Friday, June 17, 2011

For the Love of My Gracie

With school being out for the summer, I now have "some" time to finally enjoy the farm and have visitors.  On Thursday my parents brought my niece and nephew out for a visit and to have lunch.  My niece Gracie was very excited to see the "babies".  As I explained to her, the babies were almost 3 months old but that was okay with her, she could handle it.

Yep, Gracie loves those little lambies and they just loved her!  She had her hands full as Bethel and her brother wanted lots of scratches and hugging.  These two lambs are so friendly and followed Gracie everywhere she went.

Now, much to my sister's dismay, Gracie was really born to live with me on the farm.  She is a girl after my own heart.  Now in this picture she is trying to figure out what her great Uncle Bob is trying to do with the peppermint treats as Gracie is a pro at feeding them to the animals.  Nephew Bobby was not working fast enough for one does liking.

Bobby was also having some issues with the my big LaMancha buck who was determined to take Bobby's baseball cap at all costs if he did not get a peppermint treat.  Bobby wanted to know what this goat's name was and I said, "Mr. Annoying".  He said, "Seriously?"  And I said, "Yep."  According to Bobby that was a perfect name for him!

The only one who had no issues with the animals was Gracie.  She just has that magic touch with the lambies.
However, shall I mention how I found her playing in the pail of Dietmacyhus (spelling ?) Earth because she loved how soft and fluffy it was?  Yeah, sometimes her curiosity gets her in trouble but she still is my favorite farm chick;)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Shear" Anxiety

Saturday, June 11th was officially shearing date at Harvest Thyme.
Now what idiot , I mean, what shepherdess, allows her sheep to bake in 90 degree weather with full wool on?  Ok, so I did.  And yes, I know that a mutiny was brewing in the barn because I was getting the "look" from the sheep last week as the temps reached 90 degrees.  Now in my defense, this was the 3rd shearing date as the one in April and the one in May were literally, drowned out with rain.  I have never sheared in June, it has always been in April and because of that, I was reaching peak anxiety issues.  In addition, last year was an awful shearing. Wool was NOT coming off nicely.  The double coated Shetlands were a mess resulting in lots of double cuts, pieces of wool, the sheep looked awful.  Last year 35 sheep got sheared.  I was not pleased with their overall body condition, they were too thin and their fleeces were very dull.  The Cotswold wool was good but the Shetland wool was not and I honestly was not sure what direction I should go with the Shetlands.  So with that baggage plus I was shearing in June the only thing I had going for me was there were only 22 sheep being sheared verse 35 from last year and I know I fed better grain & hay this year. BUT after shearing I knew that this year I would have to make some decisions especially if it was another fiasco of a shearing. 
The 3 rams got sheared first.  I gave George, my shearer, Ripton, a Shetland who sheared for crap last year.  Wool came off in pieces.  I held my breath as the shears went threw his fleece like butter.  When he was done, I looked at George, George looked at me and we said nothing. Jed was the next one.  Last year Jed's fleece was not as nice as the previous year's but it was ok.  This year, it came off like butter. George looked at me and said, "Don't say anything." I nodded, put the wool in the bag, and we got the next victim, I mean sheep.  Shearing was going very well so without further chatter let me show you what this year's shearing produced:

Okay, this is my favorite fleece!! This is from Nistock Essex, my white Cotswold ewe. This was her first shearing and needless to say, I am in love!  I wanted to sleep with it because it feels so nice.  I touch it every day.......yes, I know, I am strange.

This Essex.  She closed her eyes for her "after" picture because she was feeling quite naked especially since her fleece weighed in at almost 12 lbs!

This lovely fleece, in my opinion, is from Barlett, a fawn kat wether. Words can not even describe at how excited I was to see this fleece!

This is Ripton, the Shetland ram that got sheared first.  He is probably a tad overweight but I am ok with that.  He has a wonderful shine to his wool and he looks so much better than he did last year.

Why don't black fleeces photgraph well???????  This is Ripton's fleece, I hope one can see the nice crimp and luster it has!

Here is Chelsea's fleece.  She is a white Romney ewe.  I was quite pleased with her wool and too excited to have my first white wool!

Pawlett is a 2 year old Ag fawn ewe and I love her little personality!  She produced this awesome fleece with a good 5 inches staple on it! LOVE IT!!!

Ok, I just had to take a picture of Fletcher because his crazy spots just crack me up! Obviously, he doesn't appreciate my sense of humor as he refused to smile for the camera!

Shearing this year yielded these results for me:
1.)  22 is a much better number than 35
2.)  Shetland wool came off like butter with NO double cuts!!!
3.)  Black Cotswold wethers were REALLY WOOLY and need to be sheared twice a year
4.)  Shetland sheep produced the nicest fleeces I have ever had
5.) Shetlands had great luster and body conditions this year
6.)  I am going to consciously shear later next year to see if the wool comes off as nicely as it did this year
7.)  I need to have more confidence in my sheep and myself as they are just as nice as other sheep/breeders
9.) and my sheep love me as they decided not to go through with the mutiny!