Friday, April 29, 2011

Shearing Day at Whitmore Farm

While we specialize in Katahdin hair sheep at Whitmore Farm, we recently started experimenting with some wool/hair crosses to see how this would affect the carcass quality of our animals as well as the flavor of our meat.

We decided to start by adding a Texel ram from our friend and well-known Texel breeder, Bev Pearsall. Lucky for us, she had a nice ram born with a big brown spot on his jawline, an unforgivable fault by the Texel breed standard.

Interestingly, we saw a lot of 'colored' Texels (gray, brown, tan, even spotted) during our visit to Holland last Fall, but white is still the standard for the breed both here in the U.S. and Holland. Considering that our flock of katahdins has a TON of color in it, you can surmise how much I like color in sheep.

Anyways, being a wool sheep, Arnold develops a very healthy coat during winter and needs to be sheared in order to maintain his comfort during Maryland's hot summer months. The wool is of a poor quality and has no real value in spinning.

So earlier this month, we held our First Annual Shearing Day at Whitmore Farm to shear one animal...Arnold.

Technically, this was our 2nd annual shearing day as last year I trimmed Arnold. Afterwards, we decided rather than being called 'shearing day', we would call it Bloody Sunday. No arterial bleeders and nothing that couldn't be fixed with some suture and a lot of blood-stop powder.

I offered to do it again this year, but for some reason Will was reluctant....

Luckily for us, Amy Miller, a local shearer, was available and willing to come out and spend a few hours fussing over our ram, and as it turns outs, one of our Great Pyrenees who was in desperate need of a clipping.

'I may just start a dog grooming business on the side' Amy added after clipping Ween down to a soft, clean summer cut.

Life & death on the farm

When people ask me about what its like to run a farm, one of the things that comes to mind right away is the constant cycle of life and death. Every day, animals die from accidents, disease, or your hand and there are some days when it seems that's all you have - death, death, and more death.

Sometimes it seems the animals spend their days finding creative ways to die.

Here's a fine example that greeted us the other morning - just what you want to see with your morning cup of joe in hand:


Sassy, a very sweet 5 year old doe was feeding, and one of our pushier ewes had tried to feed along side each other in the same spot on the feeder. Their heads slid down and locked in between the two bars of the feeder and they strangled each other.

Just like that, two excellent animals were dead. I'm going to carry around this photo for the next time someone says sheep and goats aren't stupid animals!

But then, lo and behold, one of our gilts who had been teetering on farrowing (i.e. pigging or having piglets) popped! 3 squirmy little piglets (and one dead one) were tucked away in one of our shelters on pasture.

We bundled them up with straw and a tarp and left them to get comfy with their dame.

'So how do we get the dead one out?' I asked innocently enough.

NB:Whenever we got near the entrance to her den, the sow literally growled at us like a tiger about to pounce!

'We'll wait until she leaves to poo and Steve, you'll dash in there and grab it!' I suggested.

Steve just swallowed and looked frightened.

Sure enough, a few hours later she was out.

'Quick! Now's our chance! I'll keep lookout....go, go go!' Steve dashed in and frantically searched the bedding for the dead animal.

'Check the sexes on the piglets while you're in there!', I added.

'There's no piglet', he cries out.

'I can't find it', he says.

'Where's that sow?' he asks, his question tinged with apprehension.

'Oh she's far away', I add.

NB: pigs lumber along and seem impossibly large and clumsy, but when they want to, they are greased lightening and can easily outrun a human.

'Well then, she must have ate it', I surmised. Yuck.

A few days later, one of our GOS sows farrowed for 11 healthy piglets, no stillbirths. She was gentle and sweet with the farmer and her piglets, and the thoughts of death from earlier in the week quickly passed as we watched the wee ones play and suckle.

'They are SOOOOO cute!' I say, I say with a smile as I watch them climb over each other.

'And they'll be delicious some day!' adds Will.

Friday, April 8, 2011


If you live in Maryland, please contact your state delegate and senator regarding this issue!

Dear Kent,

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me regarding, HB1261 - Maryland's Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act. It is great to see Frederick County residents getting active in the process with issues that are important to them!

Unfortunately, this bill was submitted to the House Rules Committee on February 22 and has not been assigned another committee in which to receive a hearing. It looks unlikely that it will make it through the legislative process this year. Hopefully, the bill will be reintroduced next year and will get the public hearing that I am sure that it deserves.

Please feel free to contact me with any additional questions or concerns.

With Best Regards,
Delegate Kelly Schulz
District 4A, Frederick County Maryland
301-858-3080 or 410-841-3080
6 Bladen Street, Suite 324
Annapolis, MD 21401