Sunday, May 11, 2008

sheep shopping

My friend Albert is a shepherd who keeps a Romney flock. He invited me along on a journey to buy a new ram. (I'd mentioned in that earlier post that his old ram wasn't up to the job anymore.) Yesterday, I arrived at Albert's farm at 7:15 AM. I visited with his two chocolate labs, waved to the sheep, horse and cows... and we journeyed down to Tennessee in a pick-up truck with a special sheep and goat pen on the back.

It took about two and a half hours to get to Far Out Farm. Kim and her mother Jane (contact information in that link...) breed Romneys, Cotswolds, and Shetland sheep. They also have some fascinating cross-bred animals, great for wool, and some very entertaining Great Pyrenees dogs.

As Kim says, "Predators? We don't have predators. We have big white dogs!" Great Pyrenees are serious, gentle, guard dogs who mean business...they aren't pets, but working dogs. They live with the farm's 160 or so sheep.

However, as of January, the farm was taken over by a litter of puppies, big fluffy puff balls of play. There were, of course, also the other dogs: the brown farm dog taken in as a stray, and a Greater Swiss Mountain dog. (Everybody's got to have a pet or two!)

I didn't manage a lot of good photos on this trip. We were busy visiting and shopping seriously for the right ram (Albert has only 20 ewes or so and he needed just one special man--ahem-ram for the job.)

What do you look for in a herdsire? In this case, the shepherd wanted a smaller ram than his last one; his flock was getting very big, and an oversized ram produces larger lambs that may not be easy for their mother ewes to deliver. Also, we were looking for a good fleece, preferably colored (not white) and a healthy young animal. Jane and Kim separated out three potential rams for us, and also showed us those ram's sires. (dads) We got a great idea of how these younger guys would look when they were fully mature. These rams were all so cooperative that we were able to step into a small pen, examine their fleece, feet, and other features without any worry of agression. Rams can be dangerous, but these guys were very laid-back. Kim and her mother have a way with animals. Everyone was loved, petted, and discussed, from the smallest lamb to the largest ram, as we walked by. One Shetland cross ram came up to be scratched and wagged its tail whenever Kim was nearby!

We chose a white ram whose mother was colored and his father was white. This way the flock (nearly entirely dark colors) has some lighter fleece genes introduced. A handspinner, after all, can't live by brown and gray alone! Also, this ram was cooperative and good looking. Downright sexy, as young rams go!

I was sincerely restrained and did not come home with even one fleece, although some of the fleeces in the "to be skirted" pile really turned my head. This is a barn room, roughly the size of a large bedroom, full of fleece. I should get a medal for resisting the siren song...but I will be seeing some of these fleeces in just two weeks, when I teach at a festival in Tennessee. I hope I can hold back, but it's hard!

Back in the truck, I munched on my peanut butter and jam sandwich as we drove another 140 miles back towards Kentucky. The new ram, in his wire livestock crate, got a lot of attention as we drove through downtown Nashville on the highway! (sexy, I'm telling you!)

At home, Albert pulled the truck into the pasture and we opened the crate. The ram leapt out to check out his new surroundings and ewes.

I said goodbye and went home to town to rest--Getting up at 5:30 and travelling just under 300 miles before 3 in the afternoon is a little tiring! It was a fun trip, a learning experience, and I hope it'll be a successful "match" for the sheep at my friend's farm!

Next time: Rosemary's questions.
Festival Update: There was a theft of a cash box at New Hampshire Sheep and Wool. It's no longer looking like on isolated event...please help by taking responsibility and keeping your eye out when you attend a festival event! Everyone can help prevent crime--like a fibery neighborhood watch?!


Blogger ~ P ~ said...

Hi Joanne,
The post on your trip to Far Out Farm was great. Talk about a small world. I'm originally from Kentucky by the way. I've purchased some wonderful fiber from Kim last October. She had a booth at the Murphfreesboro,Tn Fiber Festival. You memtioned that you are teaching at a fiber festival in two weeks.Would that be the Dickson Fiber Festival. My husband and I are driving up for that one. I've never been to it before. I understand it's a two day event. What classes are you teaching? Good luck with your classes.
Happy spinning.

May 11, 2008 at 3:30 PM  
Blogger Peggy said...

What a fun and tiring day. I am quite proud of you, you didn't come home with a fleece. However, lets see how you do at the festival thingy. :) I see your point about gauge swatches meaning just more knitting. It is truly all in how you look at it. Thanks for commenting on my blog. :)

May 12, 2008 at 4:50 PM  
Anonymous AlisonH said...

Thank you for taking us along! That is one sweet-faced sheep. I found myself wanting to reach out and pet him.

May 12, 2008 at 5:24 PM  
Anonymous Jan said...

I would have hijacked the truck and driven it straight to my house. Do you suppose Harry or Sally have any herding genes? Great restraint on your part!

May 12, 2008 at 7:45 PM  
Blogger June said...

How fun! Sounds like you had a great time!

May 13, 2008 at 6:50 AM  
Blogger renaissancewednesday said...

Well, I think that's the first time I've seen a ram called "sexy." Hee. ;)

May 15, 2008 at 9:06 AM  

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