Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Maple Syrup Time

A visit to Kroll's Maple Syrup was a dream come true. I had heard of maple syrup making in the New England states and always wanted to see syrup made. Yesterday the day!  Kroll's are very friendly and gave me a tour and explained how the syrup is made..
Maple sap runs for 3-4 weeks depending on the weather.With this year's warm Spring the sap run is about over.  As it is no longer freezing over night. It must freeze each night and warm each day for the sap to run. It is very labor extensive. The whole extended family pitches in to help. A spout is hammered into 1500 trees. The sap is caught in pails or bags which fill in about 24 hours. The grove is split into 2 sections, so half is gathered in the morning and the other half early evening. The bags/pails are poured into 5 gallon pails, lifted up and the sap is poured through a screen into  a tank on a hay rack.  They gather 2100-2400 gallons of sap each day.The sap is pumped into the large evaporator.
The evaporator is wood heated. A chunk of wood is added every 10 minutes. The evaporator is well insulated and the outside jacket is cool to the touch. The sap travels through  has several baffles  before it finished. A batch takes 10 hours to cook. The sap is heated to 218 degrees. Evaporator is shut down, the sap cool a bit, then it is put into shiny stainless cream cans. The sediment tray is emptied. The sediment looks like molasses and sugar, it is fed to their beef cows. The evaporator is 'off' for two hours and fired up again.  Depending on the sugar content of the sap varying from 35-40%  dictates the yield. Generally it takes 35-40 gallons of sap to get one gallon of syrup. About a 1/3 of the syrup is sold at the farm. The remainder is sold at craft shows.
yesterday was a very good day, indeed

Till later


Monday, March 29, 2010

Busy day!

Shade is 11 days old, and yes he's turning grey. He is quite a lamb. I found out his dam Shadow is 3/4 Karakul. So Shade is 1/2 Border Leicester 3/8 Karakul 1/8?    So I am watching him as he grows. He is long wide, good bone and has good height to him.  Jury is still out..on Shade as a ram prospect,he has till Fall to impress me.

Today we traveled to Brainerd for Goldie and Silver from Rayna.  Nice looking ewes On the way home we stopped at my shearer Tim Kroll to get Goldie and Silver sheared. Tim does a good job. His brother's family has a Maple Syrup operation, so on the way home we stopped. Fascinating.......more on that later as they are emailing me pictures!

Tomorrow morning 25 Black sex link pullet chicks arrive. I will raise them keep some and sell some. I have 20 eggs that made it through candling....should be hatching today My friend hasn't emailed/called with a progress report. Hoping for some Easter Eggers to hatch--all from good blue eggs. They can go in with the new pullet chicks.

I am following Garrett's lamb news Three of his Shetland ewes bred BFL have lambed.  Autumn, Castle Rock and Snow Cloud. All three are coming here after weaning.

Till later


Saturday, March 27, 2010

(druming my fingers)

Did I mention I have a lot of time on my hands?  Doctor says taking it easy  but my mind still races! I have rearranged my barn set up 7 times in 6 years......I got it right this time..Room for sheep, 3 permanent maternity pens, 3 walk-in chicken coops-- you know laying hens, half grown chicks, baby chicks, ya you get the idea. Hay and straw is in part of the barn, water hydrant inside, heated sheep watering tub. Easy Peasey.........

Recent sheep activity....Yes I have done a bit of lane changing. OK some major changes I bought and sold some..   but I like my Shetlands....I have my ideal ewe in mind. I received god advice from Cynthia, Nancy Ellison, Gail, Garrett and Sabrina. There have been a few bumps in the road. One seller said I was trading ewes like baseball cards and she wouldn't sell me any more sheep ever!..  hey,  Rayna had 2 nice ewes I liked and I had 2 nice ewes she liked.  We talked, agreed, so we are going to trade..on Monday We're happy

I settled on a Shetland ram on Shetland ewes.........then I read the stories of Shetland lambs slow their growth over winter with the lack of sun,,,some breeders keep their market lambs till near yearlings, Shetland market lambs going for good money or for little to nothing. I used to have Jerseys and stand there with hat in hand as my baby bull calves sold for $10  and the Holstein calves for $100.......My grandpa had Jerseys too.....in the 40-50s he would dispose of the bull calves at birth  (I couldn't do that)......I didn't want to repeat the hat in hand with my lambs, walking away with pennies... A hobby yes -this is not a money maker----- but I would like to have them pay for part of their feed------ What ram to get  and mind you he isn't needed till Fall!!!.  Border Leicester  -- too big,, Cheviot...ewes can be too "alert" Other breeds no...I want to keep the clean face. lags and fine fleece....hardiness.  A Finn ram..soft fleece, easy lambing, docile. We have had Finns before---My wife says softly "I don't want Finns, remember all the multiple births of tiny lambs...bottle babies, older ewes with nutrition/health trouble during pregnancy...this is suppose to be fun not a lot of work.so please no Finns this time.."  Yes" I say  Remember  I am suppose to take it slow and easy

 I watch my favorite TV shows in the evening,,,Dish Network so I have prerecorded shows so I can  fast forward through the commercials,,,I know TV but I am behaving myself by resting but I got to do something..till my "good eye" gets tired.  Now the stations throw in reruns.........or have had season finales.....in March?  So I sat looking out across our pasture.
I thinking of the neighbors through the trees  we have known them for 15 years and 7 years ago bought our 5 acres from them........hilly pasture, oak trees and scrub cornfield.......its a farmstead now.   Whoops back to the neighbor.....she has Icelandic sheep a bigger cousin to the Shetland.......Years ago.she had some Shetland ewes and  used a Icelandic ram on them with no birthing troubles. First cross to Icelandic the lambs do not get the dual coat--just super soft/fine fleece, she has a few 3/4 Icelandic 1/4 Shetland who still have fine single coats. A really close friend she answers all my sheep questions.....she is tolerates of my run-on emails.. so I can get a polled Icelandic ram lamb each fall if I want, pay slaughter price, use him and ship him Or he can stay for a second Fall breeding if we really like him. First maybe a spotted ram if her flock produces one...she had 4 spotted lambs last year,  as I have 5 ewes that carry spots.  A few spotted lambs would be fun

So the flock is set 12 Shetland or Shetland crossed (with something) ewes   and a polled Icelandic ram.
4 ewes to lamb in May and Shadow with Shade....and 7 Shetland ewes to come mid July
So if anyone got offended or shook their heads in wonderment/astonishment/disbelief/disgust as I found my way and assembled my flock  I apologize.  I do what I can,

Till later

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I got some good advice and had a successful ram search

I got some cautionary well informed emails about breeding a Border L/Shetland cross ram on Shetland ewes. The strong Shetland genes will result in Shetland sized lambs. The cross will not increase the market lamb size
Other breeds increase the height on the lambs....the old saying the air from the ground to the belly doesn't weigh much.  I like the shorter ear, short leg and blocky body of the Shetland  I just want to increase the size.
So I did some research. The first cross of an Icelandic ram on another breed of ewe the offspring
is single coated (dual coat is recessive)  lambs will carry the recessive gene for dual coat. So Icelandic breeding again on 1/2 Ice ewes could result in some dual coated lambs. But mine is  spinner flock and hand spinners like variety in their fleeces

The Icelandic fiber ranges from 12 to 27 microns, with most being in the 20 to 24 micron range with a soft handle. Fleeces are light and open and dry out quickly after a rain (on the sheep). Adults produce six to eight pounds of fleece  Such a soft fleece could improve fineness of my fleeces. Icelandics have the same hardiness and lively vigorous lambs as the Shetland. Using a polled Icelandic ram gives me no horns, fine fleece, keep the Shetland/Icelandic color patterns, and give me bigger faster growing market lambs . The cross ewes will have the same blocky short legged body frame of the Shetland and weigh in the 120-130 pound range
My long time friend, next door neighbor and sheep mentor raises purebred polled Icelandics She started out with registered stock of Tongue River breeding but stopped registering them . She has about 50 bred ewes lambing to one of three rams-- a white, a black and a spotted. She confirmed that the first Icelandic cross the lambs are single coated. We made a deal I can pick out a good ram lamb each  fall at market price, use him and ship him.  No lonely ram in summer, no ram around my granddaughter, just peaceful ewes and their lambs on pasture TCL and hover over the lambs will make them all tame.
 So I found my ram source next door.
 Till later

Here is a picture of "Lulu" a Icelandic ewe I owned a few years back. Look at her soft fleece! it was extremely fine. I should have kept going, not sold out of sheep and went into Boer Goats. I am very glad to be back in sheep.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Shade is an eye catching little ram!

Shade is a lively lamb full of life. He was up and nursing right a way. Mom Shadow is a doting mother. She has excellent conformation--her parts fix together well. Nice snug well supported udder and a heavy milker.  She is a Ag  a grey black and her fleece is very soft. Shade has a wonderful crimp to his fleece. I will watch him close as he grows.  His white Border Leicester sire gave him a bit more size, an easy lambing head and shoulders.
Friend Gail said he will soon turn gray and the only black spots will be on his face and legs. He will give his greying gene Ag to all his lambs. So we will have musket, grey, pewter colored lambs. Thanks to Gail I get to sound educated on the colors, I am just learning as I go. This fall Shade will get all my ewes. He and the Shetland ewes should produce lambs that will grow into ewes for 120-130 pound range. All the extra lambs should weigh 70 pounds by fall and bring a good price.  

Our next sheep run: We have made final arrangements with Rayna. Next Monday we will meet in Brainerd to exchange my 2 ewes for Goldie and Silver. Silver and Goldie are due the same time as my other 2 ewes in May.

 Our next sheep run will be in early July to Gail's farm to pickup Blue Bell  and a nice good sized Finn ewe lamb of an interesting color....to be determined.

Mid July we will travel to Garrett's and pickup 6 wet ewes on weaning day. My flock will have a lot of color, some carry spots and modifers. My ewes are yearlings, most 2 and 3, and a 4 and  5 year old - many lamb years ahead of them. It will be an exciting breeding fall and then the WAIT for Spring 2011 lambs.
Its been a trial and error to get the flock "right". I bought some ewes that didn't fit my changing objective and they went on to good homes. My Shetland and crossbred Shetland ewes bred to Shade for increased size and wool clip should get me to my goal. A flock of medium sized ewes that has the hardiness of the Shetland, a bit bigger in size for bigger market lambs--as we know we can't keep every lamb-----and retain the soft fleece with good crimp.  The Finn ewe and Goldie - looks Tunis-no one knows her breeding-  will provide a bit of 'something different" to keep it interesting for many years.

Till later


Friday, March 19, 2010

First Lamb of the season!! The first lamb for us in Six years!

6:30 at evening grain, Shadow wasn't interested. She hung back and was sniffing the straw as if she were looking for something. Her lambs had dropped and her ligaments were sunk. I put her in a large pen...She is so big I am expecting twins or more.I checked her at 8:45 nothing.  
11:30 barn check  Shadow has a beautiful lamb, its all cleaned off and nursing. Oh the color!  I check the sex it a ram lamb But what a pretty ram lamb.  "Shade" has HST markings. He is sired by a white Border Leicester ram  Shadow is a great mom and has plenty of milk. Shadow is a 120# ewe and Shade is a hefty lamb. I will be watching Shade as he grows and his fleece develops, maybe he will be a ram candidate for my spinner flock.
Shadow was in need of more groceries when I bought her, so dropping a single egg was probably all she could muster. And farming's perennial optimism maybe she will more lambs next time. I like her.
My other 4 ewes, Maybeline and Cher are bred Border Leicester, Goldlie and Silver are bred Shetland
are not due till May  So further lamb excitement will have to wait..and wait.........and wait........

Till later


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bits and Pieces

I have too much time on my hands I will admit it. Retired and doctor ordered to take it easy...I have my hobby farming set up for ease of feeding and care. Half my barn is filled with hay and straw (yes right now plenty for winter 2010-11) and am feeding the last of the hay out of the garage. Now the garage is for parking vehicls in! Grains and supplements are handy by the hay, water hydrant in the barn, a heated tub for winter water- which I dip out a pail so the chickens get warm water. Chicken walk-in pens inside the barn. Chores are 'too easy' as in not time consuming.......more time to lean of the fence and watch.
Goldie possible parentage
Goldie  Note Goldie's ear 3 notches left ear ewe and a  triplet?

 Finn Tunis ewe  Same bare head and coloring

Where do I go from here? Shetland ewes weigh 68 to 100 pounds. A pure Shetland lamb is slow to mature. I have been surfing the internet for ideas. I found farms using colored Finn rams on their Shetland ewes. Today's Finn is larger and bigger boned. Finn ewes 130-160 pounds, rams 150-200 pounds, Finn cross lambs have small head and make for easy lambing. Finns are very docile so the crosses will be tame and easy to handle. The Finn increases milk production and the cross lambs weigh 80 -90 pounds by fall. And as we all know a Finn cross ewe can routinely have triplets and raise them. The Finn fleece micron test is 22-29. wool clip is 6-10 pounds and soft enough to be worn next to the skin. So adding Finn blood will maintain or improve the quality and quantity of the Finn/Shetland fleece I have spoken to Gail and have reserved a Spring ram lamb from her moorit Finn ram and her colored ewes....black, blue-grey and spotted  all of Wee Croft breeding.  I can maintain my Shetland colors on the crosses, increase prolifically, increase size and market a bigger lamb.  And most/all the lambs will be polled.
Gail's Osmo Finn yearling Ram  He is half again the size of Gail's Shetland rams
(pic courtesy of Little Red Oak)
A blue grey Finn Shetland ram lamb

A whole pasture of ewes like the blue grey above would be just great

Till later


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I need your help! What breed(s) is Goldie?

Goldie is an exceptional ewe. She was sold as a Shetland but is the size of a good mule ewe, so not a Shetland. I would like to produce more like her-- with the right ram on my Shetland ewes  I like her
Open face and head, clean legs, friendly disposition, small ears to the side, fine fleece. She doesn't have the erect ears of a BFL cross, nor the pendulous ears of a Karakul or Tunis, as a 2 yr old produced a beautiful single lamb so probably not part Finn or Romanov.
She was bred to a Shetland ram and produced Silver. Silver has Shetland quality fleece and again the size of a hefty mule.

I don't know the answer just ask for your best guess, may be you have a  ewe like her and can suggest her breeding?
Leave your comment or email me at pfletcher@gctel.net
Karakul Finn ewe


Karakul Cross ewe

Half Romanov ewe
      NC Cheviot/shetland                                             

Monday, March 15, 2010

Boy! Times Have Changed

I raised several breeds of Bantams and Chickens 2003-2006 Old English Bantams, Silkies, colorful laying hens. Fantail, Roller and Modena pigeons.  I shipped out +300 Express Mail live Bird shipments. Once I got an email from Las Vegas, a mother wrote that last night her son's hens were lost to a coyote. She wanted to replace them fast as her son was 10. We went out to the coops, picked out 2 colorful laying hens, took pictures and emailed the pics back to her, She was thrilled!  She paid $30 for the 2 hens, $10 shipping box and $55 to ship.....she sent the $95 by PayPal and we shipped them out that afternoon. Son was thrilled!
I sold rare color Modena cock birds for $100-150 a piece. Happy buyers all over I even sent bantams to Alaska!

I had Boer goats for 5 years. Registered Colored Boers, I sold breeding stock,  I would advertise my sale goats on UMListserv goat forum on Thursday and they would be paid for and picked up by Saturday, One Saturday I have 26 goats for sale, 3 buyers made appts came, bought and left happy All 26 were sold.

Enter the economic turn down, recession, depression, or mini-crash  pick your poison.  Hobby farmers tightened their belts with higher pries for gas, food,, mortgage payments, job loss or had their hours cut back and the fear of "where it will all end?"  and they quit buying stock for their small herds/flocks. By 2008 Registered sales were real slow and prices were down  December 2009 I was fortunate to sell my entire colored herd to a young breeder who wanted my breeding stock--I got lucky..I got pre recession prices.
  I had a commercial flock of sheep for 10 years, was raised on a dairy farm with hogs. I farmed independently as a dairy farmer for 11 years 1976 to 1986,milk prices dropped the variable interest farm notes at 8% (been variable for years but not a problem) went to 18-20%. I was diagnosed with Osteoarthritis in my knees and hip  at 32!! We decided to sell our dairy. We had our sale at the farm. We set up a sale ring and holding pens and sold cow families...grandma cow -daus-grand daus  We sold 103 head of Registered Jerseys in 3 hours to buyers from 7 states  Again we landed on our feet.

So I am new to Shetlands, but am an out hand at hobby farming. So at this stage of life, no hype, no registration papers, no chasing big money or showing. I will raise the Shetlands I like (bigger than average) with excellent fleece. Market the fleece, keep back the ewe lambs I like, ship the rest of the lamb crop  Sure if someone wants to buy my extra ewe lambs that will work too.

We have one grand daughter, her parents are not together, her dad my son has left our family. He won"t speak to us or his siblings.He has mental issues. (he is the oldest son but I didn't include him in the family blog) We are close to Nessie's mommy. We have court order visitation on weekends and weeks in the summer. When Mommy can't handle Nessie....now Nessie is an angel- really she is. We get a call to come and get her...we have her a lot, Nessie was here for most of her first 6 months, then her mommy gave Nessie to her mother to raise till Nessie was 2. Mommy Tracey rarely visited Nessie, daddy not all at. We had a family meeting. Tracey's mother has Fibromylgia (sp) and said she couldn't care for Nessie, so it was our turn. We thought Great and we go for physical custody! But Tracey wanted to try to raise Nessie.....she has been "trying" for 4 years. Before Nessie started Kindergarten we had Nessie for 18-27 days a month for 7 months.....if we have Nessie more than 50% of the time for 12 months we can file for De facto guardianship and be granted physical custody. Tracey pulled Nessie back when someone told her of the 12 month guardianship rule. We've tried for legal physical custody twice....we just have to keep being there for Nessie and see what happens. If  Tracey would be the bigger person admitting she can't do it and let Nessie stay here that would be ideal  Tracey could have weekends with Nessie.
I have raised kids (actual little kids not adult kids) for 32 1/2 years and am still doing it with Nessie
It would be best for Nessie to be here -- We like our peace and quiet but if we have to raise another child we will do it gladly and passionately  On that thought I coined this phrase by sheer accident.

One's legacy is the people they leave behind, the goodness they have spread and the lives they have touched.

 Till Later

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Beautiful Afternoon!

I had some water run into part of the barn with the rapid thaw. I put down lots of straw but as I walked across it I could hear squish-squish and I was not pleased. We have a huge puddle west of us. At noon the frost is gone and the puddle disappeared. Good! an end to the water running across the frozen ground. So I cleaned the barn and put down some good hay/straw chaff. Nice The barn looks good again. I am a little frantical about my barn I like it clean, dry and fresh. And I will admit-- I hover over my ewes and chickens. I was raised by good German parents,who said" if you are going to have animals, you are to take good care of them and feed them well." I guess it stuck.

Met my Shadow, sold as a Shetland cross.... When we sheared she has black guard hair throughout her wool. I have had Romanovs in the past-- Shadow is part Romanov no doubt.
She is 2 yrs old-- we checked her teeth- due in late April and is carrying quite a load.
So tame she will stand for a good petting. Her fleece with its coarse black guard hair mixed in fine wool was one of the first to sell.......hand spinner wanted to try something different

I swapped my last two ewes for sale Charm and Diamond to Rayna. I am getting a mother/daughter pair. Goldie is a 3 yr old, her breed in a mystery but she's pretty, tame and look what she produced! Silver is a yearling was sired by a Shetland ram . Both Goldie and Silver are bred to a Shetland ram and due in May. Thanks Rayna they will be a great addition to my flock Pictures courtesy of North Star Sheep
Goldie stretching
Silver with Goldie

Silver is a Gulmoget
Just look at Silver's face!!

Another addition which has been much anticipated-- Highlands Hollow BlueBell from Gail. She is one of Gail's great foundation ewes. She is an exceptional ewe, excellent fleece and outstanding conformation. BlueBell is a hefty ewe 100 + pounds, I like my Shetland ewes a bit bigger than average. They work best for my hobby flock. BlueBell arrives after her lambs are weaned about July 1st. Thanks so much Gail Just think next fall BlueBell bred to Bombarde. Now that will be some great lambs. A nice son of theirs will be my next ram.
BlueBell last fall

Picture courtesy from Little Red Oak Shetlands

Its quiet around here. We have our granddaughter for an extended weekend. Last night Nessie complained of an ear ache. Paula took her to the ER, yep another ear infection. Ness is on meds and is taking it easy. At 6 she likes her alone time with us. She is our only grand kid so she gets lots of attention. We may indulge her a bit, but she knows to be kind, caring and be well behaved. At 2 yrs old she was hanging on my pant leg......howling away,,,for the first time , I looked down at her and said "hey....Grandpa doesn't like that" Nessie stopped and has never done it again. If kids know there is a line they don't across, the rest is easy.

About all I know

Till later


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Odds and Ends

Our snow is almost gone! In November I started counting the days till April 1st. Well by March 4th Spring started. I know the rain melts the snow faster than sun, but this last week has had a lot of gloomy days I like to see the sun. The rain and rapid melting caused part of my dirt barn floor to flood. I will add more gravel to the floor next summer.

I sold Opal and Lavender to a 4-H family from Chokio MN They went to an excellent home older 4-Her and a active mom to oversee their care.

I have Charm and Diamond to sell

Cher is staying here. She has a tan face and legs, is mostly Shetland and very tame. She is a buddy to Maybeline and Shadow all 3 vie for my attention.

So I am at an idle....... to get Garrett's 6 ewes home--mid July. Perhaps it will teach me patience.......(but I doubt it- you know- teaching old dogs new tricks)

Till later


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

For Sale Bred Yearling ewes

I have been fortunate to have reserved 7 Shetland adult ewes to be picked up this summer
I decided to sell the five yearling ewes shown unshorn in yesterday's Blog posting

I have 5 yearlings ewes for sale. 2 are Corriedale crosses Charm and Cher are due in 2-3 weeks,
3 are Blue faced Leicester/shetland crosses - 2 are white Opal, Diamond and Lavender the a gorgeous black. They are due in May. All are bred to Border Leicester cross ram-nice lambs coming.
All beautiful ewes, great size, healthy and mild temperament.
They have been fed well and are in good condition--not fat just right.
they were SHORN 2/13/10 their wool has grown back
and they are in and out of the barn, they eat their hay in an outside bunk.
They ready to go to work for you.
Interested email me at pfletcher@gctel.net and we'll talk

Here's pictures of them shorn taken 2/28/10
outside picture (not for sale are the ewe on the left that's my Maybeline nor Shadow the dark ewe in the back)
Inside pic shows the 5 yearlings in a row

A sure sign of Spring

I have been saving the sky blue eggs I am getting from my Ameraucana/Easter Egg hens...Some of the hens laid all winter, others are slow to start up So the eggs are from my best winter layers-------trying to breed hens that lay all winter without a 1-2 month break in our coldest weather...I was waiting for one of my hens to go broody..that's not happening so I emailed a friend. She said she had been wanting to fire up her incubator but didn't have enough eggs to justified started it. But with mine she could hatch a batch, So I have 26 eggs incubating. They will hatch in 3 weeks.......the rooster is my beautiful blue red Flash......I am hoping for a few blue colored pullets to add to my layer flock by fall. Flash hatched from a blue egg and I am hatching only blue eggs so the pullets should lay blue eggs.

My Easter Egg pullet chicks (the roosters found a new home) are 7 weeks old and all 10 are colored like a Golden Campine hen, they will have a heavier built but will have "pheasant markings" and be colored like this Campine hen A great color.

Till later


Monday, March 8, 2010

Tomorrow last fleece of the season will be shipped out

This is my first year of selling raw unwashed fleece to hand spinners. I put an ad on Homestead Barter Board and my fleeces sold fast. The fleeces were heavy skirted before going into liquor boxes....don't drink but the boxes are just the right size. Marked each box with the ewe's name. If you have been following my Blog, I am going with an all pure Shetland flock (a grade flock- registered stock purchased w/o papers). However one ewe named Cher had a sliver Shetland dam and a Corriedale/ Shetland sire. Cher is very tame,,,I like that, she is marked with dark tan lines on her face and her legs are dark tan with white socks. We thought makeup like the singer Cher........so we named her Cher. Did I mention she was very tame ?

I hand pick out all the VM from my fleeces. Hey I am trying hard to build a fleece clientele. I got Cher's ready to ship tomorrow. Its very soft, very clean, good staple length at 4 1/2 " and feels good to the hand.
But my plan is to go all Shetland and keep the flock few in numbers. So the 5 yearlings will be for sale Cher, her sister Charm and the three BLF/Shetlands Diamond,Lavender and Opal, .
They are pictured below in the order I listed them above. They are available now as bred or later after their lambs are weaned.

Till later

Our farmstead and family

Our home and my flower bed

Sheep Barn

Pasture in fall color

I had someone asked me if I lived alone. No I have a wife of many years. Paula and I have three children.
The oldest our dau Jessie age 32 and her husband Dave live nearby. Jess works for the Post Office as a rural mail carrier.....and she is always good for "you know what happened to me today" Her visits last for hours and the conversation is non stop. Dave was in the Air Force and they were stationed in New Port News, VA and Florida. The Air Force had an early out program. Dave served three years, took the early out. His three remaining years were doubled to six years in the Air Guard. Dave took part in road building on the Mexican border (where he met the Border patrol), heavy equipment operator training in PA and other away from home assignments. In July. he was called to active Guard duty. AS of December, he is active duty in Afghanistan. His Guard unit is helping building 90 acres of airplane runway. He returns home next August. We all hope he returns safely. This last summer Dave applied for a National Security position with the Border Patrol. After reams of paperwork, several tests, physicals, interviews and an extensive background check he was offered a Border Patrol position. He accepted the position and his job will be waiting for him when he returns stateside. He and Jess are excited, he will have 14 weeks of school. Dave will be on the southern border for 6 months of on-the-job training and Jess can join him..After the training a permanent post there or on the northern borders.

Next is a son Darren age 25 has a quick mind and is a quick study. His mind is always in high gear. He fixes and builds computers. He rebuilds cars, does car repairs, he is always tinkering with something. There isn't much he can't do. He lives nearby and give us lots of help. A 'good' son. He is single, has a girlfriend of 4 years, works summers and is laid off in the winter. He watches a lot of news reports, so I ask him for the latest economy, war and political happenings. More long interesting conversations, he has a voice you can lsiten too for a long time. I told him he should do inspiration speeches at college graduation ceremonies.

Our third a son Derek age 22. He is talented in graphic arts. Three years ago he met a Australian gal on line. They talked by web cam for a year. Two summers ago she came here to visit. Bek (Rebecca) is great gal and she fix right into our family. Derek flew back with her and lived in Australia for 8 months. Last April they returned home, they got married in May and live with us. The plan was to stay here, but Bek missed her large family. She is the oldest of 6. They returned to Australia in November. Their plan is to get settled and established there for 5 years, then they will return stateside to live nearby. They plan later to have children so it will be nice to have them nearby.

I have an older son, from a previous marriage, that has disowned us, He has mental issues and refuses to join in. Seven years ago he and his then girlfriend Tracey became pregnant. Tracey had a beautiful daughter Vanessa. They had a volatile relationship. We had baby Nessie for weeks at a time........we became very attached. Nessie is our only grand child. They broke up. Tracey's mother raised Nessie for 2 years. And we continued to have Nessie every weekend. By the time Nessie was 2 Tracey began raising her. We maintain a close relationship with Tracey and have Nessie on weekends and during the summer. Tracey lives a 40 minute drive away. If Nessie is sick and can't attend school, Grandma Paula will get a call and drive to Fergus to bring Nessie home. Before this year..Nessie is now in Kindergarten-- we had Nessie 15-20 days a month. Her mommy's life is still not 'together' yet. Nessie is pure joy, she is a beauty, smart quick, intelligent beyond her 6 years and loves to come here. We are blessed I love my role as Grampy. Nessie, Grandma Paula and I are very close. She reminds me of when Jessie was little girl. They looked alike at that age so every once in a while I will slip and call Nessie - Jessie. Nessie has good grip on the way of the world, and we are committed to guide her through the pitfalls.........she desired to have a good happy life.

Oh my this got long, maybe I should stick to sheep and chicken topics, ah but I wanted to share my family with you.

Till later


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Today I vsiited Garrett and looking at his Shetlands

The weather was cloudy but the roads were dry. The clouds kept the sun away but the snow was still melting! Garrett showed me all his sheep. We talked about the care and feeding of Shetlands........a bit different from raising big commercial sheep. They need little grain and good hay. They thrive well on summer pasture. Good pasture mixtures, Market strategies for marketing ram lamb for slaughter.
Garret called in his 50 Shetland ewes and we looked them over. Garrett had posted a for sale list.....ewes are available after their lambs are weaning about July15th. He was very gracious, he caught each ewe of interest. We checked her over and he held her for a picture. They have good fleece, are larger, stoutly built and have good frames. For my grade flock I look for ewes that are a bit larger than the breed standard..ewes that are near or exceed 100#
Some were just too good to pass up........I guess today was a "strike while the iron is hot".

When I was done I had picked out 2 ewes.  Thanked Garret and we headed for home-- the sun was out. We had a nice Spring day drive home.

New ewes

 Snow Cloud 2007

 Shasta 2005

Come summer they will join Maybeline  on my hilly pasture and seek shade under the oak trees.

6 1/2 yrs ago we bought 5 acres. Our yard started as a sparse 'deer' corn field. As we were staking out the house, garage and the very necessary Barn,,,,,,,my mom commented "See those three massive oaks?" Three big oak trees tower behind our farmstead. Mom said "say I got a farm name Fletcher Three Oaks".......and so it is.
I give a special thanks to Gail. You welcomed in a guy with a love for sheep and advised him on Shetlands. And here's hoping BlueBell and Panda Bear give you ewe lambs! (so we can visit this summer)

Till later


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The wait for lambs has begun.

Maybeline one of our ladies in waiting
So why Shetlands?
A few years ago, I had sheep for 8 years a commercial herd of Dorset, Finn crosses, Romanov crosses, Sufflock, Montadale and Border Leicesters
Our first year we had 4 Romanovs bred to our Dorset ram. One day the 4 Rom ewes were real close, so I penned up the 4 ewes and we went to work. That night at chores.......first pen 4 lambs........can't all be hers! so who else lambed and the lambs got in her pen?.....next pen 4 lambs (seeing a pattern here.....) third ewe 3 lambs, fourth ewe 3 lambs.......all up dried off, nursed That year Dorset/Finn cross, Romanovs and some crosses, some Dorsets.....16 ewes and we weaned 48 lambs. Beginners luck. So I have been there done that.

As I start my new flock I have 3 shetland ewes. Shetlands are the best! The only sheep I'll keep
I am enjoying their Small size, I was going to check a hoof on a Big Border Leicester ewe we landed on the ground I had a 200# ewe on top of me! I am Too old for that.
Shetlands have incredibly soft excellent fleeces. They are tame gentle quiet, some love hands on attention. Known for their easy lambing, best mothers and heavy milkers.
So more Shetlands are coming this summer I can't wait

Till Later