Fleecy Update!

You might remember the sheep my friends Mary & Joseph adopted a last fall? Please excuse the recap, I still think it is cool and what a journey!
Before- full of burrs and tons of heavy wool. Sheep can get bogged down in snow and rain with that much wool. It gets wet and they can’t move.
 During- we sheared them right away. They were healthy under all that wool, no bugs and they were, let’s say, ‘well fed.’ Took us around 6 hours to shear all 3 sheep.
Once they figured out what we were up to, and how great it felt to feel air on their skin again, they even had a snack while being sheared!
One fleece!
Happy, clean sheep!
Pretty wool that was next to their skin. I truly adhere to the ‘no locks left behind’ rule. This is what a fleece looked like on the inside (next to the sheep’s skin) but the outside was felted around TONS of burrs.

When I went to visit my friend Heidi, we spent 2 hours trimming away the felted matts and burrs. This is how much wool we ended up with. It is soft and gorgeous! I am guessing it had been 3-4 years since the sheep had been sheared last. (The wool is whiter than the picture- don’t forget my photographic abilities stink!) I haven’t decided what to do next with the wool. There are breaks in the locks but even broken, the locks still measure 3-4 inches long. Hmmm. Right now it is washed and awaiting my decision. Thoughts anyone? Of course I want to spin it but what do you think the yarn would be like? I’m sure it would be a beautiful yarn, but would the breaks make it pill in a project?

OH, and here is your daily cuteness! Our Morgan the Tunis sheep sends smooches to you all!

Thank you for stopping by to see the sheep’s adventures!
Sandy & the sheeps

Farm Pondering…

As a general rule, our days on this farm are peaceful, busy and definitely our little slice of heaven. We have beautiful, happy sheep who spend their days playing, snoozing and looking for hugs. (Well, more likely treats!)  Over the years we’ve had a multitude of bottle lambs who are now grown up into even sillier sheep!
We’ve watched them grow, help injured sheep who find their way to us and taken in retired sheep from our friend’s flocks. We’ve given sheep a safe place to live out their lives when life changes forced their owner to re-home their beloved sheep.

One of the hardest things I do is watching my sheep friends get older (my vet says old- but I don’t like that word)! We have 82 sheep now and only 20 sheep are under the age of 7. The rest run between 8 and 22 years old. Ruby is 22 and a peach. She always has been. Never been sick. Now I am seeing her start to look her age. She’s lost some weight, has some foot issues and is moving slower. Nothing we can’t deal with but I think no sheep should ever age.

Most sheep are not around for middle age much less old age. There are definitely other flocks who are well cared for and loved. However, many in the industry don’t keep their sheep much past the age of 5. I’m not saying our philosophy is the only way to keep sheep, it is just what we want to do and what works for us.

Aging sheep have brought a new learning curve to our farm. I thought I had saving/caring for sheep down pat. I can recognize a lot when a sheep is sick and know how to treat it. And when to call our wonderful vet of 15 years. I never thought we would be doing dentals for our sheep. They get pointy teeth, then lose weight because it hurts to eat. Arthritis is a major issue for them. Many before they reach 8-10 years old. We can treat them with pain meds and supplements until they are just too sad and sore.
One of the hardest things for me are sheep accidents. I would give so much to have our good old snowy WI winters. Not the ice bowl we have every winter here now. Phooey. Monday when I went out to feed the sheep I found our sweet Amelia (aka Ami) had fallen on the ice out by the bales of hay. She was only 9 years old. And the best sheep you could ever want to be around. I was home alone so asked my neighbor to help me move her into the milk house where it is always warm. While I waited, I wrapped Ami up in big comforters and sat with her poor head on my lap. The sheep always come over, like they know and are saying their goodbyes. Our Great Pyrenees Bobbi sits next to me and waits too. There was no saving my poor little sheep. When Ami fell, she fell so hard she broke her jaw and there is not way to fix that for a sheep. Damn damn ice.

I rocked my baby while Dr. Pawlisch put her to sleep. Having to make this decision is the worst I ever have to make. Ever. I feel we are lucky to be able to end their suffering if there is just no other way to help or fix them. I have a very childish view of things. I believe there are sheep in heaven. That my flock was waiting for her and she is running and playing with her mom Athena again. That they are now angels watching the farm, their friends and us from above.

We’ve lost quite a few of our sheep friends over the past few years. Each sheep takes a piece of my soul with them when they go. I shed many many tears for each of them. It is almost as bad to find they have slept away out in the pasture. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I can’t decide which is worse.

A friend sent me these words last summer after an awful day. I think they sum up how we get up, dust ourselves off and keep on going with the adorable sheep waiting for us outside.
It started by saying, “Life seems to be a continuous pattern of getting committed to things and having to let go-falling in love and losing the one we love. This is the rhythm of life, and our spiritual growth teaches us to make peace with it. Participating fully in the rhythm is how we become whole. We know we face losses as part of life. We will have the strength to grieve them and move on.”

I love my Jim for being there to hug me every time and my Mom. She thinks I am brave.

It’s not good bye Ami, it’s until we meet again my sweet girl.

Jim & Sandy Ryan
…where sheep may safely graze.

Another New Year!

And what does a shepherdess like me do for the new year? Spent New Year’s Eve with my hubby Jim. Stayed up late, well, at least made it past midnight! I think the sheep were up MUCH longer than that. Party in the barnyard lasted a while.  They forget their manners when they start drinking Fruit Loop Margaritas. We call that bedlamb in the barnyard!

New Year’s Eve found me spending a few days with my sister-friend Heidi! I don’t leave the farm much so this was quite an excursion for me. She lives in Lacrosse- 3 hours away.

I got to meet her Bartolo, aka Bart. He is a gorgeous (and he knows it) Maremma dog who watches over the alpaca boys.

This is what a happy dog looks like. Specially when he is proud of the very manly, loud BURP he graced me with when he and I were nose to nose? Heidi and I were shocked, started laughing so loud I think we scared the poor fellow? Then he was all proud- evidenced above. I felt like one of the family but Heidi swears he has better manners than that? Love you Bart!

In Heidi’s gorgeous studio live two adorable cats on the prowl for any mice that dare to show their faces. Smudge (white cat) and Smokey (gray cat) are so funny. Smudge is a more aloof cat who prefers to see life from afar. He looks amazingly like my old cat Ghost who’s been gone now for some years. It was eerie and all I wanted to do was scoop his cute self up. Nope. :0)

Smokey on the other hand was a very cuddly fellow. Heidi and I stayed the night in her studio all comfy, each on a twin camp bed. Well, I WAS comfy, until Smokey popped my camp bed? What was that about? They also spent the night racing around the studio, knocking things down and having the best of times. I didn’t want them to know I was watching the party because I thought they would stop if they knew.

The pictures are of them watching for Heidi to come back to the studio from the house. While she was gone, they had no use for me!  Cute peanuts!

Fiona is the Maremma gal who watches over the girl alpacas. She’s very serious and dedicated to her herd. She turns into mush when you give her pieces of hot dogs or cheese though!

I did not get enough pictures of the alpacas but they are beautiful. All around you beautiful everywhere you look. I could not have picked a favorite. I do have a ‘thing’ for a shiny black suri alpaca fleece though! Ooh la la!

I taught Heidi to knit, practice turned into a scarf she is finishing to keep for herself. It is beauteous! I got to try out her Hansen electric spinning wheel and I am smitten. Definitely added it to my bucket list of things I have to have! It was SO quiet! Heidi’s studio is to ‘dye’ for- tee hee! Seriously though, perfect lighting, plenty of room for all her equipment and fiber AND a kitchen! Saweet! We drank too many strawberry margaritas and probably gave the sheep a run for their money. Shhhh! Don’t tell them, I’ll never hear the end of it! We had so much fun and are planning to have ‘work parties’ often. :0)

And LOOK! The barn was still standing when I turned into the driveway! (They look so innocent don’t they?) Thank you for the party Heidi- adore you!!!
Smooches from our sheep!

…where sheep may safely graze.

Adding to the guard!

Bobbi (our 12 year old Great Pyrenees) says it feels like windy January in WI already? Whoa! Our local coyotes are now hanging around too close to our farm. For years we’ve had an agreement with them. You stay on your side of the fence and we’ll stay on our side. It’s worked out well so far. Our friends (and only neighbor) moved recently so when their dogs left, the coyotes got braver. The one who upsets me most is a big black dog (?) that is as big as a pony, shaggy and evil looking. He’s not afraid of people and used to travel right through my neighbor’s front yard. And not even walk faster, much less run, when they chased him. He has 3 coyotes in his pack. Lately they’ve been sitting on the tree line by our pasture of old sheep howling at night. They know we don’t have a Pyrenees over there. 
We recently lost our sweet Lincoln Pyr to an accident, leaving Bobbi alone with her big group of sheep again. Off we went, again broken hearted looking for a new partner for Bobbi. Along came Bear. He is a 3 year old Great Pyrenees/Kuvasz cross. He had some issues like food aggression and dog aggression when we brought him home. He needed some redirection! He is over both those things now and we are working on training him to be a good sheep watcher over dog.

Bear has a LOT of energy and drives Bobbi and the sheep a little nuts when he wants to run around and play. He’s learning to have manners but it is hard work for a dog who is essentially still a puppy. He loves to learn and is whip smart. He puts ME through my paces too! Keeping him learning, busy and trying to stay a step ahead of what he is thinking. My goodness. Bear was given to his owner by a breeder at the age of 4 weeks. Don’t get me wrong, his owner loved him dearly and it was very difficult for her to find Bear a new home. His personality is strong and it does not help him that he never spent any time with his mom as a puppy. They teach them manners, how to be respectful of sheep and people and to be a good dog. When a dog does not get that time, they sort of flounder around, learning on their own, good and bad manners.His absolute favorite thing to do is chase things he ‘sees or hears’ (?) tunneling in the pasture. :0)       
We’ve never had any LGD (livestock guard dog) except Great Pyrenees. Bear is a very different personality. A good dog but very independent. Looks sort of ‘wolfie’ in the top picture doesn’t he? He loves to learn, be told good dog, have treats and hugs. Soon he will learn I do not want him to be so rowdy around the sheep! Bobbi likes him but she feels like she just popped out a puppy- tee hee hee! He follows her everywhere most of the time, learning about life and his job from her. Once in a while I get the stink eye from Bobbi. Kind of like, hey, I didn’t sign up for a puppy! As we work with Bear, I find I am learning as much as he is. Love it!

When the coyotes and big hairy scary dog started hanging around so much, we decided we needed another dog to watch over the old sheep in the other pasture. Almost that day, our friend emailed the info for a Great Pyrenees named Heidi. We went to meet her and guess what? You guessed it, she will be watching over our old sheeps!
She is 5 years old and I think one of the biggest Pyrs we’ve ever owned? Even bigger than Lincoln? She weighs around 120 pounds and is absolutely beautiful. She had trouble with her last litter that resulted in her being spayed. There were also several of the ex-owner’s dogs who liked to beat her up. They decided it was better for Heidi to find a quieter home. She is used to watching her sheep at night, then being inside with people during the day. Squeeee!
She managed to injure her front leg before we picked her up Saturday so she has a limp going on that seems pretty painful. She goes out to check her sheep, barn and pasture, stays to watch for a while but then wants to come back inside to rest. We’re giving her a little medicine for pain relief and if the limp doesn’t improve we’ll take her in for a leg/shoulder x-ray this weekend. She has been glued to hubby Jim since we picked her up. She knows a good person when she meets one right?
Her big bark seems to have backed the big scary hairy dog and pack off so I am VERY happy about that. They will meet their match when she can be out full time! She’ll be takin’ care of business!

We will miss our Lincoln forever and ever. You were a wonderful friend to the sheep and we miss you every single day. Run free with your brother now and watch my angel sheep til we see you again.

So now you are all up to date again on the changes in the guard at the Homestead.
Smooches to you all- Sandy, Jim and the sheeps

Takin’ One For The Team!

Every once in a while a person has to ‘take one for the team’ right?

Yesterday, our best friends Mary & Joseph adopted three sheep. Three very sweet sheep in need of some special care.  Their previous owner could not find anyone willing to come shear her sheep. It can be very difficult to find one willing to come out for ‘just’ three sheep. Unless they live near the sheep or the shearer’s path takes them near your farm, it can be pretty impossible. SO, moral of THAT story? Always have a shearer lined up, or plan to shear them yourself if you acquire sheep ok? There are fewer and fewer young people going into the shearing field- start looking or learning ahead of time!! 


Mary & Joseph hitched up their trailer and picked up the sheep, along with several llamas and an alpaca. While they loaded everyone up, the sheep pictured above got away and off he went, happily galloping down the driveway and out of sight. What a nightmare! Mary spent hours walking, listening and looking for that sheep with no luck. Joseph assured her the sheep would come back home as soon as it started raining. Next day, rained and rained-the sheep magically showed up back in his nice dry barn just as predicted! We always swear Joseph is the critter whisperer. He can make friends with and understand any animal. They know right away Joseph will be kind and that he likes them. It’s a gift he has and we are always glad for Joseph’s wisdom! The above sheep came home that day in the carrier on the back of Mary’s truck. There!  All three sheep safely at their new forever home. Phew!

We are not sure exactly what type of sheep these are, besides cute and adorable- and a mess. The previous owner said they had not been sheared for a year but it may have been more like two. The outer part of their fleeces were covered, jam packed with cockle burrs. Mary decided to shear them even though it is getting chillier in Wisconsin. All that wool would make them an easy catch for coyotes. If that much wool gets wet the sheep could tip over and not be able to get up. They could also end up stepping into a snow drift, sinking, then needing a hauling out of the hole. None of them good options at all!

SO, onto the shearing stand, a little hay and grain to keep a sheep happy and off we went. Mary used her super powered clippers and I used sharp scissors to trim around their faces and necks. I also split paths through the burrs so Mary could get to the sheep’s body with the clippers. We started around 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon. It was nice, breezy and almost 60 degrees. Perfect!


We took a lot of pictures so we could show just how much wool was on the sheep. I think they MUST have felt better as soon as some air hit their skin. They didn’t fuss or jump around after they felt a little better the longer we worked on them. I really do think they know when someone is trying to help them. They each were so tired from the travel and being upset that about mid-shearing they rested their noses on the feeder and almost closed their eyes. It was so sweet. The sheep were very very good for us. And Mary does a wonderful job shearing!

This is the fleece from the first sheep we sheared.
It is sitting in a large, older wheel barrow.
Whoa right? And with the burrs hidden/rolled up
inside the fleece, sure looks pretty! IMG_3863
The fleeces almost peeled off in one big sheet.
Then for even more perspective, I laid the fleece out next to hubby Jim’s car- a pretty, blue Ford Focus- that could use a bath. (Have to talk with our sheep about that. They are falling down on their job again!) The second and third fleeces were actually bigger than this one.



 As I mentioned earlier, we are not positive what kind of sheep they IMG_3864are. I am guessing by looking at the fleeces. I think one is Lincoln or Border Leicester; one is Tunis and one is Columbia. Or crosses including that type of sheep? The fleeces are beautiful. I brought them home with me and next rainy day I am going to get one out and start saving them from the burrs. THAT will be a job! A nice one for a gloomy day though! If I am lucky I will be able to lay the fleece out burr side down, then use my clippers to shear the fleece again. (Have to admit, I usually end up using at least 2 pairs of scissors.)
The locks on the silkier fleece are a little more tangled than the others. I think the locks will be 4 inches long when retrieved from the burrs? The other two fleeces are around 11+ inches long including the burrs. I should end up with 9-10 inch long locks once retrieved.We have not weighed the fleeces yet but my best guess is each weighs between 20 and 40 pounds? I’ll try to find a good way to weigh them up asap.


This is the ‘after’ picture of one sheep. We did not finish shearing them until some time after 6 p.m. last night. I can’t imagine how it must have felt to be so ‘free’ again? How weird it was to feel air on your skin again? To be able to run and play? We felt good giving that back to them. Otherwise, they are very healthy sheep and just so sweet. They were not been handled much in the past but were very friendly after all was done and cleaned up.

They spent the rest of the daylight exploring their new pasture home. They romped and ran like big goofy lambs! Bunny hopping, racing and just being silly. What a relief for them- and us. I am so happy they have a forever home at Mary & Joseph’s. They will be reunited with their llamas and have new llama and goat friends. AND love, good care, freedom and only expected to be happy. Oh, and give nice fleeces for their fiber fans right? Squeee for sheep and all of us too!!

And don’t worry. If they get chilly with out their crazy wool, I’ll give Mary sheep coats that will help them keep warm. They have a nice warm barn for shelter, plenty of bedding and good food. The weather is supposed to stay around 60 tomorrow and 50-ish the rest of the week. The sheep look so nekkid after shearing- and all that pink skin? Yipes! However, as the lanolin dries a little, the wool floofs back up quickly. There is usually 1/2 inch of wool remaining on the sheep. And with the cooler weather they will be growing that wool back in a hurry. You would be amazed how fast that wool grows!IMG_3871
When I was all packed up (two fleeces in the trunk, one in the back seat) I went out to
see what Mary’s new sheep were up to. The picture above is so sweet to me. Their
ears were up, they were exploring their new home and making sure to stay together like good sheep families should. Mary, Joseph and I are exhausted and sore- but it
was worth every second to give back a sheep’s sense of well-being, safety- and love. Thank you Mary and Joseph for being so kind. We’ve been friends such a long time
and really been in some crazy situations together involving animal welfare. This time will always be one of my favorites. I adore you both for everything you are. And all you help me be.

     Smooches everyone- hope you’ll take a minute to stop by our sheep’s website to see what is new! Sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss out- the sheep have newitems AND a sponsorship program we’ll be launching later this week.

Smooches to you all from all the sheep at Mary’s and our sheep here at the Homestead!
Sandy & Jim Ryan
…where sheep may safely graze.

Crashed tree clean up party #2!

714crashoftrees1 Here is the before picture of our poor old tree. We were very lucky it did not fall on anything important. Just my old iron corn crib that I was going to use for something someday…


My Puzzle is the self appointed host of tree parties. He wants to know if we are ready to get our hinders to work. Chop chop people! (ha!)


At one point during our supervision of events, Puzzle discovered my hair clip. He kept trying to pull it out of my hair so I let him try it on. He decided he didn’t want it after all but doesn’t he look cute??


 The first work day Chaquita was very unhappy with all the hullaballoo. VERY unhappy. She kept watch (all her sheep were in the barn) and gave us the stink eye all day long.


During our second party she was comfy watching not far from where Puzzle, Mary and I were.


At the end of our tree party, Chaquita had to inspect our work. She takes her job very seriously,


Our little party host with the most also takes his job seriously. Unless he can find a stray Diet Pepsi (sorry Mary) or a bag of cheddar Sun Chips (again, sorry Mary).


We’ll need a few more parties to finish up with this tree, then we will party on to clean up a few more. :0)

Hope all is well with everyone- and if you need a host for a party, you know which sheep to call!

Smooches from Puzzle!

…where sheep may safely graze.


A few weeks ago we had a few close calls with some nasty weather. Luckily we only lost one gigantic tree in the little sheep pasture and one tree in the little pasture next to the house!  The group in the giant tree pasture is my special needs/old/blind crew. I was out in the lightning that evening looking through the tree for anyone caught under it. Smart right? Every sheep and both llamas were in the barn giving me the stink eye. Guess they figured I better get my hinder back in the house? I quickly obliged once I knew they were all ok!

The sheep pondered and pondered- and fussed and fussed about who would get to run Jim’s chainsaw. Really?? Now THAT is a nightmare I’d rather not have!

Instead, our wonderful, awesome friends Mary & Joseph came to our rescue. Our chainsaw came apart (figures) so Mary, Joseph and Jim took turns with their bigger chainsaw. I was too chicken to get under that big tree with all the creaking going on.

Turned out my little Puzzle sheep was not too worried, he was happily eating leaves off the branches. You know, doing a sheep’s part of the work.

Puzzle turned into the host of the crashed tree party. He was absolutely hilarious all afternoon! Kept checking on everyone, following me around and just being cute. He just turned 1 in April and I hope he is always a little lamb character. He saw himself in the door of Mary’s red truck. Now she has slobber marks and nose prints on the door because Puzzle was determined to figure out where that lamb was. He even looked under the truck!

He has a bad heart issue and the vet warned me early on Puzzle might not be with us very long. Every day with that silly sweet sheep is a gift. I absolutely adore him. He is like a happy, little boy skipping through the daisies of life. I want him to stay that way!

ANYhoo! I am amazed how quickly that big tree was safely on the ground, the big pieces cut up and loaded onto Mary’s truck. Just wow. We have a few more afternoons of work to do but it is so fun to have them over. Mary’s daughter Manda and her hubby Al came over later in the day and worked hard too. The work goes fast when we are together. We are blessed to have friends like Mary & Joseph!

During his hosting of the crashed tree party, Puzzle managed to steal Mary’s cigarettes a few times, ate the last of her cheddar Sun Chips AND drank her last Diet Pepsi? Good thing he’s cute right?

After the activity died down the other sheep came out to do their part eating leaves off the branches. I told them thank you and reminded them it was a very important job.

We will be sad to be with out that giant beautiful tree. I love trees but many of ours are old and not very healthy. Two years of drought took its toll on our poor trees. It is nice that the wood will be used to keep my friends warm this winter though. After losing two giant trees in storms, any we replace them with will be shorter trees, like weeping mulberry or twisted kinds of ornamental trees.

I am also sad that the big tree fell over onto my cute little iron corn crib. I always wanted to turn it into something but I guess it is a good thing I never got that accomplished?! I’m saving the top ‘cap’ to keep part of the corn crib here. I think Al is going to take the rest down for salvage.

SO, that was our weekend and I wish I could figure out how to add all the pictures here. Have to get this blog figured out. I miss our old one. You can still get to the old one via the ‘archives’ link on our website.

Hope you are all having a great week. Seems we have so much more crazy weather these days- stay safe ok?

Smooches from the sheep- specially Puzzle!

Sandy & Jim Ryan
…where sheep may safely graze.


Can you see me now???