An unusual fraternity

Perhaps you will think the second image inappropriate but I would ask that, instead, you view it as a celebration of sorts. This morning, during chores, I had reason to hoist myself into the corn crib. Rather than storing corn there we use it to store wood which keeps the supply for the cook stove out of the weather and off the ground. Chunks of oak don’t flow like shells or ears so every week or so I’ve got to get in there to fill the depression which forms as wood is removed through a hatch near the floor. In addition to using the crib for wood I’ve also got an area set aside with a stationary vise for quick equipment repairs. Its volume is also used for storing a variety of things including fence posts, ground anchors, spare parts, shingles, rope, wire, and skulls. In additional to the happy fact of birth we also experience the sad reality of death here on the farm. It doesn’t happen frequently but when it does we have a special place up the mountain where we take the departed for a proper country burial. I’m not sure why, months after the flies, dermestid beetles, bacteria, and fungi have completed their work, I have taken to collecting the skulls of rams. Perhaps I find fascination in the shapes and intricacies of the weathered bone and keratin. I appreciate these as a way of remembering some of the handsome sires whose genes helped create the beautiful spinners’s flock we now care for. Krummholz, our very first ram, is on the bottom of the pile. Because his horns didn’t grow properly we would take a saw to him every so often to keep the tips from growing into the side of his head. Do not fear for this was, for him, like cutting fingernails for you and me. Krummholz made the trip with us from Indiana nearly twenty years ago. We didn’t have permanent fencing when we arrived and kept the few animals that made the move in temporary electrified netting. Krummholz wasn’t too bright and routinely got himself tangled in the stuff. The girls called him Krummy. Front and center is Ezekiel who came to us from a farm near Pittsburgh. He attempted to go through the high-tensile electric fence one day, thought better of it, and tried to back out of his predicament. His horns became entangled and that, as they say, was that. Although we’ve had our share of handsome rams over the years I think it is fair to say that Ezekiel was perhaps handsomest of all. He was katmoget which means that his top and flanks were steely gray with a darker tail, belly and chest. He had beautifully symmetrical, and very large, horns and a presence which told you he thought he was something else … he was. And finally, on the right, is Titus who, among all of our rams, served us the longest. He came to us from Vermont and was descendent from the first Shetlands to be imported to the U.S. in 1986 … and these were descendent from animals which were part of the first importation of Shetlands from the United Kingdom to North America (Canada) in 1980. If I were to trace the lineage of each of our ewes I’d find Titus’ genes well represented, and I like knowing that these may be traced through fewer than 30 generations to progenitor stock from the Shetland Isles. Although we have, over these many years, had a long series of breeding rams here at the farm these three are the only to have been laid to rest here. Thank you gentlemen.

Skfinal3

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