Saturday, March 16, 2013

Happy Birthday to Boulderneigh!

Seven years ago today, the very first Boulderneigh Shetlands were born! Although I joined NASSA (the North American Shetland Sheep Association) in 2005 after committing to buy two ewes I met at the State Fair, it feels like Boulderneigh began when those first lambs arrived.

My first Shetlands arrived pregnant and woolly early in 2006. The first to lamb, on March 16, 2006, was my "plain grey" ewe. What a delightful surprise to get two spotted beauties! (I learned that those "plain grey" ones often start out flashy.) Both of them were ewes; what a great beginning!
Boulderneigh Bella, back, and Boulderneigh Bailee, front

Three weeks later, on April 7, my second ewe delivered a single ram lamb, white like herself.
Boulderneigh Bobwhite (Bobby)
Sadly, beautiful Bailee contracted a very fast pneumonia and died within a day of our first noticing symptoms – the same night that Bobby was born. Bella and Bobby both grew up and eventually moved on to breeding homes.

The next Boulderneigh Shetlands were born in 2008. By that time I'd learned about polled genetics and finer fleeces, and had sought out two lambs from Arizona, a ram and a ewe. The button-scurred ram lamb, Valiant Braveheart, sired the 2008 crop – six lambs from three ewes.
The two moorits on the left are ewe/ram twins, the two at the back with krunets (white crowns) are ram twins, and the moorit and white on the right are ewe/ram twins. Both ewes moved on to breeding homes (Blanche, the white one, flew to Alaska!), three of the boys were wethered, and one, Boulderneigh Bluster, went on to do well in the show ring and sire LOTS of nice offspring (45 registered with NASSA!).
Boulderneigh Bluster on the left, Boulderneigh Blizz on the right
One of the wethers was to stay here to be a companion to his dad. I was partial to Blizz, but my son loved Browning, the moorit twin of lovely Blanche. I caved . . . although I still think I should have kept Blizz!

In the fall of 2008 I had the opportunity to use a scurred gulmoget ram, so Braveheart had to sit out the breeding season. I was hoping to get some patterned lambs, and boy, did I! Four of the six 2009 lambs were gulmoget; a single ewe, ewe/ram twins, and one of a set of twin rams.
Inky's twins, Blackberry and Bramble
Brava's twins, Beau and Boo
The singletons Barabas and Bronwen – first and last born of 2009
A couple odd things happened in 2009. First was Valiant Brava's lambing. We thought she was done after delivering a strapping musket ram lamb. Four hours later she delivered number two, a small musket gulmoget ram! (We named him "Boo" because he surprised us.) Second was the strange fate of the last born, a stunningly conformed and fleeced ram born to the finest-fleeced ewe I had at that time. After a normal beginning, I noticed over time that he wasn't quite as lively as the other lambs, although he appeared to be eating and growing well. Then I noticed some bare patches beginning to show around his eyes and muzzle (if you click to biggify, you can see them in the photo above), which gradually spread. As it became obvious that something was wrong, we sought answers from ovine specialists and tried various things, but never could figure out the problem. Eventually we lost him.

Braveheart was back in business the fall of 2009, covering three ewes. A fourth ewe was purchased already bred to a gulmoget ram. The resulting 2010 lamb crop: six boys and no girls.   :-(
Braveheart's sons, from left, twins Bodhran & Banjo, singles Barry & Blake
Katie and the twins she brought along in utero, Byzantine and Bardas
Fortunately, I found homes for five of those boys, three as fiber wethers, two as breeding rams. One, my handsome, homegrown Blake, stayed right here, having pretty much everything I'm breeding for – breed type; conformation; fine, soft fleece with excellent length; personality and a smooth-polled head (it remains to be seen if he's fully polled genetically, but I suspect that he is). Sadly, we lost his beautiful dam despite everything we tried when Blake was five weeks old. Even though I don't think her fatal illness was related, it is interesting to note that after Blake was born, she delivered two more, MUCH smaller stillborn lambs . . . one of them a tiny ewe. :-(

I gave Boulderneigh Blake two ewes that fall to see what he could produce, and was not disappointed in 2011's lamb crop.
Boulderneigh Birdie, left, and Boulderneigh Bart
Boulderneigh Bonny
Great fleeces and structure on all three, the only drawback (if you can call it that) being that all three have the Ag (fading) gene and so didn't keep their color.

I also had access to a fine-fleeced black katmoget ram in the fall of 2010, so I bred him to one ewe. She produced Boulderneigh's first – and so far only – katmoget, although I hope to get more in the future from Sarai.
Boulderneigh Barrister
Last year's three lambs were the result of test-breeding two yearling rams I had acquired to see if/what they could produce. Bunker and Cadbury each settled one ewe, the resulting lambs answering all the questions I had with the best answers possible.
From left, Bing, Bittersweet and Bloom
Bing told me that both parents carry solid, not just white and gulmoget. Bittersweet and Bloom told me Cadbury carries solid and Annabelle carries brown (not just the black demonstrated by Birdie and Bart the year before). And all four parents showed they are capable of producing offspring with excellent fleeces!

Well, in the case of Bunker, were capable. I still feel his loss keenly, as I do Blake's dam. But life on a "farm" is not all sunshine and daisies. There is manure and mud, disease and death. But the joy, beauty and valuable life lessons along the way make it all worthwhile. I am so blessed to live this life.

(I made the German chocolate cake yesterday to celebrate a dear friend's 98th birthday at church potluck today, not for Boulderneigh's birthday. :-)

That's all the 'lamb fix' there is in 2013 from . . .


Karen said...

Congratulations! I can only aspire that my small farm become as "prolific" as yours. Wishing you continued success!

Florida Farm Girl said...

What a history. 'Course, I don't know what some of those words really mean but I do get the gist of it. You've come a long way. Congratulations.

Oh, that cake looks lovely!

Lori Skoog said...

I loved reading the history of Boulderneigh. Thanks for sharing it with us. How many sheep do you have now?

Tombstone Livestock said...

I'm still trying to get a handle on the colors and variations on the Shetlands, think all of mine have the "fading gene" by the time I think I figured it out and send in the papers and they get sheared they are a different color.

Love your varieties.

Gabriela said...

The sheep are so beautiful!!Congratulations on a milestone!

melanie said...


You'll have to have Brian help you with this one....

Michelle said...

I don't feel very prolific, Karen; space and husband constraints keep me from following my aspirations. But I AM thankful for the progress I've made!

Michelle said...

It was tasty, too. ;-)

Michelle said...

Right now I have 11 – two rams, five ewes (one isn't breedable) and four wethers. Can I ship some fiber pets to you? ;-)

Michelle said...

Many of them give clues as to what they will become if you know what to look for, but not all. I am fascinated by genetics, so have tried to learn all I can.

Michelle said...

Thank-you, Gabriela!

Michelle said...

Hey, I am at the piano with him through every violin practice; I get it!

thecrazysheeplady said...

Dang, your excellent post gets shown up by Melanie ;-). I'm going to have to remember that one! Nice, nice recount, especially as I missed those early years. Your sheep are lovely. Happy Boulderneigh Birthday :-D.

Tree Hugger - Suzan said...

You have the most beautiful colors of sheep/wool!

The Sage Butterfly said...

Happy Birthday! And those little faces are so precious. Hope you had a wonderful celebration.

erica said...

I love the flash!