Friday, July 28, 2006

Wishing I Could Do More...

These days when I feel like nothing is going as planned in my life, I am so reminded that out of kaos comes order...and hope!
I have had the luck to "meet" (if only via emails) and great group of people who are involved in raising these wonderful Shetland Sheep Creatures. These people encourage each other and are there when others need them.
A case in point is the dramatic loss Becky Utecht had. Upon returning from a fiber show, Becky was informed that their newly constructed pole barn with all the winter hay they just put up for their flock of Shetland sheep had, literally, gone up in smoke. A tremendous fire took all the hay and most of the barn - a total loss. Becky was facing having to sell off her flock with no hay to keep them fed this winter.
Then, by the Grace of God, a group who believe in putting their money and hearts where their mouths are stepped up and stepped in to help! With people like Kim Nikolai and Nancy Krohn and others I don't know setting things up - sheep were donated and auctioned off, photographic prints were put up for auction and various items were donated for auction to help raise money for Becky to keep her sheep. I have not seen this kind of support since Ralph and I were in the Military, except for our extended family in New Zealand. (Yes, I did indeed wear Army boots!) Most of these people are in the Minnesota Shetland Sheep Breeders Organization, but others as well made donations and supported efforts to raise money to help feed Becky's sheep. Kim N., Kim Kerley, Julie Chapman, Gail Former, and Beechtree Farms all donated lambs to help raise the money needed. And those who didn't have lambs or other items to donate, gave money if they could.
Becky, I hope you realize you've got some great friends where you are and across the miles. Just really isn't money...every dollar represents a hug from someone who believes in you.
Were we all so lucky...

Monday, July 24, 2006

Why I Can't Spell

This is Shadow. When the house next door was a rental, the family living in it moved out suddenly abandoning two cats. One cat was adopted by a family across the road, but no one could get near Shadow.
He would hover around our barn and little by little he became used to the sound of my voice. Then, I started putting food out for him, especially when I saw him fighting crows for crusts of bread. He was thin and starving. It took a while but eventually we became friends. And now he is my "Best Bud"! If I go out the door he'll watch me from the windows and when I get into bed he's always ready to settle down with me for a while and insists on laying right up next to me.
It took over a year to get him used to being an indoor only cat. We have a very busy street running by our place. Over the years we've seen many animals hit on this street. When he was fending for himself we used to see Shadow run across the street in front of on-coming traffic. My heart would nearly stop when I saw him do that. We also have coyotes here that delight in an easy meal of people's pets and I just can't bear the thought of any of our family ending up as dinner. Hence, housecats.
One of the problems is that Shad insists on "helping" me do whatever I am doing whether it be getting dinner ready, having coffee, doing laundry, watering the plants, or sending an email - and that's the problem with my typos! He plunks himself down in front of the screen and I can't see what I'm doing.
So, if you see spelling mistakes please forgive us. It's just my Helper assisting me. I wouldn't trade my assistant for anything. I just wish he would SpellCheck. :)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

I Won't Go...And You Can't Make Me!

This is Mountain Niche Norman. This is Norman throwing a hissy-fit during halter-breaking! (I believe this may be Position #2 according to Nancy K.) Norman is one of the lambs that came to us from Kim Kerley's Mountain Niche Farm in Washington and is a beautiful example of the quality of Shetland bred by Kim and her husband, Doug.
This lamb has good conformation, great horns, soft fleece and a nice personality. But the problem is that he is closely related to all the Shetlands here. While that is a problem for me, it is a blessing for Karen C. in Chino Valley, AZ. Karen has been in desperate need of a ram unrelated to her ewes. So, long story short, Norman is going to live with Karen and have the chance to be what he really should be - A Flock Sire.
I hate to see him go (and things aren't totally finalized yet) but you can't keep them all and it wouldn't be very fair of me to keep Norman. He has great potential and needs his own Harem. Here, he would just be hanging out in "The Ram Pen" unless I found him his own ewes.
So, the decision was made to let Norman move on, living up to his potential with Karen. the meantime, I knew I needed to work on his "Halter Etiquette". You can tell from the photo that Norman was in disagreement with me on this point. He promptly plopped down in the freshly cut weeds in the corral. He looks as though he rolled in them, which was Position #1, I believe.
Later in this session, Norman did actually lead and was rewarded. I used to think it was funny when you placed sheep on their bums to shear them. They believed they were dead, they couldn't move... Now I think it's hilarious when they first try a halter on and immediatley fall down and don't move. It's a precursor to the flopping, which comes after Position #2.
At any rate...Here's to Norman! I think he'll make a great Flock Sire. Karen's getting a really nice ram. And I will always remember him with fondness.

Best Laid Plans...Often Go Awry -or- Drop Back Six, And Punt!

I've been so excited about the prospect of Skittles coming to Arizona! He's an awesome ram and new Shetland blood is needed here in the SW area. After I bought Skittles from my friend, Nancy, Kim N. very generously offered to bring Skittles with her when she drove west to deliver two lambs to friends of hers near the Jackson, WY area. I can't say enough about how generous Kim is for this gesture! (These Shetland people have restored my faith in human-kind with all their generosity and caring about each other. I only hope that I can live up to the example they set.)
Well, Kim and I set a time last week to meet, me driving North and her making her way West. And it was a pleasure to have my dear husband, Ralph, with me on this "Road Trip". We had left early to go as far as Page, AZ, the night before Kim was to set out. That leg got us through most of the Navajo Reservation.
We left early the next morning and really had a nice time going through Utah's Southern area, looking in awe at some of the high desert sceanery and listening to Ralph's XM radio. It was all two lane roads, but we had very little traffic.
We even managed to drive through Zion National Park...yes, the road went through so we had to pay our $20 to drive through the park, but it was so worth it! It was phenominal! Absolutely breathtaking! We even commented that we were glad that we had to make this trip otherwise we might have overlooked this gem.
Finally we did make it to I15 and started, in earnest, to get to Wyoming before evening. We were almost half-way there when my cell phone rang and it was Kim...
Kim had taken her vehicle in to have the oil changed and a safety check before she took off with the back full of ovines when a crack in her differential was spotted. She was calling to say that she couldn't leave and wouldn't know if she could make the trip at all until the truck was fixed. Now, Kim is a very busy person and for her to take time to include my "Freeloader" along for this trip is above and beyond. But I was devastated! I was so very, very glad that Kim had discovered this problem BEFORE starting out - I wouldn't want to see her having ANY problems along the road, let alone truck problems. But I was disappointed. I was so hoping to get Skittles here and settled in. There was nothing to do but turn around and go home. We got back about 6 p.m.
And, with many emails back and forth, Kim thinks she may be willing to try to do the trip this next week and have another go at this. She's incredible! And Bless her heart! :)
So, if this trip does come to pass I need everyone's good thoughts headed our way for all of us to have safe trips - to "There And Back Again"!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Go ahead. Make my day!

Here he is husband's buddy. My DH was out at the barn today helping me with taking a picture of a ram lamb who needs a chance to be a Flock Sire (aka He's for Sale). Then guess who showed up? Mr. I'm-So-Cute! I have to laugh. This little guy, who's registered name is Mountain Niche Colin P, has become like a pet dog to my DH. Wherever he, or we, go Mr. ISC follows and is very intent on what we are doing. And if one of us decides to sit down for a break, he's right there with you and loves to put his head in your lap. As we gently scratch him behind his ear, or pick VM out of his fleece, you can see his eyelids start to droop and finally shut. He just loves to be with you.
Even the pet sheep I had as a teenager, Bessie, was not that mellow. She wore a dog collar and would accompany the horse and I on outings as well as earn her keep by mowing the weeds in my grandmother's woods. And I've known nice rams, friendly but on their terms...and rams that would be friends then turn on you during breeding season...and rams who, indeed, belong on the Food Chain. But I've never known one this mellow and laid back.
He just wants to be with you. He doesn't care if you got all your errands done or did well at work and got that promotion. All he wants is just to have you allow him into your "space" and share a bit of yourself with him. All he wants is a kind word and a bit of attention. It makes me wonder if that's all any of us really want in life. And it doesn't matter if you did your Pilates today or washed the truck. He doesn't care about any of that small stuff. He just wants to spend time with you.
All in all, not a bad friend to have around.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Hail To The King! A Welcome to HRH Bluff Country Skittles!

As I write this, our new Senior Flock Sire, Bluff Country Skittles, is making his way Westward with his Interim Mum, Kim Nikolai (aka Kimberwood Shetlands)! He's "On Holiday" with Kim until she makes her journey towards Wyoming next week. We'll meet her in western WY to transfer Skittles to our vehicle, then it's the final leg to his new home here at Sheep Thrills.
Skittles comes to us from Nancy Krohn and her Bluff Country Shetlands in Minnesota. I have never met Nancy in person, but we've talked on the phone and emailed back and forth and I can say that she has come to become a friend to me and a kindred spirit. We share alot in common and I can hardly wait for her and her DH to come for a visit.
Nancy's breeding program is one to be admired and Skittles is a fine example of the quality Nancy has developed in her animals. Animals of this quality take a lot of hard work, perseverance toward a goal, and a little bit of luck and help from Mother Nature. I can't say enough about the quality of Shetland Sheep Nancy strives for. Her animals are known for their near-perfect conformation, temperment, fleece and now, HST - or Head, Socks, Tail spotting. While Skittles has greatly contributed to Nancy's breeding program, it was time for her to concentrate on her goals with another ram, Bluff Country Apocalypse. Paco is Skittles' son and a great example of Nancy's goals in the flesh. I can't say enough about her and I am glad to count her as a friend. And I can hardly wait to meet Kim, as well. I hope we'll have enough time to get to know each other and chat a bit. Kim is another breeder I admire with a wonderful flock of quality Shetlands. I can't say enough good things about a person who volunteers to assist another person get a good start on a flock just by giving "Himself" a ride and taking care of him along the way. I can only hope that one day I can repay this kindness!
Skittles will have a new harem to minister to this coming fall and the problem is: I can hardly wait for spring!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Weaning Day -or- "Who Are You? And What Have You Done With My Mother?!"

Today is weaning day! Oh, Boy! Actually, it went pretty smoothly for everyone this morning. I let all the sheep-tribe out into the pasture to have breakfast and when it became time to ease them into the barn for "Siesta", I quietly moved the lambs into pens at the other end of the barn. By the time the mom-sheep had turned around to look, it was all over.
All over but the baa-ing. And that hasn't been too bad. The ewe lambs have been actually very lady-like in their demeanor. The ram lambs did butt heads a bit to see who was "King of the Pen". And the moms banged on the wire on the pen enclosure a bit, but all settled down quite nicely. We'll have to see how tomorrow goes.
From now on, the ram lambs will be segregated by themselves. And later, the ewe lambs will re-join their mothers in the same enclosure and back out in the pasture together. This will happen just as soon as the mother-ewes dry up and no longer produce milk.
Then, hopefully, there will be peace until fall...when breeding season begins! But this time will be spent working with the ewes in halter breaking and getting them used to being handled. And finishing up quarters for our Senior Flock Ram, Bluff Country Skittles, to arrive later this month.
And I love every minute of it! :)