Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reflecting back on 2009 and friendships

Gosh where did 2009 go?!!

It seems like just yesterday I was wishing for my first AI lambs to hit the ground. Hard to believe they are almost a year old already!

2009 was an amazing year. I traveled to several sheep shows to visit with friends, making lasting, stronger friendships, and I made new friends at the shows. Its always fun to brainstorm with others and listen to their flock goals and where they've been and how they came to finding sheep or Shetland/BFL sheep in general. Thanks to the internet, blogging, and breed associations, I've been able to meet many whom I consider some of my best friends! Whether we agree or disagree on what we do with our sheep, or what our priorities are with them, we never let that get in the way of our friendships. And I can say with the exception of one person, everyone I've met through blogging I consider a friend. Friends look out for each other, stick up for each other when they are getting slandered, call them when they are down, and are there to lend an ear or shoulder. So thank you to all of you who were my friends this year. The sheep are really secondary in that matter. Sheep will come and go but friends will always be around, in some form or another.

I got my amazing NASSA news in the mail much quicker this time and in prestine condition! I must thank those who take the time to write down their experiences on paper (or computer I guess these days), share their life experiences, photos, notes, knowledge. It does not go unnoticed! I am always wanting to learn as much as I can about our ancient Shetlands and am thankful for those both in NA and the UK that have shared their time with me and answered questions that I've posed.

Its also very easy to take things the wrong with the advancement of online chatter. Unfortunately that seems to get taken more the wrong way than the way its supposed to be taken. I cannot apologize for how others read and react to my blog posts, but its never meant as passive aggressive or as a dig. Shame on you for thinking that! For those of you who know me, you know that I am very serious about my sheep, very willing to learn and listen to others and hope that by expressing my thoughts on my blog, that others will take that step to discuss the same issues on their blogs, all in friendly discussion, making it able to be used as education for all, and in turn, creating a better understanding everyone.

Many of you I would not have met, had it not been for the blog. I've sold fleeces because of it, traveled to different parts of the country because of it, and made many friends I would have never met otherwise.

I think that Corinne and Nancy are the most funny people I've ever met (aside from Stephen) and they always make me laugh when we are together. They truly are the friends you would think of when you are sitting in a jail cell and laughing together about how fun it was to do whatever we just did to get in trouble. ok maybe not THAT extreme but you get the idea ;) Never would have met them, had it not been for blogs and sheep!

Theresa and Juliann are amazing ladies with a wealth of knowledge about the breed, production aspects, genetic aspects, they are both wonderful and amazing people.

Stephen is such a gracious host for Michigan Fiber Fest each year and has two houses full of sheep people staying with him. He takes us on field trips around the area for landscape nurseries, shops, restaurants, bars, you name it, he has amazing ones close to him.

Many thanks to the ladies in Minnesota! Sabrina, Becky, Kim and Gail for having opportunities to get together and talk sheep or just hang out! You are all great gals who I am honored to know and call you friends. Any time I need a sheep 'fix' and not be looked at strangly, you are there. So thank you!

Thank you to Cynthia for being there from the very beginning! You are a true friend and mentor, going way above and beyond any sales exchange and letting me ask questions upon questions and constantly ask 'why'. Many thanks my friend. You are very loved :) And I thank you very much for being so supportive along the way!

I should probably stop mentioning names for fear of forgetting others, but if your blog is on my links, let it be known that you all make positive impressions on me and I'm eager to continue to grow and learn together with all of you, while strengthing friendships.

Truly when we are old (well some will be older faster than ME :P) and the sheep have to leave due to our inabilities to care for them properly I do hope that we will remain friends and still get together for laughs.

Friends. It feels good! Happy 2010 and may it be very blessed for you all! I hope that 2010 will allow our paths to cross many times and our joy in our sheep can be expressed between us!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

We Made It!

What a joke! This was NOT a blizzard for us! Granted we go a lot of snow but it came over three days. I still will go back out tomorrow to get the driveways cleaned off 100% and salt them down as its melting off the roofs and causing ice on the driveways....

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, or Happy Holiday for those who choose to celebrate other traditions.

While this snow fell I left the barn doors open so the girls could come in and out (rather than have to wait for me to do it as I didn't know the time of day I'd ever be home). Turns out everyone, including the BFLs had snow 'piles' on their backs...A sign of good insulation..... and none of them had even left evidence behind in the barns that they were inside at all! The Shetlands now are happily making 'fox and goose' trails all over their winter paddock. Truly a beautiful sight to behold.

My family held off with Christmas supper for me to join them...even if it was the tail end of the meal as I had to go home first, do chores, shower and change and then pack up my gifts for them and head over the 1 mile to my sister's new house. I got everything I asked for/needed/wanted and now I just need use them! I finally got an external harddrive so I can store all my photos and music on it, and I got a bagless vacuum for all the dog hair! WOHOO!! Other wonderful gifts included new dress clothes (for dog shows they told me.....see...they ARE learning), candy, winter gloves and hat for work, and Season Six of Will and Grace! Guess what I'm watching this week!

The best part however was on Christmas Eve my mom and dad and I went to the candle light church service at our church in town. It always gives me goosebumps. And even though I didn't play my trumpet this year, I still felt very blessed and loved while I sat in the church. Happy Birthday Jesus!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

edited snow forecast

they are now saying a definite 14-18 inches for us. We'll see if it pans out......

Right now its lightly snowing and I have all the snow equipment ready, the vehicles in the garage, the wood pile covered with a tarp, the agility jumps and weaves in the house thawing (I know its a bit late to be bringing them in) the cows and sheep have a new deep bedding of straw and hay bales are down and stacked and ready to feed when there is little time to do more than throw them into the feeders in the next few days.

If I don't get a chance to say it....

MERRY CHRISTMAS to all of my BLOGGER FAMILY!

Bring it on!!

URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE GRAND FORKS ND
410 AM CST WED DEC 23 2009

...POWERFUL STORM SYSTEM TO AFFECT THE REGION INTO THE CHRISTMAS
WEEKEND...

.A VERY LARGE AND SLOW MOVING STORM SYSTEM DEVELOPING OVER THE
SOUTHERN PLAINS WILL SPREAD SNOW ACROSS EASTERN NORTH DAKOTA AND
NORTHWESTERN MINNESOTA THE NEXT FEW DAYS. LOW PRESSURE DEVELOPING
IN OKLAHOMA WILL SLOWLY MOVE INTO IOWA BY CHRISTMAS MORNING THEN
BECOME NEARLY STATIONARY. DUE TO THE SLOW MOVEMENT OF THIS
LOW...ABUNDANT MOISTURE WILL MOVE NORTHWARD FROM THE GULF OF
MEXICO INTO THE COLD AIR OVER THE NORTHERN PLAINS. SNOW IS
FORECAST TO DEVELOP OVER THE SOUTHERN VALLEY REGION TONIGHT THEN
SPREAD NORTH...WITH SNOW CONTINUING INTO SATURDAY. THIS COULD
BRING STORM TOTALS OF 8 TO 14 INCHES OVER MANY LOCATIONS. HIGHER
AMOUNTS ARE POSSIBLE NEAR THE SOUTH DAKOTA BORDER AND WEST CENTRAL
MINNESOTA LAKES COUNTRY (THAT"S ME GUYS!!)
. NORTHERLY WINDS WILL INCREASE ON FRIDAY
TO 15 TO 30 MPH WITH HIGHER GUSTS. THIS WOULD RESULT IN POOR
VISIBILITY.

TRAVEL FOR CHRISTMAS EVE AND CHRISTMAS DAY WILL LIKELY BE
HAZARDOUS AND ANYONE WITH TRAVEL PLANS SHOULD STAY TUNED FOR
FORECAST UPDATES AS THE TRACK OF THE STORM AND SNOWFALL AMOUNTS
CAN CHANGE.
MNZ003-030-031-040-NDZ029-039-261015-
/O.UPG.KFGF.WS.A.0011.091224T0000Z-091226T0800Z/
/O.NEW.KFGF.WS.W.0011.091224T0600Z-091226T1200Z/
CLAY-WEST OTTER TAIL-EAST OTTER TAIL-GRANT-STEELE-CASS-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...MOORHEAD...FERGUS FALLS...
NEW YORK MILLS...ELBOW LAKE...FINLEY...FARGO
410 AM CST WED DEC 23 2009
...WINTER STORM WARNING IN EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT TONIGHT TO 6 AM
CST SATURDAY...

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN GRAND FORKS HAS ISSUED A WINTER
STORM WARNING FOR HEAVY SNOW...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT
TONIGHT TO 6 AM CST SATURDAY. THE WINTER STORM WATCH IS NO LONGER
IN EFFECT.

* SNOW WILL DEVELOP TONIGHT AND THEN CONTINUE INTO SATURDAY.

* SNOWFALL AMOUNTS OF 10 TO 15 INCHES COULD OCCUR WITH THIS
SYSTEM WITH THE HEAVIEST AMOUNTS ALONG THE SOUTH DAKOTA
BORDER.

* THE WIND TONIGHT INTO THURSDAY WILL NOT BE A SIGNIFICANT
FACTOR...TURNING NORTH AND INCREASING TO 20 TO 30 MPH THURSDAY
NIGHT AND FRIDAY CAUSING REDUCED VISIBILITY. EAST OF THE RED
RIVER VALLEY WINDS WILL BE 10 TO 25 MPH. THESE WINDS WILL CAUSE
REDUCED VISIBILITY IN BLOWING SNOW.

* ANYONE WITH TRAVEL PLANS FOR CHRISTMAS EVE AND CHRISTMAS DAY
SHOULD MONITOR LATER FORECASTS FOR UPDATES.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A WINTER STORM WARNING FOR HEAVY SNOW MEANS SEVERE WINTER WEATHER
CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF SNOW
ARE FORECAST THAT WILL MAKE TRAVEL DANGEROUS. ONLY TRAVEL IN AN
EMERGENCY. IF YOU MUST TRAVEL...KEEP AN EXTRA FLASHLIGHT...
FOOD...AND WATER IN YOUR VEHICLE IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rams for sale

I have several rams available now. If transportation is an issue, I can house them for $1/day until they can be picked up or arranged transportation. All rams micron tested and all mature rams blood tested negative for OPP, Johne's, CL and BT

UnderTheSon Arapaho - moorit nearly 2 year old ram. proven ram. dark moorit color, all lambs have been dynamite conformation. Very mellow ram.

FirthofFifth Barish - F1 Timothy - homozygous black - gray katmoget ram. He carries modified, spots and is a half poll with abherent horns. Conformation is lovely with a nice crimpy fleece. dark katmoget face and a gentlman.

FirthofFifth Angus - shaela gulmoget - A gorgeous colored modfied ram with a very mellow personality. Could carry moorit and spots.

WhitePine Uphaz - F1 Minder - musket smirslet sokket ram lamb. 69% uK. He may be abherent horned as his horns are growing differently. AgAa, SsSs, BbBb, MMMm

WhitePine Phineas - F1 Orion F3 Greyling/F3 Jamie 75% - musket - scurred ram. Very crimpy fleece, even, soft. In at the hocks.

There may be others available if you inquire :) Its an odd time of the year to be buying rams but I wanted to get it out there that they are available.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Yes I love my sheep

Don't get me wrong. I DO love my sheep. I"m not just a numbers fanatic or a production fanatic. Then again they aren't ALL tame, because they all have different personalities. Heck not all people are nice either!

Today I loved my sheep. I sat with the BFL group and had them nearly maul me over for scratches. I never give cookies or treats. They just come to me for that scratch and then get glossy eyed....until they've had enough and then they go back to what they were doing. I then sat with the Shetland ewes. Man do they look huge already. They must really like that grass hay I have for them :) I then went and sat with the BFL ram Kirkdale and my Texel ram Champ. They sure are sweethearts. Champ has really calmed down since those Shetland-Cheviots have gone back in with the mature ewe pen. I'm not going to lie..I love that cross but man are the W.I.L.D!!

Kirk and Champ never really pushed each other around when I introduced them. Those two rams, and Burma once I get him home will be housed separately from the horned Shetland rams. Poor Burma last winter was pushed around I think too much by the big Shetland horns. Now that I have multiple polled rams they will just stay together as a small group. I'm still blown away by how great this Texel is. If they didn't have lambing problems I'd be all about them. This guy has totally won me over with the breed. Kirk is always his respectable self and he leads with just a finger under his chin. Such a gentleman to his ladies too. Both I think are really stewards for their breeds (and great showcases of their breeders).

Today we had the water line freeze in the barn. For the dairy cows it was fine. The cows kept the barn above freezing and we had the line suspended from the ceiling (the barn was built way before indoor plumbing back in 1892). and so we have heat tape, pipe insulation and house insulation around the pipes and yet sometimes the heat tape quits working or its JUST THAT COLD! Today was that day. After a short thaw process with a handheld propane heater the tubs were filled again with water. I ran to town to take some deposits to the bank and when I returned I only saw TWO shetland ewes in their winter paddock. Ok I KNOW they all cannot fit in the one shelter in that pen and raced to the barn. Somehow...they managed to open the door that swings INTO their pen.....and were running the alleys eating every single bale of hay and leaving one big lose hay mess. Needless to say they ate their fill for the day and are NOT getting supper......I don't think they could fit any more in those rumens anyway!

Yes I still love my sheep. :P

Monday, December 7, 2009

dolldrums and seeking data information on sheep

So its taken about a week to accumulate enough snow to equal about 3/4" on the frozen ground. Just the day before Thanksgiving it was still 45 degrees. This next week the highs are single digits. I'm not ready for the extreme cold. But if its going to be this cold, we should have a lot more snow! The snow insulates our water and sewer lines and helps keep plants roots from drying out and dying.


I've not much to report with the sheep. Breeding groups have been done for awhile. The clean up rams are back in with the rest of the boys and its now the long wait for lambs to arrive.

I've hit a wall so to speak with the sheep. I absolutely love my two breeds. I love everything about them. Their diversity, their uses, their personalities, their wool, their amazing traits. I have however realized that for the most part, those who keep these two breeds keep them for their wool and not really from a production standpoint. And I want both dang it!! Most meat breeds are bred and selected for with EBV's (estimated breeding values), mothering abilities, milk, lambing ease, lambing growth etc. There is no data for my two breeds as they are used for wool here mostly in the US. Granted BFLs are supposed to be the premier crossing ram onto hill and upland ewes. Its gaining popularity here in the US, but still not at the speed I was hoping for. They are known as a wool breed here as the wool is in high demand. I"m doing my part in compiling data, as like me, my neighbors who raise meat breeds select their next replacement animals based on data like lamb weight, average daily gain (or grass raised), weaning weight, and not so much on emotions or personalities (although temperament is highly sought after). With the Shetlands and BFLs its more of a 'crap shoot' with breeding pens. yes you can breed for structure, you can breed for wool qualities and mothering qualities but not to the degree you can with the cattle. The cattle seem to have a better predictability when having used their EPDs/EBVs for the past several decades.

Shetlands are mainly used for their wool. Some people just keep them as pets, some actually eat them too (and boy are they excellent tasting!). I guess perhaps blogs with the sheep folk are more 'friendly posts that are more happy-go-lucky', which is fine, but it seems the moment I talk about how no sheep is perfect and trying to improve my flock all these red flags go up and people start coming down on me for trying to improve the breed or make them something they are not.

I"m not doing that.

Read that sentence again!

I was on the phone for three hours on Friday with a friend from Colorado. He, like myself, is in the same two breeds and had agreed that its hard to talk production or stocking rates or EBVs with the majority of our fellow breeders as most do not have a desire to know this, or just simply don't care. Now that's not a dig at anyone! Its perfectly fine if you have a spinner's flock, or are just breeding for fun or whatever, but it should also be allowed to talk about production. The breeds are not typically known for data for production, but why can't we have something to go on?

I'm not in to changing the Shetlands or BFLs into something they aren't. But I am wanting to know what our 'base' is for each breed. What is our range of birth weights? What is our range of fleece weights? milk? body condition? If we were able to create a base, we could look at them and compare them (if nothing else but to just compare) to other breeds that are similar in nature, or completely opposite. What is wrong with taking down numbers that we currently could get and see the results? Wouldn't it be fun to see how a Shetland birth weight compares to say a Dorper or Columbia or something? Just to have that data available to people who have curious minds like myself?

Maybe if person A had a flock who had the highest weaning weights, would be highly sought after for replacement ewes, if they were what the buyer wanted (i.e. pasture raised, no grain, naturally resistant to worms, etc). It might be another selling point. Maybe you don't want huge sheep or fast growing sheep! Find those flocks that have slower growing animals or find a flock that had the fleece weights you wanted. It would be more helpful if we had data fields to report this to, and then be able to compare them across the breed. Its not 'improving' the breed, its just defining where we all are with our breed as a whole. And figuring out where in that range of data your animals and your goals fit.

The cattle business is quite a bit bigger. They've done a great job of promoting beef, they've pooled their resources, come up with cutting edge technology like DNA testing, color coat testing, genetic disorder testing and loads of production based and maternal based data. I guess I'm spoiled with all the OPEN information. People WILLINGLY give their calving records, (birth, weaning, yearling) and maternal records to the open database! People are happy to claim in the Simmental breed that they can in fact register something that is only 1/4 Simmental and go on to make note of what the other 3/4 of the animal is. that 3/4 is then used in the database as well. They go back to the breeds that make up that 3/4 and take the data from that breed and then use that percent to figure out what affect it would have on the animal overall. Its an amazing thing.

Our association just passed a new rule by the B.O.D. that all animals of certain blood lines (breeds associated with the genetic diseases) had to be tested for 1-4 new DNA testable genetic diseases. While I think this can have a negative effect initially, I believe that in the long run it will better benefit our breed(s) of cattle as a whole as we will no longer have to worry about these terrible genetic diseases popping up down the road, like they are now.

Gosh I've barely scratched the surface and have said a lot, but still not really felt like I've defined anything I wanted to.

Maybe I'll just shut up and end with a few photos from today....



Friday, December 4, 2009

Newest Trumpeters arrive from Utah!

MANY THOUSANDS of THANKS to Greg Pola in Utah for sending me these amazing birds! I am completely smitten with these birds, but especially this first hen. She is oozing breed type and has the "S" shape that we are striving for. Beautiful crest and mane, with a nice tuft, nice rich andalusian color and nice width for a hen. She's a beauty!

Below, Andalusian splash hen
her mate, a black cock. He is standing up in the photo but is much more handsome than that :)
A stunning black splash cock. I love his hard feathering and crest, and beauitufl 50/50 splash marking.
His mate, a young Andalusian hen. She's also very typey with good color.
This red cock below blew me away. He has gorgeous depth of color for that color (red0 and is a very powerful bird with a thick neck, wide body and short length.
His mate. A yellow hen who is VERY stylish and typey. Beautiful color and depth of underbody. I'm in love!

Many thanks again Greg! Your help is so very appreaciated!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Newest Pigeons arrive from Arizona!

Many thanks to Joe Hammons who sent me these three amazing pair of English Trumpeter Pigeons. As many of you know I lost most of my hard work with the pigeons last fall to a terrible disease I brought back from a show. Joe and other good friends and stewards of the breed have come forward, without asking them to, to donate new birds to me to help me get restarted in the breed. These birds are better than most I've ever bred so it gives me excitement to start with such quality birds!

Karma really does come back around.....all those years of donating birds to young kids or friends in Mexico or Bermuda were never ever thought of anything more than gifts. I never wanted to do anything more than help new people out. And here to my surprise, I am gifted in return. I am truly Blessed!

Below is a young English Trumpeter cock bird with the color of what we call "Dun". Its dilute black genetically. All of their muffs were trimmed so they would not have issues when being shipped (and yes we ship them through the Post Office!)


A beautiful typey young dun hen.

An old red splash cock (anything two years old and older is considered 'old') Our classes are young, yearling, old, in both cocks and hens, and then in all recognized 28 colors.
Old red hen
young yellow cock
young yellow hen

My next shipment of ETs (English Trumpeters) should be arriving from Utah either today or tomorrow! Photos will be forthcoming..

Shetland Breeding Groups

Every year the long anticipated breeding groups always seem to catch me by surprise. Had it not been for my severely sprained ankle, I prob...