Thursday, August 31, 2006

A second visit to the fair

Last night Rick had to go down to the State Fair to treat one of his patients, so we made it a family outing. After treating Major, a Belgian draft with canker in one foot, we bid him farewell (I couldn't take more interesting "treatment" pictures because I was helping).

Then we stopped by Jeffry's stall to say "hi." Have you ever seen a horse with a tracheostomy? Major's owner bought Jeffry and had him shipped from the Midwest. Jeffry contracted a life-threatening pneumonia on the way, and had to have a tracheostomy to save his life. Now he has a rather gross hole in his neck (if you notice it), but is otherwise healthy and functioning well -- he and his driver placed second in the gentleman's cart class!

Another of Rick's draft clients had a Shire that came up lame, so Rick checked him out. Bad news: a hock injury that will knock him out of the rest of the draft horse competition. Poor guy .... The same client brought this little girl and her mama along just for the enjoyment of fair-goers.

She has the homeliest head I have ever seen on an equine of any variety, although I couldn't capture a profile shot to show you just how convex it is. But take a good look at the slope in this photo....

Obligations over, it was time to enjoy the fair. Brian had to go back and show Daddy his favorite thing from when we visited last Thursday. Yes, to my great consternation, my son LOVES pigs!

Brian also got to see cows being milked (another of his favorite Fair attractions), eat stir-fried noodles and veggies and an ice cream cone, go on one of the kiddy rides, and take in a "Wild West" comedy show. He had a great time! On our way back to the truck, Rick got caught by a group of draft horse people (he loves any excuse to talk). By now it was WAY past Brian's bedtime, so he was getting pretty bleary-eyed.

Fortunately for all, he slept in this morning!

That's it for now at . . .

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Bye-bye, Bobby!

Well, Bobby (Boulderneigh Bobwhite) is gone, hopefully settling in at his new home. He was my first sale, and a needful one, as he is related to all my girls and I don't want to keep a ram. Bobby's new owner was looking for a pure white ram with good conformation and fleece. She had only seen photos of him before today, but seemed pleased with her purchase. He was pretty stressed about leaving his mother and his home and taking a trip in a large dog crate in the back of the pick-up, but he did show a little interest in the two pretty little ewe lambs in his new pasture. Rumor has it he is getting a whole FLOCK of girls to service this fall -- go Bobby! I'll be interested to learn how he produces, and whether or not his horns turn out okay. He is so nice in every other way....

Getting him into the bed of my pick-up and then into the crate was easier than I expected. My husband and his muscles were out of town, but I had a bank to back up to!

Yesterday I took some photos of Bobby for my records, and he posed like a young man ready to be off and make his own way in the world.

Brian was sad about selling Bobby, and wanted to say good-bye over and over again. This evening he asked me how often we could go visit Bobby. Since Bobby now lives an hour and a half away, I told Brian I didn't think we would be visiting him at all. Brian said he would miss Bobby forever....

Bobby, be good!

That's it for now at . . .

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A day at the Fair

What a lovely way to spend a day -- immersed in Shetland sheep! The Shetland show at the Oregon State Fair was today, so my sidekick and I went down to help clean and show sheep for Wally Rutledge, the breeder from whom I purchased Dinah and Rechel. Wally won the Shetland Premier Exhibitor award, and Bella's sire, WSR Moses, won Champion Ram again. He IS a handsome boy, don't you think?

It was my first experience showing sheep, and the judge was very educational in his comments. After the show my education continued with MaryBeth Bullington. She had sheep, locks of raw fleece, handspun yarn, and knitted items that all helped me better understand color, fineness, organized and disorganized crimp, softness, silkiness and luster. Isn't the variety wonderful?

The camaraderie among the Shetland breeders was also fun. I hope to be a part of the Shetland showing contingent next year!

That's it for now at . . .

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Livin' la vida vocal

Once upon a time, I lived a quiet life. Oh, I was busy; running my own graphics business, working a little in my husband's veterinary clinic, volunteering at church, training and showing my horse, gardening, keeping up the household, and probably a million other things. But I had large chunks of time when my environment was peaceful and quiet, save for the always present thoughts crowding my mind. Maybe that's why I love quiet; no, I NEED quiet; my mind is so busy. "Hi. My name is Michelle, and I am noise-intolerant."

Then we had Brian. Actually, the first two years were easy and enjoyable. Then he hit about two and a half, and my still-somewhat quiet life changed dramatically. (Being noise-intolerant was one of my many reasons for not having children, but I eventually put all those "reasons" aside in submission to God....)

Life went on. We decided to get Shetland sheep. As with Brian, for awhile our sheepies were quiet and easy to have around. In fact, I thought at first that Shetlands were a silent breed! The first time I heard one bleat, I was a little surprised. Still, they weren't noisy...until Bella. When Rechel was obviously close to lambing, I got up every two hours to check on her. When I stumbled out the door at 2:00 a.m., I heard a lamb. It was Bella. That should have told me something....

All the sheep are more vocal now, especially when they think they are hungry. Each voice is distinct. Bobby’s is amusingly masculine, a deep, throaty growl of a bleat. The ewes’ voices sound like mature ladies. Then there is Bella, who has a higher, more insistent (read "annoying") voice. She YELLS, even when I'm standing right there! There's no sleeping in, because Bella's yell carries clearly up from the sheepfold through the open window at the head of our bed. I try to remind myself that it is a blessing to have a sheep that communicates. One night she got herself stuck in the sheepfold, and her repeating bleats got me down to the barn to extricate her before she could perish.

Here are my little woolies, quiet since their mouths are full of fine grass hay. Mealtime, unfortunately, does not slow my chatterbox boy down. About the only time Brian is quiet is when he's asleep!

But don't get me wrong. Sitting with my sheep and loving on them is about the most calming, peaceful thing I have ever experienced in my life. And I dearly love my active, articulate boy -- who didn't fall far from the family tree. :-)

That's it for now at . . .

Saturday, August 19, 2006

My little sidekick

I figured it's time to introduce my little sidekick - especially since he claims at least half the sheep as HIS! Below is the full photo from which I cropped my profile photo, showing me with Brian Edward McMillen, our 4 1/2-year-old son. We had him after 17+ years of marriage, so I guess you could say he is the child of our "old age" - as well as being our only child. (Yes, it WAS intentional!)

Here is Brian with his daddy. Rick is 6'5", and Brian shows every indication of heading in that same direction - UP!

Brian has been involved with the Shetlands from the day we brought Dinah and Rechel home. I chose Shetland sheep in part because of their small size and friendly natures - important characteristics when you have a small child!

He helped me take our little flock out for fresh grass every day before we had our little sheep pasture fenced.

When we lost Bailee, Brian comforted her lonely twin Bella.

Since discovering how much the sheep like leaves, especially now that their little pasture is "toast," Brian enjoys providing them. (Honestly, Nancy K., he hasn't seen the photo in your 2007 calendar!)

Even though we've discussed the fact that we are raising lambs as well as fleece to sell to other people, I know it will be hard for Brian to let them go (okay, it will be a little bit difficult for Mom, too). Someone has spoken for our Bobby ram lamb (Boulderneigh Bobwhite), and Brian nearly cried to me this week, "But Bobby is the only one who follows me up and down the fence!" (Brian is not allowed in with the sheep by himself, as Bobby acts like he'd play rough with him. But Bobby is also the first one to the fence to let Brian scratch his chin....) I look forward to enjoying our sheep with my little animal-loving sidekick for many years to come.

That's it for now at . . .

Friday, August 11, 2006

Shearing day #1 and #2

I sheared Dinah two months ago, and then had to have my blades and clipper sharpened and serviced before I could tackle ewe #2. Dinah was the first sheep I've ever sheared, and I thought it went well. She didn't look too bad afterwards, and I think the fleece is useable, too. (Wow, it was a lot greener around here two months ago!)

Yesterday I sheared Rechel. What a back-breaking, NOISY chore - she and her daughter Bella need to be weaned from EACH OTHER! (Next year, I'm hiring someone to do it.) Anyway, Rechel and Bella survived their traumatic parting and it was fun to see the spots Rechel hides under all that wool. Here they are, together again, although Bella was still not sure at that point if this was her mom....

That's it for now at . . .

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Those neighboring boulders

When our neighbors due east of us built their house a few years ago, they had to deal with LOTS of boulders. This monster - the size of a VW bus - took a bulldozer and a trackhoe all day to wrestle out of the ground to make way for their driveway!

But as they say, when life gives you lemons... They incorporated those boulders into a massive "retaining wall" at the side of their house. (That's our arena, barn, and house uphill in the distance.)

We have been fortunate on our little acreage; we haven't had to contend with any boulders to speak of. We unearthed a few rocks when we built our house, and there were some boulders already incorporated into the landscaping when we moved here, but that's it.

Halfway down the hill we live on, an old prune orchard has been uprooted this summer in order to replace it with a vineyard. After clearing off the trees, a big bulldozer with huge "tines" on the back worked the ground. I don't know what those prune trees were growing in - there's more rocks in that field than soil! They've been using all manner of heavy equipment, including this trackhoe with a special slotted bucket, to remove the rocks and boulders and haul them away by the truckload.

Some material was used to create a long, low retaining wall in front of the existing house. I can't imagine the cost the owners are incurring in this process....

Across the road and up the hill a short distance, an existing vineyard is bordered by this wall of rocks and boulders.

Do you want to "get a piece of the rock"? Consider visiting us at Boulderneigh - I'm sure the neighbors would send some home with you!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Agouti sheep – a slow kaleidoscope

Agouti genetics (Ag) are a fascinating, or frustrating, thing. If you like WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get), Ag Shetland sheep can be frustrating, because they change dramatically in appearance from lambhood to adulthood - and often from season to season! But if you like change, Ag Shetlands are fun to watch.

Take Rechelle, my Ag gray ewe. When I bought her I was thinking WYSIWYG (obviously hadn't learned much yet about Shetland genetics!). Light gray fleece (although her breeder did say she has spots that show up when she's sheared), black legs and face with attractive light circles around her eyes and muzzle. Beautiful fleece, too, don't you think?

By the time Rechel started her springtime transformation, I had learned more and knew changes were coming. Here's Rechel in the spring, looking faded in face and legs and scraggly in fleece. (I was hoping to roo her wool but it didn't fully cooperate.)

Rechel's daughter Bella is also an Ag gray. Having her from birth has been a fascinating journey, and I've been told we're far from done! At birth she was a strikingly beautiful (hence her name) black lamb with white spots. But those telltale "sugarlips" gave her graying genes away, and it didn't take long to start seeing changes. Within weeks I could see white wool growing in at her roots, and she started showing katmollet markings (lighter around her eyes and muzzle). Then her face and legs started fading, just like her mother's did.

I thought she was going to change quickly to a very light gray fleece like her mom. But no - at least, not yet. One day as I was scratching and petting her, I parted her fleece to find steely gray growing in at the roots! I looked further, and found that she was still white at the roots where her white spots had been, lighter gray at the roots in some areas, and that steely gray at the roots along her back. Wow - tri-colored locks! I'm going to have to get into fiber arts, just to be able to use and appreciate Bella's once-in-a-lifetime lamb's fleece if I still have her at Boulderneigh next spring.