Sarah Jane Humke

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

The Return of the Rental Ram January 7, 2018

Technically, he was a leased ram, but rental ram just has a sound to it doesn’t it?

The rental ram in question is the same one that I used last year, the lovely Nuuk from Sommarang Farm.  He won Yearling Ram at this years MSSBA show at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival.  Last year he was just a ram lamb and I was a little, um, dubious as to if he was up to the job of taking care of my ladies, but he did just fine.  This year, as a full-grown ram, there was no question from the get-go as to his ability to handle the job he was being hired for.

I picked Nuuk up at the beginning of December and I returned him this weekend in the back of my Honda Fit.  It’s about a four-hour drive from here in Iowa to his home in Wisconsin.  This year I took Dusty with me to keep me company, so this was my company driving up there.

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Yep, two snoozing boys.  I think that Nuuk was just worn-out from his job the past month combined with the warm car and he was out for most of the trip like a light.  Dusty is usually out like a light in the car so long as he doesn’t think that we are going to the vet.

Most of the time my view was something like this:

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Not the most exciting landscape, especially in the winter.  But Wisconsin still yields great barn watching opportunities and it was a pretty nice, though cold, day to be driving up there.

On the way home I always try to stop at The Cat and Crow in Mt. Horeb, WI.

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It is such a lovely shop to peruse.  The ladies that run it are just lovely to talk to and they really do a great job of supplying locally produced yarns and fibers.  If you are ever in the area, I strongly suggest that you stop by and check out their wonderfully curated selection!

 

 

 

Getting to Know You (all over again) July 2, 2016

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Right now I am having to get to relearn my entire flock.  After shearing, all the animals look completely different.  Like, I can’t tell who they are without reading their eartags.  A few I can tell, of course.  The boys; Herbert, Greyson, and Buddy all have horns and (now) all have bells.  When we change to fresh grass, it sounds like a demented windchime being tossed in a storm.

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Buddy giving me the, “Are you really going to photograph me in the nude?!” look

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Herbert is back in jail for too many escape attempts.

But the ladies are more difficult, as many of them look very similar to one another without their big coats of wool.  One way I can tell is, ironically, by their lambs.

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Others I just have to try to read their name tags.  I really wish I had taken a photo of each sheep just prior to shearing so that you could see the shocking difference in coloring that is under those big balls of wool.

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This is Jolly.  I can tell by the coloration on her face and belly. Before shearing she was a reddish color, now she appears to be brown with a white belly.

Even the lambs are in on this color changing thing.  About half of them are starting to clearly change colors from those they were born with.  The ones born the same colors as their mama’s seem to be keeping those colors, especially the black lambs born to black ewes.  This lamb isn’t a particularly good example of this, but does show another new thing in the flock.  The lambs are now all eating grass and looking adorable as they chew their cud!

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Settling In June 9, 2015

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The last couple of weeks have been all about learning about and getting used-to the new members of the farm. The sheep are getting not only used to us, the humans,  but also to the other animals.  They are fascinated by the farm cats and will start a small stampede following one of the poor nervous felines right up to the fence!  Dusty, my little fuzzy white dog makes them all pause and investigate as well much to his discomfort.  If I sit down, often they will come right up to me and sniff my neck and nibble my hair, which I take as a compliment.

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The flock is remarkably quiet.  Everyone on the farm knows if someone has gotten out of the fence because one of the girls just goes nuts.  She has a high-pitched bah and if the flock was a high school class then the noisy one would be that one girl who always (loudly) said, “Hey! You aren’t supposed to be doing that! Wait for me! Wait for me! I’ll tell if you don’t wait for me!!!”  But honestly, that is about the only time that they make a noise other than chewing (they are loud chewers) or belching (ditto).

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Memorial day was all about worming and vaccinating.  I didn’t take any pictures.  You’re welcome.  We also moved the flock which didn’t go all that well (ahem).  Shetlands aren’t one of the strongest flocking sheep breeds around.  Plus most of these are young ewes.  All in all you have a recipe for some cabbage in the garden to be eaten!  We probably shouldn’t have tried to move them when we were tired from all the vaccinations and worming fun and they were all keyed-up from being vaccinated and wormed.  Lesson learned.

set 3set 4However, we do have a flock leader now.  Her name is Abigail and she can be by turns both amazingly easy to work with and a complete brat.  We’re still working out the kinks in the relationship:-) Only a handful of the sheep have names at this point.  Buddy, the big black wether, Abigail, Herbert (his scrapie tag is 1938, during the Great Depression [though I know not during Hoover’s administration, but he looks like a Herbert too]), and Liberty.  Her scrapie tag is 1976.

Miss Abigail being good.

Miss Abigail being good.

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Abigail and Herbert.

The sheep are amazingly good at keeping the lawn mowed and seem to relish their job.  They are also insanely curious about the chicken flock who have been moved to temporary outdoor quarters with the sheep (electric fencing and jealous wethers are added protection from the ravenous raccoons we have around here).  So far our county hasn’t been hit with the avian flu so we are keeping our fingers crossed that we can keep these girls alive since the cost of eggs has skyrocketed already.

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The Great Sheep Drive: Part Five-Homecoming May 13, 2015

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We are down the road from Kadoka by the time the clock read six am.  The sheep had their water removed (it would spill all over) and another half-bale of hay given to them.  South Dakota went by very quickly thanks in part to their eighty mph speed limit on the interstates.  We crossed the Missouri river and stopped there for a break.

pt5-1After the Missouri, the land quickly becomes less wild, more domesticated.  The vistas of buttes and exposed strata of rock morphs into orderly fields of grains and tidy farmsteads surrounded by windbreaks.  The further East we travel, the darker the just-planted soil becomes.  The ditches become greener and the trees more numerous.

We cross over into Southern Minnesota around mid morning.  It is here, when the land becomes distinctly more like home, that I start musing about hefting.  Hefting is a term that applies to sheep that are naturally bonded to the place where they were born.  You can take a hefted sheep away from its place and it will always try to return.  The most famous hefted sheep is the Herdwick.  Shepherds there don’t need to worry about their sheep wandering too far away as they really sincerely don’t like to be away from home.  I’m starting to wonder if there are hefted humans too.  As we moved further into territory like home I began to feel more at ease.  I was nearly giddy by the time I pulled into the driveway.

C backed the trailer up to the gate (I may be ok driving the rig by now but I am still NOT ok backing it) and then we went and checked the paddock for any problems.  There were only a few and they were all quickly taken care of.  We grabbed some more people to help unload them.  As we all waited, C opened the back gate.  At first they didn’t seem to want to come out but eventually the thought of freedom won and in ones and twos they came out of the trailer.  And then stop.  And immediately put their heads down and start to eat like they have never had a meal in their lives.  We didn’t have any trouble with them trying to bolt or anything, rather they wouldn’t move probably not realizing that there was more like that in their paddock!

I can’t really blame the sheep.  Where they were born and raised is very dry.  Even C was kind of taken with the sheer amount of GREEN that we have here right now.  I’m sure the sheep thought that they had died and gone to heaven!

C really needed to leave as she really wanted to get back to the ranch.  We loaded her up with canned goodies and bottles of honey and sent her on her way.

The sheep have already found a favorite spot to hang-out.  It is in a corner where two buildings meet so it is both sunny and out of the wind.  I have been watching them closely for signs of bloat or diarrhea as they did have a rather drastic change in diet.  But so far, they have all been good.   They even seem to be getting used to me checking on them repeatedly.  And taking lots of pictures.  LOTS of pictures.  I think I keep taking pictures of them because it is so hard for me to believe that they are actually here.

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I cannot thank all of the people who helped to make this happen enough.  Deb for introducing me to C, my parents for supporting me even if they might think me a bit nuts, all the people who work with C who put in the time and effort to allow this newbie shepherd her own flock.  My boyfriend, Joel, for helping me do the heavy lifting.  To my friends who offered support and advice.  And most of all to C for her generosity and her time.  Thank you.

 

The Great Sheep Drive: The First Leg May 9, 2015

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I am sitting in the Des Moines airport writing this waiting for a flight to Denver.  This isn’t the original plan.  I was supposed to be flying out of Cedar Rapids to Chicago then onto Denver but due to weather issues I am now flying directly to Denver.  So, score one for me, oddly enough.  It’s not often that weather cancellations actually make for a better flight path but they did for me today.  I found out early enough about the cancellation to be able to reroute and get to where I needed to be in plenty of time.  Also, for the record, the United agent that I spoke with one the phone was absolutely lovely and helpful.

There are tons of Iowa State students flopped about in the various gates, exhausted by either the finals that they just finished with or the parties that came after.  Listening to their conversations makes me both miss being at school and to be very glad that I am no longer there.

I know that the weather I am going to be flying into isn’t nearly as nice as the weather we are having here today.  I have packed a jacket and even gloves.

Adventure here I come!

 

Countdown May 2, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 8:03 pm
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In less than a week I will be flying out to Montana to get a flock of sheep.  I have not had a lot of spare time to write here of late as I have started the new job and it is taking even more of my time than I thought it would. It is good to have some money coming in but it would also be nice to have a little more time to get things done around here.

I have also been trying to get things ready for the incoming sheep.  This means, of course, fencing.  I have put up a semi-permanent paddock for them with cattle panels and t-posts.  I am also getting some electric netting that I will use to move them around the farmstead soon.  This way they will be able to graze all around the farm for shorter periods of time.

Oh, and did I mention the garden????……………..

 

Slacking* March 29, 2015

Spring is usually busy, but this year is even more so than usual for me.  First up, it was my brand new niece’s baptism last weekend.  I decided to make her a Christening Shawl/blanket for the event.  I then decided that it should really be hand-spun Shetland laceweight.  With wool from Shetland of course!  Well, I’m sure that you all can see exactly where this is going…

I ended-up finishing casting-off at around four o’clock on the Saturday before.  I blocked it on my bed that evening.

slacking 4Luckily it was one of those super easy things to block and all I had to do was kind of pat it into place and let it dry for a bit.  I have a heated bed so that helped to move things along a bit:-)  It was dry and ready for the baptism that morning.

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Thanks to my SIL for taking this photo. I wasn’t able to take many photos with my niece IN the blanket as I was supremely busy that day with the lunch for the family after church.

I was amused by two facts during the baptismal sermon.  First, I’m not in church all that often and that Sunday I was sitting in the front row of a pretty full church.  The second was this:

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Yep, the whole sermon was about sheep and goats:-)

For those interested, the shawl/blanket is a strongly adapted version of a traditional Shetland Christening shawl pattern.  I skipped the edging and added a picot cast-off in its place.  The yarn was spun from about 284 grams of the Jaimeson and Smith Shetland Supreme combed roving.

I just happened to finish it when I was helping out my friends Ellen and Wanda at their booth for their shop Fiber Curio and Sundries at Fiberpalooza in Winterset, Iowa on Saturday.  I took absolutely zero photos as my hands were busy the entire day long either setting up or knitting the shawl.  However, it was a really fun event to both attend and sell at and I had a good, though very long, day.

Thursday and Friday were involved in the final classes for my Annie’s Project course.   I think that now is a good time to share with you what the business I was taking this business planning class for is.  I am getting sheep.  Or to be quite precise, I am getting about 20 or so Shetland ewes.  It’s a bit of long story, and I’m not a hundred percent sure that all the parties would like me to share it, but I can say that it’s kind of one of those things where karma has come full circle.  I have booked my flights out to Montana where the sheep currently reside and will drive back with them.  So there is a lot to do on the ground here to prepare for them.  Fencing for one.  These ladies have not been in fences a lot in their lives, which could be either a good or a bad thing.  Currently I am working on an area that will be somewhat permanently fenced for when they first get here and probably for parts of the winter as well.  I am going to purchase some electric netting so that I can move them around and graze the different areas of the farm and keep the grass and weeds down.

This is honestly, a kind of dream come true for me as I have wanted some ever since I visited the islands in 2010.  I adore their wool, I find the sheep to be appealing in their durability and size and I enjoy the variety of colors that they come in.  I have hesitated to write about it here as I wasn’t sure that it was really going to come to fruition.  But now with plane tickets booked (thank you frequent flier miles!) and making plans for fences and trying to find a livestock guardian animal, it is all starting to feel very, very real.  If anyone knows of someone looking to re-home a donkey in the Iowa area, please let me know.

Dusty got “sheared” one of our warmer days.  It wasn’t a perfect job as he wanted to chase cats and I didn’t want him to chase them but it worked out ok.

Before

Before: “Look at those cats making fun of me!  Must chase them!!!!!”

See what I mean by "shearing"?

See what I mean by “shearing”?

After

After: “The cats are laughing at me.”

I would have saved it to spin had I given Dusty a bath prior to his spring shearing.

I would have saved it to spin had I given Dusty a bath prior to his spring shearing.

I’ve been destashing a lot of mini skeins of sock yarn on Ravelry.  If you are interested (and the link doesn’t work) just go to the group “Mini Mall” and the thread called “Random Sets”.  I still have a lot of sets available and am willing to mail wherever you want in the world (with a few small exceptions:-).

On top of all of this has been seed starting and garden planning (in that order, it doesn’t always go in the order it should have you know!).  This year we are having a fifty foot by seventy-five foot garden.  Should be exciting!

Oh, and I got a full-time job finally.  I start in April and it will involve a lot more commuting than I am used to.

*For the irony impaired, I haven’t been slacking.  Quite honestly I’ve been as busy as a one-armed paper hanger!!!