Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Well, Karen and Ray came for a visit and fell in love with Blessa. And from what I've heard since they took her home, she loves them as well. Win/Win!
While they were visiting we walked into the end of the barn where I had the ram lambs. Karen didn't want Blessa to be alone and was telling me about a person in their area who had rescued Barbados Blackbelly sheep including a wether if they wanted one. As Karen and I stood talking, I noticed that Ray was singled out by our own Lucius Vorenus, a very friendly ram lamb. The next time Karen mentioned the wether from her acquaintance Ray shook his head no. Then he said he'd rather have Luke. So, soon Luke will be joining Blessa.
Below are pictures of Blessa both shorn and with this year's fleece just before she left. Can you see the smugness behind that expression? From what I've heard she has taken reign over all things barnyard and child, as well as Karen and Ray.
Thank ewe, Michelle! And thank ewe Blessa! I can't think of a better Shetland Ambassador to introduce that area of Arizona to the wonderful Shetland sheep!
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Skittles is one of the best rams I have ever seen! He has darned-near perfect conformation and a wonderful disposition which he passes on to his offspring.
Another plus is that his offspring all seem to keep their dark, rich coloring. The muskets do turn their brownish grays, but the colors always seem to be rich. Even Shaun, our red moorit iset wether, is keeping his rich red color with the iset frosting.
Being a very small sheep operation, we have to continuously keep genetics moving here. We don't have the acreage to swap out rams or make different breeding pens. As we won't be breeding this year, I don't think it fair of me to retain the great genetics Skit passes on. And each morning I see the longing in his eyes as I let the girls out into the pasture. He should be "working" for someone, not cooling his heals.
And so, we offer:
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
In the late 50s, our family lived in Poughkeepsie, New York. Dad was a marketing manager so every few years he'd come home with a map under his arm cluing us in that we were moving. He'd either be transferred or get itchy feet to move. Heck, even his Irish Setter was so used to moving she'd go sit in the backseat of Mom's car whenever she saw a moving truck. So we were all well trained.
My mother had been an executive secretary in the 40s. She was the Executive Secretary to the President of Corn Products (ARGO now) when she met Dad as a Navy boot in Chicago. Still wanting to keep busy, Mom and Dad had installed a huge, heavy solid wooden desk in the basement right next to the shelves of canned green beans and pickles from the garden.On the desk sat a typewriter that, I swear, must've been as big as the desk and as heavy. When you hit the keys it never moved as if it had been bolted to the place of honor where it sat, ready for my mother's adept hands to bring it to life once more.
Around '58 or '59, Mom started working for two women who were writing a special book. She would pick up their copies of the manuscript and edit them, retype them, then take them back for their perusal. In between I remember boxes and boxes of envelopes coming and going as well. We knew that when Mom was in the Dungeon, we should not bother her in fear of our lives much in the same way we didn't disturb Dad when he was down there reloading shotgun shells.
On some Saturdays I actually got to ride with Mom over to one of the women's houses. It was on a huge piece of land along the banks of the Hudson river. I loved going, but was always reminded to behave myself. Best manners. She would even tell me to be quiet in Swedish, so I knew full-well this was serious business.
In the large house was an elderly woman in a wheelchair. She would smile at me and say hello. I'd look at Mom as if asking for permission to open my mouth to return the greeting. "Hello.", I would say. The old woman would tell me that I was welcome to wait in her garden in which there was a beautiful wrought iron table and chairs surrounded by beautiful flowers with green expanses of manicured lawn beyond. It was nice, but what I really wanted was to explore all the other places I saw, especially the barn.
My mother knew my penchant for barns. She knew if allowed I'd be so outta there and lost for hours. But on one visit I was told by the old woman that yes, I was very welcome to visit the barn, but the horses were gone and to be careful and listen for when my mother called me. You'd think she'd given me keys to Heaven. I was off like a shot with my mother's words to "Be careful!" ringing in my ears.
And so it went until the book was published. The younger woman authoring the book, closer to my parents' ages, would come over to our house or we would go to theirs, the grown-ups having drinks while we kids were doing our own kid-things. Then it came. It was a copy of the book! My mother showed it to me with the greatest of care, turning the front cover until it revealed the signatures of the books two authors. Both had signed the book for my mother, the younger author writing a note in which she mentioned my brother and I, even if she did spell my name wrong. The older woman had just signed her name. That was in 1960.
Occasionally, we would hear from the younger author and her family but I missed the kindly old woman in the wheelchair who allowed me the joy of exploring her beautiful gardens and stables. I have fond memories of my explorations including gazing out over the Hudson River Valley full of trees, the river with all its boats and way off to the other side of Upstate New York and beyond. It was magnificent. And so was the kindly woman encouraging the explorations of a child.
I still have the book the old woman in the wheelchair handed to my mother. I remember her thanking my mother for all the work she had done in helping this book become a small reality. It was a small work but highlighted some of the woman's work. The Old Woman in the Wheelchair died a couple of years after the book was published. And I found out she left some pretty big shoes to fill.
The Woman in the Wheelchair was none other than....
and the estate, Hyde Park
The Treasure has been in my possession long enough. It's time for my daughter to become its Caretaker...and to share it with her child when the time is right.
Monday, October 13, 2008
"cull (kul) - something picked out for rejection as not being up to standard" from Webster's New World Dictionary
Ask any person in agriculture the job they like the least and, if they are involved in livestock farming, they will tell you that culling their animals is the least liked job. If they mention something else, they're lying. Anyone raising animals, even for meat production, hates the job of culling. Even if you don't mean to, you get to know the animals in your charge whether you have four, or a hundred. As wonderful as it is to see lambs (or calves, chicks, ducklings, foals, etc.)born and to feel excited about all the potential their lives will unfold, the flip-side of that same coin is the fact that some animals are not up to par for passing on genetics. They shouldn't be bred.
With economic times as they are we livestock people can only keep the best of our animals for breeding. As much as all are loved and cared for we have to make very hard decisions. So it was with me this past week.
Two of my charges left this morning. Both are destined for someones table. A reality. Neither would have made the grade for breeding. Good temperment or fleece aside, both had to go. A family who were out last week looking at electric spinning equipment asked me if I had any lambs for the freezer. They were so kind about asking and apologized for even bringing it up before I could answer saying they understood how attached shepherds become to their flocks. And they asked with the utmost respect. Yes, I answered, "I have two ram lambs that really need to go in someones freezer." My soul told my voice to shut up, but my brain allowed the words to be voiced. Reality. They did have to go.
In these days of $20 a bale hay I cannot afford to keep extra mouths to feed. Each individual must pull their weight or go somewhere else. I don't have acres and acres to stockpile extra sheep and so must keep the best for breeding. And I'm full-up in the wether/fiber pet area as well.
And the ram lambs bear the brunt of this. Ewes usually go on to other farms or fiber-flocks where they will have a grand life. One of my young ewes is going on to a fiber flock soon. While she has the most beautiful fleece and temperment, her tail is just too long to allow her to produce registerable shetlands. I don't have the room plus I already have fleeces of that color in the flock now, so she'll go on and be loved by the family who wants her.
The boys face another lot in life. By virtue of their sex alone they become replaceable. Many rams are born but only the very best should be allowed to continue on. That's a hard burden to bear for anyone, but truth nonetheless. I don't need them all. One good ram can take care of a whole lotta ewes.
So, two of my boys who had bad horns (all breeders get this occasionally with horned sheep breeds...and if they say they don't...well, you know the rest)...horns that turned down and inward. If they were in the wild these horns would eventually cull the animal themselves. I said goodbye to the two and told them they would serve in other ways. I know they will be butchered with great respect and nothing will be wasted. I can't complain about lambs being butchered as I love to eat lamb myself. This is where it comes from. A fact of life. Meat does not grow in packages out of thin air. It comes from people producing animals for the table specifically, or someone culling their herd. Like me.
After saying goodbye to the two who left I went in to feed the four remaining lambs. All four of them are breeding quality with great horns and sound structure. As it was a "Ram Year" last year and most breeders I know have an abundance of ram lambs, some of these guys may still end up in a freezer. In this economy I can't complain about any one of my animals feeding a family. In fact, one may end up in my freezer too.
But I can still give them the respect they deserve...and if it becomes fate that they end up in my freezer, I will thank them for giving me strength. I ate my pet sheep way back when I was college-aged. She was the only one left and my cousins were butchering one of theirs, asking my grandmother if they could "do it" for her. As I was away to college and she didn't want to be left with one sheep, she agreed. That Christmas my grandmother, Mom and I had Leg o'Bessie for dinner. And I thanked the old ewe as we said Grace...
Dad had a steak.
Monday, October 06, 2008
As I wasn't sleeping well and the cats kept yowling at me around midnight, I got up and went out in the living room for a bit to see if they would settle down. When I came back to bed I saw my Hired-Hand-With-Benefits curled up as if he was freezing. I looked over and saw that yes, his blanket was "on". I knew his feet must've been cold (mine were!) so I grabbed a quilt and doubled it up over our feet for the night. By morning I had a nice little World of Warmth created for myself and I really didn't want to come out from under to face the morning.
*Note: Yes, Michelle - pumpkins and squash will ripen if you keep them in a dry place, elevated off the floor a bit. I use old worn out drainers for dishes from the kitchen as they elevate the pumpkins and let air circulate beneath. This since I don't have a root cellar. :)