Thursday, April 26, 2007

Destressing at the Hilton

There often isn't enough time during the week for work, taking care of the farm, eating and sleeping. Sleep is usually the one that gets shorted.

It was getting quite late last night and the last thing we had to do was put down some clean straw in the Hilton. I wrestled the bale through the gate and could feel little bodies clustering around my feet. Shuffling slowly and letting the bale down carefully, I was just ready to cut the strings when it was discovered! Discovered by multitudes of black and white bodies (and one brown body).

The Lambs at the Hilton were not ready to go to sleep, no, not at all. They commandeered the hay bale as the center of their impromptu playground and played king of the mountain - up and down, up and down, leap and spring! It was just too great for us to spoil their fun right away, so we stood there and felt their fiber, looked at color, socialized and played with the lambs.

And eventually, what do adults do? Well, we spoil the kids fun, of course. ;-) We opened the bale of straw and spread it out - leaving a couple of mini-piles for late(r) night fun. Bed felt even better after destressing with the lambs, and I'm sure sleep came faster than usual.

- Franna

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Just have to Brag

We have 4 awesome Shetland ram lambs in our group this year (so far!)! Two are 62% UK bloodlines through Drum Ram, Drum Jings and Keir Gordon, one black and one white. Blizzard is pictured below.
This little ram has presence, evenly crimpy birth coat, lovely head and tail, and rock solid rear. He's standing with his equally nice sister, Midnight, below. These two are for sale at this time.
Blizzard's black half brother/cousin is just one day old but already has that same presence, four square stance and evenly crimpy birth coat that Blizzard does. "Daisy's Black Boy" will be for sale if we don't keep him here.

Both of our moorit gulmoget ram lambs, Franjean and Rool, are for sale. We're keeping Franjean's moorit gulmoget sister, Elora, and so retaining that pattern in our flock. I'm really impressed by the solid bodies on these boys. They should be soft and somewhat intermediate in fleece character. Rool is pictured below.
Both boys are sired by Sheltering Pines Octavian, a double F2 black gulmoget polled ram owned by Juliann Budde in Illinois. Franjean's dam is Bitterroot Bessie, and Rool's dam is Bessie's daughter, Little Country Val.

More to brag about - Fleeces!!!
The Shepherds' Extravaganza is the first major sheep and fiber event in the Pacific Northwest. This year (at my suggestion!) the handspinning fleece show featured Shetland Sheep fleeces. Well, since it was my suggestion, I felt I had to enter as many fleeces as I could to support the show. The limit was 10... whew! I got just 10 sheared and skirted in time to enter the show. There was a total Shetland fleece entry of 39 - excellent support from as far away as Oregon and Alberta!
Imagine my surprise when one of our fleeces won Best Shetland Ram fleece!!!

This is Willie's second shearing. His is a very "modern" UK type fleece with shorter crimpy black wool and no white fibers at 2 years of age. Willie is for sale this year as we have some very nice offspring of his to carry on.

I was also (less pleasantly) surprised to find out that I'd missed finding some tender fleece in one of our entries, and it was "awarded" a white ribbon. oops!

The surprises kept coming, though ... another of our entries won Best Shetland Lamb fleece, and then in the final competition - won the Champion Shetland Fleece. I was stunned. Happily stunned. :-)

This fleece is a very, very black soft primitive style fleece that was sheared in September, so it was also extremely clean. I can't take all the credit for this one. It came from a ram lamb we bought from Kim Kerley of Mountain Niche farm in Chehalis. We were filling out our show string, and only needed him through September. Who'd have thought??!

- Franna

Hilton Photos at last!

Presenting the OVINE HILTON at EverRanch!
The Hilton was finished the first part of the month and that was when our "lamb storm" began. I finally got some photos to put up. Including photos with sheep inside! Notice the creep pen at lower right, and the lambing jug (occupied!) in the center right.

In the top photo, look carefully and you can see the deluxe lamb cam. It's shown below in closeup. This device is a life saver. We've seen ewes in labor, ewes trying to steal lambs, lambs climbing out of jugs, lots of things. It's worth it's weight in gold just to avoid multiple barn trips in the middle of the night... and day. Of course, it doesn't eliminate all barn trips, why would we want to do that? After all, we have sheep because we like being with the sheep!
Here's the view of the Hilton that we see from the Lamb Cam:
The latest lambs are in the jug with Daisy. She had triplets on Sunday ... no, make that Monday morning - early. We came home from the Shepherds' Extravaganza and found her in labor. Only a bit later it became obvious that the lamb was not in position to be born and I had to reposition it! This was my first time sorting out and moving an unborn lamb and it was a bit scary. All turned out well, though, after number 1 was moved, numbers 2 and 3 followed in quick succession. They're shown below.

They are 2 rams and 1 ewe, bringing our lamb total for 2007 to 35. The lambs now outnumber adults with 3, maybe 4 more to lamb.

Below is Daisy's ewe lamb. She has an interesting marking on her front leg, brown and black like a splash of katmoget. She also has a small black spot between her tail and right hip. Interesting.

- Franna

Friday, April 13, 2007

Lambs R Us

About this time, I'm wondering... What were we thinking???? last year when we bred so many ewes! We have lambs in the barn, lambs in the front pasture, lambs in the side pasture and lambs in the Hilton. We have Scottish Blackface Lambs, we have Shetland lambs, we have Gotland cross lambs - and - we still have 9 more ewes to go! At least these should spread out over the next several weeks instead of coming all at once.

The count is 26, and it's been exciting. Bessie, of course, started things out with her 3 near the end of March. They're growing very nicely. Sorcha is the grey katmoget ewe on the left, Elora is the moorit gulmoget ewe in the center and Franjean is the moorit gulmoget on the right. What a handsome group!

Next to deliver were the AI girls. Interestingly enough, they delivered **by breed**. The Finns (bred with Gotland semen) went first on April 2 and 3 with two sets of twins and two sets of quads. One of the quads was stillborn, so the total is 7 rams - 6 black with white and 1 white, and 4 ewes - 3 black with white and 1 white. Tucker is below with her troop of 4.

Niblet's white twins are completely different looking than their relatives. They are very long boned with close, extremely curled fleece. Just look at this boy's legs!

After about a week they've filled out some, but still look quite different from the rest. Kibbles is on the left and sister, Bits, is on the right.

The other 50% Gotlands look more like this sweet ewe. Freckles is her Finn mom.
Next to lamb were the Scottish Blackface. In 2006, we had the first North American Scottie born from imported Scottish semen. This year we have 7!!! One of which is a second generation, 75% imported bloodline. Below is EverRanch Genesis' 75% UK ewe lamb in her first day of life.Ewe One, my partner in the Ladies Lead photo at the top of the blog, gifted us with triplets this year - a ram and two ewes. They're shown below.

Uh oh. What's that on the ram's leg??? I found him on Monday morning with toes pointing 90 degrees out. Sometime in the early morning, he got stepped on, or? and broke his lower leg, both tibia and fibula. Well, off to the vet we go and they splinted him from toe to groin with instructions to keep him "quiet" for 4 weeks! At first we had him by himself, and brought him out to mom for nursing, plus tried to train him to the bottle. Then after hearing Gail Former's (of Underhill Shetland fame) solution, we put him in a jug with his two sisters and Mom in the adjacent jug. This week we've put them to Mom every 4 hours for nursing. He's getting around better, and when we're worrying less about him getting caught and reinjured, we'll open a creep gate into Mom's jug. Below he shows his nursing form.

Hortense, the BFLx, was next to lamb, with Bubba - a 14.5lb monster white boy. He's also 50% Gotland. After Hortense, Electra and Asa gave birth to their twins and single 50% Gotlands. Electra's twin boys keep her jumping and Asa's girl, born on Easter afternoon, was christened "Bunny" by the assembled family. Val topped off the week with a single ram lamb - moorit gulmoget - immediately named "Rool" to go with half brother/uncle "Franjean". Those photos are "somewhere", so here's Elora with Franjean and Sorcha to anchor this post. Mom's taking very good care of these three!

Monday, April 02, 2007

April Fools!

...or don't fool with Mother Nature.

Mother Nature is playing tricks on us in Western Washington. Through peeks of sunshine, she pelted us with hail and "chunky" rain yesterday. It looks to be continuing through today.

The Ovine Hilton is habitable!!! The roof is complete and wow! it's everything we thought it would be and more. As we were fastening the last panels, the hail came down in earnest. No leaks! Yeaaaa! Now some hog panels, canvas sides and straw, and it'll be ready for the ewes.

The lamb calendar says the AI ewes are at day 141, within the birthing window especially for Finnsheep, and at SBF EweOne's 2006 gestation. The Sylvania lamb cam is set up and running next to my computer monitor. What a great tool for "ewe watching" ... any time, girls!

- Franna