I brought my gray fiber to the guild yesterday, hoping the ladies there could help identify it.
The three main characteristics of the fiber were that it was soft, the staple was long, and the fiber had hardly any crimp.
The two main guesses were baby alpaca, and super wash merino.
No one had a definitive answer for me though. And that's ok.
I plied up this sample skein from what was shown on the spindle in the last post. That spindle was bothering me... it just wasn't helping me with the spinning process. However, it plied wonderfully. So I started the process again with a different spindle and it is going well.
The feel of the skein against my neck is very comfy. I'm looking forward to making a scarf with this yarn. I just hope it doesn't take me all winter to get enough yarn made.
A while back, an old friend gave me all the fiber tools and stash that her late mother had left behind.
I will tell that story some day, as it has been a huge blessing in my life.
But this is a different story:
Yesterday, the day I put my first and oldest ewe down, I also wound off a spindle of single that I had been spinning from Rachel's washed fleece. And because of her passing, I decided to move on to a different fiber. So this afternoon, I chose the most scrumptious roving in my stash...this gorgeous silver.
And I began spinning.
Within minutes I learned that my skill was hardly sufficient to handle this fiber. It slipped in the most luxurious way every time I tried to let go of the spindle. For a while I supported the spindle on the coffee table. Or I turned it by hand as I slowly drafted. It was painfully obvious that my experience with crimpy wool was not serving me very well with this incredibly fine gossamer.
I did finally get the hang of it...though I doubt anyone would call my yarn even. Yet instead of giving up in favor of less challenging fiber, I think I will continue. It is one of my smaller spindles anyway; even I can see the light at the end of the tunnel
I don't even know what this fiber is. All I know is that within this gifted stash I also received several merino/silk and merino/kid mohair and kid mohair/silk blends. And this gray fiber is the finest of all by far.
My guess is cashmere? Really, I have no clue. I have zero experience spinning any kind of fiber except that which I harvest off of my own Shetlands. I'm hoping that the fiber ladies from the guild can help me figure it out at Saturday's meeting.
Until then, I will just keep at it. I'm hoping to knit up a beautiful scarf with it someday.
Last Saturday the plan was to put breeding groups together and tear down the summer electronet paddocks.
It was cold with a light dusting of icy snow that had settled into the pot holes and between the tufts of grass. All in all, a bitter, gray November day.
But the sheep fully cooperated with my strategy for moving them. Even the lambs followed where I led.
I love bucket trained sheep!
The breeding groups were assembled.
Ash seemed to be the lucky ram: Lana (gulmoget) was immediately receptive on Saturday.
None of Courante's ewes wanted to be anywhere near him. That didn't stop him from trying, though.
This is a photo of three of my Bombarde x AnnaBelle daughters. They really do appear to be clones separated only by age.
Yearling Vianne (left) was put with Ash because he is the smaller of the two rams. Two year old Lyneth, (right) was paired with the much larger Courante. And lambykins Carys (center) is safe from the stinky boys until next year.
River Oaks Lana sporting a size F coat....too big. She's wearing a size E now.
The moorit girl in front is River Oaks Hannah. Hannah must be an easy keeper because she looks like she is about to have twins. All that girth fills out the size F coat just fine, though I doubt she will need a bigger size this winter.
Yearling LittleRedOak January is still in an E coat. Her fleece is quite long, though, so I'm sure she'll move up to an F for the remainder of winter. Even though she did get bred as a lamb, I am very satisfied with her growth this summer. She raised a nice big daughter, and grew herself. I really love her Shetland face and ears!
My two remaining ram lambs were given a dog kennel panel pen attached to a barn stall, thanks to my dad who procured several panels from a guy that works at a landfill. (It is truly amazing what people throw away.) It is not nearly as roomy as all the other pens, but I daresay it is the coziest. They will be brought up to the small round pen after the ewe lambs have returned to the big ewe pen. After breeding season...early-ish January.
So as darkness fell on Saturday, a snowstorm moved in. Between then and now, we have received over 14 inches of snow. I can't express how grateful I am that all this work and rearranging got finished before the first big snow.
I have observed Ash breeding:
and he seems very interested in
Vianne 11/24/10 (today)
Courante is still courting his girls, but I haven't witnessed anything yet. I used to worry about such things, but I've learned that the rams almost always get the job done whether I watch it happen or not. But it is so nice to have a guess at lambing dates, so I peek out the window whenever I'm home during daylight hours. I sincerely hope Lyneth takes this year. I really want lambs from her. Last year she was too fat, but she hasn't received any treats this year so I hope that solved the problem.
I would like to wish everyone a lambing season full of wishes come true!
We received a small layer of snow Saturday night. The temperatures also dropped and the lake is slowly beginning to ice over. For the most part, though, our weather has been very mild.
The adult rams have been moved to their winter pen: which is one of the two round pens built out of horse panels lined with no-climb horse fence. In a week or two we will split the rams up and add ewes to each of their pens.
The ramlings are stationed out by the lambing shed with a roll of electronet. If I can spare the money, I'm going to buy a few cattle panels to make a pen so the electronet can be put away for the season. Sometime in January, when I dismantle breeding groups, the little boys can go to the smaller, abandoned, round pen near the big boys. I have learned not to pen ramlings with adult rams as the little guys don't get much to eat with the big guys guarding the hay piles all day.
The ewes are still out on pasture with electronet. Hopefully this weekend I will have the time to bring them up to their winter pen. I'm still trying to devise a round bale feeder. Ideally, I would splurge on the
Premier 1 specialized panels. But I think I'll have to make do with something homemade. Once again, as finances allow.
Below is Shachah, all decked out in his Blaze Orange collar. So cute!
As Becky suggested, we brought Shachah in the house during the day for Deer Hunting Opener. Unfortunately, we have heated floors and he was so hot and uncomfortable that he tried to get out every time we opened the door. The next morning we couldn't even catch him, much less get him to come near the house. So we went to Plan B: during the day, Meg stays in the house, Greta stays in the outdoor kennel, and Shachah is free. Shachah won't leave Greta behind, except to check his yard/pasture perimeter. So it is working. We just have to be super careful to not let Greta out to play before dark.
I had to laugh...the other evening I let Greta out on my way to do chores. Shachah was so excited to see her out of the kennel and available for play that he charged toward her. In his exuberance he plowed into her and sent her rolling. Greta was completely overwhelmed and not a little shocked. She tucked her tail between her legs and retreated to the porch for good that night.
Poor Shachah had no idea why she didn't want to play.
Poor Greta, to be the unsuspecting landing pad for a dog more than double her own weight.
I finally decided on my breeding groups for the Shetlands.
Because I still have a couple of horn-genetic ewes in the flock, I put the emphasis on polled pairings. If I'm lucky, I might get some ewe lambs to retain and then I can move out the horn girls. It is hard to think of turnover like that. But it is the only way I'm going to move forward toward a full-polled flock.
I favored conformation, medium size, and fleece as well. With these priorities, I had to disregard color and pattern. I'm ok with this tactic, and I think I will still get a nice variety of color in the lambs.
LittleRedOak Ash will get the following ewes:
Boston Lake Sian: solid black, horn-genetics
River Oaks Lana: black gulmoget, poll-carrier
Boston Lake Vianne: white poll-carrier
Boston Lake Leil: gray, possible poll carrier
S'more Courante will get the following ewes:
sorry for the bad photo
River Oaks Hannah: moorit, polled
LittleRedOak January: moorit katmoget, polled
Boston Lake Nhu: black katmoget, poll carrier
Boston Lake Lyneth: white, poll carrier
This will be, potentially, my biggest lamb crop ever. I'm a little nervous about it, but I am excited to see what these rams can do. Breeding groups will be put together after Thanksgiving.
My two ewe lambs, Esyllt and Carys, will sit out the breeding season together in the girl's pen.
On Sunday, Beck went home with our friend Mary. Bence, the ram lamb she got from me two years ago, was getting a bit much to deal with in her flock of two Icelandic ewes. So I suggested she put Bence in the freezer and come pick out a different ram lamb.
Pulling the coats off Beck and his twin,Tecwyn, was a bit of a surprise...
Tecwyn, my favorite, was indeed soft and silky. He has a rather wide crimp pattern, a lot like his sire Arvada had.
But Beck had super crimp coming in-even on his hips. It was just amazing! And I would have never guessed.
So my little Dark Horse has gone to meet some Icelandic girls. And I am happy for him. And happy that Mary will get that lovely fleece from him before she sends him to the freezer.
Now Beck, be a good boy and give Mary some ewe lambs!
Greta had a rough week after her quill incident last Sunday. By Friday she was depressed and obviously in pain, so I brought her to the vet. She was diagnosed with Lyme's Disease and a small abscess under her chin which was probably an infected quill. Two separate antibiotics later, she is feeling much better. She will need to take the Lyme's med for a full 28 days.
Shachah has recovered nicely from his quill incident and vet visit. For a few days his front paws were very sore and he didn't walk much. He's no longer limping now...just enjoying the nice weather.
Megan, who did not have time to pose for pictures yesterday, suffered greatly from all the misplaced attention the other dogs received. Her jealousy almost unraveled her. Luckily for her, a 7 year old friend named Shayn came over for a visit Friday afternoon. Shayn and Megan got on like a house on fire, and I think he may have just been the first person ever to wear out my Megan Pie. I think this new-found friendship will be great for both of them.
In fact, Greta Grub seems to thrive on porcupine encounters. We usually give her a chunk of meat, gristle, or fat after we pull her quills, and days later, she still waits expectantly for more treats. Her boxer genes really shine at this time: she spends quite a bit of energy on a vertical bounce to her jaunty gait.
We just watched the animated film Monsters vs. Aliens over the weekend. In case you are unfamiliar with Greta's general personality, you can refer to Bob in that movie. Bob the Monster and Greta Grub are about the same...good natured and brainless. :)
Poor Shachah didn't fare as well. He had fewer quills, but a few were embedded very deeply. He actually let Clancy pull out most of them. He didn't even need to be held. He would sit still until it hurt too much and then he would walk away. When he was ready he would come back up to Clancy so more could be pulled. Amazing! But he had several quills deep in his front paws and he would not let Clancy touch them.
Shachah loaded quite easily in the car with Clancy's help The vet sedated him and removed the final quills. When I came to pick him up, Shachah headed straight for the car and didn't hesitate to get in. Poor boy wanted to go home. He is limping badly on both front paws. But in the end, the whole experience might have created just a little bit more trust between dog and family.
The gorgeous weather is still with us. I am not complaining...it's wonderful. The temps will be low overnight this coming week, though. So Clancy and I picked the last of the peppers. They are so pretty together in the bowl.
I also purchased all of my winter hay this week. The gentleman that leases my dad's hay fields put up his second cutting without rain and he agreed to sell me twenty bales. That should definitely cover me if I can keep it tarped well and reduce spoilage. The best part is that the field is right next to Clancy's mill...exactly one mile away. He can just bring a bale home with the bobcat when I need one. I am so thrilled...God really answered my prayers in this matter.
Today is a day to get lots of yard work finished. Hopefully I can get the last of the pastures mowed and the winter pens and barn cleaned out. Clancy and I are also going to sketch out some hay feeders. I'd like to build the style I saw at Becky's farm. We already have the materials salvaged from other projects.
Hopefully, we will accomplish much today. Have a good one yourself!
What to do with the ram lambs? I go back and forth.
Sell? Keep? Market as butcher lambs? Wether for fiber pets?
I changed coats on all three boys yesterday. My own sons were helping me with the changes and then moving them across the yard to a new paddock...so I didn't bother with getting photos during the process. But I did get a chance to evaluate fleeces again.
Beck...not quite as soft as a newborn. But yesterday I couldn't feel any difference between his fleece and his brother's fleece. I had made up my mind to wether him. Now I'm doubting that decision. I'm assuming that decisions like this start getting harder as one approaches flock goals. So I will count it as a sign of flock improvement that my least favorite lamb seems as soft as my favorite.
Clennam and Tecwyn knee deep in clover. Having good forage this late in the year is so uncommon.
Clennam with his broken scur. Since it isn't hurting him in anyway, I keep forgetting to get it clipped off. Clennam has gorgeous black tips to his fleece under that coat.
This photo shows how good Beck's hindquarters are. All three boys are nice and wide like this.
And here is my favorite...Tecwyn. He has fine bones and yet a very alert, masculine presence. And the softest fleece in my flock.
The temps have been in the upper 70's all this week. It is the best 'summer' weather I think we've had in the last 5 months.
Strange...but I am not complaining. There is still so much we have left to do before the weather turns nasty. I'm grateful for the extension.
As you can see, the leaves have fallen off the trees.
Ash has his head down in a brush pile to rub off the mosquitoes and gnats that were swarming today. I guess warm weather has a bit of a downside.
Just off the boat landing, a Canada goose.
I was fooled the first time I saw it. After it failed to fly or float away, I realized it was a decoy some hapless hunter had lost track of.
Shachah absolutely loves to roll in the leaves. I think he likes the sound...or maybe he just loves the cooler temps. I caught him napping, obviously after taking a stroll through the mucky swamp.
I just love this big mellow guy.
Last, but not least, a true sign of the season: our wood stove is burning again. Not that we needed heat today. But this is a good thing because Clancy has had our heating system torn apart for three weeks. To satisfy the insurance people, he had to move the outdoor boiler 50 feet away from the garage we are building. So the yard has been torn up with a trench, and insulated pipe, and new electrical stuff. What a mess! And of course, it always takes longer than one hopes, to finish the job. But the test run was successful! And I am very grateful Clancy is so skilled at building and fixing. Even though I would love to have weeks and weeks more of this fine weather...technically, we have heat again...so it can get cold when it has to.
I have reached that point where some of my foundation girls have to go if I am going to keep their ewe lambs.
With a heavy heart, I am offering the following three ewes for sale. I will try to update my sale page soon. But for now, photos and fleece information can be found on the "Our Flock" and "Fleece for Sale" pages.
Boston Lake Sian $200
4 years old
Solid Black with Moorit Recessive
minimal iset, excellent mother, excellent conformation/tail, wool on poll, large size, horn genetics
Little Red Oak January$200
Moorit Katmoget with Solid Recessive
excellent conformation/tail, terrific mother, medium size, polled genetics
Bramble AnnaBelleReserved To anEXCELLENTHOME only!
8 years old
White with Solid Black Recessive
big deep build, tiny tail, excellent mother, 32 micron but very lustrous & silky hand, possible full poll
I have 4 daughters & 1 son from Anna. She is a very special ewe.
These ewes are completely unrelated stock.
2010 Lambs are also for sale on the "Stock for Sale" page.
The list of chores is pretty much the same every year.
But it does help to write it all down so I can feel like I accomplished something as I strike through each one. So here goes:
1. Change coats on the sheep.
Vianne is a yearling that needs to move up to a size E coat.
Leil is overdue for her size E. She is also a yearling.
River Oaks Hannah needs to be introduced to a sheep coat. I believe she will take a size E as well. Lana, my other new ewe, needs a coat too. I wanted to trim her up a bit more first, but she is still skittish with me. For lack of patience, I will probably just coat her.
Nhu also needs an E coat. So that makes 4 more that I need to order in that size. D's and E's seem to be the basic adult sizes for my Shetlands. Size F will probably come into play a little later in the winter.
2. Ear tag the two ewe lambs, Esyllt and Carys.
3. Give all the lambs a round of CD & T. I usually would not do this...but I discovered earlier this summer that I had accidentally bought just the "CD" part of the vaccine, minus the tetanus. So I want to get one tetanus shot into them.
4. Trim all hooves.
5. Check eyelids and condition on all sheep. I only have one girl out there that seems a bit slim to me. But she is normally built like a fawn and her twin ram lambs were only taken away a short time ago. She might just need time to bounce back.
6. Clean out the barn. I've been avoiding this job all summer.
7. Buy some good square alfalfa bales for lambing and stack them in the barn.
8. Buy some round bales for winter and tarp them.
9. Finally build hay feeders!
10. Repair and clean the ram pens.
11. Make some decisions about breeding groups.
12. Market my 'for sale' sheep. Speaking of which...here is a sweet little girl that is looking for a new home. Her name is Carys and all of her info is on my sale page.
13. And let's not forget the most important task of all...
One of the most amazing things about Boston Lake is that a pair of swans choose to nest on the north end every summer. They are bold birds, apparently finding the shore of our farm tranquil enough to frequently skim alongside. For as often as I see them up close, I rarely pursue them with a camera. They seem to know when I am just out doing my chores and when I'm trying to spy on them. I prefer to help them feel as welcome as possible.
In the early spring and late fall, several swans congregate here. They spend quite a bit of time socializing before they migrate. The sound of their wings beating on the water is loud enough to hear from inside the house. Which reminds me of one of the greatest gifts of living next to Boston Lake: hearing the swans talk to each other in the middle of the night. They have the clearest voices which can be heard in the wee hours as they gently speak to one another. It is hard to describe. Suffice to say that their midnight calls are in complete keeping with the awe-inspiring beauty of the Milky Way and depth of heaven.
These photos were taken from my truck, on the road that borders the south end of Boston Lake. My camera's zoom seems to be broken...or the batteries are low. But if you click on them, the photos might give you an idea of just how lovely these majestic birds are. My heart-felt thanks to the folks that worked so hard to bring Trumpeter Swans back to Minnesota.
I took advantage of an offer from USDA to have my rams genetically tested for scrapie resistance at Codon 171. An official USDA veterinarian collected blood samples from the five rams I have on my property on 9/9/10. The results came in the mail 9/24/10.
Helpful information supplied by Gene Check, Inc:
"Codon 171 is the most commonly tested codon. It is used to test for susceptibility to Strain C scrapie (the most common form of scrapie in the U.S.) Result possibilities are QQ, QR, or RR.
QR and RR sheep are resistant to strain C scrapie.
Codon 136 is used to test for susceptibility to Strain A scrapie (recently discovered in the U.S.) Result possibilities are VV, AV, AA.
Codon 136 [testing] is necessary only on QR and QQ animals. It is not necessary to test RR animals as they are automatically AA at Codon 136.
Only AA sheep are resistant to Strain A scrapie.
Testing at Codon 154 is generally used only for research purposes."
My flock results
Little Red Oak Ash QQ
S'more Courante QR
Boston Lake Clennam QR
Boston Lake Tecwyn RR
Boston Lake Beck RR
I have listed this info with each sheep on the Flock and Sale pages. Using this information, and that from Kimberwood Kavan's results in 2006 (171: QR 136: AA), I was able to add some knowns to offspring of these rams. Therefore, some of my ewes also have some partial information.
It has been raining buckets for two days now. The weather report predicts a little bit of sun peaking through the clouds by late afternoon. I believe this community will welcome the light as the flooding recedes.
I have noticed how life can go for weeks without major incident. Not that it is boring during that time. But there is only a general hum of progress and maintenance. Dishes, homework, music lessons, chores, grocery shopping, supper, bedtime... Then there are specific periods in time where life is suddenly thrown into stark relief. One is suddenly facing a crossroads. A decision is weighted with complexity. A clear mind is needed to navigate an intense situation...
This week has been filled with important issues. It has required me to be very mindful of each word, each thought, I release into the universe. I haven't been able to dance down life's path. Life's path is suddenly overgrown with thorns and shadows. If I'm going to continue forward I have to tread carefully and believe there is light beyond this immediate condition.
And there IS light.
No matter how torrential the rains or wild the tempest, above the turbulent atmosphere is a clear view of the sun. The sun does not cease to shine, we simply must weather the storm.
I am grateful for God's love, mercy, and guidance today. For truly, I could not withstand some trials without His presence and strength. In fact, the minute I turned over my fears to Him in prayer, solutions appeared. Assurance bathed me in warmth. Peace gently spread over my soul. Compassion supplanted hurt.
My path was cleared enough for me to move forward.
All is well.
Why am I sharing this? What does this have to do with a small flock of sheep and the rhythms of farming?
Though the troubles I faced this week had nothing to do with my flock or farm, Shetland sheep, the organization that maintains their registration (NASSA), and shepherds involved with this breed are currently facing division and turmoil.
Anger, fear, and hurt are being sputtered and spit across North America regarding this small adorable animal.
So what should be done?
Truthfully, I do not know. I do not know if I have a solution, or if I even will be a part of a solution.
But know what I want for this breed...
I want the positive energy of each singular Shetland to be one of the most obvious messages of it's public persona.
And I know one cannot battle negativity with negativity. The problems I faced this past week would have become nightmares for me and my family had I relied on my gut reactions and emotions. Did I have a right to those feelings? Certainly. However, they were no more than swirls of justifications and self-righteousness.
If Shetlands are going to survive in North America, I believe every shepherd of them is going to have to tap into the power of light and love. Sounds flaky, I know. But how else do I express this?
Let us each reflect before we speak or publish. Let's remind ourselves of one terrific thing about a person that completely disagrees with us or has attacked us. Let's open our minds to the positive aspects of each perspective. Let's listen to the energy of each voice and allow ourselves to be moved only by those that seek harmony and growth, rather than those that seek division and hatred.
In the course of world events...perhaps this is a tiny, insignificant battle. What is not insignificant is our personal response to it's fallout. I believe our individual actions create vibrations for better or for worse. How do we each weigh in on this subject? I'm not asking for your opinion on the subject. I'm asking how you intend to conduct your response. How do you navigate a path of thorns and shadow? Do you draw strength from judgement or from faith in positivity?
I'm just pondering aloud. Not that I'm dismissing what I said in a hope that no one will criticize me for my opinion. But I can't control those responses in others and I have decided I don't really need to worry about them either.
If there is one gift I would like to give the Shetland Community, and those folks that are considering becoming shepherds of these terrific little sheep, it is this:
I believe you have a mind, and I believe you have the right to make your own decisions.
Do your research.
Work with breeders that encourage your dreams rather than press you to join their personal battle.
A good breeder will introduce you to the breed in all it's variety, and refer you to other breeders if you are searching for something not offered in their own flock.
How can they do this? Because they are proud enough of their own stock, effort, and vision to realize it will survive because it is GOOD.
Shetlands are quite variable. Shetland shepherds are quite variable.
The only similarity I can think of between each of my Shetland friends that are spread far and wide across this continent is NOT the type of sheep or wool they raise.
The similarity is their kindness, civility, and decency.
Each shepherd is in a completely different place with their flock goals at this time.
But I rejoice in their positivity and their commitment to these dear, small sheep.
One of my new girls from Becky's farm: River Oaks Hannah. She is so friendly. It is hard to get a good photo of her because she is always so close. I love her poll wool. I want more fuzzy polls in my flock. :)
Boston Lake Sian has taken over the flock from her mother 'Old Rachel.' It was hard to watch Sian push her dam away from the salt tub and new food all this summer. She had been a loyal daughter for four years. I decided this spring to put Rachel down in the fall, and Siana's assumption of 'boss ewe' helped me realize I was making the right choice.
Most of the ewe flock...milling around...waiting for me to enter the pen and scratch their chins.
Sian's daughter by Bombarde...Boston Lake Leil. Leil is an A-1 PEST. She is first in line for cuddles, she bites the buttons off my sweaters and attacks my wedding ring every chance she gets. She also chews on the electronet the minute the fencer is off...just to prove a point, I imagine. She is the spoiled princess of the Matriarchy...always protected and favored within the flock. Sheep know these things.
Little Red Oak January and her black katmoget ewe lamb, Boston Lake Esyllt. Esyllt is my only Arvada daughter. I love her to pieces. She is MY little princess.