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.
Well, the girls have shorn the rabbits and put a good stash of Angora wool away for the next batch of grey and white yarns. I think that our rabbits certainly enjoy having their new easy-care do's. We just had a frozen fog which I never knew existed until last night - gorgeous! The ground is lovely white outside now, and the bunnies are all snug and warm with no reason to worry. I love how their wool combines with the Cormo and Finnsheep! Perhaps we'll try combining this with CVM also this coming year. Has anyone every tried this combo? So far, I've loved every angora yarn that we have had come back from the mill. The Finn Angora is so soft and with a blue sheen, while the Cormo is just so cottony and squishy. Winter certainly has its perks when it comes to enjoying halos of yarn! And apparently Easter is not the only time for enjoying bunnies!!!
The day was lovely, and the sun was bright, and so what does any sheep farmer want to do but go out and check the sheep and do maintenance? Well, OK. Not all of us, and certainly not as often as it needs to be done, but it was time, and the weather was accommodating. Our rams were due for their regulars.
This time through, we decided for whatever reason to not use the barn to corral and hold them. Don't ask me why... maybe it was just nice to be in the sun or maybe we were just hard-headed (likely!), and their position was convenient! My dog of choice was Benji this time. Many of his stories had happened in this exact same field and in this very spot. Somehow, it just felt like good old times come back to life again.
Benji and I share a special bond when it comes to work. When I open the gate and he knows that we are going to work, he will sing me his uniquely special happy song and dance a circle around my feet in anticipation. Then he settles right into my collected right-hand-dog. Down to business.
Just walking through the field beside me to keep me safe from suspicious rams is a delightful errand, but this time, I needed Benji for his incredible read and intuition on stock. And his reliable biddability. The wethers and rams were easily grouped together for John to check and do what needed doing. I stayed on the outside of the group with my dog. For awhile, you can count on just a presence of a dog being a distraction from trouble-making. This time through, that period was short. Apparently, the boys wanted to frolic in the sun that day also!
Benji is excellent at holding the sheep in a corner for us. Our needs were different for this chore though. Let me explain the complications: This was a very rounded and open ended field "corner" with a 20' section of trees before you get to an actual fence line. there were many easy routes of escape, and John needed the rams out in the open to be able to see and work. That is enough reason to have a very subtle and intuitive dog concerning pressure, but this time through, the rams were feeling rather frisky and like this sunny day was cause for play and celebration.... With my husband in the very center of the group! Yes - A barn would have been easier!
So picture my husband checking feet, giving supplements, etc. in the middle of rams wanting to mount whichever ram he's holding at the time, etc. Without scattering the group, Benji would have to manage to keep their undivided attention for John's safety. A difficult task indeed, and one that I had to manage to communicate. But Benji and I have learned to really work well together and understand so much about how each other moves and thinks - a true sign of what we want in our collies!
But this was to be a very delicate set of dance moves. Quite the challenge to our skill set. Of all our dogs here, Benji is most responsive to minuscule flock movements, individual animal behaviors, and my direction. The quiet calm before the brewing storm was easy. Benji set them in that open ended corner giving them lots of room to breath without giving them a reason to dash through the woods. We waited together while John started working through with the most difficult rams to start. The rams were a bit antsy, but Benji and I kept their attention by dancing carefully on our end to make sure they watched us instead of strategizing for other cantankerous activities.
Well, that all worked fine and dandy until John had completed work on the more difficult rams who were eager to bully anyone who was being held... and also putting John at risk. Benji was still not quite sure what was going on, as usually his job is just to hold these boys in place. I asked him to dance a series of up and back, lay and stand, a mix of eager and placid gestures in hopes of keeping the sheep confused... on their toes. In essence, bringing pressure forward not quite to the point of breaking up the group, and then moving back just enough for them to relax, but not enough to play shenanigans. Well, this certainly kept Benji and I on our toes! We watched everything so carefully calling on every skill of intuition that we could muster. He obeyed and then immediately was called off - pondering what we were doing and learning all at the same time. Benji danced away!
In the end no sheep was brutalized. John was able to complete his task safely. The big rams tried to break away, but Benji was able to put them back carefully without making the whole flock scatter in his gentle but decisive way. I think Benji really got the hang of "protect John and hold the sheep." I was drawing movements with my finger not even realizing what I was doing. Suddenly, I realized that Benji was following the drawings of my finger! He had figured out my chaotic directions and was working in synchrony! That is the wonder of Benji that we have here!!! I decided to stop drawing and told Benji it was up to him now. Bingo! He had it! No brusque or quick movements. He was the puppeteer, and the rams were his playthings! I stood back in awe.
Benji is not one for high praise for a job. It confuses him. Why praise a child for eating ice-cream? Benji's reward is working in the field with me. Still, I always thank him and talk to him. Whether or not he understands, he knows that I am pleased and that this is my way of telling him with a few special rubs and pats just where he likes them. Our job was done. Benji is as eager to call off for me as he is to work. "With Me" is probably his favorite command. And so he walked with me out of the peaceful pasture with the sun in all its glory.
Well, many of you have asked when Lorna will be due to have her next (first) litter. I must confess that I have withheld information in hopes of not getting everyone's hopes dashed if we were not successful. What a saga this has been and totally unexpected!
We are happy to say that Lorna has passed our requirements for becoming a breeding dog here at the East side of Shepherd's Hearth (our kennel shared with the knowledgable and wonderful Kendy Sawyer!) Lorna is a wonderful farm worker, hunts vermin, watches the sky, even points and alerts to sick stock in the field!!! We've had Lorna's hips tested (PENN hip (Right DI = 0.38, Left DI = 0.36)) and she was also genetically tested per Embark panel (n/m CEA, n/m MDR1) to confirm that we will be hopefully creating healthy and helpful working and companion dogs. Lorna will be two years old this coming February and has already previously cycled.
Needless to say, this cycle around, Benji - our stud (PENN hip (Right DI = 0.34, Left DI = 0.33) and Embark n/n for entire panel) was eager to finally have an opportunity to do his job. Lorna, however, had different ideas. Some of you may recall that Benji sacrificed his studly appeal to a skunk in the grand gesture of saving our chickens last time Lorna was in heat. This time through, there was no excuse so far as we were aware. The most important window in the heat cycle is short, and we knew that now was not the time to just "wait and see." After chatting online and on the phone with a few other OTSC breeders (Thank you so much everyone!!!!!), we decided to go ahead and take more drastic measures to assure the best chance of this pairing taking place. Though it is slimly possible that a short tie took place without our intervention, holding for a breeding was clearly not going to happen, as Lorna was not in favor of the matchmakers' choice or perhaps desired to remain a maiden. Benji, though eager, is also very considerate and wanting to schmooze the relationship along. If Lorna would yelp at all, Benji would stop and come to check Lorna's face sniffing with big concerned eyes. Who could resist that face? Well, we know who!
And so, our new adventure involved driving 1.5 hours one way to the closest Reproductive Veterinarian Specialist which happened to be at Virginia Tech. We can claim that we drove uphill both directions in the snow a few times, but that is beside the point and perhaps, though true, a wee bit dramatic. Several questions and appointments later, we are left with a solemn figure of 80% success rate and with the knowledge that both Lorna and Benji were both more than accommodating for the vets to perform the side-by-side AI that had to happen. Apparently AI (at VT who seem to have better than the norm of success rates per their staff) with dogs is far more successful than it would be with sheep or cows. Can I get excited yet?
Needless to say, there is a lot of watchfulness of Lorna around here. How much is Lorna eating? Is she still hungry? (Don't worry... we know not to increase her intake at this point.) Should we measure her belly? Has her attitude changed? Lorna is always a hugging dog. So humbly sweet, ducking her head and hugging her body around your legs while she crawls into your heart with her most beguiling eyes. Is she becoming more intense in anyway or even more bossy? All these answers I hesitate to say aloud for fear of creating false hopes. But we can't help but hope!!!
Lorna's projected due date per VT and blood work tracking her progesterone levels would be February 15th - Just around Valentine's Day! It appears that Shepherd's Hearth may have another set of holiday pups... "may" I reaffirm to myself. And so, we wait together. Lambing will come first with plenty to distract us. When the exhaustion and main suspense of this is finally complete, we will have more solid answers about what Lorna may be hiding. In the meantime, hope but don't, wait but don't, pick names but don't, plan a puppy birth room but don't - We are so excitedly not getting our hopes up!
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.