Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Shetlands on my mind.
I'm not very good at making small talk, not a highly developed talent of mine. I have lots of thoughts, many I should and do keep to myself. Or I think of something worth posting about, then get busy with other things, and the moment has passed. I had a cute little ram lamb story how I was gathering culls for market, and my DH picked out delightful little fellow to keep as a wether, until I came back from MFF and found he had caught up his neck and horns in the woven wire fence and died. Ah, I so miss those horns (not!) I very rarely have dead sheep, each one stings and stabs so. So now it's not such a cute fluffy tale, but shepherding isn't always "sunshine and butterflies".
I've been sitting quietly back, watching lambs grow, culling ram lambs, ewe lambs, yearling ewes, two year old ewes, and a few mature rams. I haven't begun to plan my breeding groups yet (yikes, can it only be 2 1/2 months away already?) I know I'll change my mind a million times.
Michigan Fiber Fest was a weekend of ups and downs, but altogether I had a really good time seeing friends, seeing lots of sheep, and feeling lots of fiber.
Due to a vacation the weekend before the show, I did not prepare a show string, and in retrospect I'm glad I didn't bother. My sheep would not have done well in the ring under this judge, and it was nice to be able to wander around at will and not have to deal with the training and prepping of displaying sheep.
I simply dumped a trailer of sheep at Stephens. I had some sold sheep to deliver, and I sold my last sale ewe, SP Niobe, out of the trailer, which was nice. I'm now sold out of ewes. A lot of experienced breeders went over my stock with critical and constructive eyes and offered helpful comments, which is always welcome. I'm unfortunately in an area of Illinois where there are not a lot of Shetland breeders, and I don't get a lot of farm visits. I'd love to have some experienced Shetland breeders stop by and help me evaluate my breeding stock. But bringing the trailer to Stephen's place was just as good.
I'm such a dummy when it comes to modified colors. I had no idea that Hickory's dame, SP Leila, was mioget! I had thought that Hickory was simply light moorit, but he is fawn! This doubles his value in my eyes, and I am just thrilled to have a brown based, non-patterned, modified ram of his quality. Thank you again Carol!
I also got Lil'Country Nightcap back from Karen , and once I sunk my hands into his fleece I nearly swooned. Soft soft soft and crimpy as a yearling, non-patterned, and brown based on top of it. I think he is going to do wonderful things here on my farm.
I brought my sale black gulmoget ram lamb, smooth polled, by Hickory and out of Zephyr Easter Day. He will have an intermediate fleece, but it is coming in a bluish color. He's modified! I'll probably be showing him at Jefferson in ram lamb class. I plan on showing my Blues X Arabesque daughter in ewe lamb, and in best fleece on the hoof. I'm saying "probably" and "I plan on doing this" because Jefferson might be my last show. I have been feeling lately that my sheep cannot compete with "show sheep", and I'm tired of fretting about that fact and wondering what the judge will like when I evaluate sheep.
Last night on Facebook, someone posted a few photos from the Shetland Museum. I started looking through these old photos of Shetland Sheep in their native environment, and I couldn't help but think "What on earth are we doing to these sheep"? Do we really, really need to turn them into "show animals"?
The sheep in the photos were obviously small and stunted looking, the bones are delicate and flinty, the fleeces looked fine and soft. Some of them were conformational trainwrecks...
But... they were very good at being Shetland Sheep, and doing what Shetland sheep were supposed to do... living on scrub and seaweed, climbing rocky hill and slopes, producing lambs that could keep up in a harsh environment, providing meat and fiber to their shepherds.
I do believe we should make every attempt to breed these animals into sound bodies for health, longevity, and mobility, and of course we want our sheep to have the best nutrition we can offer. But at some point I just feel like yelling "They arn't club lambs, darn it!" These animals in the photos would come in last place at a Shetland sheep show. We would snicker at the cow hocks and uneven top lines.
But how many of our sheep could climb that bluff in search of food!
Anyway, I'm not trying to rant or rave or make a statement, honest. Just sharing something on my mind. And I've got sheep on my mind so much lately. I'm so behind on my reading and neglecting my workout regimen.