Sheep!

by Callie B.

And the journey begins!  Last Friday the LaMar family traveled many miles to bring us these lovely sheep. When the kids got out of the back seat they said,

“Finally! We’re here!”

I know that feeling well, having spent many hours in the car traveling as a kid.

Helpful hint to weary travelers: Knitting is an excellent time passer, and has the added benefit of ending in a useful object (Well, most of the time).  I recommend circular needles; fellow travelers sometimes object to the long ends of straight needles.

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Our new family members

Mom and Dad are going to be raising sheep for meat (Dad is hoping to raise Cheviots, a handsome breed with roman noses and good meat production), but these little beauties are my wool sheep. Three of them are part Shetland and the one with the black and white face  is a purebred Shetland. I hope to have a large flock of these wooly ovine of Scottish decent in a couple of years.

In reality though, the journey began last fall, when we were all sitting around the supper table  talking about sheep,  and someone said;

“Well, why not? Let’s start a sheep farm!”

I don’t remember how we got on the subject, but I bet it evolved out of a conversation about homesteading, which Annie and I are highly interested in.

This turned into planning: We need to build fence, we need to clean out the barn, we need to buy hay, and so forth. So forth. That sounds like soldiers going forth into battle. It’s a little scary how much this journey of ours has been like a battle, with  the foes of  time, ticks and clutter being our enemies instead of men.

We started with fence, the perimeter of which runs around an area of  very brushy woods that Dad wants the sheep to clear. It sounds funny, but according to Chuck Wooster’s “Living With Sheep”, they can be used to get rid of small trees even. These little Shetlands are reportedly very good browsers.

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Dad showing Annie the finer points of good strong corners

Annie did the lion’s share of the work, going out after already putting in  full days at her job to dig post holes and set posts. She got it down to a fine art, and could probably go into competition as the worlds speediest post hole digger.

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Annie and her handiwork

Then Annie and I started scouting the area for local sheep farmers. We found a farm nearby that had two bottle lambs for sale. They were the cutest little twins, so tiny, with black faces and legs. Sheepy- looks  are deceiving though. Cute little lambs turn into big sheep at an alarming rate.

By the time we convinced Dad that these little lambs would be an excellent way for Annie and I to learn about caring for sheep, one had already sold. Dad and I brought the other one home in a big box in the back of the mini van, baaing so pitifully that I felt terribly guilty, and had some slight doubts about whether sheep were the quiet, docile  creatures I had imagined.

As an interesting aside, the Shetlands hardly ever make a peep.

The lamb was christened Dan Tucker, although Dad calls him Bucky, and unlike his namesake, was never late for supper.

Dan Tucker lived in a small pen until Dad finished fencing an area adjacent to the barn for him. It was both a lot of fun and a lot of work to raise him on a bottle.  The minute the screen door slammed in the morning ,  a faint “Baaaaa!!!!”  could be heard  from the barn. I liked to baa back at him, and he used to come when I called his name, but after I was gone for a few months, he forgot about me.  He’s a big strong beastie now, with a nice looking fleece.

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Dan Tucker

We’ve been having a little trouble finding people who raise wool sheep in the area; most have Katahdins,  a hair sheep known as an easy care breed because there is no need to shear them.

I personally find this breed to be rather ugly.   Is a sheep really a sheep without that big, almost  comical,  wooly coat? But I’m sure their owners are quite fond of them, and would be quick to take offense and defend their hairy companions.

We are very grateful to the LaMars for having brought us these sheep, and for all the wisdom Kris imparted. She has an invaluable amount of knowledge, and she taught me how to spin on my spinning wheel.

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Nate, Kris, Lexie and Elizabeth

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My first skein of hand-spun yarn

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