Thursday, May 17, 2007

ShepherdDoc Catering Service

Featured on today's menu are mixed fresh greens: Add a bowl of granola tossed with molasses and a side of sun baked orchard grass.
Delivery is included.
Some customers sample the variety.
Others dig right in.
This exclusive catering service serves "bedridden" and restricted patients (and their family members) who aren't allowed to enjoy harvesting the bountiful spring harvest by themselves.

The ShepherdDoc catering service expects to go out of business by June! :-)


Hello to the World

Last night we put Emmie - EverRanch EMF - into a jug. There was just something about her... maybe it was the way the ram lambs wouldn't leave her alone, or that she wasn't quite as enthusiastic about eating, or her heavier breathing. Whatever it was, when I got up this morning and checked the Lamb Cam, she had this dark shadow with her!

There's not much question to this lamb's sex!! I'm thinking maybe Faraday would be a good name for him....
Thanks, Emmie!
This closes EverRanch Farm's 2007 lambing season. We have 40 healthy lambs bounding around. Four Scotties gave us 7 awesome lambs (3 rams, 4 ewes) from Scottish Genetics; 7 ewes gave us 15 half-Gotland lambs (10 rams, 5 ewes), all of whom are turning gorgeous, lustrous grey!; 7 Shetlands gave us 14 outstanding Shetland lambs (7 rams, 7 ewes); three others gave us 4 half-Finn market lambs (2 rams, 2 ewes). From 21 ewes - including 6 yearlings plus 2 other first time moms - that's almost a 200% lambing rate. We may have to bottle and sell the water. :-)
- Franna

Sunday, May 13, 2007


This is Electra. She's one of our favorite Shetland sheep. I know you all have favorite sheep. They're usually the ones who don't meet your goals for the flock, but they're characters or best friends in sheep suits or something else that makes certain that they are forever flock members. Electra is one of those. Her wool is coarser than ideal and she isn't very productive but she's so friendly, has friendly lambs and is such a character that she's on our "A" list. That's the list of sheep that will stay on and be buried in the "back 40" when their time comes.

Electra decided recently that she doesn't like drinking out of the buckets and tubs we supply with fresh water twice a day. She wants to get it right from the source as we're filling said buckets and tubs. Of course, the hose leaks just enough for her to get a good drink by licking right at the faucet connection.

Mom once had a cat named "Spook" (who wasn't spooky at all, and was calico colored at that) who decided she'd get her drinks by licking the bathtub faucet. Spook was catered to by letting the bathtub faucet slowly drip all day long. I used to cat-sit for Mom when she'd go traveling, and of course, had to leave the bathtub faucet drip for Spook. Those memories all came back to me watching Electra lick the hose at the leaking faucet connection.

Thanks, Electra. :-)

- Franna

Broken Leg update and What's Next

Several weeks ago, Butch, one of our Scottish Blackface ram lambs broke his leg. He was only 4 days old, and a result of insemination using (real) Scottish semen. As a potentially valuable breeding ram, we chose to have the vet set his leg. He then spent the next 4 weeks in an enlarged jug and creep with his two sisters and his mom. Last Monday, at long last, the splint was removed!!! His leg has a pretty good callus forming, even if it's not quite straight. Being immobilized at such a young age, though, his leg hasn't developed a lot of calcification, and the joints are fairly stiff.
Butch is shown below in my arms on his arrival home after the splint was removed.

A close up shows the difference between the newly released, injured right leg and the good left leg.

We put him back in the pen with Mom and sisters to stay confined while he learns to use it again and it regains some strength. He's shown below with mom "EweOne".

He's started out putting only a little weight on his leg when he was standing, and dragging it along when he was moving. Now, almost a week later, he's using it to walk with more and putting his toes out front more often when he's standing. Progress is slow and steady. I've been cutting grass every morning to feed Ewe One and her triplets in the hope that they'll be somewhat accustomed to eating grass by the time they get to go OUT.

Butch is shown above just 6 days after his splint was removed. It's amazing the difference a week makes. Notice how his hock and ankle are bent to a more normal position and his foot even looks more substantial. We're keeping our fingers crossed that he recovers plenty of function in that leg so he's able to easily breed ewes and pass on his superior genetics!


A while back, Kathy L. asked what we had in mind "next"... after winning Best Shetland Ram Fleece, Best Shetland Lamb Fleece and Champion Shetland Fleece at the Shepherds' Extravaganza. Kathy, I've thought a lot about your question.

What's next? Isn't that always a good question to ask yourself? There are lots of categories to think about. Some years ago, I decided to go back to school to serve as an example to my daughter and to keep my mind busy. "What's next?" in that vein became a Masters Degree in Engineering in 2000, then a PhD in Mechanical Engineering in 2005.

When we bought our current 5 acres for the primary purpose of having space to practice dog agility "what's next?" became the sheep farm. "What's next?" for the sheep farm is to move to our 20 acres on Whidbey Island. That should come to pass by 2010, hopefully, even sooner! In agility "what's next?" became the impetus for both Dave and I to pass the test and become agility judges. Now both of us judge AKC agility trials several weekends per year. "What's next" for the sheep is to continue to breed for fine - mid 20's micron - fleeces in the Shetlands, increasingly pure bloodlines for the Gotlands, and improve the gene pool in Scottish Blackface sheep with imported genetics from Scotland.

This year's "what's next" for the farm is to exhibit the sheep and their fleeces at three or more competitions. The first was Shepherds' Extravaganza. We just evaluated our time commitments and maturity of the lambs and decided that Black Sheep Gathering just isn't one for us this year, disappointing but realistic. The Skagit County Fair will be our next sheep competition. I'll be sending fleeces to Fibre Week at Olds College in Alberta before then. After that, we'll exhibit at our "local" fair - the mega-sheep show at the Puyallup Fair. The up and coming Gotland Association is planning to exhibit at the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival in late September. We're tentatively planning to take some of our 50% Gotland sheep there.

Probably the very most exciting "what's next" for me in 2007 is my impending RETIREMENT!!! After 40 years in the work force, most of it in full time employment, I'll be retiring on my 55th birthday - June 30th. I'm so excited that it's hard to concentrate on my last few weeks at work. :-) :-) :-) After July 1st, all those things I talked about above, will be so much more do-able. Plus I'll see my Mom more often, visit my daughter and husband in their new home, go to Albuquerque to visit my son along with about a thousand other things that are "next".

Kathy, thanks for asking. :-)


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Farm Visitors and Sheep Moving Day

Today was the first weekend we had "free" in quite a while. It was wonderful to spend the whole weekend on the "farm" :-)
Saturday, we sheared two sheep that we'd sold to some friends. Tina and Jim bought one of our first Scottish Blackface lambs, Lucy, then last fall bought Shetland "Ovaltina" just before she won Grand Champion Shetland Ewe at the Puyallup fair sheep show! Both Lucy and Tina had nice, clean fleeces, and are living the good life as Pasture Pets. I then attended an 80th Birthday bash for a longtime family friend, then went by the feed store for supplies (they know me by name). We also got ready for showing folks around the farm and for sheep moving day.

We rotate the sheep through the pastures, letting each pasture rest and regrow in turn. When we get the timing right, the grass is still in its vegetative state (no shorter than 4") when we move the sheep out, and it grows quickly. We try to size each pasture so that the sheep are in for about a week. Then we do the moving on weekends.

The first to move were the rams. Here is what they got moved into. This is our backyard. Other people mow their backyards. We graze sheep in our backyard. The boys were very happy to move into this grassy jungle. The white Shetland is Winter, the black Shetland is Willie and the (sunbleached) Finnsheep is Eino. Buddy the Shetland, and our 4th ram, was just out of the photo.
Below is the "upper" group of Shetland and Finn ewes with their lambs. They are impatiently waiting to get their new grass! Niblet the Finnsheep is in the back baaaa'ing very loudly about her displeasure at having to wait. They really aren't as packed in as they look. When I came up with the camera, they all crowded to the front trying to be first out. Silly sheep.

This morning (Sunday), Michelle McMillen of Boulderneigh fame came visiting with her Dad. Her excuse was to pick up fleeces from the Shepherds' Extravaganza, but I know she was looking for a "lamb fix". I had a great time providing said "fix". We looked at lambs, and talked about lambs, and caught and felt lambs, compared birth coats and how they felt, and of course had to pet the adults as they crowded around.

It was wonderful to talk about Shetlands and wool types and tails and conformation :-) Thanks, Michelle! Later we got to meet son Brian, Michelle's husband, Rick, and her Mom. Brian (hi, Brian!) was more interested in our Labrador Retriever, Thomas, than all the wooly sheep. It was mutual. Thomas was much more interested in Bryan than a bunch of silly sheep.

We spent a lot of time looking at the gulmoget ram lambs, Franjean and Rool. I've been watching their "horns", earlier noticing that Franjean's nubs were loosely attached, but Rool's seemed to be firmly attached. Today it was obvious that both boys have loosely attached scurs. Franjean is shown below with his small nubs.

Then Rool's larger nubs are shown in the photo below. Also noticeable is the difference in color - Rool is very dark brown, and Franjean is considerably lighter - and wool character - Rool's birthcoat is very dense and straight, I call it "plush", and Franjean has a slight wave that is also softer feeling.

Of Bessie's triplets, Sorsha is the softest feeling. If we didn't already have two fawn katmoget ewes, she'd be on the potential keeper list! She has a shorter head like her mom, Bessie.

And a longer fleece than Franjean or Elora with even more wave to it. She didn't even object too much to being fawned over.
All too soon, Michelle had to pack up the fleeces and leave for the long drive back to Oregon. (Michelle took pictures - my camera was charging....) . I wish we lived closer together :-)

Our second set of visitors were Dave's coworker, Ron, his wife, Deb and daughter Hannah. Hannah was thrilled to meet Thomas, as well. Must be something about those big brown eyes and that wildly wagging tail.... We walked around and met the sheepie groups, then sat Hannah down with the "Hilton" group and just let the lambs come around. The Gotland-Finn lambs surrounded her and Bossie laid down and snoozed between her feet. What a deal for an animal loving young lady. We finished the tour with a demonstration of the spinning wheel where I'm spinning up some gaudy bright orange, yellow and hot pink Romney. Spinning had a lot more appeal for Deb; Hannah's heart was still in the lamb pen.

I got the Romney at Shepherds' Extravaganza from Lin Schwider of The Pines Farm. All four days I could see it on the shelf across the room from our sheep pens. It called to me, and kept calling until I gave in and bought it. It's garish, it's wild, it's *not Shetland* and I'm having fun spinning it. See, Michelle, I do get some time to spin. :-)

Also at SE, Dave found this lime green kid mohair with his name written all over it. He wants socks made from this so he can wear them with his Birkies in the wintertime. I'm going to card it with some white SHETLAND wool to add resilience. If it mutes the green too much, Lin offered me some electric yellow dye to enhance the white wool.

My name is Franna and I'm a fiber addict. This beautiful gray Cotswold fleece followed me home from SE. (This was the day after one of Linda Wendleboe's charcoal Shetland fleeces jumped into my arms - more on this fleece in a future blog!) The house is full of fleeces and roving and locks and yarn. Did I need more? Nooooooo. I haven't spun Cotswold though, and it is such a pretty color. Just look at how it shines with luster. Our Gotland sheeps' wool should be similar in color and luster and considerably softer.

Another weekend gone into history. The sheep and lambs are all on new pasture eating their favorite bits (dandelions and clover). By next weekend, they'll be eating the less favorite greens (fescue and seed stalks) and eagerly looking for us to move them again. Michelle and Ron and families, we hope you enjoyed your visit; we sure enjoyed having you here. Y'all come back now, y'hear! ... I think I'll spin a little more brilliant orange Romney before bed.

- Franna

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Scottish Blackface Lambs

I took these photos a week or so ago, and they've been simmering in my computer. Now they want out! All of our Scottish Blackface lambs are a result of artificial insemination with semen collected in Scotland from real Scottish - Scottish Blackface rams. We used one of the rams last year, and two others this year. The little beauty below is "Bonnie's Girl" by ram #3631. We hope she develops mom's lovely flowing, long fleece along with dad's superb conformation. These two boys are out of our nicest fleeced ewe, Luna. Luna also has wonderful, wide, sweeping horns. In our very small flock, within this low NA population breed, Luna is the least related to our other ewes. We bred her to the "third" imported semen line (#4236) hoping for a ram lamb. She gave us Wicket and Teebo. Thank you, Luna!
The left hand lamb in the photo below is our 75% Scottish lines ewe lamb. She's the daughter of the first Scottish Blackface born in North America of Scottish semen, EverRanch Genesis. She deserves a name, but for now is "Jennie's Girl". She's a half sister to Wicket, shown behind her, and half-first-cousin-once-removed to Bonnie's girl at right. Ram 4236 (sire of Wicket, Teebo and Jennie's girl) gave us more substance and darker color than Ram 3631 (sire of Bonnie's girl and EweOne's triplets). The 4th lamb in this photo is Bubba, single son of our BFLxBL Hortense and Gotland ram "Denzel". Bubba is the biggest lamb we've had at EverRanch.

The Scottie triplets are still confined in the oversized jug in the barn. "Butch" had his splint changed on Monday - it's now a bright red. The good new is that his leg appears to be healing well, and just possibly they'll remove his splint next Monday! We'll keep them in the pen maybe another week, just to have him get used to walking on it, then have to introduce all 4 of them gradually to the pasture. Whew.
- Franna

Penultimate Lambing for 2007

Fancy had her lambs this morning. She'd been hanging away from the other ewes and generally looking suspicious, but not enough to stay up with her. This morning on the lamb cam, she had a little black lump with her in the far corner of the Hilton. When I went out to take care of them, though, the lump diverged! There were two "black" lumps. Let the other ewes and lambs out, dip navels, get weights - just under 6 lb and just over 6 lb, nice sized girls for a first time mom - then put them in the waiting jug. Motherhood brings such a pleasant change over these girls. They become more calm and trusting of their shepherd and seem to gain patience overnight. The last two who've lambed, Fancy and Tori, have been known to jump fences when we're trying to pen them - not good - but with their lambs, they're settling down and only giving me a wary eye when I get close.

Twins. That puts a crimp in my colostrum saving efforts. Not that I'm complaining! I decided not to "steal" colostrum from moms with twins or triplets, or yearling moms. That left only two mature ewes with singles. Hortense donated about 3 cups, and Lindy lambed during the Shepherd's Extravaganza, when there was essentially no time to milk her within that first 12 hours or so.

Total lambs at EverRanch is 39. Thirty nine! A lot of other farms routinely have more lambs than that. I'm overwhelmed, thrilled and looking for ways to extend our pastures and protect the younguns from infections, parasites, and predators.

Thank you, Fancy. Emmie is now the only one left to lamb and we're thinking her due date is still a couple of weeks out. C'mon Emmie! Photos at 11 ;-)