Friday, August 8, 2014

Ten Things We Will Miss on Our Oregon Homestead: Our Beautiful Flock of Wool Sheep

Today, we had to say goodbye to our beloved flock of sheep. We all stood on the gravel driveway, tearfully (just me) waving to their curious faces in the back of the pick-up truck, hoping…trusting…they will have a good home wherever they end up. I have never become so attached to animals as I have with these girls. Since moving day is just two weeks away and I have no clue when I'll ever be able to spin again, let along clean and card fleece, we decided to sell them. We plan to buy primarily meat sheep when we arrive in Idaho and take a break from these delightful primitive sheep that had become a large part of our identity. Even as I write this, I still can't believe they're really gone…Sheila, Wendy, Lucy (Lars calls her LuLu), Kenya, Seth, and Hickory- you will be missed!

We have primarily raised primitive varieties of sheep: Shetland, Navajo Churro, Finn, Icelandic, and the list goes on…We chose these breeds for their amazing resistance to parasites, great mothering and solo birthing abilities, gorgeous wool colors, small and (relatively) easy to handle, prolific breeders- what's not to love about primitives? We were able to hand shear them (A possible blog post?), trim hooves, and administer any shots or wormers that were needed. My husband, bless his heart, took on the majority of the dirty work once Lars was born while I got the better end of the deal with visits to the pasture for nuzzles and cuddling. Yes, we have friendly sheep! Our two Finn ewe mothers were bottle fed and have an incredible amount of trust and ease with us, which to our delight, passed down these characteristics in their lambs.

The Finns are my favorite. We have two purebred ewes which were first time mothers this past year. Wendy had twins on her first pregnancy and Sheila had quadruplets! One of these appeared to be stillborn but she easily nursed and mothered her three shivering triplets, Kenya, Seth and Hickory.
As the third lamb was being born, I couldn't believe it and quickly went to do a bit of research on Finn sheep. Apparently, they average 2-6 lambs with each lambing. So, when the fourth lamb arrived I was somewhat prepared for bottle feeding and even went to the freezer to thaw out some goat milk we have saved for such an occasion. It was bittersweet to hold this little stillborn lamb for it didn't get a chance at life but I also felt a deep sense of relief that I wouldn't possibly be having to nurse both a human baby and bottle-feed a lamb all night long. I'm not quite sure how to articulate it, but death on a farm becomes more a part of everyday life. No less grievous, but acceptable somehow.

So, on to new adventures with our soon-to-flock. Been searching Spokane/Idaho Craigslist this week and it seems there are some interesting leads...