Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Finest of the British Breeds

I first began raising Shetland sheep in 1992. From the beginning I always believed in their heritage as a finely fleeced, soft wooled breed. I've become more and more dismayed during the past 15 years as I've seen breeders working in the opposite direction towards coarser, heavier fleeces. I've heard that it is impossible to breed Shetlands that average 23 microns, but I've always felt it was achievable. And now I know it is true.

My entire flock averages at last rib/midside 27 microns or less at maturity. And now I have a two year old ram who is dark moorit in color named Tennyson whose last rib test is 23.8 MFD, 5.1 standard deviation, 21.5 coeffient of variation and only 8.3% of his fibers are greater than 30. My daughter's young polled ram "Mac" tested 21.4 MFD, 5.5 SD, with 7.3 fibers greater than 30(lamb fleece). Both these rams are bred to the majority of our ewes for spring lambs. We are very excited to see what they will produce for us.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Rogue River Studios

My daughter Meghan started collecting Breyer horses when she was about five years old. That hobby has developed and grown over the years. Now she buys "resins"(white plastic sculptures of horses)and preps and primes those models before applying layer upon layer of acrylic paint, pastels and colored pencil to achieve a realistic horse. She has gotten to the stage where she now takes these models to compete at shows. The photo above is of her most beloved model horse who has taken some firsts in tough competition against professionally done resins. Meghan does accept a few commissions to paint models for other people. For more information go to: http://rrstudios.equusrising.net.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Homestead Cats

Meghan and I used to volunteer at the local humane society socializing the cats and kittens that were waiting to be adopted. "Goblin" was one of those kittens. A palm-sized, potbellied little scruff of a thing who was always intimidated by his brother. When Ghost was adopted and Goblin remained for several weeks, we grew alarmed he might end up being euthanized. The only answer was for us to adopt him ourselves. So the still extremely small "Goblin" came home and immediately was renamed Scrabble for his inability to jump well. He went over obstacles by clawing and scratching and managed to always look inept.

Needlesss to say the tiny kitten turned into a rather large cat--38 inches from front paws to back when stretched out on the bed(which is his favorite activity). We now believe Scrabble is part Maine Coon. He tends to squeak to us when his food dish isn't readily available or he needs some other attention. He isn't overly excited about hunting and seems to think his main job in life is to hold the bed down. This he does with great aplomb.

Because Scrabble was allowing all manner of rodents into the garden and barns we decided we needed another cat. Enter Billy--a stray orange tabby rescued from the shelter because even though he had a heart murmur he also purred profusely and liked to be snuggled. The "indoor only" cat quickly became an in-and-out cat because he is either going all out at a dead run or holding the bed down with Scrabble. Billy Bob Thornton Cat has shown a certain ineptitude at catching rodents although he is willing to race up a 60 foot maple tree if there is a squirrel badmouthing him. We continue to hope that one of these two rather large cats will eventually figure out they do have jobs, but for now we must be content with being their laps and gofers when the food dishes need filling.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Glenmore Staccato

Stacey came to us from my dear friend Louise Hooper in Indiana. Louise owned a small flock of Shetlands who lived the good life in her green pastures and apple orchard. Stacey's dam used to love to just hang out with people--hanging her head on your shoulder to "chat" for as long as you wanted. Stacey has that same personality and a gorgeous, dark musket fleece that spins up into a lovely rose/grey yarn each year. It sells before it is even spun. Her mature micron test was 22.6 AFD with an 8.2 SD. So far Stacey has been stingy with her lambs...only giving us one per year. She has thrown some very dark brown lambs that have held their color. This year she is bred to Tennyson.

Wintertime Ruby

Ruby is my daughter's NASSA registered Sandstone daughter out of a 75% UK bred black ewe we call "Izzy". Izzy goes back to Drum Black and Drum Jings lines and has a very short, crimpy fleece she "sheds" that tested 24.5 with a 5.4 SD her second year. Izzy's problem is she just doesn't look like a Shetland--being too long and round-boned with a shorter head. Ruby is a definite improvement in type and has a wonderfully crimpy, soft modified moorit fleece. She also likes to go into the showring, so since she was on the small side, we left her open this year so she can be Meghan's yearling ewe at the July Jr. All-American show.

Izzy was A.I.'d to Todhill Jericho for 87.5% UK bred lambs in late March. We are hoping with his shorter, more refined build and longer fiber he'll improve type and maintain the fineness of her fiber while adding a bit of length to the staple.

Winter Sky Tempest

Tempest is named after a ewe that I adored but had to sell. Unfortunately she died of ketosis but her lines continue in the flock through Sandstone daughters and granddaughters. Tempest is very correct in type with a dense, crimpy fleece that is borderline for fineness. Because she is a sheep of a "different color" she'll stay in the flock for now. She is crossed with Tennyson for an April lamb.

Thursday, February 1, 2007


Loretta is one of those Shetland ewes you realize could survive just about anywhere. She resides down at Cynthia Caillagh-Allen's Firth of Fifth farm, because she likes space and as little human interaction as possible. With Cynthia's rotational grazing system, wonderful natural management style and hilly 20 acres of pasture Loretta thrives. Loretta tends to always produce good lambs and is a fierce mother. Her mature side micron test was 22.5 AFD with an SD of 5.1. This year she was bred to Heights Orion. I am hoping for twin ewe lambs to cross back to Tennyson. We shall see. Loretta is QR at codon 171.

For more information about Cynthia's farm and sheep management go to:www.finer-fleeces.com.

Winter Sky Anya & Lorrie Morgan

These two lovely moorit ewe lambs arrived at our farm in June after being born down in Wisconsin. They are Sandstone daughters. Anya is on the right. She's the lamb that developed white on one side of her head in September. Her dam Amalie is bred to a Sandstone son who also exhibits unusual patterning on his face to see if we can replicate this "moonspotting". Lorrie's dam is Loretta. Both of these lambs are bred to Tennyson to increase the potential for producing moorits with amazing fiber. Stay tuned.

Winter Sky Kristol

Kristol is a 2005 fawn katmoget half-sister to Tennyson who is bred to Meghan's gulmoget ram for April lambs. She is RR at codon 171 and had a lamb fleece that tested 22.5 AFD with a 6.0 SD. Her fleece is very dense and uniform with a slight golden caste to it. She has a sweet personality. Her first lamb was a dark, dark moorit ewe sired by Tennyson named "Maya". Maya is now living in Minnesota with a wonderfully devoted new shepherd, Garrett Ramsay.