Sarah Jane Humke

The life of a traveling, reading, writing, spining and knitting shepherdess.

I like to shop in thrift stores and there’s a few things that I am always on the watch for.  One of these items is pretty much anything made from linen.  It doesn’t matter if it’s napkins and tablecloths or pants and shirts, if it’s linen, and a reasonable price, I snag it.

Part of the reason for this is simple.  Linen cloth is expensive to buy new.  Linen clothing isn’t cheap and it’s rare to find linen tableware or sheets or towels anymore unless you are internet shopping, and even there, not cheap.  Since linen takes a long time to wear out, it’s a more ecological and longer-lasting option to the ubiquitous cotton that everything seems to be made of.  It also has less chemical processing than cotton and is more comfortable to wear in hot weather due to it’s wicking nature compared to cotton and it’s tendency to absorb and retain moisture.

In years past, pure Irish linen was a prized gift for hostesses.  I have found card table sets, a small square linen tablecloth and four matching linen napkins, still in the original gift box, for a dollar.  I’ve found multiple sets of napkins for a quarter a napkin.  I still haven’t found a large tablecloth, but when I do I’m going to make a dress out of it!

So when I find linen clothing in my size, and sometimes even if it’s not (if it’s cheap enough, I get it and give it to friends, I’m pretty evangelical about linen at this point), I buy it.  I don’t really worry too much about color or style as a lot of things can be dealt with pretty easily.  Case in point.  A week ago I was in my local thrift store and found a linen capri pant and top set.  There were a couple of issues.  First was the color, a lovely Easter Egg shade of green that makes me look ill if I try to wear it.  The second was that the pants had a full polyester lining!  In linen!  Sort of defeats the point really, however because of the light color they were a little more translucent than the typical person may want to wear, which is probably why they lined them.  Here are the pants prior to the removal of the lining.

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So I cut the lining out.  I didn’t do anything to fancy, just a sharp pair of scissors and removed it being careful to not cut any other fabric.  Here’s what the set looks like after that.

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So I have never dyed an entire outfit before and I do a little research and find that good ol’ Rit dye is still a really popular (and available) choice for this.  So I order some on Amazon (no stores around here had any colors that I wanted) and it came this past week.  So this weekend, I followed the instructions and dyed this outfit dark blue.

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The stitching is still green but most of it isn’t visible on the outside of the fabric.  I still haven’t decided what exactly to do with the sleeves.  The are three-quarter length and fit me rather badly.  I may take it to someone with seamstress skills and have it made into a sleeveless top instead.  If I do, I will show you the final results.  However, as it stands, I spent a dollar on the actual outfit and around three dollars on the dye.  For four dollars, I have a linen outfit that I can actually wear.

Those of you that haven’t been reading my blog for a long time may not know that I wasn’t always an Iowan shepherdess.  I actually have a degree in Horticulture from the University of Florida and used to be in charge of a greenhouse outside of Apopka, Florida.  I tell you all of this so that you can fully appreciate the utter depravity of what I am about to share with you.

This weekend I planted my “garden”.  I say “garden” as it’s really just eight tomato plants.  For me, this isn’t really a garden, but this year I just don’t have the time for a proper garden.  Well, I could have time for a proper garden, but I would have to quit my full-time job in order to take care of it sooooo……..  I mean, I have over seventy sheep at this point, a house to take care of, three dogs to feed and nurture, a passel of farm cats awaiting breakfast and dinner each night, not to mention the never ending laundry that comes with farming.  Something had to give, and since I’m not keen on getting rid of the dogs or forgoing hot meals, so a large and proper garden got the short straw.

Part of the reason that I was so late getting them into the ground is that I didn’t have a good place to put it.  We have a lot of shade around our house, a by-product of mature maple trees planted all around.  The areas not shaded are usually grazed-down by the sheep (What!?  They are literally nature’s lawnmowers!  If it’s good enough for the White House, it’s good enough for me!).  The area needed to get enough sun for the tomatoes, be someplace that wouldn’t be easy for the sheep to get to (or at least easy to fence around), and close enough to water.  I discarded a lot of locations for various reasons and was just sort of stuck as to where to put them.

My brother and I were born four years apart.  I came along in that sweet spot of time when a lot of aunts and friends of the family had decided that they weren’t going to have any more kids.  Thus, I had a lot of hand-me-down toys and clothes.  One of these was my swingset, which was one of those late sixties a-frame affairs that I could get the legs to lift off the ground if I swung high enough.  It is one of those things that makes you wonder how I ever survived childhood.  I mean, we had no car seats, no bicycle helmets, no sunscreen, and my crib is now probably considered a deathtrap!  Anyway, sometime between when I outgrew this little swinging guillotine and when my brother was of the age to want one, my parents upgraded to a bigger, better, more dangerous deathtrap of a swingset, now with monkey bars!  This one was concreted into the ground, so no more lift-offs, but it had it’s own set of dismembering features.  The metal edges at the top of the slide were notorious for slicing little hands on the way down and the slide itself would get blisteringly hot in the full sun.

Anyway, this set is still in the North yard of the house.  The swings long ago cracked and fell apart.  The trapeze bar blew off in some grand Iowa storm.  All that really remained is the slide and the monkey bars.  As I looked at it, I saw supports, really solid supports that are even concreted into the ground, for tomato plants.  Talked to dad about it and he thought it was a good idea too, thus was born the swingset garden.

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The bread crates and random piece of metal were to protect the tender tomato seedlings from the really persistent wind that we had blowing all weekend and also to give them a break from the sun.  I found the trapeze bar and one of the swing rings down buried in the soil.  Later, dad put up some fencing to keep the sheep out when they come this direction again.

The rest of the garden is potted and is all herb plants.  I can move them out of reach of the sheep quite easily this way.

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It’s not pretty, but I think it’s going to work pretty well.  However, I’m reasonably sure that somewhere there is a professor or dean at UF sighing, “We really should revoke her degree…”

As I mentioned in my previous post, Charlotte finally had her lamb, a little ewe.  She’s being a good mama to her and keeping her pretty protected so I was only able to get a few shots of her last night when she wasn’t basically a shadow behind a pillar or a bin.

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She’s a sweet little ewe that seems to be a tad overwhelmed by all her older and much larger half brothers and sisters.  She also has a lot of aunties who answer her when she bahs, so I think that she will do just fine.

Both Charlotte and I are, for very similar reasons, glad for her to have finally finished gestating.  She’s tired of being checked on and I am glad to no longer have to hunt her down and check on her.

Final stats for lambing 2018:

Thirty-one lambs out of twenty-one ewes

147.6% birthing rate

Of the lambs, sixteen were rams and fifteen were ewes

100% of ewes were bred

I love lambing season but I am really glad it’s over at the same time.  I worry about my girls, I worry about the lambs, I worry about all of it until it’s over.  This is now one less thing for me to worry about.  Now, to get them sorted, ready for Iowa Sheep & Wool Festival, the yearlings and wethers down to the bottom pasture (have never done this before so it’s going to be an adventure!), the ewes and lambs to the rotation around the farm, and to finish shearing them (when they are ready).  So don’t worry, I still have plenty to write about here!

 

 

This morning was a bit of a mess around the farm.  We had a pretty severe storm pop-up directly over the farm (it was good fun to watch on radar).  However, with the one and half inches of rain and hail, we got mud.  A lot of mud.  Ankle-deep, boot-sucking, stinking, manure-filled mud.  I knew that it was going to be a mess out there, so I rolled my jeans up (I still have to wear them to work after all) and pulled-on my mud boots and went and did morning chores.

Morning chores can vary a little depending on the weather and what all is going on, but generally they run something like this:  Feed the cats, fill-up sheep water, check hay or grass that the sheep are eating, let the chickens out of the coop, check chicken feeders, and do a general welfare check.  This all takes me around twenty minutes to do on a typical day.

This morning I was letting the chickens out of the coop and I checked under it to see if there were any sheep down there.  It’s a popular birthing spot and I hadn’t seen Charlotte yet that morning.  Sure enough, she’s under there but I don’t spot a lamb, so I figure that she’s probably just getting close and had chosen her spot.  I then go over the fence and into the chicken coop to check their feed.  While I am above her, I hear the unmistakable bah of a newborn lamb.  So I go back outside and look from another spot.  There was an empty protein tub that had gotten shoved under the hen house by the sheep by Charlotte.  I hadn’t been too concerned about it as it’s an empty tub.  Outside of a chicken flipping it over onto itself, it’s not going to hurt anyone and it’s way under the chicken coop.  In the darkness under the coop, with a black tub, I can just see a twitching of motion and hear another tiny little bah, and it’s coming from inside this damn tub.

So first I try to shove it out from under the hen house using a long handled tool, but it was too far under.  Charlotte is obviously distressed by her lamb being “trapped” in this low-sided tub and the lamb clearly wants to be out with mama as well.  Charlotte is a first-time mama, so I don’t want to freak her out any more than I have to.  So I know what I am going to have to do.

I go back to the house, grab a couple of dog towels (that’s what we call bath towels that have been down-graded from everyday use to more…. aromatic messes) and a damp washcloth and head back out to the coop.  I then did what any shepherd worth their crook would do.

I took off my pants.

Yes, you read that right.  My forty year-old self was running around with a t-shirt, panties, and mud boots on. I still needed to go to work that day and I needed clean pants to do so.

I hung the jeans from the fence and carefully climbed back over the it into the sheep yard and stepped into a bouillabaisse composed of fetid water, mud, uneaten hay, with sheep turds floating on top like festive marshmallows in a cup of cocoa .

I got down on my knees and, for lack of a better description, did a very tall army crawl under the chicken coop.  So, I’m sure that you all have excellent imaginations, so I will spare you too detailed of a description of this endeavor other than to say that had anyone been around at that particular moment, they would have had quite the view of my faded undies and me in a spectacularly unladylike pose. Once under the coop, it’s a lot drier than around it, and I quickly crawl to the trapped lamb and get it out, checking for sex and that it’s healthy.  (It’s a ewe, photos later, there’s no way I was taking my phone on this adventure).  The lamb goes over to her mama and starts nursing happily while I scoot the damn tub out from under the coop.  I then have to go back out through the same offensive barnyard broth as before, only this time with my face down almost in it.  It’s actually a little worse coming out from under the coop as both hands are now wrist deep in it along with my knees.  I carefully stand up (I really don’t want to fall into it) and toss the cursed tub over the fence.  As I am trying to ineffectually wipe this stinky stew off myself, it quickly becomes obvious that washcloth/towel combo isn’t going to cut it as the fetid water had already run down my legs into my socks and just wasn’t coming off very well with the washcloth.  So I get the worst of it off, pick up the remaining towels and my jeans, and start walking through the sheep pen back up to the house still pants-less.

The sheep, thinking that my jeans and the towels were a treat for them, start following me in my walk of shame, bellowing their displeasure that I wasn’t giving these wonderful jeans and towels to them to eat.  Herbert even goes as far as trying to steal a towel from my grasp, only to realize that it isn’t a yummy, and drops it.  By the time I am at the far gate, I have the entire flock of sheep behind me like a bizarre and very loud parade, drawing as much attention as could possibly be drawn to me in that moment.  Even the lambs are getting in on the action, dancing around the adult sheep, giving little choruses of bahs, not really knowing why they are doing it, just happy to be included in the party.   Finally I leave the relative safety of the pen after carefully checking for cars coming down our gravel road.  Thankfully, we can literally see people coming for at least a half mile in both directions, so I wasn’t too fussed as I walked across the farmyard holding a folded towel in front of me.

My dad takes this moment to come out of the house and simply asks me, “Did you get it?” as I had told him what I was doing when I had retrieved the towels earlier.  “Yep, ” I replied as I went into the house so that I could shower off my legs and arms, and change socks.

But I wore the damn jeans to work.

 

 

I feel like I need to catch up on a few odds and ends at this point.  So, to start; Charlotte is still heavy with lamb.  She is, however, starting to bag-up (her udders are getting large) significantly so I am hopeful that we won’t have to wait until May 31st for the arrival of her little one(s).

Abigail’s lambs both seem to be doing fine.  The little ram lamb hasn’t wanted a bottle since the first day, so I am pretty sure that he is bumming off of the other ewes.  Fairly successfully from the feel of his belly each time I grab him to check on him.  I’m really glad for this as bottle-fed rams have a tendency to become freezer rams as they can often become more aggressive with humans as a result of this early interaction.  The little ewe lamb, who I have named Alanis, will come and eat from the bottle when I offer it to her but isn’t acting hungry otherwise.  I think that she’s either a little bit of a piggy (which is possible!), or that she just isn’t quite as successful bumming off of the ewes and needs a little extra.  Either way, I will continue to check-in on her a couple of times a day.

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The bright pink on the top of her head is a marking crayon that I have put there so that I find her more easily to check on her.  I have to reapply it every couple of days as she rubs it off.    By the way, this is her older sister, Allaura.  She was bellowing at me this morning and I didn’t even need to check her tag to know that she was Abigail’s daughter as she already has the makings for the same voice.

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I received a question about the CDT shot and what it was.  I am from a farming background and sometimes forget that we are really in the minority because it’s also who I am surrounded by daily.  So please, if there are questions, ask.  You are likely not the only one!  Anyway, I should have actually written it CD/T as that is technically how it’s done.  In my head it’s CDT, thus I wrote it that way.  The CD/T vaccine is for sheep and goats and it prevents Clostridium perfringens Types C and D and Clostridium tetani.  I give the shot twice to lambs, once at around six weeks old and then about a month later.  I vaccinate everybody at the same time, so some of the lambs aren’t quite that old and other are a little older, but that’s a general timeline.  I also vaccinate older animals once a year with it.  The diseases that they prevent are deadly and often the very first symptom that you will see with them is death.  So vaccinate your lambs and kids.  And your children too (but that’s a whole other thing…)

Answering another question before it even appears, yes I get a tetanus shot yearly.  My Doctor and I have discussed it and given my lifestyle *ahem*  we have decided that it is in my best interest to simply get one every year.  On Wednesday I stabbed myself with the corner of one of the shearing combs after it had been on the shearing machine for a number of sheep.  I’m SURE it was covered with all sorts of stuff but I would never in a million years run to the Doctor’s office just to get a shot for it.  However, it is something this small that could give a person tetanus, and I’m not willing to die from lockjaw.

The Jacob sheep look so much better after their haircuts.  Marge is on the thin side, but hopefully I’ll be able to fatten her up a bit after a summer on good grass.  I really honestly couldn’t get a good evaluation of their condition with all the nasty that was on their backs when they arrived.

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My flock has reached a size where I need to have a better way to handle to sheep on a daily basis.  I don’t have a chute system or anything like that.  I don’t even have a good way to get them all into a smaller pen.  I am seriously considering getting a working dog to help me.  My reason for this is simple, I need to be able to catch a sheep when I want to.  Yes I have friends that can help me at times, but I can’t be calling them all the time, at all hours of the day, to just come over and catch a sheep.  I’m also looking as splitting the flock into two parts so that I can graze some of them in a different area that is further from the house.  I need to be able to get the sheep to this grazing area in a group and get them home in a group.  Right now, the magic bucket of feed isn’t going to cut a half-mile walk down a grass waterway.  It’s just one of those things that I am trying to figure out if another animal in my life will be more stress or less stress overall…

Yesterday was a long day that actually started the night before.  Well, if I’m being completely honest, it started last year at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival.  David Kier, a professional shearer, was there doing demos and my friend Kendra started talking to him.  It is not an unusual thing for Kendra to start up a conversation with someone that is doing something that she finds interesting and in this case it was David’s shearing.  She watched him do a private shearing and had a good long chat with the man that I joined intermittently as I was talking to other people.  However, from the parts of the conversation that I was part of and from what Kendra told me later,  I knew that I liked the guy and his shearing.

I previously have liked to get my sheep sheared before they lamb in May and I had a shearer set-up for that.  However, plans changed and they weren’t able to do my sheep anymore.  This left me in a bit of a quandary.  I no longer had a shearer and I didn’t really want to use the shearer that I had used the year before (he’s not used to Shetlands).  So I was reminded of David by Kendra after I told her about my issue and I gave him a call.  I knew it would be quite a drive for him from his home in Wisconsin, but it never hurts to ask.  He kinda agreed to do it but really wanted me to come to the shearing school that he taught at near his home in Wisconsin, which I was good with as I had taken a shearing course previously and it hadn’t really stuck except that my respect for shearers strength and skills went through the roof.  Anyway, he stated correctly, that I needed a sustainable way to get my shearing done and since Shetland sheep aren’t always ready all at the same time it would probably be a good idea to learn how to do it myself.  I wasn’t able to go to the shearing school the weekend that it was on, so it was back to the drawing board for me.

In the past I had used my dad’s ancient shearing handset and machine and it was a bitch to use.  The handset is literally an antique, and was one of the original ones ever made.  You literally cannot get parts for them outside of antique specialists anymore.  It would also get insanely hot very quickly which made it so that you would have to allow it to cool down between sheep in order to just hold it (and for all the shearers out there, no the blade wasn’t too tight, it had always been that way due to the design).  David suggested that I purchase an electric shearer and as fate would have it a friend of mine was selling one.  Yay!  It’s a Premier unit similar to this one.

So now I have the equipment, but I still need the shearer.  After a number of calls between David and I, mostly figuring-out when would be the best time to shear my flock, we hit on Wednesday.  My flock had started the rise and nearly all of them have had their lambs.  Typically shearers aren’t keen on shearing really pregnant ewes as it can potentially cause the ewes to abort the lambs.  So usually the last month of gestation is off-limits for shearing.

Anyway, I’m telling you all of this so that you understand just some of the factors that go into getting a shearer to the farm, and that’s just my side of the equation.  The shearer has other customers and lives of their own to schedule around as well.

The other enemy of shearing is wet.  You do not want to shear wet sheep.  I had always assumed that this was basic common knowledge, but growing-up with a former sheep shearer for a dad kinda makes it so that your childhood knowledge is a little… unusual.  Wool will absorb up to thirty percent of it’s weight in water.  The blades and combs that a shearer uses are highly susceptible to rusting and wet sheep are more difficult to shear.  You also don’t want to pack a bunch of wet fleeces into a normal fleece bag as they will mildew and just become disgusting and impossible to use for anything.  Throw it all together and you just get bad.  Plus, nobody wants to work all day both filthy and wet.

Tuesday was sunny, bright and dry.  But the forecast called for scattered showers that evening and scattered showers on Wednesday too.  But if you are going to shear, let me assure you that there is zero chance that those showers will be scattered anywhere else other than over your flock.

Now my dad is rather hard of hearing and in the best of circumstances this makes for difficult communication.  Any time you are moving livestock is not the best of circumstances.  My cousin-by-marriage, Sam of A Whimsical Wood Yarns, has promised to make a colorway called Incandescent Rage after my description of moving sheep for shearing last year.  *ahem*  I’m not proud to admit that I completely and utterly lost my shit.  I even threw things.  This is so unlike me, that you can get a feel for just how much moving sheep this time of the year sucks.  The sheep have been in the pen all winter and this is their chance to see a bit of the world, eat some grass, have a good frolic.  Add into the mix thirty lambs who have never really been out of the pen and are confused and scared and wondering why mama isn’t answering because her mouth is stuffed with grass.   You end-up with a lot of sheep very reluctant to go anywhere you are taking them cause right here is awesome!  This year I didn’t rage so much as hurt.  I fell badly into a batch of sheep over some sharp equipment and literally got trampled.  My glasses fell-off and got stepped-on, and I am probably going to have a massive, very ugly, bruise on my leg for sometime.

Yay.

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If you think that shepherding is all Little Bo Peep, you are SO wrong.

I finally rolled into the house around 10:30pm, after having finally gotten all the stragglers in, with lightning and thunder in the near distance.

On Wednesday I awake at 5:30am and start working on things that still needed done, like preparing the foods for lunch that day.  I figured that I had a few hours as the shearer is quite a ways away.

He rolls into the driveway at 7am on the dot.

Damnit.

It is lightly raining still with occasional thunder in the distance.  By the time I get him set-up with everything he needed (plywood, electricity, and a light) it’s around 7:30am and I am rather damp.  He starts by showing me some footwork.  One of the things that you don’t realize watching a shearer demonstrate shearing is how much of the work the shearers feet and legs are doing.  Holding the sheep is almost entirely done by the shearers knees and thighs.  Where you move, when you move, and how you move are as important as the shearing equipment.  It’s a tightly choreographed dance between shearer and the sheared.  The bodies involved make unnatural contortions and use a wide variety of muscles that aren’t normally used unless you are Xenia Onatopp.  He shows me the movements shearing a couple of the sheep that are ready and then has me do it.  Both the sheep and I are deeply unsure about this.  The sheep is Greyson and I have never sheared a male sheep before and I manage to nick his pizzle really well, and it bleeds like a son-of-a-gun.  I feel terrible, he’s not super happy.  It’s raining in earnest now and I am covered in pizzle blood, little bits of cut wool, dirt, sweat, poop, and lanolin.  He does a few more sheep to let me recover, then I do another.  I ask if he would do Charlotte as she is one of the sheep that is ready and I tell him that she is due any day.  I trust him to not stress her unduly and he shears her in less that two minutes and she seems surprised when it’s done so suddenly.  I also ask him to do Homer and Marge, the Jacobs that came to me at Christmastime, as they are coated in cockle burrs.  They are also well-armed with an assortment of intense horns.  I do a few more sheep, he does a few more sheep, I am getting used to the mantra of, “…knees together, bottom of the comb down, knees together, bottom of the comb down…”  I’m sweating so hard by this time that I am dripping onto the sheep.  I can distinctly smell myself.  My thighs are burning, my leg that I injured the evening before is one large pain with extra side orders of more pain whenever a sheep kicks or bumps me there.

And then it’s lunchtime.  Hallelujah!  We all sit down for a bit and have sandwiches and berry salad and hard-boiled eggs.  I have very seldom been so grateful for a hard, plastic lawn chair in my entire life.  I wasn’t alone by this point. My friend Ellen and her son Patrick had come to help skirt, sort, and ID fleeces for me.  Elise was a general dogs body, running around feeding the bottle babies and helping wherever needed.  She took this photo of me while I was shearing.

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Herbert was one of the first sheep sheared and he was all up in everyone’s business while they were getting sheared.

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Towards the middle of the afternoon I started asking questions.  Mainly, why are we shearing them this way?  He explained how the technique was developed and then showed me another way to shear that didn’t involve Pilates with a live, annoyed, and often horned, animal.  The alternate method of shearing was done standing up with either someone holding the animal or tying the animal in a halter to something.  The fleece ends-up split in two, but honestly, I did SUCH a better job this way that the fleece was in much better condition by the time I was done than doing it the more typical New Zealand style of shearing.  I was also in better condition.  You still have to do the belly in about the same way, but the amount of time that you are shearing using your legs and thighs is greatly reduced.  My father kind-of rolled his eyes at me when I told him all this, but I’m not going to be a professional shearer, I just need to be able to get the fleeces from my flock off when they need to come off of them.  If I’m able to do that in a manner that is less stressful for me and for the sheep (cause trust me, if I’m stressed, they’re stressed) then so be it if it isn’t the “typical” way of shearing.  I’m not flying off tomorrow and joining a shearing crew in Australia (except maybe as a skirter) so shearing them “properly” maybe isn’t my biggest concern.

After the shearer left, Elise and I gave a few CDT shots to specific sheep.  Mostly the Jacobs (because I don’t know their history), little Lisa (because she should have gotten one a few weeks ago actually).  The orphan lambs each got one even though it’s a tad early for them, but since they are being bottle fed, I don’t want to take any chances.  We also moved the sheep back into the pen.  I was going to move them onto grass but they were way to hyped-up to do that so I wanted to move them back to the pen so that they could calm down, get hydrated, match-up with lambs and generally chill.  Moving the sheep back went a little better than moving them out as Elise has the bulk of her hearing still and trusts me to know what works with my sheep.

Afterwards, we went to Dairy Queen and got big ice cream treats.  We went through the drive though to save the other customers the smell.  We deserved it.

Some things that I learned from shearing class and from the shearer:

-My Shetlands are far more calm than the average Shetlands. And I quote, “Most Shetlands would be bouncing off the walls right about now.”  Most of them were snoozing or quietly hanging-out at the time.

-I learned a quick trick to figure-out an animals body condition when they are in full fleece that is pretty easy to remember.

-I realized just how good Elise has gotten at catching sheep.  Really, she’s a pro at it.

-I think that I may need a herding dog sooner than later.  If for no other reason than my own personal health.  This has been sort-of a maybe-in-the-future kinda thing, but the flock has gotten large enough that I need help.

-I learned about the rise in Shetland sheep and how to identify it before (attempting) shearing them.

-The Jacob Sheep look about four years younger without the load of crappy, burdock-riddled fleece on their backs.

-The Duluth Trading No-Yank Tank really lives up to it’s name.  I wasn’t constantly pulling the shirt down despite bending over a LOT.

-Lambs will sleep wherever the hell they want to.

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-Don’t wear pants with holes in the thigh (AKA farm pants) as some of those little suckers will manage to get a horn stuck in them requiring a delicate and embarrassing extraction.

*** Editing May 25***  I’m adding this onto the end here as I was informed by someone whom I trust to know what she is talking about, that shearing later in the ewe’s pregnancy will not cause abortions if done properly.  It may be more uncomfortable for all involved, but it should not cause any issues.  That being said, this is something that you should discuss with your shearer and decide what you and they are comfortable with.  Most of the shearers in this area that I have talked to in the past were not comfortable shearing in the last month.  This may have been because of sheep owners blaming them for something that wasn’t their fault or they were simply working with outdated information.  Either way, this is a judgement call that each person would need to make with their own flock.  I personally wouldn’t use a shearer that I have never had shear before (or had seen them shear) with animals close to birthing.  I, however, had no qualms whatsoever having David shear Charlotte who is very close to done, after seeing how easy he was on the animals.

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday I lost a ewe.  It was Abigail, my lead ewe.  It was unexpected and horrible to come home to.  I hadn’t lost a sheep in over a year and to lose one so abruptly was a shock.  Abigail wasn’t my finest ewe, but she was one of my favorites.  She was always the first to tell me that something was up and she would do it loudly with a bah that sounded like the voice of the woman sitting at the end of the bar who has smoked two packs a day for the past twenty years and belts back a couple of Johnnie Walkers neat every night.  It was a deep and scratchy bah that was always a surprise coming from such a petite Shetland ewe.  This is a photo from the first summer I had my flock.

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Miss Abigail being good.

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If you have been reading this blog the past few weeks, you might remember that Abigail had twins, a little ewe and ram.  I now have my first bottle babies.  Thankfully they both took to the bottle fine, it was just catching them in order to introduce them to the bottle that was the trick.  They are over three weeks old and are past the very hardest parts of survival.  The twins have had three weeks of mama’s milk, including the essential colostrum, so have gotten the best start I could hope for.   This pair have already been noted for their independence (not a surprise given who their mama was) and are often seen wandering about together outside the pen.  I’m not worried that they will make it, but it still breaks my heart that I have to say that…IMG_9614