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!
The Lorna x Benji "Pride and Prejudice" litter has hit the ground and will be running soon. That's LOTS of pitter-pattering with 10 puppies!!! 6 boys and 4 girls. All tri-color as expected and lovely with only one bob-tail of the whole bunch (Mr. Bennet)! And just in time for Valentine's Day as they were born 2-13-21!
Turns out that even in Lorna's rather rounder state, nothing has really slowed her down. This AM, taking a note from the cat's book, Lorna sneaked up and nearly had two separate squirrels that escaped from right between her very paws.
Last night, a rather pacy Lorna kept leading us to the sheep pasture. Turns out that one of the stalls had been opened letting loose a set of lambs and mom. Mayhem ensued and all was put to right with Lorna's alert. Needless to say, she was happy to rest afterwards. Picture taken last night before thick-headed humans followed her to the sheep barn for the second time.
Time is moving right along, and Tansy is stopping for nothing. In fact, though we had a bit of testing at the beginning, she has turned out to be such a loving and wanting to please pup! She is most similar to our dog Benji of the females in many ways. Tansy simply lives to work and make people happy! She has a great off-switch that came mostly built in. With the basic obedience strongly in place and her excellent impulse control, we have taken her into the field on multiple occasions now to start practicing with sheep, and she now also helps to put chickens up at night. Oh the glee!
Tansy is not an extremely drivey dog in that she has a loose and happy manner that is not intimidating. What our rams do find intimidating about her is her very lack of fear and her natural confidence that she never seems to question. She does not need to be right up on their tails to make her point. One of the things that we love about her! She seems to bounce with happiness and direction in the field without running the sheep too hard and is happy to make her moves at a distance without feeling the need to assert herself upon the sheep as long as they are compliant. That is not an easy thing to teach, and we are so grateful that she seems to have this intuition innately built in! "Easy" and "That'll do" have been rather fun games, and as long as we're happy, she doesn't seem to have any sadness at what chasing she may have been denied. What a GREAT pup! As a side note, I have to say that we've wanted one of this line for a long time to combine with Benji's line, and we are not disappointed! I'm so thankful that we were blessed to get this dog!!! (A big thank you again to Rebecca and her Sunshine and Ryman's Hunter!)
Interesting things about Tansy: We have had to teach her that visitors' shoes are allowed. There haven't been many opportunities to teach this lesson, but when there are abandoned alien shoes, she will remove visitor clogs and place them in an arch away from the side door at a decent distance. We bring visiting shoes in the house at this point, and Tansy may get a bit of a time-out if caught. She has seemed to get the idea, but we still find this habit very amusing! She has her own ways of order and communicating for sure!
She is not a "Yes-Man" personality. In fact, I would call Tansy a supervisor. If others are taking care of the need, why should she jump in? Rather, Tansy will sit back and watch and learn. If something needs doing, however, she is right there. The mailman doesn't phase her. After all, someone should stay back with the peoples while the others go to protect the front gate! I love that she knows that the role of "protect gate" is filled. Her confidence and her humble wanting to make us happy are a perfect combination!
Tansy is starting to pull chore wagons (lightweight and short time periods, as she is young.) She has learned "Up," "Whoa," and is learning "Gee" and "Haw." She really wants to pull more weight than we'd like to give her. She is a strong and motivated dog! Very happy to be useful, and whoever needs her is who she loves best!
As far as the rest of the dog-pack, Winnie is sister, Lorna is like a momma, and Benji is a continual source of awe. So funny to watch those pack dynamics! Tansy is so loving to them also, but has no qualms about grabbing Winnie's ear tufts and walking her where she thinks tolerant Winnie should go. Winnie doesn't seem to mind, but loves having a sister to play with. Lorna has been a constant companion, insistent stick champion, and teacher of all boundaries and rules. She is not cross or unkind, but gentle and persuasive in her methods. Benji is rather more aloof to those silly stick games. Tansy finds him fascinating and will often run up to get a close read of his face and hoping for attention and approval. She will give him a rather quick, but undignified kiss on occasion, which he bashfully accepts. It's all rather sweet!
As far as playing with us, I've always had the feeling that Tansy plays with toys as a way to interact with us.... as if we were the puppies who needed playing with! And perhaps she's not wrong! She still seems to live to make us laugh and is so very jolly. If I have a treat and say, "OK Tansy, what can you do?," she proceeds to turn a circle, roll multiple times on the floor, throw herself into a "lay" with a thump, offer her belly, and sit eagerly interchanged with something we call dancing. "Do you want food?" "Bark!" Tansy answers! She delights in delighting. She is very very gentle with her mouth. She almost seems to want us to win if there is a bit of tug-o-war. Her mouth is so soft, you almost have to push the toy in as we go about this facade of pretending to wrestle and chase. Who could ask for more! Lorna's pups are coming soon. I am hoping that Tansy will be a big help, and I know we will really appreciate her gentle ways when they get here and she is able to meet them. She started out as a nanny, and I think she continues to grow into this role even with the sheep. We are all her charges. I honestly don't think she ever saw herself as a puppy as I'm thinking about it now! She was born to protect and serve, and she had to learn that at times this was our job. Now that she understands, our mutual trust and bond is so much the stronger. In fact, she is always so close or running straight to us in a way that makes getting solid pictures of this blonde bombshell difficult! But Tansy is growing up so well. And I believe that she will continue to be doing some teaching of her own as time goes on!
Look for our new logo as we put out new products! Shop on our website, WoodSong on etsy, or perhaps even at house, or in our local Roanoke yarn shop: Wool Workshop! We're so thankful to have so many different venues during a more challenging time. Thanks for looking and supporting us here at WoodSong!
"Make a joyful SHOUT to the Lord all ye lands... "
We are nearing the end of lambing season (3-4 ewes left to go!) It's like Christmas is never over for us until we finish helping all of our Spring lambs into the world, and this season has been great! Last season, we had an overwhelming amount of ram lambs. We were due after years of the girls winning. This year, the girls have won again by a slim margin, and we have many to sort through and make the hard decisions. Wouldn't it be nice to keep them all? Snuggles and cuddles and ear tagging and hoof trimming and worm counting and feeding and shearing? Ok, Ok. Yes, we'll have to carefully chose who to keep after all.
How do we decide who stays and who goes? Well, despite all the flashy colors Finns can sport, we have decided that it is most important for us to concentrate on parental talents and lamb silhouettes. In other words, how does mom do for udder, maternal instincts, number of lambs and ability to care for them, etc? How is her long term endurance? For the sire, we've done the research, and he would not have been added to our mix if he didn't fit the genetics and type in all ways that we are looking for. We don't wait if we see a ram that we want in our herd. I'm not afraid of too many rams. However, that being said, I also am very picky about who we bring in. Thus, generally, I don't have problems with having too many rams. I would like to see beautiful provings of these rams in our flock and so will grow out many lambs to see what stays and who may need to go.
The lamb silhouettes dancing around do have attitudes of their own, fleeces, and colors, but I pretend not to see them as I look for that straight back, nice reasonably wide face, good hooves and pasterns, growth, well-shaped legs that are not angled. I'm not at all saying that we are perfectly where we want to be in all these areas by any means, but I can say that we make new efforts every year and are always excited to see the results! After the silhouettes, I back out and look for that special something. Sheen, crimp, color, personality. Oo-la-la! Finns can have it all! I certainly ask my rams to get as close as possible and am excited when they can pass this on to my new lambs.
Even though we keep our best lambs, I think in the long run that this benefits our buyers. As we select so carefully, we are moving our flock towards a common goal whether or not we are retaining all the lambs. These improvements can be noted in the lambs that we decide to sell from year to year as we continue to aim for that moving target. And though the movement of that target will diminish, I know that it will always be moving! Improvement is part of the fun after all!
So what do we have this year? Surprisingly, we had a higher percentage of black than we had expected! And so we will be only keeping the very best ewe lambs and offering other black ewe lambs for sale. Also, we have some worthy ram lambs to list. This is the first year that we have added true brown to our flock, and we have some stunning ram lambs to offer that I believe would make any Finnflock proud. We will be retaining all of the ewes from our brown sets.
And is the most wonderful time of the year near to ending then? I don't think so... We have had some of the most healthy and hardy lambing that we've ever had. Anytime we visit the barn, the lambs skip in to greet us! Soon the little bits of green pasture will be springing up to try to keep up with our new littles and bursts of warm happiness and glowing fleeces will abound! Please do contact us if you are interested in learning more about our available Finn babies. We'd love to share more info about us, our lambs, and our farm!
P.S. All lambs below and above are from this January or February. Our flock was tested clear for OPP and Johnnes in Spring 2020.
Announcing our upcoming litter due 2-15-21:
Lorna x Benji
Penn Hip tested parents proving themselves daily here on the farm.
All pups will be genetically clear by parentage or tested with the possibility of n/n or n/m CEA or MDR1.
Instinct testing and other evaluations for the most successful placements.
Good Dog breeders.
Our list for this litter is full, but we have good reason to expect more litters in the upcoming year for those who may be interested.
Most current updates will be on our FB Kennel page Shepherd's Hearth.
No one told Benji this lamb was fragile. No one told Benji that this lamb needed help. Benji didn't have to have anyone coax him, and no one even guessed that he would take on this lamb and all others who needed help as his own personal charge and duty. No one told Benji that the loneliness alone can swallow up a lamb and the spark of life left in this dear little wooly creature. Benji simply did and was. He knew that the lamb needed him more than that wet cloth to help stimulate his bodily functions. Benji knew when those were done to stop and rest and bring a mammalian companionship that humans couldn't quite touch even though we try. Benji is gentle, kind, searching of the soul and looking for ways to help. His eyes exude strength and kindness. Even to my lambs. This lamb needed and Benji knew. Benji gives without reservation or discrimination. Still, Benji lays by our lamb.
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.