Monday, December 6, 2010

snow and hoof prints

It's snowing outside, a beautiful crystal-white snow that looks like glitter before it hits the ground. There are a few inches out there now, and every so often the flashing yellow lights of the plows fill the farm house walls. With the wood stove heating the downstairs, the Subaru finally registered, and the furnace repaired: I feel ready to take on winter as a first time home-owner. But there's also a reality that never set in before when I was renting or living under someone else's roof. If I get in trouble here, only I can get myself out of it. It makes winter a little less fun, and a little more like an obstacle course.

The huskies are beside themselves. (I swear they prance when they can't feel their paw pads anymore.) Gibson ignores it. I don't think Border Collies savor winter the way Siberians do. I took him outside in the dark, snowy, night he didn't even flinch at his first real snowfall around his white paws. To his defense, he was more interested in the eight sheep munching on hay just beyond the driveway fence. Honestly, So was I.

The flock is here. Finally. Gibson was just a pup when I went to pick them out this spring. I left a deposit of $200, and spent the summer mailing Barb checks whenever I could. Today I handed her the final check, that covered the sheep and the delivery cost. Handing her that envelope felt like a weight off my chest. My Scotties are here. Five beautiful ewes currently up in the shelter of the shed built for them just a season ago.

Why Scottish Blackface? Because they're a tough, foraging, heritage breed traditionally worked by border collies and raised for wool and meat. They do well on steep land (Cold Antler is on a bit of a tilt) and can handle harsh weather with pluck. They are naturally easy lambers, easy to handle, and responsive and ready to work with Gibson when he heals up. They're the perfect match for my life, goals, land, and usage. I can wear them, eat them, or sell their offspring to other area shepherds. And I think they have some of that feral and forgotten beauty of an older breed. They seem to be a small farm's perfect animal, with a hint of something wilder in their nostrils. I dig that.

Far as I know, we're the only breeding flock of Scotties in Washington County, but I could be wrong. I know there are some fine flocks south and west of me, but I didn't see a single SBF farm at the fair, or online, or through the grapevine of feed and tack stores.

So it might just be us in Jackson? I'm going to need some proper names. I already decided one would be Mary (Queen of the Scots) and another would be Narwhal (whoever she pushes around). Mary had a croquet mallet made out of a Narwhal's fossilized horn and she never lost a game with it. Sounds like a good name for the alpha and omega members of the new clan. I'm just not sure who's who yet. I'm just getting to learn their personalities, but one of the splotchy faced ladies seems to be running the show. She'll be Mary for sure.

I'll fill you in on the day of unloading, sewing, cheese making, and snow tomorrow. Tonight though, let us raise a mug of hot chocolate to new flocks, fresh snow, and debts paid.

27 Comments:

Blogger twistie said...

here here to debts paid off!

December 6, 2010 at 8:49 PM  
Blogger Kira said...

Congratulations, Jenna! Hidden deep within all my excitement and true happiness for you, I admit a tinge of jealousy. I so look forward to a day like you've just had arrives in my life, only then it will be Nubian goats!
Best of luck to you on this new and amazing adventure! I can't wait to read all about it!

December 6, 2010 at 8:57 PM  
Blogger Sue Steeves said...

I love the name Mary!!!! I just got a new breeding pair of Copper Satins to add to the meat rabbit herd and named them Elizabeth (Bess) and Dudley.....I am a Tudor dynasty freak :)

December 6, 2010 at 9:01 PM  
Blogger Odd Ducks Farm said...

They look beautiful, Jenna. I can't wait to hear more of them as they mature . . . and possibly buy some of their wool when it becomes available.

As for good Scottish names, how about some of these?

Cobhar (foam)
Linnean (cotton thread)
Feur (grass)
Socair (peace)
Dileas (faithful)
Bean-taighe or just Bean (homebody)
Màthaireil (motherly)

. . . just to name a few. :o)

December 6, 2010 at 9:09 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Your girls look great. Will they need to be shorn or do they shed/roo? Their wool looks so different from what I'm used to. How does it spin up, do you know?

December 6, 2010 at 9:27 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

Slainte!

December 6, 2010 at 9:32 PM  
Blogger finsandfeathers said...

So how pissed is Maud? : )

Congratulations! Yep, home/farm ownership can be tough from time to time. It's all part of the journey and the journey is worth the reward.

December 6, 2010 at 9:36 PM  
Blogger ladybughomer said...

How about Margaret after either the Sainted Queen of Scotland or her descendant, the latter day Queen Margaret (the Rose.)

My husband, a Scot, always tells me Scots rule in most things in life. And I must say your sheep are dear and beautiful.

December 6, 2010 at 9:46 PM  
Blogger Michele said...

You'll get used to it, that self-reliant especially in winter thing. I live in a house that has seen 102 winters already and we're doing just fine now. That first winter together was harrowing but we've got it worked out - different rhythms for different seasons.

I'd also like to throw out a name or two - I like old fashioned names myself. How about Agnes? Matilda? Mabel? Sadie?

December 6, 2010 at 10:07 PM  
Blogger GirlSavorsLife said...

Congratulations-- on debt paid and seeing a dream take shape in reality.

December 6, 2010 at 10:29 PM  
Blogger Tami said...

Congrats Jenna

December 6, 2010 at 10:39 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

The mug of hot chocolate sounds really good, but I'm on a pre-holiday diet.

Congratulations again on your milestone.

December 6, 2010 at 11:13 PM  
Blogger bookjunky said...

Beautiful sheep. Congratulations. You made a great choice. The "primitive" breeds are the only way to go, IMO.

I think I'd go for names like Aileen and Elsbeth. Here are some Scottish girl names:

http://www.babynames.org.uk/scottish-girl-baby-names.htm

One problem I have with livestock that all look the same is that it's difficult to name them...you might need colored collars or something to keep them straight...

December 6, 2010 at 11:23 PM  
Blogger Gelfling said...

one of our barred rock hens is Mary Queen of Scots. Others include Lady Jane Grey, Marie Antionette, and Anne Boleyn. The whole beheading thing just makes me giggle when it comes to chickens.

December 7, 2010 at 4:43 AM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

Did you get a good amount of snow down there Jenna? We got about 8-12 here in Middlebury, but I was doing layout work in the woods in Franklin county yesterday, and they picked up well above a foot.

There calling for 8F Thursday night here in Addison county. Winter is here.

December 7, 2010 at 5:08 AM  
Blogger daisy said...

So happy for you, Jenna! Every trial this winter will make you more confident about your own resiliance to handle the next.

December 7, 2010 at 6:48 AM  
Blogger Peacemom said...

Their wool is divine, more like hair then the wool we're used to seeing. Blessings to you as more of your future takes shape, and best of luck with all the sheep over this winter, The Almanac says we're in for a long, cold one.
~Vonnie

December 7, 2010 at 8:45 AM  
Blogger treehuggers kitchen said...

**happy sigh** Can I trade places with you for a day or two? Any longer than that and my hubby and kids would start to complain. :)

December 7, 2010 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger Sense of Home said...

Congrats! What a beautiful breed, and they are all yours!

-Brenda

December 7, 2010 at 9:07 AM  
Blogger Zoe Tilley Poster said...

Love the way you describe the dual farm/feral appeal of your sheep, and I agree that they are wonderfully wild looking! As well, debt has a long sad history with American farming... I appreciate that you talk here about how hard you think your financial decisions through and how you grow your farm as you are able. I believe learning how to make ends meet sustainably is a huge part of the picture for our new farming/homesteading generation... An important issue, and you are setting a good example!

December 7, 2010 at 10:55 AM  
Blogger E said...

Debts paid (and new futures) - that's great!

December 7, 2010 at 1:21 PM  
Blogger Matt_Middleton said...

How about Robbie and Burns? ;)

December 7, 2010 at 2:50 PM  
Blogger jenomnibus said...

You've done it! Many congrats Jenna! You really must be a budgeting genius - I'd love for you to post some of your budgeting techniques if you're ever so inclined.

December 7, 2010 at 3:22 PM  
Blogger Tommy said...

You may not want to divulge the financial particulars (not offended if you don't....), but what are the financials of raising sheep like this? Cost of each sheep, wool production, meat production, etc? Why did you choose the number you have (cost or space limitations?), and will you breed all of them come spring? I'm very interested to hear!

December 7, 2010 at 5:17 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Tommy, you can email me or call for details

December 9, 2010 at 7:21 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I am interested in the same questions Tommy had. I tried to email you but it will not allow me to open your link to email?? anyway could you email at nancyp545@gmail.com

THANK YOU!!!!

December 9, 2010 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I am interested in the same questions Tommy had. I tried to email you but it will not allow me to open your link to email?? anyway could you email at nancyp545@gmail.com

THANK YOU!!!!

December 9, 2010 at 10:43 AM  

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