managed...but I'm GLAD we didn't have to. :) Gail and Emily, I just love the way Ash and January look out there in my pens. What a bonus to my fledgling polled program to have two such lambs! I actually stopped in at Garrett's after meeting up with Gail. Lovely, lovely fleeces and sheep! And terrific conversation, as usual! And I got to feed the corgi clan my organic carrots. I just adore those little dogs!
Made it back home in the pouring rain by 10:30pm and just left the sheep in the hauler; it's nice and big. This morning Clancy and I unloaded the new sheep and then off to work. All was well by the time I got home again. But I can't wait for a slice of nice weather and time to go sit with them and get acquainted with them. They are really nice sheep!
...for sentimental reasons... Remember that Nat King Cole song? It fits my view of these two lambs. Darla Gay and Qdy are both Unicorn offspring, out of a mother/daughter pair of ewes; Dolce and Delyth. Dolce and Delyth live with Karen Byronnow. With these two keeper lambs, I was finally reconciled to letting go of the parents. But in a way, Darla and Qdy don't have a long-term future here in my flock. I doubt theyhave polled potential. I should have offered them for sale. But my son was only willing to give up his Delyth if he could keep her white Qdy. So Qdy stayed. And try as I might, I couldn't let go of Darla. I named her after my alter ego. And she truly LOVES me. So how could I let her go? The best I can hope for is that these girls will give me keeper half-polled ewe lambs someday, and then I can move them on. But that just sounds too hard to contemplate right now. Too hard. My hard-hearted, bottom-line, sensible shepherd instinct knows this isn't the way to run an efficient farming operation. The mushy cuddle-bug little girl in me doesn't care. These two girls are precious. I'm holding on to them for sentimental reasons. At least for now.
I can't even describe how busy we've been around here lately. All good...I can honestly say boredom has not been an issue. Exhaustion has been, though. There hasn't been much time to relax. Last Sunday Clancy carved out a bit of time to mow some of the rougher areas beyond the pastures and yard. We are fortunate to be able to borrow equipment like a Bobcat and attachments from my dad when we need them. Access to large equipment saves us lots of time and backbreaking labor. The boys were at Grandma's that day and I found myself with the time to walk out and view Clancy's progress and visit the ewes. Just a few minutes after I took some photos, Clancy finished up and turned off the machine. Then he called out to me, "Guess what I found?" Living on a very old farmstead, one never knows what will turn up when the ground is worked. As it happened, Clancy had discovered a cement foundation for a small building. A very old small building...probably an old barn...one that we had never known about. We already have four old foundations on our place, and now we have a fifth. It is so fascinating to think of how many people and buildings used to reside in this remote spot. Clancy came over to the fence line where I was spending some time with the ewes. Within minutes all the girls had abandoned me to get their pets from the Unwilling Shepherd. Nhu was the first to indulge herself with Clancy-time. Her little sister Vianne looks on. Then Sian and her grey ewe lamb Leil took their turn. Sian has always been partial to Clancy. She seldom seeks my attention, but she always comes right up to Clancy. According to Clancy, with all of her naughtiness, Leil has earned the nickname of Stinkerbell!!!!. The minute the fencer is turned off Leil has to chew on the electronet or shove her head right through it to eat clover on the otherside. She has her own adgenda in life, that is for sure! Finally the white Shetlands came forward...Darla, Lyneth, Niav, Nhu, Silvy, and Qdy. It is so nice to have friendly sheep!