Saturday, June 26, 2010

Garden Bits

These photos were taken last week. Things have grown up a bit since then.
Clancy picked the rhubarb last night. Our friend, Gail, gave us our first three plants. Our friends, Rick & Sue, gave us our other three. Thank you, thank you to them. We love rhubarb so much. All the plants are doing well except one of the originals...ants have decided to build a hill under and around it. Any suggestions about how to get rid of them without damaging the plant?

Clancy's potato patch is filling out. I tucked a few odd tomatoes and basil in the open end. The peonies were just starting to bloom then, and the chives were about finished. I need to deadhead everything today.

Clancy also has a little melon and radish patch going behind the garage. He served us the first little radishes last night. They were mild from all the rains we've had.

My gardening efforts include several transplanted peppers, herbs, and tomatoes that I put in pots full of our composted hay and sheep manure. I'll try to post a picture of them soon.

Another Porcupine for Grubby

I've lost track of how many she's already had this spring...I held her, Clancy pulled.
Plied with globs of ground only took a few minutes.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pasture Rotation

June has been a wet month. The pastures have flourished. Photos of our pasture rotation look quite dramatic at this point in the year.
This photo shows an area in the foreground that was just grazed and mowed. To the right is grass that has about a week of growth. To the left is grass that has been un-grazed for a few weeks.

We mow a line to set the fence.

In the foreground the sheep are fenced in an area that hasn't been grazed since early May. The background is area they have recently visited.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Eight Week Scurs

Technically, Beck and Tecwyn were only 7+ weeks when these photos were taken. Clennam was a full 8 weeks, though.
Tecwyn (black katmoget) has the longest scurs of the bunch. They are quite thin and wiggly. If I had horned ram lambs around, I'm sure he would have broken a scur already. But it is amazing how little the polled/scurred boys fight. Fine by me.

Beck (moorit katmoget) has shorter scurs. They are also wiggly.

These two ram lambs have exceeded my expectations. Tecwyn is the silkiest, softest lamb I've ever had here. I'm even toying with the idea of working him into my breeding plans. It's just that I don't know what his scurs will be like...I don't know if I want to use a ram with scurs...I already have Courante...we'll just have to see. Except for the questionable scur growth, I am very taken with Tecwyn.

Clennam's (grey) scurs look pretty big in these photos, mostly because one can't see his whole body at the same time. He has the smallest scurs of the bunch, though. One broke off and is less pointy than the other. The pointy part is actually bendable like fingernail material.

I am also considering keeping and using Clennam. The dilemma is that I already have 4 of his full blood sisters in my small flock. I'm not sure I have a place for him. Another wait and see situation...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Reflection Forward

There are some hard things about farming: Rain on rows of cut hay. Weak lambs. Dry summers. Rams that kill each other. A ewe getting old...
Being philosophical about it, I suppose everyone handles these things differently: impatience, acceptance, additional effort, cut your losses, expand the pastures, research minerals, use a shot, buy hay, hire some labor, do it yourself, pay the vet, don't call the vet, hope and wait, reduce the flock, swear...pray.......
Rachel, my first ewe, is getting old. I even refer to her as Old Rachel now. And even though she has been in retirement for the past two years, she is looking rough. She is built like a Holstein as it is, but she was so scrawny this spring at shearing time it was hard to even look at her. And that was after a winter of good alfalfa hay and a concerted provision of grains. Even this summer, with excellent clover and grass up to her eyeballs, she just isn't bouncing back like she should. She has slowed down. She's getting old.Clancy and I were going to put her down after shearing this spring. Some how, neither of us had the heart to get around to it. For now, the flock is small and the grass is abundant. We've decided she isn't in the way, or coming to any harm by enjoying the summer. But we will probably put her down before it's time to feed hay. Lots of logical reasons to do so...but mainly because our methods here, even our extra efforts, are no longer pulling her through. Yes, more could be done for her. But no, we are not going to do it. That is our decision. It hasn't been fun to come to terms with this, but I'm strangely at peace with it now that it has been decided.I'm just trying to enjoy this time with her. She will always be the girl that taught me everything.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


The sun peeked out the other day. For just a few minutes the lake reflected the blue sky. Then it clouded up again and poured. Nature is just lush with all the rain we've had.
The peonies have been waiting to bloom. Finally, with those few hours of sunlight, a few of them popped out. They smell beautiful. I brought a few into the house and every once in a while I put my whole face into one and inhale deeply. They are so soft, as well as fragrant. The Showy Lady Slippers decided to bloom as well. Another gorgeous June flower...

Welcome Home! (Belated)

God brought my sister's husband home from El Salvador on May 28. Life has a way of sweeping time away, I guess. I meant to post this so much sooner. For those who are not familiar with my family's tale concerning Elmer, Selena, and their young son, you can learn a few more details by visiting here.

It was a miracle how things worked out. And even though Elmer was in El Salvador for 18 months, much precious goodness came from it all...both down there and up here. Thank you to everyone who prayed for Elmer and Selena during this time. It was a huge test of faith for our whole family...but truly, God was with us through it all and taking care of everything.

Glory be to God!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Minnesota Weather

Last night some dangerous storms and tornadoes killed three people and severely damaged some small towns in Minnesota. Wadena lost their school. Mentor lost their gas station. Families lost their loved ones. For my own personal reasons, this affected me deeply. My heart goes out to the folks in these communities...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Deep Breath

Go not abroad for happiness. For see,
It is a flower that blossoms at thy door.
~ Minot J. Savage

Sunday, June 13, 2010

More Fleece Photos

I would like to share photos of fleeces I have had, or do have, in my flock. These are all from sheep I have owned at one time or another, but not necessarily from sheep I have produced here at Boston Lake Farm.
I have had other sheep and fleeces in my 6 years with Shetlands. Unfortunately I threw a bunch of the earlier samples out a while back in a fit of spring cleaning.
I don't get to travel around to other Shetland farms very often. I rely on photos, and occasionally samples, to help me understand what is going on with Shetlands in other areas of North America. So in a gesture of sharing what I would love to see from other farms, I am offering up my available fleece photos and notes, as few and insignificant as they may be, to anyone that is interested in looking.
Moorit Katmoget: 4 year spring sample photo. 3.5 years autumn midside sample tested: Mic: 28.1 SD: 5.3 CV: 19.0. Staple Length Range 1.5-3.5". This is the midside sample, which is the longest staple on the whole animal. Not offered for sale to handspinners because most of fleece is quite short.

Moorit Katmoget: 1 year spring sample photo. 6 month autumn midside sample tested: Mic: 27.8 SD: 8.3 CV: 30.0 Nice lustre, crimp, and lock shape, but fleece does not have a soft handle.

Black Katmoget: 2 year spring sample photo. 1.5 year autumn midside sample tested: Mic: 25.4 SD: 5.5 CV: 21.6 Silky, lustrous, downy soft at the base. Fleece sold immediately.

Black: 4 year spring midside sample photo. 3 year spring back hip sample tested: Mic: 28.1 SD: 6.6 CV: 23.6. Good lustre and crimp. Fleece has only a little iset. Very dense fleece. Sells with excitement for the extremely dark true black color.

White: 2 year spring midside photo. 1 year spring back hip sample tested: Mic: 27.7 SD: 6.6 CV: 23.9. Soft, lustrous, crimpy. I love the handle of this fleece.

Black Kat: 1 year spring midside photo. 7 months midside sample tested: Mic: 24.6 SD: 5.2 CV: 21.1. Incredibly tiny crimp. Soft and has some lustre. The lady that helped skirt it took it home, so I haven't had a chance to personally work with this fleece.

Modified Moorit: 1 year spring midside photo. 7 months midside sample tested: Mic: 23.8 SD: 5.8 CV: 24.2. Relaxed crimp. The most buttery soft handle I currently have in my flock.

Grey: 1 year spring hip photo. 1 year spring hip tested: Mic: 24.1 SD: 7.1 CV: 29.6. Fluffy lambs fleece. Wavy, no crimp, no lustre. Felt soft to the fingers but not to my neck.

Black: 2 year spring hip sample photo. 2 year spring hip sample tested: Mic: 30.9 SD: 10.5 CV: 34.1. Very crimpy, dull-no lustre. Felt like a greasy brillo pad. Fleece not offered for sale. Culled to freezer.

White: 3 year spring hip sample photo. 3 year spring hip sample tested: Mic: 36.0 SD: 8.1 CV: 22.4. Dramatic crimp and lustre. Described by return buyer as "fiber-optic" in its bright white washed state. Had a silky hand and I was surprised the Micron was as high as it was. Added nice length, crimp, & lustre to breeding.

Black, possibly modified: 1 year old hip sample photo. 1 year old hip sample tested: Mic: 25.7 SD: 7.7 CV: 29.9. Undercoat was tolerable if separated. Overall, an unremarkable fleece that did not feel soft on my neck. Culled to freezer at one year.

I will post more photos as I get more fleeces skirted. I will also be sending in midside fleece samples from this spring for micron testing as soon as they are assembled. That info will be posted too.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Double-Coated Fleece Photo

There is much debate going on in NASSA (the Shetland Sheep registry I am a member of) about fleece length, softness...and many other issues.
To illustrate some points, Juliann posted a photo of a double-coated Shetland fleece that was 14 inches long. I'm glad she did because I wasn't aware there were Shetlands with fleeces of that style, look, feel, or length.
When I refer to double-coated Shetland fleece, I am basing my comments on this particular fleece pictured below. This sample came from a ewe I used to own. She had the most "extreme" coat length that I have come across in my experience with Shetlands.

Whatever one's preference in fleece length, Shetlands are supposed to be SOFT. I felt that, excepting the minimal guard hair, this fleece was soft. This is a mid-side sample. It may not be evident from this photo, but the guard hair is not soft. It feels like mane hair from a horse. It also has zero lustre. But it's amount is in such a small ratio to the soft undercoat, and so very easily removed, that I am not concerned about it. Nor am I concerned with the 9-10 inch length of the sample.

This ewe is true recessive emsket in color. She also carries good spot genetics and throws flashy lambs. I enjoyed having her in my flock because she was also super friendly, an excellent mother, and she had terrific feet, tail, poll wool, and utter traits. I'm listing all of these things simply to illustrate how I feel about a Shetland with a fleece like this that has excellent qualities.

As opposed to the fleece above, the sample displayed on Juliann's blog is not something I would feel comfortable defending any more than she does.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Close-Ups & Advice?

Photos taken May 14, 2010
The white ewe in front is my beloved Lyneth. She is a full 2 years old and was put to a ram last fall for spring lambs. However, after much waiting, it is now obvious that she did not take. By my calculations she was exposed to the ram for at least 2 cycles, and it very easily could have even been 3 cycles. The other two ewes with this ram both conceived, including Lyneth's twin that is standing behind her: Nhu.
Nhu is built very doe-like. Lyneth is built like a propane tank. I suspect her weight was the reason she did not conceive. Does anyone have any helpful advice about how to increase her chances for this fall? Obviously, I won't be giving her any grain. :) I guess I'm not really sure how to put a pasture/hay fed sheep on a diet?
I am excited to use Sian for breeding again this fall. She took this past year off because I didn't have time to rotate sheep through breeding pens. Sian is now 4 years old and she gave me a lovely, soft, black fleece again this spring. She is the dam of Jchen from last spring.
Sian is also dam to this little ewe, Leil (Jchen's twin). I don't suspect Sian of polled genetics, but Leil does seem to have depressions in her head without maybe Bombarde passed on his polled to her. I HOPE so. Leil is just a lovely ewe. And without her coat on, she looks very much like her grand dam, first Shetland ewe. I think Rachel is a good example of a Classic Shetland.I am leaning toward putting Leil with LRO Ash as he has the barest noggin in my flock. This would also give me a chance at solid and/or moorit color. Their conformations seem well suited, and I think their fleeces will complement each other too. I guess I must be a little excited for next springs lambs! :)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Random Lambs

I grabbed Tecwyn the other day to get a closer look at those itty-bitty horns of his. Turns out he is the silkiest lamb I've ever had in my flock. Blew me away. I expected lovely fleece from his parents, but I haven't had my hands on this little guy since the jug. Silky, silky soft. It is almost cold to the touch the way fine hair on a little child is. I'll have to keep my eye on him.

My Little Love of this year's lamb crop...Esyllt.

Baby Brothers...Beck & Tecwyn.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

For Sherry

The sheep coats that fit too large have to be cinched up in the back. I roll up an old sock and then cinch a zip tie around the base of it to hold it in place. It looks terrible. And it doesn't matter how centered the cinch is, the coat rocks off to the side anyway. I don't like how the back end of the sheep is exposed to the elements-and vegetable matter. But I tried a less extreme cinch a few days ago and the sheep got out of the coats. I noticed Sherry at Spinner's End put two or more smaller cinches around the back seam. It looks better and seems to give better coverage. I think I will give that a try the next time I have to change coats.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ram Heads

It is hard for me to get flattering photos of my two yearling rams, S'more Courante and Little Red Oak Ash. They tend to crowd the fence line when I approach because they think I am about to move their electronet to new grass. The anticipation keeps them moving about.Courante broke his scurs off down to small nubs several times over the winter while he was penned with horned rams. Since then, his left scur broke once and is only a 1" nub. His right scur had grown into a snail scur, though, and we cut it off this past weekend. It only bled a tiny bit. No worries.Ash has only the smallest crumbly patches on his head.They have never grown or been knocked off. Half-poll or full-poll...I LIKE this type of head on a ram! No maintenance! :)Last but not least, a snap of 6 week old Clennam's noggin. He knocked off his right scur a few days ago and has the slightly smaller one left. Fingers crossed..