Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Feeling a Bit Sheepish to Confess this

For years we thought that adding sheep to our farm would be wonderful; however, we also had always heard that sheep were stoic and would suddenly die with no explanation.  Since it would be trial by error with them anyhow (we had read all about them, but hadn’t experienced them), we were hesitant to adopt ovines and have them die on us “without any apparent reason”.   So a few more years passed and still we didn't add any sheep to the farm.

Then one day I overheard a conversation a young teenage girl was having with several farmers.  She was trying to find a home for a Shetland sheep. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to give sheep a shot! After asking several questions, I decided to drive out and meet the Shetland ewe named Strauna.  She was tiny and black.  Although she had recently had a lamb, it was already weaned and the girl’s family wanted to keep it.  I checked out Strauna’s teeth, eyes, hooves, and pellets.  She seemed to be healthy and her wool was beautiful, so I decided to make my first sheep purchase!   

Strauna came home in the back cab of my truck.  It hadn’t seemed worthwhile to take the large horse trailer to pick up an 80 pound animal. We put her in the paddock with our young girl llamas and she seemed to adapt instantly. Normally, we don’t buy single animals because of our concern with them becoming lonely.  However, before I even had a chance to ask if they’d ever sell any more sheep,
they called me and asked if I wanted an Icelandic wether (no longer a ram). I was thrilled! “Yes!”, I said before I’d even checked him out!  I drove out to the farm that next day after work and brought home the young wether named Yerba. His wool was as white as the Shetland’s was black. I brought him home also in the truck and placed him in the paddock with the llamas and Strauna. Life was good.  I had two sheep and they were happy and healthy. 

Because both Shetland and Icelandic can be shorn twice a year, in late August I thought I would try to give them both a “trim” and see how their wool “handled” when cleaned.  They were both very gentle and relaxed while we snipped off a few locks of their wool. I loved the Icelandic and Shetland fleeces equally. They both have the outer coat (Tog) and under coat (Thel).  Their fleeces aren’t as laden with lanolin as some breeds. Although I didn’t sheer much off of them that first time, it allowed me to become more familiar with working with wool (so different from llama fiber).

A wonderful surprise came later that same fall.  I got a telephone call from the young teenage girl saying that she and her family were moving and she would need to sell the rest of her small flock. She wondered if I’d be interested!  I was too thrilled for words when I realized that my two sheep would be reunited with their flock.  Again, I said yes and drove out to get them.  Little did I know that the flock’s guard llama was part of the deal.  I hadn’t needed him, nor necessarily thought I wanted him.  I wasn’t sure he was entirely healthy and I certainly didn’t want him bringing parasites onto the farm to come in contact with my llamas. But, when I saw how stressed he looked to be taken away from his flock, and then learned he would be auctioned at the stock yard, I decided to buy him, too.  This time I had brought the horse trailer and I was glad that I had!

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