Want calm sheep? Got Finns? Last night, we brought up a lone ram lamb to visit a guest. This sheep stood still being pet with no halter. Happy just to be there! We raise traditional Old Time Scotch Collies here that work the sheep when it's time and relax when it's not. My kids were throwing the frisbee for the dogs who were whipping around all over not far from this lamb. This was late evening during peak sheep spook hours! He never even baa-d. The guest's Cocker-Spaniel was not upsetting either. In fact, after the ram lamb relieved himself, we even took him in to visit our litter of pups. Outside on the driveway, the big collies came and inspected on occasion giving an occasional lick to see that ram lamb was OK and things were as they should be. That is their job. And of course, true to Finn tradition, there was much tail wagging. Our sheep seem to sense when it is time for the dogs to work and when the dogs are just part of the family. Finnsheep are wonderful sheep to work with! They provide for us in many ways. I personally find them incredibly therapeutic also. None of us minded petting our Finn ram lamb and he accepted this as quite sufficient payment for his excursion. Finnsheep are wonderful!
After the Pride and Prejudice pups, Lorna and Tansy have formed an incredible bond. Lorna, I think, was so grateful for Tansy's help in gathering and distracting while she needed space from puppy teeth and nursing. These girls have continued their partnership in many ways. Some pictures of the girls loving on each other and playing in the middle of the Spring litter where they could both enjoy puppies fully.
Kind neighbor sends us her frizzle chickens who are being picked on and four collies meet and supervise. Nice friend with truck and trailer pulls up with new Kerry bull and Lorna alerts and points. Winter watches. All collies lay and watch while our new bull exits trailer and goes to find his herd. All in a moment of a day yesterday in the life of our collies.
Nanny dogs are invaluable! They watch the pups when mom needs a break and can play without worrying about tender parts being molested by teething cuties. Tansy is very much looking upon the "Pride and Prejudice" litter as her serious job and is thoroughly vested in her role as Auntie. I often have my hands full moving the pups from one spot to another, but Tansy will faithfully stay with the pups and babysit until I have moved the very last pup to where we are headed. She plays so gently and will suit her firmness to the pup and energy level involved. Occasionally, I would ask her to be easy at the beginning, but now I realize that she very much seems to have these controls built-in! What a relief! Kitty (now the biggest of the P&P litter) is Tansy's special friend. She seeks Tansy out to play and tease. Tansy seems to especially love her also! If there is a pup that is a bit too rough or confident, Tansy will gently correct and teach in a very cheerful manner. Such a perfect golden playmate and example! Thank you Tansy for so much help raising these pups! What would we do without you!
Once upon a time Kitty found her perfect spot to sleep. True, it was unconventional to sleep in the litter box, but usually this area was untouched, cool, and solitary. All of these things made the perfect sleeping spot.
But then one evening the inevitable happened! Someone had corrupted Kitty's perfect spot. She stood in her corner and stared hard. Nothing happened. She barked loudly. Nothing happened. She began scare tatics and pouncing. Nothing happened. So Kitty pushed clean litter towards the yuck with her nose to push the yuck out of her perfect sleeping spot. All was well and Kitty went to get a drink while Collins promptly came and took that perfect sleeping spot.
Picture is of Kitty back in her spot. All's well that ends well.
Winter and Benji had their "First Day of Spring" litter on 3-20-21! 8 pups. 6 girls, 2 boys, 3 natural bobs, 6 long tails, 3 tri, and 5 merle! Whew! Winter has been a very protective and proactive mom. Apply for this set of pups at out shared kennel Shepherd's Hearth. Pups are growing fast and will have puppy culture, disposition testing, instinct testing, and multiple other head starts! Happy to hear from you and answer any questions. Our house is full of puppies!!!
I say that Tansy has some big shoes to fill, but her feet are already quite large... In fact, at a mere six months old, she rivals all of our other dogs in size. She will be the biggest dog here, no question! But what of her skills? My other dogs set the bar high. These short stories give an example of how confident and watchful Tansy is, and how she has already learned to very intuitively help in big situations for such a young dog!
Tansy has been watching the big dogs for some time now. She knows when it's time to do what and how. The other day, my daughter was getting hay and feed to take out of the barn and move to a different pasture when two cows and a horse came to "investigate." Well, as one might predict, this "investigation" quickly turned into an interrogation and full-out mugging with no room for negotiation! This situation could have even been dangerous without quick moves and thinking. My daughter was quick and let Tansy in through the gate. And Tansy wasted no time! She promptly fanned back and forth between my daughter (Arianna) and the cows and horse navigating more and more space for her charge and the precious commodities while Arianna drug everything out with no further molesting. Then Tansy cheerfully came back up through the gate following her charge back to the other pasture.
Counter this short episode with an even shorter one. Lorna's pups are getting around a bit more these days. Tansy and Lorna and Winter all work together very well in caring for them. Benji watches a little ways off supervising and letting the girls do their thing. One little pup escaped the pen, and Tansy gently and carefully herded the pup in place and back towards the pen by licking. I didn't even notice until I looked at Lorna's (who was in the pen with me) intense face trying to see behind me! There is the versatility of these dogs in skills and ability. Intuition for both toddling pups and large beasts in groups.
Tansy has been tough and a thinker from the beginning. And sweet as pie! Her style is eager, and she very much wants to please. She is undaunted! A golden streak of superdog soaring by to save the day! We have many things to still work on, but so far I am very impressed by her grit and skills, intuition, and gentleness. Time to hug my dog!
Shearing can be a bonding experience. One that involves releasing the sheep from itchy and cumbersome wool. Examining all areas to be sure the sheep is healthy and needs no extra care. With the blades, our sheep get up when this process is complete and ask for more scratches. They do not rush away. They look, get a stroke or two, and slowly walk away to see their lambs.
Life resumes with little interruption except for a little extra freedom for sunshine and fresh air just in time for Spring!
This last Christmas, our girls received a rather unusual Christmas gift: a promise of specially suited blade shears and a shearing lesson from our annual blade shearer Kevin Ford! Not all kids would enjoy this kind of gift, but my girls were beyond gleeful!
Last week, in the middle of all the lambs and puppies, Kevin made his stop at our farm and helped the girls learn every step of shearing move-by-move. Sure, the girls have been shearing on stands, etc., but they have not been taught Australian style (sheep flipped up on its rear and turned as needed.) We really enjoyed Kevin's very attentive care for my girls as he bent and twisted and watched to point out where to next put their feet and how to adjust the sheep to have better control and a cleaner cut. I was amazed at how Mr. Ford was so quiet and calm and confident seeming to pass this right on to my girls as he often does with our sheep when he shears. Everything was - mostly - seamless as the blades clicked and my girls were made aware in a real way of the hidden strengths that a routine shearer must possess. Kevin was there to back them up in case a sheep thought that it could attain rogue status, and the girls learned the tricks of the trade as the sheep learned struggle was useless. This day was long, but so full, and exhausting, but so exhilarating! Master shearer Mr. Ford stepped in to help us shear a few. We left the pasture with not all sheep shorn, but the girls having completed quite the brunt of it and with some practice left to solidify their newly learned skills. Both of my girls prefer shearing with the blades. They feel more confident in not cutting the sheep and like the lightness and quiet clicking and snipping sounds that seem not to rattle the sheep. The heaviness and vibrations of the electric shears would make the job cumbersome and undesirable in their minds. My husband is quite the opposite and strongly prefers the power of the electric shears. Interestingly, he feels more control and less risk with the electric head, not minding the weight and heat and vibrations quite so much.
We still haven't completed shearing our sheep. If the rain will give us a break, there are a few out there waiting for the girls to remind their muscles of memory they should keep within. After shearing that day, they took a tincture of arnica for soreness and went to bed early with every inch begging for bed. They woke up sore, but ready to get out there again. The exhilaration of what they had started they wanted to complete! Weather prohibited, but in a time where it can be difficult to feel accomplished, fulfilled, and to learn new skills, they were able to really take charge and complete something they've always wished that they could!
Kevin Ford is a rather very well-known and respected man of his trade. There are few left shining the blades and certainly not many that would live up to his skill. His days of shearing and sheep have been many, and I cannot say enough of what an honor it was that my children had this opportunity from such a talented and able teacher. They have their blades that were altered just right for them. Handles, sharpening skills, the shine and care all passed on. I don't know exactly what the future holds or how my children will continue to grow and reach for new things, but I do know that this was a very precious opportunity, and one that will teach them the confidence of new things and mighty strength in small and peaceful movements. Movements that were modeled by a great teacher, shearer, and friend. This will be a highlight for me forever. My girls still keep watching the sky and waiting for their window to shine again. The sheep relax and graze as if nothing has changed. But I know better. This generation of shearing has only just begun!
And as soon as they were done we took many of these colors to our local Roanoke yarn shop to be sold (Wool Workshop). Lots of colors still in our shop though! All from our very our animals! Thank you for your support!
This blog chronicles our very full life here on WoodSong Farm. We will share everything from dog to sheep stories, unique wooly works, to animal husbandry tips we pick up along the way. I hope this helps to give you an idea of what our extended farm family and wooly projects are like, and that we may somehow benefit everyone who reads about our journey.