Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sheep are shorn!

The fall harvest is in--60+ gorgeous fleeces in every color and pattern. Just as I look forward to lambing in the spring, I look forward to the fall shearing of the sheep. I am so grateful to have David Kier come out again to shear. He is so good with the sheep, and so generous with his knowledge. We had some wonderful helpers come out too--thank you, thank you! We could never do it without our helpers. I prepared a lamb stew as well as chicken soup, along with apple pie for dessert. Our fall weather has been so nice, we relaxed on the deck and had a wonderful lunch. Each fleece goes into a box, and stored in my wool house. I am really looking forward to skirting all of these luscious fleeces.
And the cycle begins again, the sheep are in their breeding pens. With two new handsome rams, plus our Finn, we will have our nicest lambs ever this spring.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Visions of Fleeces

Lovely Gardenia, in the cool evening.
Summer has turned to Autumn, and that means colorful winter squash, apples to pick, and beautiful fall fleeces. Autumn in all it's glory. A picture says a thousand words, so, enjoy the beautiful sheep!
Matriarch, Stella.Salem, watching the flock.Beautiful FayeGodiva, waiting for a treat! I love how the sheep lick their lips when it's time for dinner!Handsome Fable.Dalla, our leader ewe.Finn & ThunderLovely Claire-BearHer sister Charlotte, my fave!Ewes in the evening.Rams in the morning pasture.Ewes in the afternoon.
We are all enjoying the cool fall temps!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Rattlesnakes in Northern Illinois?

I was very surprised to learn that indeed, there are poisonous rattlesnakes in N. Illinois! Almost 3 weeks ago, I found our LGD Belle laying on the front porch, one of her favorite spots. We are on a hill, and she can keep a close eye on things from there. No surprise to find her there, by evening, she hadn't moved. I checked her and found that she had a hugely swollen leg. I figured that she had gotten hit on the road. After further inspection, her leg and hips seemed fine, except for the huge swelling. I gave her a shot of dexamethasone, covered her with a wool blanket, and waited until I could call the vet. I couldn't sleep, and checked her several times during the night.

We took her in first thing Monday morning. She stayed in the intensive care unit for 2 days. The vet, who was from Texas, thought it looked just like some of the snake bites that she had seen. A little Internet research, and we found that there is a native rattlesnake to our area, the Massasauga, or swamp rattler It's rare, but we do have the perfect habitat for it. Her whole leg was very weepy for about a week.
Belle has been on 2 pain meds and 3 broad spectrum antibiotics for the past 2 1/2 weeks, a total of 16 pills per day! We started out hiding the pills in meat, cheese, braunsweiger, but now, she is very suspicious of all treats and is fighting her pills. She's been a very good girl, stoic, as Pyrs go. Everyone at the vet clinic loves her, and can't imagine that she would be a good guard dog, though, she is!

We left her wound open for 2 weeks, but now it is wrapped, with changes every 2-3 days. Boy, does she hate that! Her vet has been very pleased with her progress. They felt that she may lose her leg. Now, it looks like maybe she'll lose a toe and part of her foot.

After many trips to the vet, things are finally looking up!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Whole Foods

Whole Foods has recently announced that they will be importing Icelandic lamb to sell in their stores. They have even made the comment that Icelandic Lamb is the "best in the world". I certainly can't argue with that! We've been eating Icelandic lamb, as well as mutton for years, and it's amazing stuff. Very mild and lean. Plus, it's nice to know how healthy grass fed meat is. Check out the information on this "Eat Wild" site for the health benefits: (photo courtesy of Saveur magazine)
Here's some basic information about Icelandic lamb from the Icelandic Sheep Breeders of N. America site:

Meat Production
Though famous throughout the world for wool production, the Icelandic breed is predominately grown for meat in Iceland. Since the cool and wet climate precludes the production of most grains in Iceland, the breed has been selected to bring the meat lambs to slaughter weight off of the summer and fall pastures. Icelandics are very adaptable, and can be handled in a variety of management plans. Here in North America they thrive on grass-based farms where they are rarely fed grain, to dry-lot situations where they are fed daily, and all the management systems in between. Market lambs will start to reach their ideal slaughter weights of 70-100 pounds at four to five months. With continued
access to quality graze, the lambs can be slaughtered directly off the grass all through the fall months. This has positioned the Icelandic breed to fit well in the move towards grass-based farming, enabling “natural” and organic farmers to utilize the Icelandic breed. As meat consumers increasingly recognize the health benefits of grass fed meats, and as economic pressures drive our farmers toward grass-based businesses, the genetics of the Icelandic breed become increasingly valuable to our sheep industry. The Icelandic breed is considered a mountain breed, and historically mountain breeds have been milder in flavor, and
leaner than the lowland breeds. The meat is indeed very tender with a mild flavor, and is generally described as gourmet meat. With the leaner, European style carcass, and the mild flavor, Icelandic lamb can appeal to the palate of even those consumers who avow they "just don't like lamb." With the combination of the economic and market advantages of grass fed farming, and with the appeal of the delicious flavor, the Icelandic breed is a natural for direct-to-consumer marketing.

So, here's the post, and link to the article. There's a great video of Icelandic sheep in Icelandic. Now, I just hope that American consumers realize that they can buy FRESH, grass fed Icelandic lamb right here in America, from local farmers, and they won't have to pay those high WHOLE FOODS prices, either!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Weekend sheep work

The flock had one last peaceful weekend of grazing before we separated the rams from the ewes.We had a few cooler days. With Fall in the air, the rams were getting rambunctious! I think it was mostly Fable. He decided to pick a fight with Finn. I could hear them from my bedroom window, the sound of horns crashing. Maybe Fable knows that he won't get any ewes this fall. Although he's a beautiful ram, we just have too many ewes that are related to him. I can't bear to send him to the butcher for that reason alone. I would really love to put him to work this fall, selling him to another flock. He is very reasonably priced, and I would consider trades. He's a triplet mouflon ram. I don't have him registered yet, but his pedigree would be the same as his sisters (click). He is very easy to work with, parasite resistant, gorgeous horns. It's funny how our new ram Thunder decided to step in and be the referee. He didn't do much fighting, but did get his ear smashed trying to settle the other rams down. This morning we decided it was time to work the sheep, and try out our new working system that I got on Craigslist called Billy Goat Gruff Complete Worker System. After using it just one time, I would highly recommend it. I don't feel nearly as beaten, battered and bruised as I usually do, working with these feisty Icelandics! Loading them into the chute was the hardest part. Things would have gone quicker if we had 3 people working instead of two. Maybe the sheep will get used to it, and go right in themselves eventually (yeah, right).... Above, I am tattooing, my least favorite job.

The system is nice. Once you have the sheep in the headgate, the sides both swing open so it's "easy" to trim hooves. Trimming sheep hooves is never an easy job though. Most of them kick and fight and would rather strangle themselves than have their hooves trimmed.

Here's Fancy, in the torture chamber.

And my dear Charlotte, getting her hooves trimmed. We did all of the ewes this morning and sent them on their way. It was over 90 degrees by the time we were finished. I think my back is fried. We'll do the rams tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Summer into Fall...

We've all just about about had it with this summer weather! The ewes think that the only solution is to stand in front of the fan in the barn. Delilah and her ewe lamb are fan hogs. Other ewes escape into the weedy fields in search of verdant pastures. Bad girls! I spent 3 solid days combing out fleeces, trimming hooves, deworming and giving shots. Stay away from those weeds going to seeds, girls!
Fern's ram lamb, a handsome boy!
Finn, always my good boy.

Thunder, SRX 917T, our new boy is settling in just fine. Our ram Fable has befriended him, and they are now inseparable!

Our apples are getting ripe, so they sheep are enjoying an evening treat of windfalls every night. The weather is cooling off and fall is in the air! Girls, munching apples!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Thunder is here!

We add a new ram to our flock almost every year. This year we are getting two! My husband picked up our first new ram over the weekend. Thunder SRX 917T, a moorit grey Icelandic ram, bred by the late Susan Briggs of Tongue River farm. She used him on her ewes, so I knew he would be something special. Hedgeapple farm in Iowa bought him in 2008, and Lorraine was kind enough to share him with me. He is in a dark area of the barn with Fennel's ram lamb for company, so the photos aren't the best. He is very calm and easy to work with. Horns are clearing his face at 3 years old. Nice long frame. His fleece isn't as soft as Finn's, which doesn't surprise me. The white sheep tend to have softer fleeces. I can't give him a complete evaluation until he's shorn. Those long fleece can hide many faults, though I don't expect to find any with this handsome ram! He will be a wonderful asset to our flock.