Ever consider making your own clothes? Having a source of quality wool and entertainment from these wonderful animals is worth considering. In this series Jackie shares here love of sheep and how they are an integral part of our off grid ranch life.
I have always loved sheep. I grew up in the city but was always a country girl at heart. That was one of my dreams, to live on a farm in the county. I never seriously thought THAT would never happen, but, here I am.
I kind of got hooked on the idea of sheep, when, one year (in 1979) I jokingly asked for a spinning wheel for Christmas, AND GOT ONE. Growing up, at our house (I come from a BIG family), we drew names for Christmas. My brother in California drew my name and took my request seriously. I’m glad he did. I took spinning lessons, bought a sheep fleece and went at it. I was never very good, my yarn never looked like store bought yarn. I did “excel” (and I use that term LOOSELY) enough to crochet a pillow.
Alas, I injured my back badly on the job (I was a Veterinary Technician) and couldn’t spin anymore. I was out of commission for awhile. But, that didn’t kill my desire to have sheep SOMEDAY.
That day came in 2001. One and a half years after we moved here, we went to a small farm and ranch expo on Spokane,
AND….came home with a 2 week old lamb that we had to bottle feed. It was very fun. We named her Kinsey, and she followed us around like a dog. I’d take her on walks with me. She grew into a BIG Columbia/Dorset cross ewe, and lived to be 6 years old.
Kinsey needed some sheep friends. I saw an ad in the Nickel Ads one day, for some Shetland sheep . I looked them up. They were cute LITTLE sheep, so we got 2 ewes. They were SO cute. But these particular ones were not hardy and did not last more than 1 and a 1/2 years.
Several years later, when my daughter was old enough to show sheep in 4-H, we were given a Merino lamb wether (neutered male) (we thought-I will get to THAT later). Ondra did not want to show a “market” lamb, one that gets auction off for meat, at the county fair. So she showed “Abraham Lincoln”, nicknamed “Abe” in the wool class. That way he wouldn’t get auctioned off, and we would bring him back home. Ondra was small for her age and Abe was BIG, and VERY stubborn. She had a real hard time managing him in the ring even though she had worked with him every day. But they both survived. He had GORGEOUS brown wool. Merino wool is the finest wool in the world. Abe did us proud. He got Grand Champion wool sheep. We were REALLY blessed to have him…for a while.
After we were back from the fair, Abe started acting strange. He was trying to mate the llamas!!! That did not seem like NORMAL sheep behavior, for a wether. I caught him and felt around and YIKES! he had a hidden testicle! He eventually became mean and dangerous and had to be put down.
The next year, I decided Ondra needed a smaller breed, like Shetland Sheep. They are supposed to be a hardy breed, but the 2 we had earlier, weren’t. We took the risk. I’m glad we did. Shetlands are the cutest, friendliest little sheep.
That’s it for now, I’ll have more about our Shetland sheep, and why April is a fun sheep month for us around here.
Ever considered sheep for your off grid ranch? What breeds work best? Tell us about it below in the comments!