Saturday, March 31, 2007

Farewell to March, 2007

March was a busy month with shearing over half the flock, construction, judging agility trials, our farm business class, and starting lambing along with maintaining our off farm jobs. This last day of March was spent mostly working on the Ovine Hilton. The roof is over half complete!

We now need a couple days of rain to wash the end panel. It was on top of the stack and the dogs had fun running over it with dusty and muddy feet!
We're now within our "lambing window" for the ewes who were artificially inseminated in November. They are looking very uncomfortable. The Finns make this funny noise that is between a groan and a hum.
Above are Finnsheep Bibb and Tucker (with Lindy snoozing behind). Tucker has lamb bulges on both sides. It won't be long!
Little Country Val is shown above. We suspect she'll be next to lamb. She has the possibility of producing polled rams since her sire is polled and she was bred to a polled ram.
Daisy and Electra are very heavy with lambs. They have a long standing feud that started up again yesterday. They carried on all over the pasture and in the barn, bashing heads, backing each other up, posturing and carrying on until they were both exhausted. Here they look peaceful, but they're still eyeballing each other.
Bessie and her triplets seem to be doing fine. They all love the game of jump on Mom. Bessie doesn't seem to mind.

Here's the gulmoget ram lamb. We've named him Franjean. Anyone remember where this name is from??? He has interesting faintly light patches on his sides. Is this common in gulmogets?

I bought a new toy! It's the Udderly EZ Milker and is supposed to make getting some extra colostrum or milk from ewes easier than hand milking. It reminds me of the breast pump I used when my son was born. ;-) I was hoping to steal some colostrum from Bess. Then she had triplets! When they had a good start, I tried anyhow, just to see. She wasn't very cooperative and the lambs had just nursed, but I did find out that the inserts fit Shetland nipples - yeaa! - and that it is pretty easy to work... also that I need to halter and tie the ewe. (...duh....) Here's the milker -

and the little bit of milky colostrum that Bessie donated. Thanks, Bess!

Busy day, the last of March. Welcome April with more daylight, warmer temperatures, more rain... and more lambs!

- Franna

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Blogger Made Me Do It

Every now and then, I poke the wrong button. I poke the wrong button on my phone and it erases things, and hangs up on people. I poke the wrong button on the remote and I lose the movie channel or the sound. I poke the wrong button on Blogger and my post disappears. Waahh!

So, now I've kind of gotten over it and I'll try to recreate the post from several days ago that DISPPEARED when I tried to edit a few little details.

March 19th it was... I say (on blogger) - It is STILL Winter.

We have a nice 80' x 100' covered arena that we built to practice dog agility. We met through dog agility and thoroughly enjoy the sport. We enjoy it so much that we are both judges for AKC agility. Anyhow, we refer to this nice covered arena as our "yacht", since we sunk our play money into it instead of a big boat, or fancy motorhome, or taking exotic vacations. heh... that's a good one - exotic vacations when you have Sheep.

Last fall, the sheep encroached on our agility arena. It was an innocent encroachment that gave them a little shelter as they grazed the front pasture. It gave us an idea! We could put up a little shed roof on the front of the arena and have another sheep barn, and still have 80' x 100' to play dog agility. Now, almost 5 months later with lambs imminent, the Ovine Hilton is still under construction. With the promise of a dry, partly sunny day, both of us took a day of vacation to work on it.

Of course, it rained all day. It poured all day. The holes I dug for the pier blocks filled up with water.

We both got soaking wet, but got up the last posts, the last beams, and all but two of the rafters!

Well, it's not done yet, but it's closer. Today (the REAL today, March 29th) we got a bunch of fussy details done - fussy because neither one of us has put up a metal roof and it didn't come with instructions! The next bits should go quickly, putting up nailers and the actual roofing! Maybe we'll even get it complete in time to have lambs born under it.

- Franna

Good Girl, Bessie!

Well, March is going out like a lamb - Three lambs, in fact!

Bitterroot Bessie, who we bought from Juliann Budde of Little Country, and shipped out here after being exposed to Sheltering Pines Octavian, blessed us with triplets this afternoon. Work on the Ovine Hilton was immediately suspended while we jugged them, iodined navels, weighed, photographed, and generally watched in awe. Here are photos - enjoy!

First is the grey katmoget marked ewe. We think she was born first, weighing just a hair under 5 lb. She is pretty dark and has a lot of phaeomelanin showing.

This one is a dark moorit gulmoget ewe. At first I thought she was black, but her head looks dark brown in the daylight. She weighed in at 5 1/4 lb.

Above is the moorit gulmoget ram lamb. I was hoping for a gulmoget ram from this breeding - now here he is! As far as I know, these are the first gulmoget Shetlands in the Northwest. Anyone else know of any? He weighed about 6 lb.

And here's the family. They're going to keep Bessie very busy. Good girl, Bessie!

...out like a Lamb.

It is almost the end of March. March 29th. The month is behaving like that old adage : March comes in like a lion (boy did it!) and goes out like a lamb. It sure would be nice to have lambs to see March, 2007 off. The ewes are still awaiting.
It is a gorgeous, sunny day forecast to be in the mid-60's. What the heck am I doing inside???
First there was the to do list :
1. Organize and send the applications to Mary (WSSCA president) for the Welsh Springer Spaniel Club of America Agility trials in October. She will sign, then forward to AKC. DONE!
2. Print and send in applications to AKC for the Puget Sound Labrador Retriever Association's November Agility Trials. DONE!
3. Send a check to Kathy Baker for the NASSA Tartan tablecloth - to be used in the Shetland Sheep information booth at Shepherd's Extravaganza - yeaaaa! Thanks, Kathy! DONE!
4. Take all the above to the Post Office. DONE
5. Contact Susan of Ribbons, Etc. to choose colors for the Shepherd's Extravaganza special Shetland Sheep awards. oops! I misread her email, missed her this morning, so will do it on Monday.
Then there was Breakfast (thanks for the latte, Dear!), and Lunch.
...did I really browse through some blogs....? what else is there???
...burning daylight, so I'm...
OUTSIDE to finish the Ovine Hilton :-)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Rain, Oh Bother!

Yesterday was lovely. Warm and dry, just lacking in that it was a workday, and I couldn't be on the farm all day long. Warm and dry meant dry sheep without having to pen them in. Two more got sheared - Finnsheep "Bibb" and Blackie "Bonnie". They were both very good on the stand, once I got them haltered and led them up there. Bonnie indeed has a very nice Blackie fleece, much like Aunt Luna's. Unfortunately, it looks like Bonnie's AI didn't take, although as a first time mother, we hold out a little hope that her bag is still to come, and she's hiding a nice single up under her ribs. Bibb's babies were kicking me as she leaned against me. :-)

With over half of the sheep now sheared, they occupy much less space than just two weeks ago.

I took the camera to the barn yesterday after work, and got a few shots before starting to shear. Sheepie photos follow:

First is Bonnie in full fleece

Next are a trio of Blackies: EweOne, Jennie, and Dallie. Dallie is our best producing Blackie ewe, EweOne is one of her daughters, and Jennie is EweOne's daughter, one of last years produce from LAI. Her sire is a REAL Scottish SBF. Jennie is the last remaining Blackier here in full fleece.

Here is a head shot of Dallie. She shows very nice traditional Scottish Blackface type.

Remember Luna from Thursday's blog? She is shown below, no longer looking like Cousin Itt. Her very nice fleece will be shown at the Fairs this summer.

The sheep look so different with their wool shorn off! Below is Tucker (Finnsheep) bulging with lambs and developing bag.

This blog is going through Shetland withdrawal! Here's Bessie to remind us of the Real Sheep. Bessie is taking it easy in the last few days before her lambs arrive.

Then... despite yesterday's forecast of nice weather all weekend, the Rain returneth. We spent most of the day working at our local Labrador Retriever club's "spring" agility trial, getting wetter and wetter. Of course, no sheep were penned, and they are now waaaaay too wet for shearing. Ah, well. It's nice to have a little break.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Number 14 and Counting!

We just finished shearing the 14th sheep tonight! March is the month for shearing and it has been very cooperative so far - many dry sheep days. Only 4 more of the AI ewes (2 Finns and 2 Blackies) are left to shear, then the 4 rams and other 7 Shetlands plus Jill, our one Mule sheep. It's great to get in under all that wool and find a well developed bag and a wide load. The Finns are pretty easy to see even unshorn, but the Scottish Blackface are so heavily wooled and skittish that it's hard to tell.

Tonight we sheared Luna, aka Cousin Itt, and her 12" to 14" long, gorgeous Blackie wool was hiding a nicely plump bag and a lot of Luna. She missed last year, so we're really looking forward to her lambs this year from the Scottish imported semen.

Luna is pictured above in December. She grew several more inches of wool between then and now. In full fleece, it almost drags the ground. Wool like that can hide a lot of surprises.

Only about 16 more days until the first AI babies could be due. We LAI'd 6 Scottish Blackface with semen imported from Scottish SBF rams and 9 others with Gotland semen also imported from the UK. Those sheep were 3 Shetlands, 4 Finnsheep and 2 Blue Faced Leicester Crosses. As of now, it looks like 2 of the 3 Shetlands, 3 of the 4 Finns, 1 of the BFLx's and 2 SBF "took". The remaining Shetland, BFLx and Finn might still be carrying Gotland lambs. We'll know in 3 weeks. One SBF was covered for sure by the cleanup ram, and 2 remain to be sheared and checked. Dallie, the Blackie who gave us our best ever SBF lamb last year, appears to have missed AI this year. She looks pregnant, but a longer ways away from lambing.

Bonnie, above, is one of the 2 Blackies left to shear. Her fleece looks almost as nice as Luna's. We hope to find the same nice surprises under her wool that we did under Luna's!

Friday, March 09, 2007

March Miscellany

Tomorrow is double digit March. It seemed like winter was forever, and now March is here with a rush. March is our month for shearing. I'm a low tech shearer, going about it with hand scissors with the sheep on a blocking stand. It's peaceful and quiet and I get up close and personal with the sheep and the fleece. Donna Schoonover inspired me to get them done a few at a time from reading her blog. Thanks, Donna! So far, I've sheared 5 of the Shetland ewes. The first 2 were Bitterroot Bessie and her daughter, Little Country Val, who we bought from Juliann Budde in Illinois. They were exposed to Sheltering Pines Octavian before making the trek West, and both appear to be pregnant!!

Bessie is above, and Val is below. I visited Juliann last spring and fell in love with Val. When Bess and Val came up for sale, I reserved both of them, then had to figure out how to get them West! It was an adventure. :-)

It was worth it, though. Aren't they beautiful?

Bessie Relaxing before shearing time

Val relaxed and cozy

I became acquainted with Gotland sheep last year, and I fell in love... in love with their color, their look, their personality and their fleece. We are part of a small group using LAI to bring the breed to North America.

In November, we bred 9 ewes with Gotland semen and they're due to lamb in just over 3 weeks. The farm that exported the semen, also provides Gotland products.

For Christmas, New Year's and our Anniversary, my DH bought me a custom made Gotland shearling vest. What a complete surprise and a wonderfully soft and warm piece of wardrobe! Now I'm a walking advertisement for Gotland sheep. :-)

I can wear the vest either curly side out, as on the left, or skin side (dyed) out, as on the right. My preference is to wear the curly side in, and trap all that warmth inside. It's especially nice in my chilly office at work.

We were out working in the yard last weekend, and the rams were all frisky. Pogo-ing and posturing, poking their noses out at us whenever we got close. They must be feeling good about spring coming, too. I snapped this shot of our 2 "senior" rams, Willie and Eino. It's a great comparison between a mature Shetland ram and a mature Finn ram. They kind of share the top ram spot. When we put them together after breeding season, we kept a close eye on them, not wanting polled Eino to get hurt by Willie's horns. Eino demonstrated quite a talent for deflecting the charges made by Willie, and yearling Winter. By the time they'd been together a couple days, the two of them seemed to be pretty good buds... thank goodness.

Willie and Eino enjoying each other's company