A foot of snow & shearing day!

Wait what??? 
You definitely heard right. Right around our shearing day (April 1) we did indeed receive a bountiful foot of snow. The sheep had lots of wool so many chose to sleep outside. Not in the warm cozy barn. That drives me up the WALL. They looked like piles of snow with eyes and nose peeking out- wish I would have had my camera, watching them stand up was hilarious!

Little Sunshine Shetland sheep decided to skip shearing last year. Sporting 2 years of wool can find oneself unable to get moving in 12 inches of snow. Oopsie! I made a path so she could get out but her twin brother Mario was making fun of her. My stink eye stopped that but I still heard sheep giggling. :o)

Everyone behaved well on shearing day despite Jerome’s frantic attempts to warn the sheep that something was afoot.

We had great helpers- our friends Heidi & Jon Ellefson! Thank you both for making our day so much easier! Look forward to seeing David the Wonder Shearer again next April.

The big haul!

We just finished an update to the sheep’s website, hope you’ll stop on by for a browse! We will update the website again Friday so be sure you keep up with the sheeps!

Hugs and smooches from the sheep!

Jim & Sandy Ryan
…where sheep may safely graze.

Sheepie Spa Day? Whoa!

It was a new experience around here last weekend! During all our years with sheep I never knew there were crews that came in and just trimmed sheep toes? WHAT? That is the biggest job for us now that our son moved out. Feels like most of what we do is trim sheep toes and it’s hard to get other things done. Eek! There is SO much to do here!

Chatted with Therese and decided to give them a try. Her hubby and his crew arrived about 9 in the morning and we had the sheep locked inside awaiting their spa day. It was chilly and I am pretty sure they thought it was shearing day. They were not ready to give up their warm wool yet.

Jeff (hubby) did the toe trims and his crew of 2 held the sheep. We used a sheep hammock to set the sheep down comfortably. Then the trimming began. I gave the sheep their vaccinations, wormed them and then their feet were treated with some good meds to keep them healthy. Jeff and his crew were very patient and kind to the sheep. Avi had a crush on Trevor- she just kept on leaning over and wanted to snuffle his face. Tee hee. I’m not sure he was too happy about it but he was a good sport!

Several of the sheep even took a nap in the sheepie hammock during their appointment? Good sheeps! I loved the fellow holding the sheep’s head. He talked to the sheep, asked each of their names and even sang some songs. (We were getting a little punchy by the end of the day.)

This would be Piper, waiting his turn, giving me the stink eye. He’s usually so easy going but not that day. He told me the girls were telling the boys all week that they would have to wear brightly colored nail polish? I promised them it was not true but sometimes they don’t trust me? Tee hee!

We split the sheep into groups who needed additional treatment (only about 10!) and the rest went back to their regular groups. It was a long day, as long as a shearing day. It was so worth it though. Now we’ll have the crew back in October and things will be much easier for Jim and me. We’ll just be watching out for anyone limping in between appointments with the crew.

This also saves us an amazing amount of time on shearing day! Another benefit! They already have their spring shots and worming, toes trimmed- all we will have to do is put their spot on anti-tick med on after they are sheared. I’ll be curious to see how much faster shearing day goes? Giddy UP!

At one point poor old Bobbi got on the wrong side of the barn door. She gets very worried when strangers are around her sheep. I let her in and she found a comfy spot to have a nap. I adore that dog. She’s so sweet and so dedicated to her sheep.

Hope you are all seeing a glimpse of Spring? We are here but do not trust it yet! We’ll post updates as we find new ways to work with our flock on our own… (our son moved out a few years ago so we are in a new phase here).
Smooches and hugs from the sheep with happy feet!

Jim & Sandy Ryan
…where sheep may safely graze.

A sheep with nine lives?

You may want to go get yourself a big cup of coffee- we need to go back a ways to explain THIS sheep!

Shortly after we moved to our farm 10 years ago, we got a call from a farm animal rescue in Pennsylvania.   They asked if we had room for any of the sheep they were working to re-home. We agreed to adopt 12 of the sheep-one gave us the first lamb ever born on our farm shortly after they arrived! They were 12 of 150 sheep that needed new homes. It makes me proud that we helped them re-home over half of the sheep into safe homes right here in WI. But we need to go back even further.

The sheep belonged to a retired dairy farmer and his wife. They missed having animals so decided to raise a small flock of sheep. They had plenty of land so the sheep would have a nice big pasture with some trees for shade. He was advised by someone to start his flock with Merino, Icelandic and Romanov sheep. What he probably didn’t realize is Romanov sheep are known as ‘lambs by the litter.’  He had trouble keeping up and finding help when it was time to fix the boys, vaccinate or do any vetting of the sheep. Within 5 years his flock had exploded into over 150 sheep.

The rescue took in every sheep, trimmed their feet, sheared, vetted all and fixed the boys. What a job that must have been right? I wonder how long THAT job took? If we’re counting (and we are), I think Foster (and family) used several lives before they even got into the rescue! And what a shock for those poor sheep who had not seen people or been touched by people.

The sheep joined our flock in November- cold in WI! They stayed inside the sheep barn to stay warm AND to let them learn to trust us. Since we have sheepie break outs every once in a while, they also needed to be ‘bucket trained.’ All of our sheep will come back if you have a bucket in your hand. In an emergency just a few rocks rattling around in the bucket will work. But you better move it when they hear it. Otherwise you are toast! And you better run faster when they realize you tricked them with ROCKS!

Now we can move forward to Foster sheep at the Ryans and count up another life used. Two years ago it was 50 below zero, the coldest January we’ve seen in years. It was windy, bitter and just AWFUL. Even if you are a sheep. We feed big round or square bales of hay to accommodate a larger flock. We are VERY careful to make sure we get all the strings cut off the bales so nobody gets caught up in them. Well, we missed a string and Foster got his horn caught up in it. Luckily Jim and my friend Sara found him. I thought I would lose that sheep. He was so cold. We put bedding and blankets in the milk house and settled Foster in. We run a heater in the milk house all winter to keep the water hydrant from freezing. It was a warm place for him but I was so upset that he was so cold- even though Farmer Sandy knows it only takes a minute in that weather.

It took a few days of warm and I went out, there was Foster on his feet, looking at me like, hey, let me the heck out of here! I thought I would be the one to die! That is a moment like no other. So Foster went out and went on with life number whatever…

Then THIS winter, Farmer Sandy who adores her sheep was out on her daily visit/walk with the sheep. Someone was missing. Foster did not come up for his vanilla wafer? Of course, panic set in. That’s always my first reaction. I found Foster laying on his side and he could not get himself rolled just right to get up again. He was not cold but he was upset. How embarrassing. I picked him up to set him on his feet. Instead of leaning on me for a few minute so his legs could wake back up, he tried to leap up and run away. Down he went.

What did I do? I became Farmer Sandy with a mission. And a new  black sled. Lucky for me our neighbor showed me how to haul a heavy animal to the barn by myself. I carefully tipped Foster onto the sled and hobbled his legs so he wouldn’t jump out. Then, albeit slowly, Farmer Sandy with a mission hauled that sled full of 200+ pound Foster sheep all the way to the barn, inside AND got him set up so he was laying propped up. I feel the need for a cape with Farmer Sandy on it? Could it match my Princess of Poop Scooping tiara?

In the mean time, Bobbi the Great Pyrenees took our little old stinker Shetland sheep  Becan out for a romp in the front yard. Sigh. Happily skipped out and got them back inside. Bobbi does take an occasional jaunt around the yard and she comes back when she knows we are ready to feed her supper. Becan usually comes back to the wiggle of a bucket but he was not so ready to comply. Old Farmer Sandy (who was by then out of energy) had to literally drag Becan, who probably only weighs 100 pounds, out of the chicken coop. He knows they always have corn in their feeder. It is just too tempting and Becan is just a smarty pants anyway. I got them back in the barn just in time to see Foster on his feet? He was a little wobbly but standing up. I left so he would stay inside if he fell over again. He is an old fellow after all. I checked on Foster in the night and he was fine. I had to pick him up again the next morning but after that, he was done needing help. Huzzah!

Foster is back to living his sheep’s life with all his friends. Specially his best buddy Jonte the Jacob sheep. They are good friends and spend their time chasing the other sheep around in their version of tag. Knock on wood, Foster is fine and I hope he has no more troubles. We have no idea how old he is but he sure has lived a full life- with a few scares built in. Farmer Sandy could happily live with out another incident- I’m talking directly to you Foster!
Besides Foster we only have two of the sheep from his family left in the flock. Heidi (left) is so old and we have her inside for winter in the warmest condo in the barn with her friends Violet and Gabriella. Bettis (right) is also who knows how old. A few years ago he completely lost his vision so he lives with the tiny group of special needs sheep. They have a smaller pasture and that way he doesn’t get lost.

We miss the rest of Foster’s family so much. We are glad we could help them have a happy, safe place to live out their lives-how many they may have led.

PS- Big Kitty, where are you? I love you so very much. Please come home.

Sandy & Jim Ryan


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