My first foray into the world of competition was at the 2016 Shepherd’s Extravaganza at the Puyallup Spring Fair. In addition to the fleece entries, there was a section for sheep, so I thought I would take Zipper along. I thought it was a conformation-type comp.
About three days before, reading through some fair material, I saw the disclaimer that all animals sales were final and thought I had commissioned Zipper to a sale!
Not the case, really. If I wanted to sell her, I guess I could have put a price on her.
She got a couple of baths and brushings and was trimmed all over with an Oster A5, #10 blade. You know that means business!
Zippy was a little anxious during the trip into Puyallup, but other than trying to look out all three windows at once, travelled pretty well. When we arrived with all the fleeces from the recent shearings late Wednesday evening, there was a table with bags of fleece and a couple of people, some empty stalls and straw bales. No one really knew what to do with Zippy, so I just chose a nice-looking stall and got her settled with hay and water.
It seemed kind of sad to just tell her goodnight and leave her there, all alone.
When I arrived the next morning, she had taken matters into her own hands. Another sheep was in the adjoining stall and Zippy jumped out of her stall and into her new friend’s. Since there was no identification on her or her stall, no one knew who she belonged to. Lesson learned, don’t leave your animals without ID.
With new and delicious hay, ZIppy was happy to go back where she was supposed to be. She was unlike any of the other exhibition sheep, being friendly and ready for petting at a moment’s notice. She looked very slick and shiny. During the fleece judging I could hear people commenting on how sweet and pretty she was. She was a hit with little kids, whom she sniffed obligingly and allowed them to pet her. The sweet chow that she got during the day didn’t hurt her feeling any, either.
The fleeces were another story. The 12-month experiment was successful in that I did recognize the point at which the fleece was in prime condition, about month 9 1/2. After that, the rain and rubbing contributed to a whole lot of felting going on and the judge said so. She retained Valaree’s and gave it a red ribbon. There was another Gotland breeder there that had passing fleece, but I think mine would have been superior to those had they been sheared earlier.
Dafne’s fleece was the largest and was taken by someone who wanted to complete the felting for a rug. I am going to offer the others for that purpose and have sold Valaree’s for spinning. Next week, all the sheep will get trims and baths so we can start out this year evenly. I think they will produce premium fleece later this year.
Daria’s pelt is ready to be picked up from the tanner and I am going to use it for the Farmer’s Market as a table topper for the eggs. I’ll sell , if someone wants to buy it.
On the poultry side, the little Barbs are growing out well. They have been outside in their new pen for a couple of weeks and have favorite hiding places among the bull thistles. The Cornish hen is brooding 7 eggs. As her previous eggs were fertile, I hope she can hatch all of these and perhaps I can sell a couple of the chicks. I’ve looked high and low for a new line but so far, anyone who has Cornish (and there are precious few breeders anyway) have the dark breed, not the white. Not even Greenfire Farms has any!
The Barbs that I got as eggs had a hatch rate of only 20%, and that breeder said he would ship a replacement dozen. The Chanteclers should ship as chicks this month, and there are a couple of Canadian breeders who have eggs, so I may make a run across the border for a new line. I want to have a good selection of breeding candidates and have enough left over to offer in the fall CSA.
I am examining the workflow for hatched chicks. Currently they hang out in the house for a couple weeks and then move outside with a heat lamp, but I suppose they could be placed right into the high tunnel with a heat light. It would be more convenient to have all their food and water out there.
The high tunnel is coming along. One interior wall is finished, despite the goat’s best efforts at destruction. The entrance wall should go up this next week. All of the herb and vegetable starts are planted and new corn sprouts are growing indoors. Hopefully the weather will remain warm, if not sunny.
Spring is the busiest season, more so because of all the infrastructure construction going on. This time next year, I should have the jobs more streamlined and be done sooner in the season, but I also expect I’ll have lambs and kids to deal with.