Thursday, March 30, 2006


I'm sorry for not posting, yesterday, but I was waiting for permission to post this. It's a list of "How To's" for people considering becoming Shepherds. It was posted to the Shetland Sheep Breeders Yahoo Group by one of my favorite Shepherdess's, Juliann. Juliann said she didn't make it up but made some changes to a similar list about horses...what EVER...I thought it was a HOOT!


-How to cure constipation in your sheep? Load them into the hatchback
of your new car.

-How to get a sheep to wash her own hooves? Scrub the water trough and
fill it with fresh water.

-How to get a ewe to settle on the first cover? Let the wrong ram go
through your fence.

-How to make sure that a ewe has that beautiful, perfectly marked lamb
you always wanted? Sell her before she lambs.

-How to get your ram to aggressively court and breed your ewes? Have
the local pre-school class out for a farm tour.

-How to induce a cold snap in the weather? Shear your flock.

-How to make it rain? Mow a field of hay.

-How to make a small fortune in the sheep business? Start with a large

If anyone has any ideas that they would like to ad to this list, please put them in the 'comments' below.

It's raining here in the Bluff Country. I'm thrilled because it was also 50-some degrees out today, so that means the GRASS WILL BE GETTING GREEN!!! Which of course means that the LAMBS WILL BE HERE SOON!!! I'll keep ya posted....... ;-)

Monday, March 27, 2006


Apparently, my husband did manage to get one picture before my camera batteries died on Saturday. This was me, on Saturday morning, picking VM (vegetable matter) out of Diva's fleece. They always get chafe, from the hay, in the wool on the back of their necks. It must itch because the girls actually seemed to enjoy me picking it out! I was happy with how each of my ladies would come up for me to pick out her fleece. A couple of minutes after this picture was taken, I had girls laying down on each side of me and the rest "standing in line", waiting their turn! ;-)
Unfortunately, my camera batteries died before shearing got under way, so I don't have any "during" shots. But I was glad to see that my girls forgave me for subjecting them to such an ordeal. Here they are ~ naked as jay-birds ~ Sunday afternoon when I went out to finally get some photos. Aren't they CUTE?! I think they look like fat, little deer. Someone else said 'goats' but I prefer to think of them as cute, little deer... I owe a big THANK YOU to Angie Little and Virginia Cooper, for pitching in to help out with shearing. My dear friends know how stressed out I get for shearing day, and were there to keep me from freaking out. (I hate seeing my poor, pregnant girls manhandled!) ;-) Angie even brought a wonderful hot-dish (that her HUSBAND made!) that we feasted on when the work was over. MOST excellent!
In the interest of sexual equality, here are the naked boys. My wonderful husband had the job of catching each of them when it was their turn to be sheared. He did a remarkable job (without help!) until we needed Skittles. Skit had watched each of the other boys walk up to Don and get caught and drug off to the garage, and he was not having ANY of it! After we chased him around for a while, I finally got the brainstorm of just leaving the garage door open. Sure enough, with all the other sheep still in the garage, it was only a minute before Skittles walked right in, on his own! Silly shepherds ;-)
here's a picture of Skittles "AFTER"
And here's my beautiful ALICE (the 5th annual "Alice Watch" will officially begin on April 1st)...
And per special request, here's Bravo:
If you have a particular sheep that you'd like to see a before and/or after picture of, just let me know and I'll post it for you!

Later this week, I'll show some of the beautiful fleeces that my beauties gave me...

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Shearing news and KNITTING (finally!)

Shearing is over and my flock looks GREAT! Not too fat, not too thin and all the girls are definitely pregnant ;-) My camera batteries died on me yesterday so I didn't get any pictures during the process. They are recharging right now so I will get some 'after' pictures and pictures of some of the fleeces up tomorrow.

In the meantime....Meet SUE THE EWE
Is she adorable or what???? My friend Kim sent me the link. It's to "EARTH HEART DESIGNS" and the pattern is available for sale there. Of course, everyone knows that sheep are flock animals and would never be happy by there's a friend for Sue...

I think these guys are too cute! I may just have to find an empty pair of needles....

Friday, March 24, 2006


I just saw BOTH parents and the babies on the WEB CAM. This is just SO cool! I'm putting a permanent link to this site in my side bar. Just think, we'll be able to watch these baby eagles grow up! How cool is that?

tomorrow is shearing. I probably won't have time to post tonight or tomorrow, but will show you all the gorey details (hopefully, I'm KIDDING!) soon...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

They even come in WHITE!!!

Meet "Bluff Country Flash Flood" Isn't she beautiful? I think she looks like an angel. She's the sweetest little thing you could ever ask for too; a very gentle ewe. I decided that I should show that I do also have some WHITE Shetlands. In fact I have two. Flash and her dam: "Lost Lake Farm Phoebe". They look very much alike. In fact it was Phoebe's angelic face (and incredible fleece!) that made me HAVE to buy her from her breeders in Indiana. Flash and Phoebe both have exquisite, "intermediate" fleece. By intermediate I mean it is longer stapled (5 to 6 inches) yet has the fineness and crimp typically found in the single-coated Shetlands. There is no discernible difference between inner & outer coats on an intermediate fleeced Shetland. Both Phoebe & Flash's fleece are incredibly soft and 'bouncy'. An absolute delight to spin and make the most luscious yarn!
These lovely white fleeces will be available for sale after shearing, this Saturday!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I just HAVE to share this....

I've been watching this site for a couple of weeks now. It's a web cam trained on a Bald Eagle's nest. The adults have been sitting on 3 eggs. One of the eggs has finally hatched! Things should get interesting now. Can you imagine? We'll be able to watch baby eagles learn to fly!!!!!! How cool is that?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Four more days...(and HST)

Only four more days until our flock is sheared! I'm anxious to see how pregnant my girls look. It's hard to tell under all that wool! This picture of "Diva" was taken in the fall ~ imagine the fleece on her NOW! She's going to look SO different without all that wool. I think my girls look like itty, bitty, little deer after they're sheared. Diva's fleece is already spoken for. It's going to Michigan!

When "Zorro" is sheared, he looks like he's wearing a black & white tuxedo! Diva is bred to Zorro for an April lamb. This is the first year that I've bred two HST (solid colored with white on the Head, Socks, and Tail) marked sheep to each other! I was afraid, in the past, that it would produce "flecket" markings (spotted bodies). I prefer the main body of the fleece to be solid color ~ which is why I decided to breed specifically for HST markings. I'm using 3 HST rams this year. Zorro, Paco & Bravo.

Paco ("Bluff Country Apocalypse") was the Grand Champion Shetland Ram at the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival's 2005 MSSBA show. He's a striking, moorit and white, HST ram with awesome horns. His fleece is reserved for 2006. Paco also lead Diva and Zaria (black & white, HST ewe) to the "Best Small Flock" award at the show. As far as I know (and I certainly could be wrong about this!) this is the first time an all HST flock was named best flock at a Shetland show in the United States. Needless to say, we are VERY proud ;-)

This is "Windswept Bravo". We purchased him from Heather & Mike Ludlam, of Windswept Shetlands, in Allegan, Michigan. Bravo turns one year old, this month. What an awesome ram he is! And he's got a gorgeous, incredibly dense, soft fleece. In fact, Bravo's is the only black, lamb's fleece that I will have for sale this year! It's going to be very interesting to see what these beautifully marked Shetlands look like after shearing on Saturday. I'll post lots of "after" pictures so stay tuned... If you are looking for a beautiful Shetland fleece to spin, e-mail me And keep your eye on this blog! I'll be posting more "before shearing" pictures of my flock this week and in just a few weeks, we'll have LAMBS!!!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

I'm gonna do this!

OK...first day on the new job. I got there at 6:30 AM (got up at 4) only to find out that TRAINING starts at 8:30 AM. My REGULAR shift will be from 6:30 'till 3:00. Needless to say, 8:30 to 4 was a LONG day today....

It was fun though, and I think I'm really going to like it. The good news is I don't have to be there until 8:30 tomorrow morning! That means I can SLEEP 'till 6!!!! Training lasts for 3 weeks. I could get used to this. ;-)

I'm too tired to write much, myself, tonight so thought I'd share this with you:

I saw this while I was searching through fiber blogs. I absolutely MUST try this at home... "Inside the pot" Dyeing 101

Since we're talking "primitives"...

I debated whether to put sheep pictures or knitting pictures up today. I know I really should put some knitting stuff up here, but thought that since I showed pictures of a primitive fleeced Shetland, in my last post, I may as well show my other primitive fleeced ewe today...
Is she beautiful or WHAT???

Zodiak is a 4 year old, black/iset Shetland ewe. "Iset" is a marking in which white fibers grow in among the darker fibers of the true fleece color. It is NOT grey (which is genetically Ag). In grey, the dark fibers actually lose their pigment and fade to grey. In iset, the dark fibers stay dark but white fibers grow in, in addition, giving a beautiful, 'frosted' look to the fleece. Both black & moorit sheep can develop iset fibers. It gives the fleece a lovely, heathery look, when spun into yarn. My iset fleeces are always among the first to sell. Although, Zodiak's fleece is not as long as Savannah's (see previous post), it is still clearly double-coated and consists of a shorter, finer undercoat and a longer, guard-hair type, outercoat. A number of people have told me that they love to dye iset fleeces because the black fibers do not take up the dye but the white ones do ~ resulting in amazing black & "whatever" color combinations in roving and yarn. I'll have to try that one day.....
In the meantime, I promise to get some knitting pictures up here this week! I start my new job, tomorrow and will not have the luxury of time that I've had this past week, but I'll try to keep this blog updated as regularly as I can. Coming up this week, watch for..."On the needles..."

Friday, March 17, 2006

Preparing a fleece...

MEET SAVANNAHIsn't she adorable? I got Savannah from Stephen Rouse of Sheltering Pines in Michigan. Savannah is a light "moorit" (reddish brown) Shetland with a VERY primitive fleece. Although, there seems to be growing evidence that Savannah is possibly "mioget"(golden) or "fawn" (taupe).
~ Savannah in the summer ~
By primitive fleece, I mean that Savannah's fleece is double coated, with a long, coarser (meaning larger diameter fibers ~ NOT "scratchy"!) outer coat and a shorter, finer under-coat. These double coated Shetlands are where the wool for the original Shetland Wedding Ring Shawls came from. The undercoat from the neck area has the finest, softest fiber to be found. The stronger,coarser outer coat is excellent for outer wear, rugs & socks. Savannah is a good example of a primitive Shetland. (I think she looks like the Lion in "The Wizard of Oz") Her fleece has a staple length of 10 to 12 inches, little to no crimp, but is very soft and dense. When crossed with my single-coated ram "Zorro", Savannah gave me lambs with exquisite "intermediate" fleece ~ medium length, dense, soft & crimpy. I'm hoping for twin, HST's this year! My black & white, HST ewe "Zaria" is out of Savannah, and I'd say she has the nicest fleece of any in my flock.Savannah has developed a great deal of "Iset" (white fibers growing in with the colored fleece) in the past year. Her coat also sunbleaches considerably, giving it an almost blonde look on the outer fleece. Inside it's a mixture of golden brown, reddish brown, greyish brown, and very light brown ~ almost cream colored. EXTREMELY beautiful!
~ Savannah's "raw" fleece ~

Once I have "skirted" the fleece (removed any undesirable parts, excess vegetable matter or extremely dirty areas) I either wash it or proceed to "flick" it before carding... You can see the board with carding cloth I have on my skirting table. I find this board less tiresome for my hands than using a brush to flick open the locks. I simply flick (kind of a patting, pulling, lifting motion!) each lock across the wire teeth of the cloth, to open up the ends and remove second cuts or vegetation.
~ Flicking a lock ~I continue flicking each lock until the whole fleece is done. I do realize that MOST people do not put quite so much work into preparing a fleece, but I'm VERY picky about the roving I spin, so it's worth it to me!
Flicked (top) and un-flicked locks ~ When I'm all done, I've got:
ready to be made into roving or spun from the lock!
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the "comments". I'll explain how I wash a fleece on another day...this post is LONG ENOUGH! ;-)

Thursday, March 16, 2006


If you're checking back to see pictures of the big storm, you're gonna be disappointed. As of 1:00 PM, we've got maybe 2 inches!Uncharacteristically, this seems to be enough to have driven all the sheep inside.

Here come the girls. They don't look happy!

Only Paco came out on his own. And he's staying close to the calf hut. Maybe my sheep know something I don't?

The sheep weren't the only ones who stayed inside, this morning. I've been busy preparing fleeces to send them in for processing. Check back later and I'll show you some pictures of the procedure...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

We're ready!

The weatherman is forecasting a MAJOR winter storm here, late tonight and tomorrow. We're supposed to get 5 to 6 inches of snow tonight and then another 8 to 10 inches tomorrow! I spent a good part of the day outside with my sheep. Took some pictures for "before & after" shearing (and the storm). The little bit of snow we got with the last storm is just about gone. I fed the sheep off the ground, as usual, but also filled all the feeders in the barns. They've got enough hay for 2 days. Of course, I realize that they'll eat it all tonight and tomorrow morning. ;-) But I don't want my girls to go hungry! Especially with only a month 'till lambing. Zenith and Skittles don't look like they're too hungry...I'll post some "full-fleece" shots tomorrow. I got some really pretty pictures of Zodiak (black/iset). Here's a little teaser. This is a close up I took of Zodiak's profile as she was standing next to me. I know you can't see her fleece ~ those will start tomorrow ~ but I think it's a cool might make a good "button" one day...

Harry Potter fans will know...

Monday, March 13, 2006

Taking pictures....

This is a photograph of three of the four rams we used for breeding this year. On the left, in the photo, is "Bluff Country Apocalypse" (Paco). In the middle is Paco's sire, "Bluff Country Skittles". To the right, in the photo is "Sheepy Hollow Zorro". Don't they look handsome?
Our new ram-lamb "Windswept Bravo" had three ladies of his own for his first year as flock sire.
Such a handsome bunch of boys! Of course, it's not always easy to get a good picture. I take LOTS of pictures before I get the ones that I like to show off. I've learned a few, simple steps, over the years...#1: get as CLOSE as you can. Eliminate as much clutter and unwanted objects as possible from your photo by getting as close as you can. This also makes for a more detailed photograph that is more suitable for enlarging. #2: Be aware of the BACKGROUND. In the beginning, I took many pictures that were nice shots of the sheep but had really ugly backgrounds. Look, before you snap the shutter, at what is behind the image you're shooting. #3: Early morning or late afternoon LIGHT is better than bright mid-day sun for rich colors. When the sun is high in the sky, colors tend to wash out. I love taking pictures on misty mornings!
Here, three of my girls (Zanex, Kit Kat and Zodiak) seem to be whispering about those handsome rams...

Sometimes, even when the lighting and the background is perfect, you just can't get the subjects to cooperate. I've had many a day where all I could get was shots of my woolly friends with their heads down, grazing. ESPECIALLY the boys! In the process of getting the first picture in this post I took many of the boys that did not turn out quite so nicely.

Then again, sometimes even the pictures that aren't "keepers" can have their own charm...I call this one:
it's one of my favorites ;-)

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Light grey, handspun, handknit shawl made with wool from our 4 year old Shetland ram.

So far, I've kept this blog pretty much about my wonderful Shetland sheep. That's because I love them so and they have brought such joy to my life. But I also want to share with you another source of pleasure that I enjoy (thanks to my sheep!) and that is knitting. I learned to spin, when I got my first Shetland sheep. Soon I had all this yarn and no idea WHAT to do with it. So, I learned how to knit. I was NOT a fast learner. In fact, I almost gave it up (many times!) before I ever got the hang of it. Fortunately, I hung in there and have now found knitting to be very addictive and almost as much fun as spending time with my sheep! I get the most wonderful feeling of satisfaction when I'm knitting something ~ for myself, or for a gift for a loved one ~ out of yarn that I spun from my very own sheep. What an incredible circle to be a part of!
I LOVE the natural colors of Shetland wool! And it is SO soft.... I am particularly fond of making shawls. They're like HUGS! I made my very first Shetland Lace shawl, for my Aunt. Here's a picture of it. I used the fleece from my beautiful ewe, "Zest". I used to spend a couple of weeks at my Aunt & Uncle's house, in Kenosha, WI., when I was a little girl and have such fond memories of the time I spent with them. It meant a lot to ME to be able to give this shawl to my Aunt.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Look what I found...

Now, THAT'S a smart man! ;-)

Sorry for being so inattentive, of late. I'm in the middle of applying for a new job. I have an interview this afternoon and am taking a week's vacation, next week, so will get back on track soon.

Monday, March 06, 2006

I couldn't have said it better...

Elaine (at EZasPi) posted the following to that List and I enjoyed it so much, I thought I'd share it with you. I checked with Elaine and with Pegg Thomas (the author)and was told it's OK to share as long as I credit Bella Online. We'll be shearing March 25th, so the timing is perfect.....

by: Pegg Thomas
Bella Online's Spinning Editor
Why Most Spinners Purchase Their Wool

Don't get me wrong, I love being a shepherd. I love everything about
it. But there are times when I wonder at the sanity connected to those
of us who raise sheep. Let me explain.
Last week in -13 F temperatures, I was helping a ewe towel off twin
lambs at 5:30am. It was a race against nature to get them dry enough
not to freeze. After my third change of gloves (a good shepherd always
has 2 or 3 pairs of dry gloves stuffed in their coveralls) and several
towels that were freezing stiff, I gave up and put the lambs in a box.
I waded through snow drifts well above my knees to get the lambs into
the house where I could get them warm and dry. (And find more gloves.)
After an hour in the warm house they were dry, warm and crying for
MaaaaMaaaa. So back out into the storm I go, wading through drifts and
battling winds with my arms full of a box that keeps wobbling all over
with active lambs.
Normal spinners call me on the phone and ask, "Do you have fleece for
sale, Pegg? I'm running low." They do this without wading through
drifts, without pulling off freezing wet gloves and with no birthing
fluids soaking into their knees.

Another ewe, just a yearling, delivered twins to the surprise of both
of us. I was surprised because yearlings normally have singles. She
was surprised because `those things' came out of her! She was looking
at me as if to say, "no way!" I was encouraging her and telling her,
"way!" This went on for about an hour. She was particularly sure that
`those things' were not supposed to go anywhere near her udder. I was
equally sure that they should. I'm awfully glad nobody was around with
a video camera at the time. With patience and persistence things
eventually got worked out.
Normal spinners e-mail me and ask, "Did you shear EweReka yet? I
really liked spinning her fleece from last year." They do this without
getting bruised by a nervous new mom who tramples over the top of them
trying to get away from `those things.'
Most ewes just go about the business of delivering their lambs without
any interference from me. I keep my eye on them, make sure everything
progresses normally and try to stay out of their way until the lambs
are born. They know I'm near and for the most part just ignore me. But
occasionally after repeated attempts to push out a lamb there will be
a change in the ewe's voice. She'll give a strident sort of baaa. To
the untrained ear, it just sounds like "baaa!" To the experienced
shepherd, it is translated into, "are you just going to stand over
there looking stupid or are you going to do something!?!" At that
point it's time to lend a helping hand. This requires removing your
arms from the nice, warm overalls and pushing a nice, warm sleeve up
to your elbow leaving a goose bump covered arm to go exploring with.
Sorting out tangled twins or triplets is a necessary part of being a
shepherd but slides far down the list of fabulous things to do on a
Saturday night.
Normal spinners ask me to send my fleeces on to the processor for them
so they don't have to deal with the "dirty stuff." If they only knew.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

What a difference a day makes!

It's a good thing we got hay yesterday! Woke up to big, fluffy flakes of snow today. The girls were all laying in their paddock, mostly covered with snow. They seemed quite content. They got up, as I approached, revealing bare patches of ground where they had been laying.

Of course, all the rams were hiding in their barn. Except Bravo. "Mr. Friendly" came running when he saw me with the camera. I put some hay in the calf hut for him so he'd have a dry place to eat.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Makin' hay while the sun shines....

Since my DH decided (late last night!) that he didn't feel up to driving all the way to Oconomowac & the MSSBA meeting, today, he offered to go get hay for the sheep, to make it up to me. Don had just pulled the loaded pickup truck and trailer into the ram's pasture when Paco decided that he needed to help with all that hay...

Don put the trailer gate down so that Paco could hop out (even though he easily cleared the sides when he jumped in on TOP of the bales of hay!). But Paco was having none of this "get out" idea...
"Hey, Nancy, ya want to quit taking pictures and come get your ram???"

But I was much too busy taking pictures. Besides, Bravo decided HE wanted to help too!

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Oh My!

I think I know what a sheep must feel like, after it gets sheared. I had to take off work this morning, to go take the written test to renew my MN. driver's license (silly me ~ I let mine expire over a YEAR ago! I just found out when a clerk, checking my ID, pointed out it was expired. Anyway...Since I had to leave work for a couple of hours to go take the test, I decided to make a day of it. So I got my hair cut. Boy! Did I get my hair cut. We donated 10 - 12 inches to "Locks of Love" and cut a total of between 12 and 15 inches off! My hair is SHORT. I have never had my hair this short. But I like it! It's little. It's spunky. It's fun. (my husband will probably leave me!)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Oh, this is going to be FUN, posting a new Calendar photo on the first of every month!

I chose this picture for March because it shows a freshly shorn ewe (Stephanie). We always shear in March. After which, it usually snows ;-) I hate shearing! Not that I actually do it. We pay a guy (Phil Yokum) to come shear the flock. He does a good job, but I hate seeing my poor, pregnant girls, manhandled! I'm always a nervous wreck. It must not be too bad though, because they all come up for cookies afterwards. They seem to enjoy having that heavy fleece off their bodies. Most want to be scratched, scratched and scratched some more!

I chose to have my flock sheared before lambing for several reasons. Fist of all, I like to be able to SEE how the girl's pregnancies are progressing. That last few weeks, some remarkable changes take place in the ewe's bodies and I can usually tell, within a day or so, when one of my girls is ready to lamb. It also lets me know if anyone needs more (or LESS!) feed. Less is a more typical problem, here in the Bluff Country. My girls tend to be a bit on the overweight side, even though I do not give them any grain ~ just hay ~ throughout their pregnancies.

Here's a picture of one of the boys after shearing:
They all look so little and frail once that beautiful fleece is removed. Kind of cute too, because they tend to not recognize each other for a few minutes! There's always a bit of pushing and shoving and a little head butting before they realize that it's the same old flock...

Here's hoping for a safe, happy and healthy March, 2006! Next month, the LAMBS arrive!!! I'll start the annual "ALICE WATCH" in the beginning of April...


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