Tuesday, April 29, 2008

New Storm Clouds

Meet "Bandit"...

and "Stormy"

It's not so bad that the newest twins are boys. They are destined to be market lambs anyhow. (sigh). Mom, Electra, doesn't care. They're hers to protect, defend, lick and feed.

They are awfully cute. Just look at all those little curls. Those curls didn't come from Mom, so they must've come from Gotland/BFLxBL Dad. Well, maybe someone will be interested in a pretty grey fiber wether... or 15!

- Franna

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bessie's Silver Lining

Bitterroot Bessie is an experienced Mom. She lambs easily and has wonderful lambs. She was in labor while all the grafting of Black Market and Charcoal was going on. I hung around just in case and to watch the miracle of birth.

When Bessie started pushing REALLY hard, I was afraid something wasn't quite right. I peered at her business end and saw... A TAIL. Not good. Another dash to the house for lambing supplies and back to the Hilton. I pushed back, Bessie pushed ... no, Bess, relax... I managed to get the (naughty) tail pushed back enough to hook a hock, then a bit of another (also feeling more legs entangled therein). Bessie pushed, then pushed harder and out he came! A vigorous fawn katmoget ram! Bessie went right to cleaning him up, and a few minutes later he was joined by a moorit brother (oh, bother... more rams). Good girl, Bessie. Away they go into another jug with lots of straw.

Somewhat later, after checking other ewes, I returned to watch Bessie's little darlings and she started pushing again. It seemed a bit much for passing the afterbirth, and INDEED - another lamb! This one is a GIRL! A dark fawn katmoget GIRL. She's just got to be "Silver Lining". :-)


- Franna

Friday, April 25, 2008

In Every Cloud There's a Silver Lining

This is Before:

This is After:

And this is the "Rest of the Story":

Yesterday morning Bibb had twins. Boys - sigh - One white and one black (top photo). I found the black one wandering amongst the other ewes and their lambs. Somehow he'd gotten through the fence separating them and had wandered off. He was apparently the first born, and must've gotten "lost" while Bibb was cleaning number 2.

As usual, I put them in a jug with fresh straw, food, water. However, Bibb was having nothing to do with the black boy. White boy was definately the most favored son. I haltered her and struggled to get black boy fed. We did that several times... not fun, although the last time all I had to do was clip her halter to the hog panel and she held still. This morning, she was still batting him away - I spied on her via Lamb TV.

Now this morning. Charcoal was acting restless last night, even at the late night check, but no discharge yet. Bessie was starting to act restless. When I checked them this morning, I found two dead lambs and a distraught Charcoal. So sad!!! The little white one was a ewe, the other still in the sack, and didn't look good, so I just bagged it up. In the midst of lamenting, inspiration hit - I could try to get Charcoal to accept Bibb's black boy! The worst that could happen was that I'd have a bottle lamb to raise, and he was well on the way to being a bottle lamb already.

I lured Charcoal into a temporary pen with the dead lamb and raced to the barn to rescue black boy from his mother. (She now has another strike to add to the several she already had....) Carried him down to the Hilton, and on the way dunked him in the water tank. He was not happy about that!!! I rubbed the dead lamb all over him, trying to get the right scent on him.

Charcoal now acted confused and distraught. She'd sniff a little then push him away, circle around, baaaing. Finally I decided I had to wrap the boy in Charcoal's lamb's pelt. - You know you really accepted they're dead when you skin them. - Skin off, I tied it around black boy. Charcoal was still confused... and had not yet passed the afterbirth. We still had a chance.

I fixed up a pen for her and black boy, put in lots of fresh straw, went pottering about for a bit, then back in the pen. This time, when I held her, she let him nurse. I sat and scratched her chin and neck for several minutes while he suckled and waggled. She started cudding. Oh, this is a good sign.

Finally, she passed the afterbirth and I rubbed it all over black boy. She licked him!!! Then licked him some more!!! I pottered about some more, feeding and moving straw around. When I left them a few minutes ago, she was happily cleaning him off and he was happily nursing. I think I'll name him Black Market.

Bibb is happy with Favored Son. Favored Son is happy he isn't getting pushed around with his brother. (Photo 2) Charcoal is happy with a lamb. Black Market is happy with a real mom. (Photo 3) The Shepherd is happy she doesn't have to bottle feed a lamb but isn't very happy with 2 dead lambs :-(

Maybe Bessie will add some more silver lining to the clouds.

- Franna

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

We Interrupt this Lambing... (Revised with Photos)

...for some time at Shepherds' Extravaganza.

This is the first big Sheepie event of the year in the Pacific Northwest. This year, it could have waited a few more weeks, as the feeling was definately WINTER! I envied the sheep their woolie coats. No matter how many layers I put on, I had to keep moving to keep warm. Periodic walk abouts through the "ShowPlex" - heated! - helped as well.

We took Gotland/Finn, Shetland and a Finn fleece to the show. All 7 won Blue ribbons from judge Kirsten Holbo this year. We were pleased. :-) We also took 5 sheep - 4 Shetlands and Captain, our remaining grey Gotland/Finn ram. They generated a lot of interest, especially since they are quite friendly, but no buyers.

As much as I need more fleece, the Black Sheep Creamery had several Friesian fleeces there, and I took the opportunity to get one just to "try it out". ;-) I ended up with half of a white Friesian fleece and half of a black Friesian fleece, splitting each with a friend.

Of course, I couldn't wait to try it. Saturday evening I washed up a sample of each, hurried its drying, and spun it up on Sunday and Monday on my Turkish Spindle. It was very interesting.

The judge thought it might be soft enough for next to the skin wear. Of the two small samples I took from the fleeces, maybe the black one would be next to the skin soft, but the white one would make nice outerwear. They were both quite lofty, and I attempted to spin them woolen.

Below, the Turkish spindle shows its advantage. When the spun yarn is wound around the 4 arms (over 1, under 2, ad infinitum), it makes a center pull ball when the shaft is pulled out, then the arms are removed.

I carded and portioned them out: white, black, blended white and black, white, black, white, blended white and black, black, and white. Spun in that order, it made a yarn that transitioned from white to black to grey to white to black with just a bit of barberpole colors in between. There was enough to make a small bag for the Turkish spindle. :-) I decided to crochet the bag, since it's been many years since I've crocheted and it just seemed "right".

There was just enough to hold the two arms and shaft, with a little of the shaft poking out. I still need to make a drawstring to close the bag. Now, I can keep the three pieces together even when it isn't "busy" with yarn. :-)

Yeaaaaa! I got through to Bloggers photo posting page! Enjoy. :-)
- Franna

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Hurrier I Go...

...The Behinder I Get.

I don't remember where I read that. It sure fits my days. Days that go faster and faster, speeding toward? I though "Retirement" might slow down the speed. Nope.

Round 1 of lambing at EverRanch is complete. All of the AI Ladies that "took" have lambed, 10 of them. We had lambs born every day for a week, except Wednesday. I was up to date on photos, then more came and I need to go take more. Posted below are the ones that were "up to date" on Wednesday... or was it Thursday? ;-)

Here is the "Barn Group". The 5 Finns had 12 lambs, one set of quads, one set of triplets, two of twins and a single. Two were dead when we found them :-(

These are all half Gotland, half Finnsheep.

Freckles gave us a flashy pair of twins this year, as she did last year. This year's twins are a ram and a ewe. Spatz is on the right.

Spatz, below, shows off his named "part". Does anyone know what the singular of spatz is? Or maybe a spat and a quarter?

Spatz has too much "chrome" (as Juliann would say) to be a good breeding prospect for the Gotland breeding up program, so he'll be wethered and for sale to a spinner's flock. Freckles produced very nice, soft and silky fleece on both of her lambs last year and we see the same starting on this year's lambs.

The Barn lambs have a creep in the corner for protection. We have known lamb bashers in this group of ewes. Yesterday, even without Hortense in the group - the worst lamb basher - Niblet's boy was hobbling around.

The Brain's twins (down from quads) figured it out pretty quickly. The rest explore it now and then. Just wait until you guys get creep feed in there! The white lamb is a ewe, the black guy is ... well... a guy. He's just a bit of a thing, with a personality that is many times larger! He's been christened Tom Thumb.

Speaking of The Brain. Her udder has gone down to almost normal proportions. The lambs readily nurse on the smaller side. I milked the other side and offered a bottle to her lambs. Tom Thumb took it for several days, then started getting enough from mom and started refusing the bottle. Friday was the last day I milked her. I put by a few cups and some colostrum for just in case. :-) The left side is still a bit enlarged in this photo. It's gone down more since then.

The Hilton is now busy with lambs. Bossie was the first to lamb, with a single black/grey ram lamb - 75% Gotland! Snowflake was next with twins - rams. One white and one very ghostly grey katmoget. If I hadn't seen this photo on the Tongue River Icelandic Sheep color genetics site, I might not have recognized his pattern. Snowflake's sire was grey katmoget, so I knew there was the possibility she'd carry the pattern. It helps assure her place in our flock. :-)

"Casper" has very light phaeomelanin on his head which adds to the ghostly appearance. Below he's contrasted with his white brother from the rear, as they're busily competing over the same teat.

There's no doubt about the sex of these two! Casper is on the short list of possible cleanup rams here. Katmoget, like White, is one of the A locus alleles whose phenotype enables us to know their genotype when bred to a homozygous grey Gotland ram. I know - lots of genetic terms. If you know what I'm talking about, you'll understand our "white" filtering program where we use mostly white foundation stock to get homozygous grey animals in the second AI generation. (We get white, too, of course, and those are used for the next generation until we get enough grey ones. :-)

Katmoget works as a filter, too. In the North American Gotland breeding up gene pool, there are almost all of the color and marking genes known to sheep! The A locus filters ensure we're avoiding dominant black, recessive solids, and "ordinary" grey. Recessive brown can still slip through. I wonder what a musket Gotland would look like????

I can at least update you blog readers with our total lamb count:

The Brain - 1 black/grey ram; 1 white ewe - lost 2 ram lambs

Tucker - 2 black/grey rams; 1 black/grey ewe

Niblet - 1 black/grey? ram; 1 white ewe

Freckles - 1 black/grey ram; 1 black/grey ewe

Pinky - 1 white ewe

Hortense - 1 black ram

Bossie - 1 black/grey ram

Snowflake - 1 white ram, 1 Ag grey katmoget ram

Asa - 2 black/grey rams

Bunnie - 1 black/grey ram - gorgeous, gorgeous!

15 - 50% Gotlands, 10 rams, 5 ewes

2 - 75% Gotlands, both rams

I'd better head out to check on things.

- Franna

Monday, April 07, 2008


Last evening (while I was blogging and saying we were still waiting for lambs!) The Brain and Tucker presented us with 7 total lambs. Unfortunately two of Brain's quads were dead when we found them. It's hard to know if they were stillborn or not. She was so quick - we'd been checking every hour or two and noticed nothing imminent, then bang! there were four!

Funny, I got to the barn and each of the live lambs had 2 Finn ewes fighting over them. It took a bit to sort them out and jug the white ewe lamb and black ram lamb with mom - The Brain. Tucker was in the process of lambing at that time, and quickly presented us with black triplets - two rams and a ewe. The rest of the ewes took the night off (thank ewe, thank ewe!), then Niblet had a set of nice sized twins late this morning - a white ewe and black ram.

Brain and her two remaining Quads - white ewe and TINY black ramlet.

Tuckers two ram lambs. These guys look a LOT alike. They may need ear tags now.

Tucker's ewe lamb - tucked back behind the post and feeder. She was firstborn. We were hoping for more like her :-\
Then there were photo opportunities in the TV room. Thom and Villa shared one of the dog beds. He wasn't too sure about this cuddling stuff at first, but he's getting used to it.

Clifford sometimes even gets close to Villa. She's a real interloper - taking lots of Mom's time away from him. Every now and then he even plays with her. I tell him there will come a day when she seems REALLY attractive - and we're not looking forward to that!

- Franna

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Still no lambs - but SOON!

...at least as independent life forms. So I'll post a few more photos of the Ewes in Waiting.

In the "Sheepie Hilton" are the "smaller" ewes, young'uns and first time moms. Eve is one of our "mystery" ewes - the mystery is when she was bred. She was obviously bred (!) but I wasn't stealthy enough to observe when. My guess was sometime this weekend - I was wrong.

Next is Snowflake. Snowflake is looking very uncomfortable and like a "double" sheep. The photo is a little bit of an illusion, although her "lamb lump" is pretty good sized when she lays down. She looks like she'd really like to get on with it! Just wait, Snowflake, be careful what you wish for.

Asa is the other Shetland that we AI'd with Gotland semen. She's looking very pregnant and we expect her to deliver late in the week. Last year she went 147 days. She's looking like she wants to get on with it, too.

Bossie is one of our Gotland/Finn lambs from 2007. She was also AI'd and looks like she took!!! She should give us 75% Gotland lamb(s). She actually seems fairly comfortable still.

Take a closer look at Bossie's fleece. This is why we're doing Gotlands! Too bad you can't feel it through the photo. ;-)

Charcoal, another Gotland/Finn, still seems somewhat comfortable, too. I saw her bred by Kibbles, though, so she has another couple weeks to wait.

The other group of ewes is in the Barn. I call them the "Upstairs Sheep" - the barn is up a bit of a hill from the house. Here are the 6 adult Finnsheep and the two BFLxBL horses... errrr, ewes.

This photo shows Niblet and her well developed udder. Niblet was restless all morning, and deserves watching as she was first to deliver in 2007 - on day 141 - that's TODAY!

Last, and certainly not least, this photo shows "The Brain" and her very swollen udder! I hope she's okay. I expect her to lamb very soon from the looks of "things". (Yes, her udder is pixelated - to maintain our "G" rating... or should that be "PG-18"....?)

So now we wait.
- Franna

No lambs yet.

I have an excuse... Really!

It's new! Its USB ports work! Software is getting loaded! I can print directly from my workstation! I can upload photos to my own computer for the first time in months!!! Happy Shepherd, Happy Doc :-) :-) :-)

We'll see if it really makes a difference in more timely blog updates. Well, the ewes might have something to say about that, too. It is Day 141 since we AI'd 15 ewes. Last year the lambs started coming late on Day 141, with the Finnsheep delivering first. Three of the Finns are very restless and uncomfortable. One of the Shetlands is, too.

Congratulations to Michelle at Boulderneigh on the arrival of her first 2008 lambs!

Last week we had a very unseasonable event - snow!

I tried to "track" the flakes with the camera, so the background is a bit blurry. The flakes were huge and wet, so I thought it would just fall and melt... the above photo shows the ground getting white.

Villa watched her first snowfall and tried to catch a few flakes. She doesn't know that it just doesn't snow in Western Washington in late March.

Mom, you're just foolin' with me. Look! Here is snow and it is late March. So there.

The rams stayed under their shelter, such as it is.

About 5" of snow accumulated and actually stayed for about 24 hours, then it snowed again a couple days later. It didn't accumulate, though. We're going to start some chicks this spring. I'm really glad I waited to get them. My original plan would have them on pasture by now - chicks don't do that well in the cold and snow! Maybe in another week or so. We're planning to raise broilers and a laying flock for meat and egg sales. YUM!


The Black Sheep Creamery Auction update:

DH just finished his donation to the auction - a custom model. Just look at this awesome piece of work!

Al Showalter chose the "Woodie" model and wanted it customized for his blog - Lake Boren Rapid Transit Report. It's detailed with mirrors, door handles, spare tire, customized license plates, customized signage, hot rodded hood and exhaust, gages, and on and on.

Check the engine detailing with wires, carb and hoses!

I know there are more custom items that were donated to the auction, and items made from the items won. Send photos and updates and I'll keep the page updated. :-)

...out to check the ewes.

- Franna