Saturday, July 31, 2010

699th post

This is my 699th post.

For my 700th, I would like to give away a few prizes. I have several raw fleeces I would like to get out to the public, and am thinking I'd like to have a larger 'door prize' of some sort but am having difficulties thinking of one. Aside from a free lamb. (live, not frozen!)

Any suggestions?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Happy Times

Today is a good day to be me. Not because anything special happened today, but just because I feel happy. Well happier than normal.

I love my UK Shetland friends! I've made so many new friends by emailing, calling and post mail to various folk on the Shetland Isles, Scotland, England and Wales. I thank them all for their time on the phone and taking time to email and send articles and history to me.

Its no lie that I love SSS and SFBT Shetlands and where better to learn and educate oneself than by the folk who have had them their whole lives, or at least longer than I have?

I've counted yearlings and mature ewes. I have 47. I'm planning on breeding 25 to pure (maybe 20) but I can't get down to that number so easily. I'm also excited about things in the works in the UK for me personally but more on that when it is official.

Its almost August and although its been cool and VERY RAINY this summer, it is indeed feeling like fall. The Oats is yellow and ready to be harvested. The lambs are looking amazing and my breeding goals are all up in the air right now.

I want to use CIDRs on the ewes this year. NOT to get early lambs, but to time them in groups so they are in a smaller window of lambing. 9 weeks is just too long to do barn checks every night many times. By the end I was just saying 'good luck girls' at midnight and went out at 6am to usually find some new lambs.

CIDRs would be helpful as then all the lambs would be born prior to my yearly trip for the Cardigan Welsh Corgi Nationals. This next April it is in Houston, TX. I haven't been to Texas in 18 years! It will be fun to see the city! I can't wait to go revisit the downtown and take a ride on one of the little boats that takes you through the downtown district!

I have two ways I could go this fall for breeding groups. First route is using three polled Shetland rams and Burma and/or a second natural colored ram. The second route is using Pogo, Arapaho and Jazz all heavily again, have them sent off for collection (for semen collection domestically) and use Burma/other BFL colored ram for Mules.

Thus far i have 19 Shetlands ready for the BFLs. I just am having a hard time doing that. I know its only for a year. I know that i can use the girls again in purebred the following year. I think a lot will have to decide on the direction that NASSA decides to take. If they continue to get back to their routes, follow their own by-laws, and support those breeders who are breeding towards the standard, or if they decide to let everyone breed what they will. I've already decided I cannot live with the latter decision. It is after all a breed association. its not a group of friends who all have commercial sheep.

My mentor is getting out of Shetlands. She has long believed in this breed but has been failed by NASSA in her quest for the best she can breed. While I understand her reason for letting go it saddens me greatly and I find it not nearly as exciting to not be able to share our day to day trials and tribulations with each other, sharing lambing excitement or disappointment, or just being there as an ear or shoulder. Whichever is needed.

I'm happy today because I celebrate the joy in owning Shetlands. Thank you Cynthia for taking a chance on me and giving me great guidance in my quest for knowledge on this breed. Thanks to everyone else who has helped mold me into what i am today. :)

Wine and sheep scratching. Can there be anything better??!!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

a few sheepie updated photos

This was the storm that passed through yesterday between 3am and 3pm. It was really wave after wave of tornadoes, hail, high winds, heavy rain and then it would remain dark and start all over again. Yesterday we had a total of 4 MORE inches. Our two week total is over 20 inches. That is nearly half of our annual rain fall. We typically have very hot and dry July and August. The photo was taken around noon. notice how dark it was. it was also only 64 degrees. Once the system passed and it got back to normal, temps were in the 80s and it was very very muggy.

RYL Rachildas the 8 year old white ewe and her ewe lamb out of Jazz, WhitePine Regina.
Here is a closer photo of Regina.
RiverOaks Eliza. She is such a love! Here she is deciding if she should come in for a chin scratch or go lay down with her son......
I guess her son won out..... He is an F1 Timothy son and 59% UK. He and Regina are just a shade under the size of their mothers.
On the left is WhitePine Charity, a yearling gray katmoget out of FirthofFifth Barish and WhitePine Castle Rock. She is F2Timothy F3 Jericho F4 Drum Ram etc. She has really blossomed as a yearling! The right is WhitePine Neriah, also a yearling. She is out of Wintertime Blues (Jazz's twin brother) and ShelteringPines Nirvana, a gray katmoget horned ewe that is one of my favorites! Neriah was bred to the polled ram WhitePine Levi and gave me a beautiful gray katmoget ewe lamb I named Norah (Jones). It was a good blend.
I 'believe' this is a photo of Neriah. You can see her subtle hints at facial white spots. She had obvious ones at birth. I really like this ewe.
Potosi Llandewwi and a ram lamb out of Beechtree Kirkdale and ShelteringPines Corsica.
This handsome lad is one of few solid moorit ram lambs I raised this year. Out of Sheltering Pines Myra (ShelteringPines Starry Night x ShelteringPines Morgan Le Fey) and an F1 Orion homegrown boy. He's really looking fantastic!

I have gone through my first evaluations of ram lambs 16 have made the initial cut. There are some that I have that blood line already in a different ram and will offer them for sale now.

WhitePine Beck - F2 Orion F2 Timothy etc. Fawn Katmoget Smirslet. Scurred. Ab/Aa, Bb/Bb, Ss/Ss. Carries modifed from his daddy.

WhitePine Ray J - F2 Orion. small smirslet behind ears and on forehead. Longer fleece will most likely be double coated. Minwawe dam. Is fawn but could also turn mioget. Lovely horns. larger than dam already.

WhitePine Eminem - F2 Jericho - gray katmoget smirslet. Jazz x Sommarang Emerald. His mom is wildly spotted and he will carry that. Will most likely have a 5-6" fleece.

WhitePine Guetta - F2 Orion - moorit/fawn gulmoget. Ephraim x Wintertime Galina (forrest daughter). He doesn't seem to have very much side dusting right now and will have a 5-6" fleece. Carries solid.

WhitePine Twista - F2 Orion - moorit. will have more like a 4" fleece. has remained darker.

WhitePine Toby Mac - F2 Orion - black gulmoget smirslet. brother to Twista. Very similar fleece. Carries moorit and solid.

WhitePine Coolio - F2 Jamie F2 Holly. small scurs (poll carrier) gray katmoget. carries moorit.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Shetland Lamb Chops Dinner

I'm going to be posting this to BOTH my farm and dog blogs AND Facebook because its THAT amazing. Seriously. My mentor in cooking and one of my best friends, Briony, has helped me learn to cook for the better part of a decade. When she visits we do more gourmet food that us northern Midwest folk may not be always accustomed to. :)

We take photos of our meals and then comment on them. Good memories. Unfortunately these photos do NOT do them justice. My newer digital camera has lost its screen. Meaning it went blank. I can't see what I'm shooting and I can't change the settings really more than between action, flower and auto. It bites. So please excuse the fuzzy photos. Also the date is wrong on the camera I see now also, after uploading the photos. it really happened today. the 27th of July, 2010. Honest!

I was not trying to impress my dinner guest, but I wanted to make something that I could make easily, in a short amount of time and still spend most of my time with my dinner guest.

I was in the grocery store for nearly an hour trying to decide exactly which direction I wanted to go. No Corinne I wasn't lost, I was on the phone with Briony. I had a set idea I wanted to do: lamb chops, baby red potatoes and asparagus, and then wine and salad and maybe some fruit.

I prepped most of what i could and this is what i came up with:

Munchies: fresh watermelon and cantaloupe and home brewed Ice Tea.

Salad: Spinach with Feta cheese, sliced almonds, fresh sliced strawberries and a blush wine vinaigrette dressing. It was simple and fantastic! Photo is below.
Oh yes. We had a white wine before the meal also, and a nice red wine with the meal. And ice water. Hey it was hot out. Lightly toasted sourdough slices of bread with locally made butter...soft gooey inside with a crisp crust. I love bread so could eat this all the time.

Shetland lamb chops that were marinated for a few hours with some Malbec red wine, smoked and sliced garlic and soy sauce. Then they were grilled briefly on my grill and served pink in the middle.

Baby red potatoes pan fried in natural olive oil with sea salt, black pepper and thyme and pimentos, and the 3" pieces of asparagus were added the same time as the pimentos after being started as steamed in the microwave. Maybe took 8 minutes to cook and serve everything. Honest.

Below is the table setting and all the goodies. My friend told me that I was an amazing cook and that he'd eat my food everyday! Success! He also had never had lamb or asparagus or Feta cheese (or a salad like that before) and they were all amazing. He said the lamb was the best meat he had ever tasted bar none and that really made my day! He also said he hasn't eaten a 'gourmet meal' like that ever before, or eaten that well in a long time. Cool, huh?

Open invite to those of you who read this to come over for supper! I love to cook and have house guests. you bring the wine and I'll supply the food and we'll be good to go!

Monday, July 26, 2010

A trip to Jim Chastain's farm

While out at BSG I had the pleasure of officially meeting Jim Chastain. For those of you unaware, Jim is a past NASSA president and Board member. Jim has been to the Shetland Islands 14 times so far and has a great network of people he has met while on his trips. To date Jim has brought over semen from four white rams and two colored ones (Drum Jings, Ridland Ram, Island Skeld, Kier Gordon for whites and Drum Ram (black) and Brent (moorit)).

After talking most of Friday and Saturday with Jim, ever chance I could get (I asked a TON of questions in regards to the Shetland Island sheep), he invited me up on Sunday to see his flock. I did a quick change of plans and arrived just after lunch time to see his sheep. His wonderful wife Brandy and him had already caught up the entire flock of ewes and they were waiting for my hands on personal inspection. THEIR ENTIRE EWE FLOCK! I was IN heaven. How many opportunities do you have to go through each ewes fleece and body score??

These first two photos show the girls waiting in the squeeze area. What a great looking bunch of girls! Time to get my hands on them!

Below are the 8 ewes that I liked the best. There were two jet black, non fading yearlings that he would not let me even look at (he liked them that much) but these were all available to sell. MY PICK! After another round of evaluations, I ended up bringing home a white ewe, the shaela ewe in front of the rest and a fawn/mioget ewe. All yearlings.

This is the shaela ewe in the chute. She was one of my first that I put my hands on, and remained one of my top contenders all the way through to the end. Both her and mioget/fawn ewe are F2 Orion F3 Drum Ram and are actually 81.25% UK
Jim and Brandy no longer show their sheep. Nor do they advertise them. It seems most in the Northwest (and this is my opinion after seeing those sheep) prefer to 'breed for what they like' rather than what the Standard and the Shetland Isles are breeding for. Unfortunately for the Chastain's, this means lower sales each year. However.

Looking at these lambs I was just amazed as how solid they were! They would not sell any katmogets, and the kats sure look different than what i am used to seeing here, but they are katmoget nonetheless.


The black and katmoget lambs are out of Jim's Black F1 Orion/F2 Drum Ram pictured below. He is also the sire of my two colored ewes.
The black rams are both F1 Orion/F2 Drum Ram. The ram hiding in the back is the sire of my two colored ewes. The three white rams with big horns are all F1 Skeld, and the white ram with the smaller horns is the F1 Ridland ram. The white ewe I brought home is a daughter of his. I'm the only other person in the US with that blood line. Pretty cool huh?

The Chastain's were an amazing couple. Friendly, welcoming, full of knowledge that I soaked up like a sponge. They were so generous in their offering of MY PICK of their entire ewe flock, that I'll be forever grateful for that. So thank you Jim and Brandy! You have given me some great new sheep!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Cattle are finally out to summer pasture

We kept 8 cows that are 9 months pregnant home. They are all due any moment. Seriously. I've not typically had cows calving so late but I wanted to have some of the UK semen utilized the first year. So far from that semen I have a red/white and a yellow/white. Both bulls. Due to the limited semen (20 straws of each) I will be retaining both to evaluate as yearlings. Lord only knows what these 8 at home will produce. They'll be spotted. I'm hoping for a lot of heifers and yellow!

The larger group of 19 went to our northern pasture. Its about 30 acres of lower lying area, where the grasses never dry out. Since nothing has grazed it this year some of the meadow grasses are taller than the cows back! Its so impressive. The stock ponds are full of water to the brim and the clovers, fescues and other grasses are so lush they will have a glorious time out there. There is so much grass I am hoping to not have to bring them home until deer hunting season which is the 1st weekend in November.

What a great stress reliever!

The rest of the day will be spent mowing my lawn, my parents, my sister's, and then weed pulling and setting up the dog agility courses again. I'd hate to get the girls too rusty :)

Enjoy your day everyone! its a beautiful one here!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Thank you Shetland Breeders

I've been going through and updating my spread sheets for my sheep. Every year I track things like UK lines, % UK, micron variation in lines and within animals. I also remember things that I have forgotten over the past year.

Like RiverOaks Lucy is a Justalit'l Black Lambo great grand daughter. I have both of them :) They are the foundation of my polled stock here. Two vary different ewes, but yet have a lot of the same qualities I found appreciative of in the first place.

Looking at the CURRENT flock genetic makeup, I wish to thank the following people for allowing me to purchase sheep from them. Becky Utecht (2), Karen Valley (1), Meghan Namaste (1), Lori Stephanson (2), Wally Rutledge (1), Gail Former (1). Jim Chastain (3), Tami Mulder (2), Susan Kimball (3), Stephen Rouse (4), and my mentor Cynthia Allen (11). The balance are all ewes that I've retained from my breedings. I have purchased from others but their sheep are no longer in my flock for a host of reasons that are not the fault of the breeder (mastitis, fence jumpers, etc), and there are other flocks that I'm hoping to still add something from in the future (Theresa, Sabrina, Michelle, Rich/Jen, Franna, Juliann).

With the constant mission of the 1927 Standard in front of me and in my mind (and not something made from one person's opinion like the 2004 handbook), I will continue to strive for sheep that represent the breed that the Shetlander's have grown to love and depend on for food, clothing and humor :)

The concerns with my father have been fixed, for ten years, at which point my dad hopes that I can purchase the farm from him. WOW. That's a huge responsibility! Am I ready for it? Maybe in 10 years I will be :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It really is about the breed, not you

I am quite concerned over the fervor that is resonating in some people's minds and voices over what a Shetland is. Not WAS. I don't care what they were 400 years ago. I'm concerned over preserving the breed NOW, according to the 1927 Standard.

When I first started purchasing sheep I purchased some single coated sheep. I also had purchased several very double coated sheep (because after all the breed is 'diverse'). However, after doing research and finding the Shetland Sheep Society website, I was convinced not all of my sheep were true representatives of the breed. This isn't bashing any one person's breeding program. Its not saying that I'm an apt pupil having found historic evidence in documents and photos to make me decide either way. I still HAVE some double coated sheep, but I don't use them for breeding purebred. And I don't register their lambs as being registrable. I also don't tell you that each of my lambs is show quality and how wonderful they are. Reality check. Its not about me. Or how well I can put breeding pairs together.

Its not about me making money at this, or more than you, or less than you. Its not about winning at a sheep show and bragging about it every time I open my mouth, or about coming in last at the long line of 20+ sheep. Its not about me being wrong and you being right or vice versa.

Its about preservation of what a Shetland Sheep should look like today, and since 1927 (or thereabouts). I am all for diversity. I have short legged and long legged sheep. I have some with more britch wool than I like, and some very consistent down their tail head. I have every pattern, and nearly every color. I have different sizes, head shapes and ear sets. I don't have one perfect sheep. nor one sheep I would think 'hey that's show quality'. They aren't perfect and don't fit the Standard perfectly, but I'm working it, and I think I'm progressing in the right direction.

I'm extremely hard on my sheep. I nit pick every day I am out there. Some days I look at them and think how far I've come. Other days I nearly cry over my lack of ability to move them further along to LOOK like sheep that fit the 1927 Standard.

And why do I care? I care because I care about the BREED. I care about the well being and preservation of the Shetland Sheep. I don't want newbies in ten years unable to decide on what kind of 40 varieties of "shetland sheep" that are out there to decide which one is really the true expression of the shetland sheep of the 1927 standard.

its true there are pockets of isolation, like on Foula, that have had no improvement one iota for decades due to the sheer isolation of the entire island. They also co-mingle their entire flock. The entire FLOCK on the island. not just my sheep and your sheep. EVERYBODY'S!

Why do I care so much? This breed of sheep has given my highest highs and my lowest lows. I am emotionally concerned for their well being as a breed and for their future. they are a very unique breed of sheep, unlike any other short tailed cousin they might have.

WE are supposed to be good stewards of the breed. To preserve and protect SHETLAND SHEEP. Not our pocketbooks, or egos or honestly our livelihood. Its time to stop being greedy and opposed to learning and becoming educated about what TRULY is representative of a Shetland of the 1927 Standard.

Let's learn together. I'm eager to find out all I can. And I want future shepherds to have the ability to proudly say they have the best breed of sheep out there. And its still recognizable as a Shetland.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Shell Shocked

My dad informed me this weekend he was 90% certain he wanted to sell all the cows (mine included) and rent all the cropland to the neighbor. I get that he has already spent over half his life farming and just wants to come home and mow the lawn.

This doesn't sit well with me. Even if I just have the pasture for my sheep, I would need approximately 2,000 small square bales to feed them through the winter. I can get that on two hay fields, but if they are rented out, I dont' have the money to buy that hay.

Moving to a mostly commercial flock of Mules bred to a Texel would in the end pay just for the hay and mineral and such. Is it even worth it?

I'm not sure what to think at this point. My dad has threatened that before, but never really thought about it. This time he seemed very certain and had spent a large part of his past few months thinking on it.

I can respect that decision, but I cannot live with it. Especially if I want to continue with my sheep and cattle. I'm not in a position to purchase a smaller farm either.

Prayers and thoughts are accepted :)

Friday, July 16, 2010

A pic from BSG

This was a great photo I found today in my email! Patricia Keeley (left) now lives in WA State and raises BFLs, but had raised Merinos with her husband in Nevada before they moved. I'm in the middle and on the right of the photo is Kathy Davidson. I'm pretty sure she knows, but Kathy ROCKS! I tell her all the time. She is one of my favorite sheep people and someone I highly respect and trust! Its always great catching up with her and I look forward to seeing them both again sometime soon!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Home

Being away (yes again) for a few days always gives me a refreshed and sometimes new outlook on my flock or herd.

I was gone to Jackson, Wyoming, where my cousin got married. Her new hubby lived out there before he met her and it is JUST AMAZING. I would move my entire operation out there if I had somewhere to work. Unfortunately most 'towns' are really just a post office and a general store (no really!)

I came home and found a package from a UK friend full of SSS Magazines, fleece samples, photos of their sheep and other neat articles. I explained most of it on the Finewool Shetland list.

When I went to the pasture, I was able to look at ram lambs and see horn growth with a new eye (instead of the same one that looks at them 5 times a day). I was able to see ewes' condition better after being away, and some sheep that were hidden in the flock before presented themselves tonight with a 'wow' factor.

It was all very exciting.

This week I have several people coming to pick up sheep. I'm pretty excited for them to see my flock and new lambs, as well as get them their 'new' sheep. I hope they are very happy with them and that they go on to produce well for them. I love that I have animals in my flock that others are interested in and for that, I am honored.

I am off to bed. I am too tired to function much more and need to snuggle my dogs before I crash on the bed!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Yellow Simmental Calves

I've been trying to breed traditionally marked Simmental (like the ones in the Simme Valley, Switzerland) for the past 15 or so years. One step forward, two steps back has been the norm for me, so this year i was pleased to see THREE calves that are yellow!

I've been very fortunate to have THREE yellow calves born this year to purebred/fullblood Simmental cows. Below is SenSim Cricket (the red cow). She is out of a yellow spotted bull I raised and a wildy spotted red cow. I'm so surprised she came out so 'red' (little white). She was bred to the older bull RS Polled Ringeye. He is also wildly spotted red/white with goggle face (yuglet for you Shetland breeders) and her bull calf is the one that was born the day I left for BSG. He's the one that she is nosing in the photo. His 3/4 sibling is the one of the left. The yellow spotted girl out of Ramona that I thought was out of UK bull. I checked my breeding records and she is NOT out of that bull. But that's ok. She's yellow :)

Here is a bigger view (its not as blurry) I have to zoom from the sheep pasture or the cows don't stay in their 'normal/candid' state. The black cow is 100% Simmental, but is purebred, not fullblood (meaning she was bred up from an Angus x Simmental). The dark red bull in the right is our rented Red Angus bull. He's much more mellow and well behaved that our bull we leased from the same guy last year. The Simmental x Red Angus are THE hottest cross on the market now. The Hereford/Angus cross here died out a long time ago as a popular cross. The continental x british cross is by far way better in most any heterosis or crossbreeding program. All of my dad's black cows and my solid reds get bred to that bull. This year however, since our calves are so late (note not Mid March like normal) I'm trying to get them all bred back faster this year so I can do AI again on them next year.
The calf standing above is the girl, the boy is laying down.

Below is the UK sired yellow bull that we are bottling. He wouldn't stand still as it was evening meal and he was excited but he is a gorgeous BIG boy. Already close to 150 pounds. He was out of a wild s.o.b. first time mom and we had to pull him as she was not dilating and it had been 5 hours since her water broke (WAY TOO LONG!) and nothing was happening. His head was swollen for a few days. Its the first one we've had to pull in 7 years of purebred breeding. I was amazed. Even our big calves are born with ease. Apparently this wasn't meant to be.
he'll most likely be available as a butcher animal this fall/spring, but we are doing our best to not interact with him much, in the case he is our only UK bull calf and I want to keep him for breeding. His mother's line is not known for birthing issues so I was amazed his mom had any difficulties. It'll be closely monitored.

if none of this makes sense I can go into more detail, but didn't want to bore any of you non cattle people :)

Tentative breeding groups

The four rams I am using this fall, are all rams I offered for sale, with the intent to use them for breeding and then move them on to new h...