Saturday, May 4, 2013

Well, I was wrong when I said spring was just around the corner in February.  Here in Minnesota we are still having "spring".  It has snowed all through April and into May, which makes it tough for the pastures to grow!  But, the ground has finally cleared, and the grass is greening for this year's wonderful lamb crop.

We had an outstanding year of lamb production at 180%.  Moreover, the lambs are fat, the ewes are fat, and all run and play out in the pasture.  It is truly rejuvenating to watch.

Sadly, we lost two lambs.  One from a set of triplets and one due to injury.  But, that is the way it often is with farming; good days are greeted with sad and sad days greeted with good.  It would seem that the balance of each is needed to truly understand the miracle of life.

The flock has grown much more colorful with the introduction of our new moorit (brown) ewes.  We now have all different shades of brown ranging to jet black.  Also, we got two white lambs.  One from a white ewe and one from a black ewe.  Therefore, my previous postulation that Bucky was homozygous black has been disproven.  Still, our cross of Bucky on Rush produced two beautiful, coal black, and horned, ram lambs.  We also got our first true katmoget (light on top, dark on belly) ewe and lamb.  Both will be registered animals from the White Pine flock.  The ewe's name is Basotho and she produced a beautiful little ewe lamb.  They each make excellent additions to our rapidly expanding flock.

Bucky, separated from the ewes for now to allow the ewes some peace, is cantankerous as ever.  His bad mood is received by anything he can ram, except humans (thankfully).  So far, he has managed to destroy several barn doors that I will be replacing this summer.  It is too bad that he likes to bash things so much because for the rest of the time he really is a docile ram.  He is in great shape and looks a bit devilish in his all black coat with his tightly curled horns.

All the sheep are shorn, except Basotho.  I was very glad of my classes at SDSU and showed off my new skills to my dad.  He was amazed at how docile the animals were under the holds that I was taught.  I also got to use my new clipper, a Shearmaster from Oster.  It worked excellently and made the job much easier.  As an aside, we have all of our fleeces rolled and bagged if anyone out there is interested.

We are still very dry and as previously stated, very cold here.  We will be praying for warmer wetter weather and continued health of our fun little flock.
(Pictures to come)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

  It is an exciting time here at Rocky Top!  This week is set to bring warmer temperatures and Rachel and I spotted several robins on a walk today.  I will take these signs to indicate that Spring is just around the corner.
  In a bit older news, we have expanded!  Our purebred flock grew by four ewes earlier this winter, bringing our total number of purebred animals to seven! Visit the the "Sheep" page for more info about these lovely little ladies.  They were a rare find being young and from fairly close.  Even more amazing, they are tame.  Not just 'barely-tame' as in, "I can feed them without them trying to kill each other to get away," but actually tame.  They will come up and eat out of our hands.  Their bravery has inspired the rest of the un-tame flock to calm down just a bit, and has resulted in Bucky eating out of our hands as well.  I think with each new ewe his head gets a little bigger, but that may be just the horns.
  We will be expecting lambs sometime in the next month.  It is always an exciting anticipation, waiting to see what we will get for the year.  Hopefully the girls lamb a few ewes.  It is easier to expand a flock through breeding than through buying.
  I have not heard how the wool spinning has been going.  I will need to check on how well it spun up and hope to find more consumers for the coming years!
  I do know how the lamb tastes, because I have had it several times now!  For our Christmas meal in Northern Minnesota, Rachel and her mother made roast lamb shoulder with mint dumplings.  It was absolutely delicious.  If you've never tried lamb, I encourage you to indulge yourself with one of Earth's most tender and flavorful meats.
  I don't think I have stated it before, but if you are interested in wool, lamb, or purebred breeding stock, please don't hesitate to let me know.  I may not have anything "in-stock" as my production is limited, but we may be able to work something out for the future.
  That's all for now.  Remember, as all good shepherds know, "Keep those you love close, for their health, and yours."


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

  Well, once again I have neglected writing for far too long.  I think three months might be my new record!  I promise to try to be more diligent with my blog updates (for any of you out there that still read it). 
   Since September (again, sorry!),  Robb has moved back to Ramsay Farms.  Garrett put him on the scale and he weighed in at 90lbs.  I was happy to deliver such a good looking ram lamb.  In exchange, Rachel and I have picked out one of his ewes that he will be breeding to a gulmoget ram.  We are excited to see the progeny from her. 
  Our ram, Bucky, went out with the girls the second week of October.  We are hoping for mid-April lambs.  Little Giant Bucky x WhitePine Rush will be the only purebred cross on our farm this year.  We are slowly, but surely, expanding our purebred Shetland flock.  We are hoping for some ewes in the spring!
  Spring seems a long way off at the moment.  Here in central Minnesota we have just received over a foot of snow!  It was very pretty as it fell, but now we are stuck trying to maneuver around the drifts.  Rachel and I took a road trip with the pickup to get round-bales to feed the flock through our long, cold Minnesota winter.  It was the first time since I had the timing mechanism replaced that I did any pulling.  Thankfully, everything worked great.  And now, with some help from my dad and his larger tractor (the bales were very heavy), we have hay stored for the winter.  The flock was very happy for the rich alfalfa after cleaning up what grass was left in the pasture.

   Such is life here in the snowy, Northern plains.  Winter pastures are all too often just dreams and we must revert to feeding hay.  Moreover, our area has a high density of coyotes and we have spotted tracks going through the far pasture.  So, I shut the gates for the winter and am praying the coyotes don't find our sheep before I find the coyotes.
  The chickens are also "cooped up" and my parents and myself have resumed the associated chores.  Call me silly, but I swear the eggs taste best when I collect them myself.
  In other winter news, I have just attended a sheep shearing school at South Dakota State University.  It was very informative and a great learning opportunity.  I also met some great guys and look forward to going back in future years.  I hope that I will be able to use some of the skills and tricks I was taught when I have to do my shearing this spring. 
  That's about all I have right now.  Take care and stay warm!


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Hello All,
   So sorry for not posting more recently.  I seem to have developed a habit of waiting to post for several months.  I think this is probably bad blogging behavior.  I will work to remedy my issue in the future.
   We had an excellent summer here at Rocky Top.  All the sheep stayed healthy and our pastures kept growing.  Here in central Minnesota, we have received just enough rain to keep everything green, for the most part.  We have certainly fared much better than our friends to the east and south.
   In early August, we traded our ewe lamb for a very similar looking ewe lamb from Kyle Whitcomb (Little Giant Shetlands).  Rachel has named her Penny, pictures to come.  Our three grade ram lambs we could not get sold and will thus be brought to our local butcher.  We will have a lot of lamb meat in our freezer!
   As for our purebred flock, Robb has grown wonderfully and will be brought to Garrett Ramsay (White Pine Shetlands) sometime this fall.  Bucky and Rush look great and Bucky's horns look as though they will clear his head without problem.  They are nearly a full curl now and quite massive.  I think ram horns are one of my favorite things about the Shetland breed.  I do have to say, however, that Robb has far nicer horns than Bucky.  I think he will make a great horned ram for Garrett.
    That's all for now.  I'll post some pictures when I get a chance.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Hello, again.  I apologize to everyone who has asked for a new post recently.  I have been extremely busy with my "real" job which involves planting crops.  The planting season has both kept me from seeing the sheep as frequently as I would like, and putting up new posts on the blog.  However, I am now through the planting season and have found some time to get back out to the farm.  The lambs are looking fat and happy, which to me indicates some good milking ewes.  All of the sheep are doing spectacular, despite the wild temperature fluctuations here in West-central Minnesota.

I did get shearing done before the heat set in and Rachel's mother has been spinning away with the fruits of my labor.  She has made some lovely felted bowls with wool from last fall's shearing.  Both Rachel and I are very excited to see what becomes of this spring's fleeces.

My grandparents have returned from Texas and the farm is once again inhabited by humans, along with the farm animals.  The chicken chores have thus been relegated to my grandparents, along with the duties of eating the eggs!  In addition to the sheep and chickens, my sister has bought some Holstein steers that she hopes to re-sell in the fall, fattened on grass.  They are also being kept on my grandparents pasture, but separate from the sheep.

We still have three ram lambs for sale.  We are willing to sell them for pets, flock sires, or slaughter; we just can't keep them!  For more info, visit the "For Sale" tab, or e-mail us.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, April 8, 2012

We have lambs! We had six, but tragically lost one this very morning. A ram lamb, from our only set of twins, jumped in the water pail. In the fifteen years of sheep farming that I had done in the past, I had never had this happen. I followed all the rules and used a tall sided pail with the bedding much below the lip of the pail, but on the farm you can never prevent all accidents. Hopefully this will give his twin sister a leg up. She (the other lamb of the set of twins) was in need of rescue herself. Being the only set of twins in our small flock, our yearling ewe was having a difficult time caring for both lambs. The ewe ended up abandoning her ewe lamb in favor of caring for the ram lamb, which left the ewe lamb quite hungry. I tried an old trick that we had used in the past and rubbed the placenta on the ewe lamb and placed all three, the ewe and her twins, in a jug. All looked well, until this morning.
However, the rest of the flock is doing quite well. All the lambs look fat already; and at only a week old! The only bad news there is that we have (barring the little twin ewe) an entire ram lamb crop. Which makes growing our flock through our breeding a little difficult. No matter, the sale of these ram lambs should help us buy some more purebred ewes.
Speaking of purebreds, Rush's lamb has been named Robb after George RR Martin's character from his book series "A Song of Ice and Fire". He is our only white lamb. It appears our "Bucky" throws his black color, which is very exciting.
Charlie has been helping me herd our small flock and I am working on getting him to respond to commands to move around the fence perimeter. However, he is also the cause of my delayed shearing. He got a little overexcited "herding" our ram and took chase. Upon my calling him to me, he ignored the command. So, I then began the chase for my dog. All of this chasing ended abruptly as I stepped around the corner of a building and my shin had an untimely meeting with Bucky's head. This encounter resulted in me going to the clinic for x-rays. No broken bones were discovered, but I have a nice goose-egg and one heck of a bruise to show for my efforts.

This lambing season has been eventful, to say the least. Still, we are five healthy lambs to the positive, with a pasture full of green grass. Who cannot be optimistic.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

We purchased a new ewe! White Pine Rush is a registered ewe out of Garrett Ramsay's flock near Perham, MN. She is bred to one of his flock sires and we are excited to see the progeny.

She brings our total number of registered animals to two. It looks as though the rest of our ewes have settled, which has put Bucky in a cantankerous mood. He takes his frustration out on the water tank. Despite my utter lack of ability to train a herding dog, Charlie helps out when he can.

In addition to the sheep, we have partial care of my grandparents brood of hens. They produce more eggs than my parents and Rachel and I can keep up with. Well that's about all for now.