I've been keeping busy, and the summer is flying by before my eyes. Other than sneaking off for a few hours of fishing now and then, or share a few drinks with neighbors around the bonfire, I really haven't done anything recreational or "fun" this year. No day trips, no hikes, and of course no vacations.
Summer will be gone (again) before I know it.
I'm just now losing my spring momentum that had built up between lambing and gardening. My fruit trees all look healthy, but very little fruit coming in. My garden isn't growing very well.
I mowed the 4.5 acres of back pasture and I've noticed that the invasion of horse nettle and other weeds are growing worse. We are giving the pastures a break by rotating them, then closing them off and feeding hay for a few weeks in between. I'll have to rent a tank of weed n' seed from FS to fight the weeds and make my poor pastures healthy again.
We were fortunate to buy and put up 360 square bales at only $3.50 a bale. That's more than we usually pay for first cutting, but I've heard of other people paying a lot more so I'm thankful. I'll try to get another 150 of second cutting and then, we should be set for winter. I'm also thinking of experimenting with round bales if I can find someone to deliver them. Having hay put up is always a relief.
This is our newest aquisition. I've trying to collect some older polled Dailley lines to cross with the Holly & Dillon poll lines. This guy, Twin Springs Bearclaw, has Z6399 waaaay back on the dame's side. Smaller scurs, set in a depression on the skull. And Sandy's rare caped genetics. Even if I cannot get the caping pattern to reproduce itself, I'll still love having another spottie. Plus he's brown based, and some fresh genetics from outside the Midwest.
Bearclaw has a nice hind end, and a better tail than I've seen on a lot of spotted shetlands. We'll play around with him and have some fun. :)
Btw, Sandy Truckner is an absolute delight, she and I could have talked sheep for HOURS when we met up in Indiana.
I don't know what Bearclaw's scurs will do in the future, so we'll use him fast. He's an Ag, so I think I'll put him over some of my non-Ag self colored ewes and see what happens. My goal is to get at least one full poll from each half poll ram, for fresh and far related bloodlines.
This is Babybee, one of my moorits and home bred. I'm happy to have at least a few nice ewes by Gallifrey before I got tired of fighting with him and shipped him.
We sheared our own sheep this year, which is why some of the sheep look a little patchy. It was tedious work that tested my patience, but...we did it! Some of the sheep had to be cleaned up a little after the rise, so I'm hoping they look halfway presentable by show season. Next year, I think I'll wait until late May to even start.
I have spent the last few weeks sitting in the pasture with a notebook, taking notes of the strengths and weaknesses of each individual sheep. Reflecting on the successes in my breedings, and the failures. What worked, what didn't, and how much time am I willing to spend experimenting with a line before scrapping it?
Nine sheep went to market a few weeks ago, and it felt good. Ewes that a few years ago I would have paid hundreds of dollars for. Cowhocks, heavy tails, narrow hips, weedy. The twin to the ewe who died from worms, and her lamb. Larger scurs on a few good ram lambs that I thought no one would buy. A gorgeous, smooth polled mioget smirslet ram lamb with a nice, wide hip that was a keeper until I discovered that he was a one nutter, our first ever.
We'll be making another market run in a few weeks, and re-evaluate again.
We over-did things this year, I can see that now. I wanted to badly to be "one of the big breeders", and I want despertely to further the poll carriers and improve their quality as quickly as possible. I will try to discipline myself to be content being a small-potatos breeder, until I can retire onto a nice, big, 80 acres parcel somewhere. :)
I just don't have the pasture, unless I want to feed hay year 'round. Overstocking is not good for the sheep, and I've lost that "one on one" connection with the sheep as individuals.
Like many shepherds this year, we have to cut back. It is the smart thing to do. I bred 24 ewes last year, and lambing was no fun. We had some new challenges, and lost our first ewe ever (to parasites), and our first lamb ever. Shepherding had become more work, less fun. I have a sense of urgency about getting everything done NOW that has taken the relaxation out of it. Maybe these are signs.
To keep less sheep means I have to "up my game" and keep just the very best polled sheep I can, in the patterns and colors that I've come to enjoy so much. No more high quantity, but higher quality instead.
Many breeders are having flock reductions or dispersals. Some are dumping lots of sheep at very low prices. It is not for me to judge these people, I'm not in their shoes. I'm chosing to send the lower end sheep to market rather then sell them cheaply to another breeder. The sheep that I am selling as breeding stock are better animals that were good enough for me to use, and that I believe they will be an asset to another flock. They are worth my asking price, and I hope that my individual flock will retain some worth as a whole by doing so.
So here I go....I plan on breeding 14 shetland ewes next fall, plus my two Cluns. I will hold over some keeper ewe lambs. I will keep as many rams as I need to keep diverse bloodlines and patterns, also sale rams, but I won't be keeping non-useful extras. I hope my lambs next year will be better than ever. Wish me luck!
THE END of this entry...
I'll end this with a butt-shot of one of my favorite ewes. This is North Wind Netty. She is the only Shakespeare daughter left out there in the big world. One of my first poll carrying ewes, and has withstood the test of time here. She is seven years old and has very little age greying. She has produced some very nice lambs for me when paired with the right ram. Babybee is one of her daughters.
Netty is short at the wither, and she has a nice cobby build when not lactating for twins. She is a small ewe, proof that a shetland can be smaller framed and refined, and still be well conformed.