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People keep telling me they like the sheep posts. So here, have a sheep post! - Tactical Ninja

Oct. 29th, 2013

09:47 am - People keep telling me they like the sheep posts. So here, have a sheep post!

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This weekend was a holiday one in NZ - our Labour Weekend on which we have the Monday off. It's notorious for disturbed weather and this was no exception, with Friday a big storm, which wet the sheep for Saturday and meant the whole thing was flagged for Sunday. Sunday dawned with a forecast of no rain but gale force nor'westers. Some shearers would call it on this forecast but I just wanted to get these sheep done. It's the biggest day on my run usually, and contains some of the most difficult sheep.




Those sheep above are English Leicesters. They may look mellow and laid back (I think it's because of their forelock bearing a striking resemblance to dreadlocks myself), but they are anything but. Any breed of sheep with Leicester in the name is generally big, strong and stroppy, and these are no exception. For some reason they just can't tolerate sitting for shearing, and if you give them anything to strain against they'll spend the whole time making life as difficult as possible. If you don't give them anything to strain against they'll flail instead. This makes everything a lot harder than it needs to be. They have one saving grace and that's that they are usually very easy shearing - the gear goes through their wool like a hot knife through butter. There were 20 of these, and as I did them I realised that there are now no sheep in this flock that I haven't been shearing since birth. The oldest is 8. She sat still. She was the only one.

Part way through there was an interlude with this little chap:



He overwintered at this place with the other rams because his owners only have one paddock and they didn't want out-of-season lambs. All the leicesters look pretty much the same, so he's.. noticeable. He's a Pitt Island Merino derivative (a ways back now, so he's by no means breed standard), and on his off side shoulder he has a perfect heart shaped spot. Thus, he's now called Casanova. He's very interested in Teh Laydeez - in sheep maturity terms, he's now a late teenager. Teh Laydeez, however, are not all that keen on him:



Doesn't he look forlorn, all shut away from his girls?

*ahem*

The next stop was another longstanding client, who has Just Sheep, Dunno What They Are (actually there's one Perendale and 2 Romneys with a couple of crossbred hoggets). At the back we have Gloria, on the right, Trixie, and on the left, Nectarine. That's Nigel's bum you can also see.



You can see that Nectarine (named by a teenage daughter apparently) is not the healthiest sheep in existence by the state of her coat. This is actually looking like the theme for this year - hoggets that have struggled, ewes lighter in condition that usual, everything except the Leicesters really tough shearing. It was also a little sad that Trixie, who is now 12 or 13, has bad arthritis in her shoulders and her teeth are starting to go. It's the last time I'll shear her since she'll be going to the great paddock in the sky before next winter.

There's an interlude here in which I shore 6 of the fattest sheep you've ever seen and the other 9 of the Pitt Island sheep. I didn't photograph them partly because I forgot, and partly because things were getting tougher and tougher as the day went on. You know that saying "Getting the wind up"? For those not familiar, it means "getting nervous". I think it's related to the way windy days make animals edgy. Remember the gale force forecast? This day lived up to it - we were outdoors being blasted by the wind the whole time, which you can't see in the photos. It looks like a lovely day but it was actually quite unpleasant. And the sheep were fidgety and flaily and by the time I got to the last ones I was really tired, struggling to hold my temper with the kicking sheep (who seemed to be mostly kicking me) and so ready for the day to be over.

Here is a photo of two things - first, what happens when you leave your phone in your shearing kit all day and it gets sheep grease on the lens. Second, the size of the yards some people have:



It's really hard to catch sheep in such a large space. Luckily for me, this run comes with a couple of blokes who travel around with me, catching the sheep for me. If it hadn't been for that, I probably wouldn't have made it through the day. Partly I'm berating myself because it was only 46 sheep and I know that real shearers do tallies in the hundreds a day. But then I remember that real shearers are working in a shed, out of the wind, with the sheep prepared and crutched and emptied and in little pens where they are easy to catch, and they don't have to cut their toenails or drench them while they're working, and they don't often get presented with sheep that weigh more than they do.

And the toughness of the wool is just because it's been a bad season and there's nothing I can do about that. Hopefully things will improve as time goes by and the grass comes away. Meanwhile, I spent Saturday evening lying around groaning, and feeling relieved that this group is over for the year. They are lovely people and do their best to make it as easy as possible for me, but unfortunately it was just one of those days that nobody could do anything about. Next weekend I only have about 30 to do, and they should be a tad easier.

I hope.


The other thing I did was finish these:



I R PLEASED

Comments:

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From:pombagira
Date:October 28th, 2013 09:14 pm (UTC)
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squee sheepies.. also that ram he is teh pretty

also i must remember to get the fleece from under the stairs and take it to my new home.. whoot
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From:tatjna
Date:October 28th, 2013 10:32 pm (UTC)
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You might get the space to do something with it in your new house!
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From:yshaloo
Date:October 28th, 2013 09:54 pm (UTC)
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yay sheep!

Casanova is very pretty :)
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From:tatjna
Date:October 28th, 2013 10:32 pm (UTC)
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He agrees with you, and is very disappointed that he's not allowed to try his lines on the girls yet.
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From:downwardlashes
Date:October 29th, 2013 03:59 am (UTC)
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Must admit, I do love a good sheep post. No idea why, other than sheep are CUTE.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 29th, 2013 05:10 am (UTC)
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I am gratified by how many other people are fans of sheep. ;-)
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From:meathiel
Date:October 29th, 2013 06:28 am (UTC)
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Casanova is pretty ... and he knows it! I think ... ;-)
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From:tatjna
Date:October 29th, 2013 07:18 pm (UTC)
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He does. And even if the ladies don't agree, he's pretty determined that eventually they'll change their minds.
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From:jaelle_n_gilla
Date:October 29th, 2013 08:22 am (UTC)
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I love the sword. I'm guessing it's rubber foam inside and latex on the outside? I never got them quite so regular and nice. I especially like the "used" look with the darker colour in the grooves.

What's the base for the shield? I know my larpers use parts of a plastic container, e.g. a compost bin or something. yours isn't curved so I'm guessing you made it from pieces of something joined together?
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From:tatjna
Date:October 29th, 2013 07:32 pm (UTC)
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The sword is camping foam with gesso and paint on the outside. I've toyed with the idea of latex but from all accounts it's a bit of a drama to use and clean up after, so I've never got beyond idly musing about it.

The sword is pretty close to LARP-safe - I didn't look up the exact regulations but unless the dowelling is too thick or too close to the end, it'd be ok I think.

The shield is made from expanded PVC foam board, heat-moulded to shape. It doesn't show very well in the photo but it is curved into a vaguely heater-shield shape using a flat base with darts cut into it in strategic places. I wrote about it in detail here. In fact, the 'tutorial thingy' tag is where I'm putting details of how I make things now, because people in various fora keep asking, so I figured having a handy repository might come in useful.

I have learned a lot from asking LARPers how they make things. They have a particular way of looking at stuff because it has to be both useful and look the part along with being relatively robust, that lends itself well to what I'm trying to do.
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From:jaelle_n_gilla
Date:October 29th, 2013 08:13 pm (UTC)
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Cool, thanks for the link. I could see the shield was... what's the word? bent, but not rounded. I like how you did that. What I meant is that they often cut it out of the already rounded side of a plastic water ton. Imagine a shield image projected on the outside of a Dalek and then cut out. But your way is great too.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 29th, 2013 08:31 pm (UTC)
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That sounds like a cunning way of getting a bent bit of plastic! ;-)
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From:kehleyr
Date:October 29th, 2013 08:21 pm (UTC)
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Aww Casanova is adorable :-)
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From:tatjna
Date:October 29th, 2013 08:32 pm (UTC)
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He thinks so! ;-)
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From:labelleizzy
Date:October 30th, 2013 01:49 am (UTC)
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nice work on the sword and shield!
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From:tatjna
Date:October 30th, 2013 02:50 am (UTC)
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Thank you! ;-)
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From:blue_eye
Date:October 30th, 2013 01:10 pm (UTC)
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Imagine my surprise when I discovered a few years ago that sheep weren't sheep.

I feel sad for Trixie.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 30th, 2013 07:26 pm (UTC)
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Me too, although she's had a good, long, easy life, and her owner will make sure when she dies it's humane, and not starving in some cold gully next winter.
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From:pundigrion
Date:November 2nd, 2013 03:47 am (UTC)
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Ooooh, and now I'm off to look up more on these Pitt Island Merinos! Usually I think of Merinos as a bit boring, but he's quite a stunner!

Also I might have to rethink the Leicesters as potential first sheepies since I'm liable to have to learn how to shear my own. There is a dire shortage of shearers in this country and I won't be having more than six or so to start with most likely.
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From:tatjna
Date:November 3rd, 2013 06:47 pm (UTC)
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Leicesters are an awesome group of breeds in almost every way - big, handsome, fast growing, strong, lustrous wool that's very easy shearing, no wool around the points so stay relatively clean.. the list goes on. I'd choose them - but I've been handling sheep for nearly 30 years and they have a bunch of downsides that make them not really learner sheep.

1. Stroppy. They will kick for no good reason (unless 'how dare this mere mortal touch the royal body' is a reason), they like to jump out of yards, and they won't hesitate to try and bowl you over if you're in their way.

2. Big. The ewes grow to roughly 60kg, for rams the sky's the limit. See above regarding stroppiness, it's a scary combo.

3. Don't seem to do well as hoggets. I've only dealt with Border Leicesters and English Leicesters, but they all seem to have this. They grow really fast through their first winter, but you don't notice it because they retain their lamby sort of look, and just get longer legs while staying more or less the same weight, and getting thin. The only way I know to avoid this is to understock them considerably and most people can't afford to do this, so they tend to look ratshit from about 5 to 12 months. Then suddenly BOOM, they are big, strong, stroppy adult sheep that are busy trying to kill you so they can dance on your grave.

As a shearer, I'm ambivalent. Good shearing makes up for a lot, but I still have bruises from the above sheep 10 days later. As a farmer, I think they are awesome. But be real nice to your shearer, and if that's you, try to learn on something a little more placid or you may end up giving up.
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From:pundigrion
Date:November 6th, 2013 03:51 am (UTC)
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Ah yes, that first list is just why I was looking at them! Most of the time I find large animals tend to be calmer as a rule, so silly me I was thinking the size=calmer for them too. Obviously I need to rethink this!

I'm still quite far away from the actual sheep stages seeing as I don't have anywhere to put them (Well I could totes fit some Southdown Babydoll but *someone* objects to this idea! Plus their clip is pretty short although perfectly good. I'd have to card instead of combing, blah.)

I know the 4H groups here mostly raise Suffolk and Texel, but those aren't terribly appealing to me. Probably because they are so common or something which is likely exactly why I ought to start on them. Still... Eh, it'll all depend where we eventually move anyhow seeing as I'm unlikely to embark on an upgrading program, particularly as a first-timer.
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From:tatjna
Date:November 6th, 2013 04:12 am (UTC)
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If you're looking for a placid, medium sized dual purpose sheep that's clean around the points and has lustrous strong wool, you could do worse than looking around for Marshall Romneys. I don't know if they exist over there but the American continent seems to have a thing for importing NZ breeds, and the Marshalls are just a strain of Romney that was selectively bred to be open faced and relatively sock-free, free moving and good on hill country.

Even if they don't exist over there, it'd only take a few years to breed them like that from standard ones.

If you're looking for finer wool, Cheviots are quite nice and although lively, they don't grow as big so are a bit easier to handle. And they are fantastic doers.

Suffolks and Texels are nice meat sheep but not so much for the wool, and they all grow huge too. I haven't shorn many Texels, but Suffolks are nice to handle although not that flash to shear - dense wool equals hard to push a comb through. And their fleece is nothing to write home about either.
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From:pundigrion
Date:November 6th, 2013 04:31 am (UTC)
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Good to know! Guess I will have to spin up some more Romney so I have a better representative sample (darn!) than the badly carded, slightly felted stuff I have tried so far.

They are recognized by the CSBA, so they are definitely in Canada although I haven't checked the pdf's for numbers or distribution. They have an interesting list of recognized breeds actually, and of course there is the odd "unrecognized" flock out there too: http://www.clrc.ca/sheep.shtml)

My Grandparents had some Cheviots or at least crosses. They aren't fond of making more work for themselves than needed just for the heck of it, so that is likely a good endorsement. (And I just got a sample of that to spin up as well from a swap)

Yep, they raise them here for meat sheep too. I know their fleece is reputed to make great socks, so someday I will get around to trying them, but I doubt I want a flock of 'em.
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From:pundigrion
Date:November 2nd, 2013 03:54 am (UTC)
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Okay, I need to make another comment just for the most awesome sheep story ever: https://sites.google.com/a/aotea.org/don-armitage/Home/chatham-islands-nz/pitt-island/pitt-island-sheep-rare-breed
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From:tatjna
Date:November 3rd, 2013 06:55 pm (UTC)
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Hehe oddly enough, I've done that run up the country with a wild sheep in the back of the car - although my one was a Hokonui merino (mentioned at the bottom of the article along with Arapawas, which I also have on my run), and I had the good sense to use a dog box that fit over the towball so it wasn't actually in the car with me. That one went from the Hokonui hills (Southland) to Tangowahine (Northland) and is probably the most travelled Hokonui sheep ever.

People tend to want to talk to you when you have a sheep on a lead. Don't know why..
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