Thursday, November 30, 2006

Animals in My Life - from US Thanksgiving

This magnificent animal is my new ram from Julie Guilette. His name is Bramble Nick ... and he is working off part of his keep by servicing some of Stephen's ewes. He is ... F2 Greyling ... F3 Holly ... and F2 Jamie. He is also a gentleman ... and beautiful!
AND ... over my last few visits ... Alpha, who has HATED me for almost as long as I have known her ... has now decided that I am her trusted friend! It is amazing what several hundred dog cookies can accomplish ... hehehe
Seven of the ewes that I have at Sheltering Pines are being exposed to SheltrgPines Justinian. Justinian is an F1 Roban Dillon gulmoget. He is homozygous black, so there will be likely be lots of black lambs ... but ... Matt and I were just discussing tonight the amount of moorit in my flock ... ;-)

U S Thanksgiving Weekend

Well ... I arrived last weekend at Sheltering Pines with my usual enthusiasm and energy ... and a HUGE list of things to get done. My friend Stephen ... appeared somewhat overwhelmed ... at first ... hehehe
Troy and Greg cut down dead trees, winterized fish ponds and the pool and did a LOT of other assorted tasks. Kim N was visiting as well and she helped Stephen sort out several knitting problems. Sandy and her husband helped put a new roof on the 'Wool House'.
Slowly ... Stephen started to become more like himself as he helped us all to get tasks completed ... :-)
This is the light I put up at the top of the ram barn so that Stephen can see to do chores at night. My friend Dan, pictured below, passed things up the ladder to me. When we were done and I was back on the ground, I told Dan how frightened I am of heights. He told me that he was as comfortable on a ladder as he is on the ground ... but how would I have KNOWN this ... hehehe
Dan and I also built a new cover for the cellar way, as this was a priority for Stephen's 93 year old Mom ... and I ADORE her! Look at the determination on Dan's face ... ;-)

The whole weekend was so much fun ... and we got a lot done as well!

I'll try to post sheep pictures later.

Monday, November 27, 2006

"The Kid Across The Road Who Makes It Possible For Me to Do This"

While I was away this past weekend, Matt ... the kid across the road who makes it possible for me to do this ... looked after my sheep and the farm.

I decided that since you all hear about him so often, that I'd post a picture or two. Above is Matt wearing his new hat. I am TRULY hoping that it will be a mild winter so that he won't have to wear this hat often. It tends to scare the sheep ... and the shepherd ... hehehe.
This is Matt on AI day. He was SOOOOOO very helpful. And he didn't wear that 'hat' ... hehehe

Matt is likely the best thing that came from our move to this farm.

BUT ... do NOT tell him that. Instead ... just say ... 'Nice hat Matt' ... hehehe

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Gulmoget Pattern ... and away for a few days again

Here are two pictures of gulmoget pattern ewes. The gulmoget pattern has 'v' shaped eye flashes, white under the chin and on the chest, a white belly and under tail area, and white in the ears. It is my favourite pattern in Shetlands.

Above is WillowGarden Billie Holiday. Along with being gulmoget, she is also spotted. I love Billie!

Below is WillowGarden Kay Star. Kay has been artificially inseminated to Todhill Hornblower, the black UK ram. Is this not a face that can only be loved?

I have ten ewes in the US at the moment, and at least half of them will be bred to an F1 gulmoget ram from different lines all together. I'll try to get a picture of him while I am there.

I will not be back until Sunday night ... so ... don't expect an update before Monday.


Sunday, November 19, 2006


I set up the main breeding groups yesterday ... for the 38 ewes that will be bred the 'regular' way ... :-)

I have six ewe lambs that I am not breeding this Fall as I think they need to grow some more first. Also in this 'no-breed group' is Dailley Kate.

Kate is almost 14 years old, and a treasured family friend. She had a stroke last winter, but still gave us a wonderful ram lamb ... Box Car Willy.

As a result of her stroke, Kate droops on one side and drags one of her back legs slightly. She has her own house and pasture right beside the house that she shares with others who need the space. Kate frequently has a booger displayed prominently ... but we love her anyway.

At the moment though, Kate is NOT a happy sheep. She spent most of last evening and this morning trying to find a way through the fence to get with the cute little mioget yuglet ram lamb in the next paddock. Fortunately, her vision is poor and she was doing this by feel only.

She seems to be over it now, so we'll hope that she was cycling yesterday and that we won't have to worry about her getting in with Gus for another 16 days!
I do NOT want her bred again ... no matter what SHE wants ... hehehe

Friday, November 17, 2006

Sir Prize

I keep forgetting to post new pictures of Sir Prize. He has turned into a beautiful boy ... and is a GREAT hunter! He prowls all of the barns, along with his mom, Baghera, and his buddy, Barnie. I haven't seen a rat or a mouse in WEEKS.

And THAT ... is a very good thing.


Barnie ... What Next!

This is Barnie's new favourite place to hang out ... inside and around the Poultry Palace. He finds the sparrows pretty easy to pick off, and he seems to like chickens.

But, let me tell you ... when you are not looking as you gather eggs ... you can get a real shock ... hehehe

Thursday, November 16, 2006

This Weekend!

These people are my friends! They are also so very supportive of me and all that I am trying to do.

If you are within a three hour drive ... this is a MUST SEE!

Tell them 'Bill the Shetland Guy' sent you ... ;-)

No Breeding Groups Today!

It has POURED rain all night. The sheep are soaked. The barn yard is MUD!

I will not be catching and moving sheep today ... unfortunately.

This will delay round two of lambing by a day or two.


Why not just use a ram? More fun all round! ;) And less stressful on the ewes I would think.

This is what someone asked as a comment regarding the AI series of posts I made. It is an excellent question, and one that I will happily answer.

Most of the Shetlands in Canada are desended from 28 ewes and 4 rams imported by the Africal Lion Safari 27 years ago. A small flock was later found to exist in Sasketchewan, but this flock was desended from 4 animals. Over the years, semen has been imported from the UK into the US. Very few of the F1 (first generation animals from AI) are in Canada. As a result, our gene pool is not as diverse as it could be.

I was THRILLED to a part of a group importing semen into Canada, from Scotland, for the first time. Kathy Baker, in Alberta, organized this venture.
Besides adding genetic diversity to the Ontario Shetland gene pool, these rams introduce a few other factors back into the pool. Both have very crimpy, even, and solid fleece, with almost no white fibres present, and with minimal sunbleaching.
Glayva is also fully scrapie resistant, and will pass on good scrapie resistance to all of his lambs.
An examination of Glayva's fleece sample leaves me wondering if he might, perhaps carry the 'modifier', which produces some of the rarer Shetland colours.
There are 38 other ewes here at Willow Garden that will be bred 'the old fashioned way'. I still have 19 straws of semen left, so will go through the AI process once more ... but it will not likely ever become a common-place occurrence here at Willow Garden.

I hope this answers the question adequately ... :-)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Gone ... but not fogotten ... :-)

This week, my meat birds left the farm. The guy who runs the local feedmill took them to be 'processed'. He does this for several small flock farmers like me. It saves us a few bucks ... and TIME ... and likely helps him to sell a few bags of feed. It is a win/win situation. The birds will be back in about 2 weeks, but none willl be coming here. All will be delivered right after I pick them up. ALL are sold ... HURRAY!!!

The sun is shining for the first time in recent memory. I am headed out with my camera.

Tomorrow I will begin to set up breeding groups. That is my second favourite time of year ... seeing ewes with rams and imagining the lambs. Of course my favourite time of year is LAMBING TIME ... it is like a second CHRISTMAS ... just without the turkey ... hehehe.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Royal Winter Fair

Well ... this weekend was the final weekend of the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto. It was also the championship day for the sheep shows. It had been years since I had gone, and Gene and I decided to combine the Royal ... the Toronto International Art Show ... and a visit with my son and daughter-in-law.

At the last minute, Gene wasn't feeling well ... so ... I went alone and just shortened the trip so it was an 'in and out' trip lasting about 24 hours.
The Royal was as I had remembered ... except for the CROWDS!!! There was not one parking space left on the grounds and there were shuttle buses bringing people in from off-site parking lots. The aisles of exhibitor booths were TOTALLY congested.

We managed to find some quieter areas with fun and interesting displays.

My son Chris, and daughter-in-law Kerri went with me and were wonderful company. I got to see part of the sheep show, and lots of the things I remembered from being there as a kid.

The 'butter sculptures' were always a favourite of mine ... and they still are ... :-)

What a wonderful day ... that ended with a gourmet pizza ... and my son and I sampling and comparing several micro brewery beers and ales.

Friday, November 10, 2006

AI ... The Next Day

OK ... so it seemed pretty awful for the ewes ... and they likely would have been happier with wine, dinner, flowers, and perhaps a REAL man/ram ... but ... today ... the day after ... they look just fine and very contented. Above is Iris ... in bad light ... ;-)
Here would be my Aretha Franklin ... what a dear.
And lastly ... a group of katmoget ewes with Joanne (grey).

All seem no worse for the wear and tear of yesterday ... :-)

AI ... Part Six

Once sperm was in each horn of the uteris, the ewe was 'stapled' ... lowered ... sprayed with a topical anticeptic ... and then slowly and lovingly released from the cradle to return to her friends in the AI flock. Here, Matt is lowering a ewe readying for 'release'.

AI ... Part Five

Here we see the other Vet (Lynn) inserting one half of the semen into one horn of the uteris. Prior to this, Lynn thawed each straw, and then watched a sample of the semen under a microsope to see the nature of the 'swimmers'. In our case, Glayva's were 'exceptional' (we did 15 ewes from 14 straws) ... and Hornblower's were average.

AI ... Part Four

Here is Leticia with the second tube into the abdomin. This tube is where the semen is inserted.

AI ... Part Three

Here is a ewe ready to go in and be 'tipped' for the process.
This is the first insertion ... a stab with a tube that has attached a cannister of CO2. The CO2 puffs up the abdomin until the Vet thinks that it sounds 'just right' ... and then ...

Leticia looked through the scope as she was searching for the perfect view of the perfect uteris.

AI ... Part Two

OK ... this is what happened next. After the belly was sheared, and a long acting antibiotic was administered (I did that and stayed AWAY from my own camera ... hehehe) ... next ... the belly was scrubbed, washed, disinfected, and dried. Of course, the ewe was so 'wasted' that all of this seemed pretty pleasant to them.

AI ... Part One

Well, try as I might, I can't seem to get more than a few of the pictures from yesterday's AI experience to come up in sequence. Therefore ... I have decided to spread the process out over as many entries as it takes ... :-)

This is the 15 ewes that were bred to Todhill Glayva ... waiting ... :-)
Here is a ewe strapped into the cradle. The cradle was adjustable ... but ... even at its smallest, Shetland ewes needed a bungie cord to hold the front legs as they were just not quite big enough. Prior to going into the cradle, the ewes were given some sort of a drug that 'tripped them out' for about 10 minutes. Here you can also see my two able assistants ... Matt (the kid across the road who allows me to do all of this ... wearing his NEW hat ... hehehe ), my son-in-law Tim ... and one of the Vet's from Alberta, a Brazilian woman named Latecia (sp).
Here we have my amazing son-in-law shearing the belly of a ewe in prep for the process. That was one of his jobs ... and he did it well ... :-)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

What a Day ... with a FILM Crew as Well ... hehehe

Well ... it was one heck of a fun and interesting day here at Willow Garden ... like who would be surprised about THAT ... hehehe.

The last of the 'crew' just left. OC Flock Management, the people who flew in from Alberta to do the AI for me, were going to be in Ontario at the Royal for a promotional video that Lynn (Vet) is working on with Canadian Sheep Breeders Association. It saved me a few bucks if I let them come to my farm and film the AI. As a simple country boy ... ;-) ... I was expecting someone with a video camera on their shoulder. NOT THE CASE! The film crew ... complete with lights ... and more lights ... and cords that required MORE cords to get to an outlet ... consisted of a director/producer ... a lighting technitian ... and a camera person. This DVD, with a MAJOR production buget will be used to promote Canadian sheep INTERNATIONALLY. It will be produced in four languages to start with. And SHETLANDS will be front and centre. VERY COOL!! AND, with reciprocity between NASSA and CLRC ... Shetlands are the fastest growing breed in the NATION ... as we begin to move sheep to the Canadian registry. (There are actually no more Shetlands ... they just now show up as purebred when they are registered with CSBA/CLRC).

The Vet started the AI process about 30 minutes late, and it took what seemed like a long time ... complete with running REHEARSALS of SCENES before they were 'acted out'. We went past the 56 hours from pulling sponges and injecting ... but all the 'bits' looked rosy and got lots of oooos and awwwws. Looks like everything went as planned. Now ... we just wait to see if the back-up rams marks any.

In my usual insane way,of course, I invited everyone to stay for supper. I I had two vats of home-made soup waiting when we got done and the trucks loaded ... plus a bit of red wine and a few beers ... ;-). The soup recipes were variations on recipes from Farmgirl Fares' blog. Once I get my links up, I'll add a link to hers. The soups were a hit. I encourage everyone to check out her blog site.

t was a most wonderful day. A day that just leaves you feeling good ... :-)

Just finished cleaning up the kitchen, and since tomorrow is a work day that has me out of here by 7 AM, after doing chores ... it is bedtime ... :-)

More later. I'll have more pictures on my blog within a few days ... in the mean time ... look at the film crew ... and imagine my surprise at what I thought would be 'Mom with a camera' ... hehehe!