Saturday, June 30, 2007

Finally, some sheep I can sink my teeth into!

That's it for now from the vegetarians at . . .

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Blessed rain

To most of you out there, what we've been getting today would not be called rain. Maybe sprinkles, or light showers. Whatever. It is blessed moisture on the ground and plants. Not lots, but enough to save me the chore of watering. And maybe it will keep the dust down when we go horse camping next week.

I'm almost finished with my sweater sampler. It's bigger than I expected; I definitely have enough knitting here for another sweater for Brian. It brings a sense of satisfaction to have successfully worked through a lot of new skills -- but I'm glad I have the book to refer to the next time I attempt them. Before I use my new skills, though, I think I'll knit up another Baby Surprise Jacket, this one for an expectant mother in our church.

I talked to Kathy in the hospital this afternoon. Her voice sounded a bit strained and she is quite sore, but the nerve pain that was shooting down her legs before surgery is gone. She's anxious to get back home, but will have to lay low for awhile and heal.

Tonight the lambs got their first CD&T shots. Poor things; just as they were beginning to trust me a bit, we torture them. But they seemed to forget the insult as soon as I proffered grain; they do love their little grain snack twice a day! (By the way, Rick noticed their piggy aroma, too.)

That's it for now at . . .

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Relaxing with my sheep

In her comment on my last post, Kathy accused me of being incapable of relaxing to enjoy my sheep. Well, I don't know what kind of person she thinks I am, but sitting with my sheep, petting them and seeing their faces overcome with bliss is my therapy! I think part of the reason "sheep therapy" is so effective is that it involves most of the senses: feeling their soft fleeces, seeing their beautiful faces, smelling that lovely "sheepy" smell, and hearing the quiet cud-chewing. Even us "busy bee" types stop and smell the wild sweetpeas once in awhile. :-)

However, this morning with my sheep was anything but relaxing. On Sunday my husband, a new convert to hog panel fencing (finally!), fenced off the long bank between our barns and the arena so the sheep could "mow" it. Yesterday I haltered the three oldest girls and took them out to the new buffet; Bella followed. This morning I repeated my actions -- but Bella did not repeat hers. Instead of following the "ladies," she went the other direction -- towards the quarantine quarters. I scrambled to secure the other three girls and then ran screaming, "Don't go there, you'll break quarantine!" Fortunately, I averted any nose-to-nose contact and got her headed in the right direction, but she refused to go where the other girls were. Eventually she ran back into the fold, where I had to do a full-body tackle in order to get a halter on Bella and lead her out to join the others. That plus the rest of the chores took all the time I had before Rick left for work, so I will have to go out later for "sheep therapy" with the lambies. They are settling down, and will actually take grain from my hand now. I think I'll halter them and take them for a walk-about for some exercise, fresh salad, and halter-training.

Speaking of my friend Kathy, you know if you followed the link above that she is at Flagstaff Medical Center today having back surgery. I'm waiting for a call to tell me she's off the table as I type. Heal fast, friend; may the surgery bring a great and lasting improvement in your comfort level!

That's it for now at . . .

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

An addendum for my color consultants

This morning I finally remembered to check the lambs' gums and tongue color. The ram lamb's are light pink, the ewe lamb's slightly darker pink. For comparison I first checked my other four girls; the white ewe is pale pink, the Ag grey yearling is slightly darker pink, her Ag grey dam is a bit duskier still with obvious spots, and my "mystery brown" ewe is a deep rosy brown (indicating -- I think -- that she IS actually moorit). Should I assume, based on this additional information, that both my lambs are Ag, and therefore musket? Oh, and the ewe lamb has white hairs in her ears, but no other signs of fading/greying at this point.

I'm hoping to learn from all of you, register my lambs, and then just relax and spin the wool from my lovely sheep -- whatEVER color they are!

Awaiting more input at . . .

Monday, June 25, 2007

On defining colors and naming lambs

My head hurts. I have been studying the Shetland Sheep Information site (see link at right) to bone up on my color genetics, and for the moment, I think I understand the genotypes as presented. The phenotypes, on the other hand, seem open for debate! And if we as breeders can't agree on what to call the phenotype, can we really define genotype? From what I've gathered on the Shetland breeders list, people in the UK don't get "all het up" about color and markings like we Americans do. Maybe I need to follow their example and chill. Unfortunately, that's really not my personality; I want to KNOW! Arg . . . my head hurts.

I WOULD like your opinion on one Shetland's color, though. Pictured below are the head and body of a six-year-old ewe. Is she a moorit, a fawn, or a musket? Please tell me WHY you define her as the color you do, too. It might help me in defining her daughter, my little Brava. (If you double-click on the photos, they will enlarge greatly.)
Speaking of Brava, I have learned from Gail Former that I will need to use the Valiant prefix of the lambs' breeder unless she is willing to back-date a Ram Lease form for the ewes (the form is good for both sexes). I don't want to ask Beryl to do that, so Valiant it is. Your opinion is desired again, dear readers. Do I keep the names I had chosen, even though their prefix won't be Boulderneigh? I had chosen Braveheart and Brava for "B" names with meanings related to "valiant," so the names Valiant Braveheart and Valiant Brava seem a bit silly in their redundancy.

Awaiting your input at . . .

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Smelly babies

Some people (like my DH) think sheep stink. Me, I've always liked their rich, lanolin-y scent. All the girls I've bought and lambs I've raised have smelled similarly sheepy -- until now.

This morning after doing chores and seeing with great gratification that the new lambies are eating and drinking well, I sat down to talk to the wild little things. Their quarantine quarters are quite small, the 8'x8' shed with an open doorway into a small "front yard." That means they can't get too far away from me, and are forced to listen to my voice and even, occasionally, tolerate a gentle scratch on a rear end when they stick their sweet heads in a corner. I was sitting on the threshold of the shed, and Brava decided she wanted in. It was easy to grab her as she tried to leap by, then settle her across my lap for some "cuddling." She actually stayed relatively quiet while I talked to her, stroked her head, felt her noggin, and looked over her fleece more closely. I was pleasantly surprised by the exquisite softness of her fleece. We had some light showers last night and this morning, and the moisture seems to have made a huge difference in her "handle," or how she feels. But what was that SMELL? It was bore an olfactory resemblance to, well, PIGS, and it was emanating from the lamb in my lap. Eeeew. I hadn't noticed this difference between the Arizona lambs and my Oregon sheep until dampness combined with the opportunity for sustained proximity. I do hope it goes away!

That's it for now at . . .

Saturday, June 23, 2007


Rick and I have put a good deal of combined effort into our island flower bed this year. Besides all the weeding, we've added six PJM rhododendrons, a dozen miniature dahlias, and a dozen marigolds. Well, the deer have taken out two of the rhodies, and the bugs are making life, not to speak of blooming, difficult for the annuals.

Then there's this volunteer dahlia. Standing taller by far than the varieties I've planted there the last two years, it is lush with foliage and buds, and this, its first blossom. Reminded me for some reason of God's grace. We have little to show in that island bed for all our efforts, but were still given this gift, unmerited. I'm keeping it watered, to be sure. Kinda like obeying God because of what He has given us, not to earn it.

That's it for now at . . .

Friday, June 22, 2007

On to more pleasant subjects!

This morning I pulled out bright and early to get to the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene in time for the Shetland judging. I knew after a call last night at 10:30 that my new lambs wouldn't be at the fairgrounds, so that left me undistracted and available for whoever needed me. I helped pluck debris off some of Lois' and Wally's sheep, then helped Gabrielle Morningstar show her Shetlands. A beautiful little (only nine weeks old) moorit ewe lamb I got to handle for Gabrielle won her big class; she then went on to win Grand Champion Ewe.
The Grand Champion Ram was also a lamb, shown here with breeder Marybeth Bullington and judge Letty Klein. I thought Letty Klein was a great judge, looking carefully over the whole animal from front to back and sharing her findings.

After the Shetland judging was finished and the sheep were settled back in their quarters, it was time to grab a bite to eat, walk by the vendors (I didn't buy a THING!), and exchange paperwork for transportation charges with Rena. Since the event rules state that no sheep can be left in trucks or trailers on the grounds, the sheep brought to Oregon from Arizona for Cheryl Lavooi and me got to spend the night on a small, grassy lot in Creswell at the home of Cheryl's friend - their first experience with Oregon green! (I hear they didn't know what to do with the stuff.) Cheryl rode along to show me the way and help me catch my little lambs. Here is my first look at them, with one of Cheryl's new ewes.
Boulderneigh Braveheart is in front, and Brava is behind him. As you can see, although both are "brown," they are quite different in color. (There are several shades of brown in the Shetland lexicon, with lots of differing opinions on how to define them.) They may both be what is called musket, since Brava has some white hairs in her ears. Musket (pronounced mooskit) sheep fade to a lesser or greater extent on their body; I'm hoping they retain some color in their fleeces and don't fade to white or cream, but we'll see.

I think BB, born on April 10, is quite handsome. His scurs are tiny, his fleece is very dense - and look at that rear view!
Brava, born March 20, is more skittish, and looks UP for escape routes; I hope she settles down. She and Valentine are calling to each other like they are mother and daughter, so maybe sweet Valentine can teach her how to be a "lovey sheep." I'm glad to see Brava has a pretty head! Some horse people say, "You don't ride the head," meaning a good horse is much more than pretty face, but I always say I have to enjoy what's looking at me over the stall (or sheepfold) door. :-)
That's it for now at . . .

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

When predators walk on two legs

Predators have been on my mind lately. Shetland breeder Carol Kelly has lost three lambs this spring, to coyotes most likely, and Maryellen has lost both lambs and a full-grown ram without a trace. I have two little lambs arriving on Friday who will need to be in quarantine for a few weeks, and I want to make sure they survive to eventually share the sheep fold at night with the rest of my little flock.

Tonight after Brian went to bed, Rick was sharing about his tough day. In addition to a neglect case the sheriff had called him out on, he said a good client had a horse shot in her pasture today. Not just any horse, but her daughter's miniature horse that was supposed to leave for a show tomorrow with his young owner. There were visible signs that someone had climbed over the fence from the road and walked through the tall grass to do the dirty deed, probably up close and personal, in broad daylight. The horse was shot in the eye, with metal fragments lodged inside the opposite ear. The other miniature horse in the pasture had what looked like a graze mark across the bottom of its jaw.

Law enforcement was called, of course, but the officer doubted the perp would ever be caught. More important things to spend the department's time and money on, you know. Really? If someone -- an angry neighbor, perhaps -- did this as a threat, what might they do next? The client runs a rehabilitation and foaling facility and therefore has other people's horses on her property, not to mention her own two young children. Would someone who would walk up to a little girl's pony and shoot it in the head stop there? Oh that coyotes, even mountain lions, were all we had to worry about!

Thinking troubled thoughts at . . .

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

More teaser pics

Since I haven't seen them myself yet, all you get until at least Friday are teaser photos of my new lambs. Here is the fleece of the ram lamb, who appears to be a musket:and below are several shots of the ewe lamb's fleece, who I THINK is a moorit but obviously has quite a bit of color variance in her fleece.
I have tentatively decided on names; Boulderneigh Braveheart (aka BB, or BB King if he's REALLY good :-) for the ramlet, and Boulderneigh Brava for the ewelet. I'll just have to make sure those aren't glaring misnomers upon getting to know them. They are on the road now, wending their way north from New Mexico. Oregon, here they come!

That's it for now at . . .

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day on and off the "farm"

After Rick got home from his usual early Sunday morning meeting, we decided to go out for a late breakfast for Father's Day. Tried a new restaurant, and while the food didn't wow us, the children's menu was a hoot. (It was the lunch menu, but they brought it so Brian could color.) At the top was the "Well Behaved Children's Menu;" for $3.95 a selection you could choose from a small hamburger with chips, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwich and fruit, grilled cheese sandwich and chips, a fresh fruit bowl, and steamed chicken with rice and vegetable. Under this was the "Poorly Behaved Children's Menu;" for $14.50 per selection you could have boiled octopus tentacles, brussels sprouts and dandelion greens, fried liver and onions, tofu and mushroom sauté, or broiled haggis and chicken feet. Ha!

After breakfast Rick had to check a couple horses and take care of one emergency, so he and Brian didn't get home until late afternoon. So it was later still when we got to work on my "project of the day," quarantine quarters for the new lambs I'm bringing home Friday. Turned out to be a bigger project than I had envisioned!

A little 8'x8' building has sat unused in our middle pasture since we moved here. We have moved fences around it and put a new roof on it, but haven't really utilized it for anything. The former owner sheltered her pygmy goats in it; we thought we might use it as a chicken coop some day. I thought it would make the perfect quarantine home for the new lambs with the addition of a little "yard" out front, and Rick agreed. But while I thought it could be used in place, Rick has always wanted to move it from its awkward location to somewhere else, so he decided NOW was the time to do that.

So up it went on 6x8s, held in place with 2x4 "bumpers," braced with a tow strap. Then he used the tractor to drag it most of the way to its new location near the sheep pasture. From there, he had to inch it into its spot with a tow strap anchored to a tree. (Where's a pulley when you need one?) As you can see, it was dark by the time Rick finished "Phase 1." Its position still needs to be tweaked, concrete blocks need to be set for a "foundation," the skids need to be removed, that bale of straw needs to be added, and a "yard" needs to be set up. It will be nice when it's finished . . . hopefully in time for its temporary occupants!
That's it for now at . . .

Friday, June 15, 2007

Revelling in Becca's prize

As you can see, my Bloggapalooza prize from Becca arrived today, and it is LUSCIOUS. I'd better not get too attached to that idea I had for a shawl; Brian has designs on this yarn!

That's it for now at . . .

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Decision made!

A week from tomorrow I will be doing more than watching the Shetlands show at the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene. I will also be picking up two new flock members! Here's a teaser of the front end of the boy,and the back end of the girl.
I will even get to christen them. More later!

That's it for now at . . .

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

In the valley of decision

My cell phone and mind have been busy the last couple days with talk and thoughts of sheep. Not sheep in general, but specific Shetlands in Arizona that could make a one-way trip to Oregon this month and join my tiny flock. Trying to make evaluations and decisions long-distance. Knowing I haven't "made room" for new ones by selling others like I promised myself I must. Rationalizing that I could add the two lambs I didn't get from my sweet Valentine. Realizing Rick probably won't be happy if I buy more sheep. Weighing the options and costs for a flock sire this fall. Reviewing my flock goals. Praying for wisdom - a LOT of that.

I've made a tentative decision, and am waiting on one last phone call to finalize it. While you are waiting (with baited breath, I'm sure), here's the last bearded iris blooming at Boulderneigh:
That's it for now at . . .

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Warming up the needles

I've finally started one of this year's knitting goals: the sweater sampler out of Jacqueline Fee's The Sweater Workshop. Last winter, when I was still dog-paddling with scarves and hats, this project seemed daunting, but now that I've gained more experience, it's smooth sailing.

And just in time! Rebecca (aka Shepherd Chik) just held a Bloggapalooza contest on her blog, and lucky me, I won her gorgeous 7 oz. skein of handspun Shetland lambswool/angora yarn! It might become my first shawl or shrug, but then I got to thinking about using it in a dressy sweater. I can see its soft loveliness at the top of a body knit from the black superwash Merino I'm currently spinning. Whatcha think?

(By the way, Becca has LOTS of yummy yarn and coated fleeces available for sale, if you'd like some of your own!)

That's it for now at . . .

Monday, June 11, 2007

Suited sheep = salivating spinner!

Yesterday I got everyone caught up on their CD&T shots, worming and hoof trimming. We gave Val her CD&T booster at the end of April (hoping she was pregnant) and I trimmed her hooves, but Rick didn't have time to help me with the others then, or anytime since. So I finally set up my sheep stand with a mounting block on one end, collected supplies from Rick's vet truck, and headed out to tackle the job by myself. No sweat! Sheep suits make catching and haltering the girls SO much easier by giving me something sturdy to grasp without a wrestling match, and everyone cooperated quite nicely. Even Bella!

After each girl got "shot, squirted and snipped," I pulled up her sheep suit and got a good look at her growing fleece. Oh, so lovely! The soft, clean fleeces, especially Dinah's and Val's longer ones, made me itch to shear and spin on the spot! From the top, in order, are side shots and fleece close-ups of Bella, Rechel, Dinah, and my sweet Valentine:

Bella, Rechel and Dinah were not anxious to leave the fold, but Valentine tried to squeeze out each time I opened the gate. So after all the work was done, I took her on a walk-about for some browsing - she LOVES maple leaves. Brian wanted in on the fun, which let me get a photo.

That's it for now at . . .