It's been almost a year since the last blog post. I'm not sure exactly how to sum up 2019 in a family friendly format, so I'll just go with the generic and vague, "It was a difficult year -- to say the least."
Howling Hill Farm is still here, though, and, although we suffered some setbacks in 2019, we are pushing on with our breeding programs. The most active at the moment just happens to be our Harlequin/spotted Babydoll sheep program. While we took a rather large hit in 2019 in the form of a coyote attack, our top spotted Babydoll ram, Ike, lives on through his offspring. Check out these two cuties who are being retained for our program: this little back daughter of Poppy, who is as yet unnamed, and the great Steve, a stellar example of a Harleydoll sheep -- a pure spotted Babydoll/Harlequin cross. His dam is one of my all time favorite sheep, a white Harlequin named Lily with stunning fleece.
As the future herdsire of our breeding program, Steve has some pretty big shoes to fill, but so far he seems up to the task with that little bit of extra bravado and moxie that says, "I wanna grow up to be a stud!"
We've also been working on a new project -- Teddywidder rabbits (photos to come). This is a sort of "side project," if you will -- not a cornerstone of the Howling Hill pantheon of critters -- but it's fun and exciting so far to see so many cute fluffy rabbits hopping around.
We still have alpacas, of course, though our numbers have decreased dramatically. Our focus remains on producing a truly elite Harlequin Appaloosa, though we are still working with Tuxedo Grey as well. Expect big things to come from our top herdsire, Red Granite's Pinctus, who is the DENSEST alpaca yet biopsied in the USA, period, and who begins his breeding career in 2020.
All in all, 2019 could be easily said to be our roughest year yet, but in the end, we survived, and Howling Hill Farm lives on. Keep an eye out for more updates as we continue to forge ahead -- onward and upward!
Ahem. Sooo ...
It's April 1st ... And this is the first 'blog post of 2019. Oops.
I think I've mentioned this before, but it gets really, really challenging to juggle three different farm pages (this one, the farm Facebook page, and my Instagram). Each one serves a slightly different purpose, so it isn't just cross-posting between the three (for the most part), but it's easy to neglect one or another of them. My Instagram (@kittathowlinghill) gets the most use, because it's the simplest, but it's pretty much just for fun.
The Facebook page is the page that I primarily use for major alpaca-related announcements and alpaca promotion, such as new herdsires, new cria, pretty fiber shots, etc., etc.. It gets a TON of traffic, and, although I confess to a complete and total loathing of the medium, it's where a majority of people get their news nowadays and so it's the best way for me to keep in touch with the Alpaca World and keep up our presence there.
... That leaves this poor lil' ol' 'blog.
A BIG chunk of the reason I don't post here often is that the interface is slow, clunky, and REALLY really glitchy. I've lost many a long post to bugs in Weebly's system, and frankly, I hate that.
The other thing, though, is that it's a kind of a challenge sometimes for me to choose what to post here. The 'blog feels a lot more permanent than the Facebook pages or my Instagram feed (even though I'm not sure that it really is); it's also indexed in search engines, whereas I don't think those sites really are. So I tend to want to make the 'blog posts really count.
Plus, I get to write more, and I like that.
The last and final reason this 'blog got neglected, though, is that whole "life stuff" thing cropped up again this winter -- this time, hitting me. I'm better now, but suffice it to say, if I can avoid the inside of a hospital for awhile, I'll be a whole lot happier. (Luckily, humans only have one appendix, as far as I know.)
All of that is over now, though, and spring is here, and my camera broke last week so I got a shiny brand new one. So, what better way to christen it than with some super cute lamb pictures?
We had an awesome lambing season this year -- totally making up for our basically nonexistent lambing season last year. I was a little worried about lambing so early, but it worked out overall -- just bring 'em inside! We got more spots this year than ever before. I'm happy.
Enough blather. Cute lambs!
Yessiree!! Been awhile since we've had an "Our first --" post!
This little dude made his way into the world early this morning, and he represents Our First Spotted Lamb. He is as yet unnamed, but I'm pretty sure he's a keeper. His dam, Silent Babette, is a pure Harlequin, and his sire is our super-spotty Babydoll Southdown, Ike.
Babette and baby are currently hanging out in our chinchilla room, where the lighting is sub-optimal, so the pictures kind of make them look like swamp monsters rather than adorable sheep ... But trust me, they're cute in reality.
... There's this stupid Internet phenomenon of posting the word, "First!" in the comments below a 'blog post. Well, if Howling Hill Farm Babies 2017 was a 'blog post, and these lambs were so inclined, they'd get to post it.
These were actually born two days ago, but their maiden mom, a Babydoll Southdown ewe named Salt, needed a little bit of help learning mothering, and so I held off posting them. She's now figured it out beautifully, though, so here they are. These are our first lambs by their sire, spotted Babydoll Southdown ram Ike. They didn't get the spots (not surprisingly, as I believe the gene to be recessive), but they do have a white spot on their foreheads which I believe to indicate that they carry the spotting gene. Oh, and did I mention that these are twin ewe lambs?
I can't believe it's only been a week since the last 'blog post! ... It goes to show how much 'blog-worthy stuff can happen in one week!
So, the first major farm event was Shearing #1: Sheep and Pregnant Alpacas. (This is actually not all that accurate a title, as not all of the pregnant alpacas actually got shorn -- just those that are close to their due date -- and not all of the alpacas shorn were pregnant -- but it sounds better than Sheep and Group 1 Alpacas, since no one else knows what "Group 1" is.) This shearing's obligatory "before and after" photos are brought to you by sheep, because it was the sheep that made the most dramatic transformations this round.
The most dramatic sheep of all was Licorice, the totally wool-blind ewe lamb from this post. However, Licorice didn't feel like cooperating for her "after" shot, so instead, we bring you the second most dramatic, from the boy in the same post, Ike. As a refresher, here is what Ike looked like before:
... And here he is after:
... Holy spots, Batman!
On this farm, getting shorn and revealing a whole bunch of spots is a really, really GOOD thing. (This is not necessarily the case on all farms.)
Cheever, Jiggles and Puddin -- three of our other sheep -- also made pretty dramatic color changes; Jiggles and Puddin also revealed a good amount of spotting.
Then, on shearing day, we had our second cria of the season, as expected. Why was it expected? Well, you see, our new shearer, Malcolm Cooper, had been to our farm three times last year: once to shear our sheep, and twice more to tip shear the crias. Each time, a cria was born on the same day. Thus, it was inevitable, and I was honestly not surprised when a female -- Dani Rose -- went into labor. (It helped that she was due right around then, of course.)
I was seriously hoping for a grey female out of this one (granted, this is usually what I am hoping for), and he missed the memo both ways and managed to come out a brown male. That's okay, though -- he is strong, healthy, robust and looking good, and that's what really matters. Logically, he had to be named Malcolm.
Last but definitely not least, our last ewe lambed Tuesday, giving us a tidy lambing season of one week. All told, we had five black ewe lambs, one black ram lamb and one white ram lamb, all healthy, robust and gorgeous, with no dystocias. Now THAT is an awesome lambing season!
Now that lambing season is complete (with the possible exception of a straggler who needed some time to start cycling), we now get to play the long waiting game for crias. Every alpaca breeder wishes that alpacas were as easy to time as sheep, but alas, with a gestation length of 330 - 360 days, they are not.
Next up: Last-minute full-fleece and fiber photos before Shearing #2: The Big One!
... Yes, the very first lambs of the season were born this morning -- twin ewe lambs! Yeah!! .... In the pouring rain. (Obviously.) The lambing shelter had too much hay in it and they were having a hard time finding their mom's udder, so we finally moved them up to the garage. At first, they were co-mingling with Boopy and her dam, Bee, but Bee was really not so sure she wanted to share her space with a sheep, and the feeling was mutual. Thus, the sheep got their own bay, though not before Boopy made a valiant effort to befriend the newborn lambs.
These are some of the crappiest pictures I've ever posted to this site, but ... It's a cria. Kissing a lamb. I can't not post this.
I had to spray-paint a red dot on one of the lambs, because otherwise there would be absolutely no way to tell them apart ...
Yesterday we had a very long, marathon trip to pick up some new additions -- mostly alpacas, all of which we are extremely pleased with -- plus a last-minute pickup: Ike the ram. This was clearly something that was "meant to be," because the timing was absolutely perfect -- we were already headed on a trip, and Ike was only an hour and a half from one of the farms we visited (Havenfield Farm, owned by our friend Kim Kline -- thank you Kim!).
So, here is Ike! What's so special about Ike? Well, other than the obvious (he's the cutest darned sheep you will ever see), there's the other obvious: He's spotted. And, he is a pure Babydoll Southdown, registered with the Olde English Babydoll Southdown Registry. He has a particularly unique, beautiful spotting pattern that I am very excited about for two reasons. One is that it is just plain cool to look at. The other is that it appears to be very highly heritable.
Ike is a two year old, and already proven as a breeder. He is the calmest, gentlest ram -- even calmer than Cheever.
Welcome home Ike!
We also picked up this absurdly adorable girl from the same farm (which turned out also to be a veterinary clinic, which turned out to be owned by one of my former classmates from Cornell Ag -- small world). She has the most perfect head I have ever seen on a sheep -- if anything, I would maybe like her to have a little bit less wool coverage on her face, and that is rare, for me. I swear, she does have eyes!
... In other sheep news, our first Babydoll Southdown lambs are due in T-minus two weeks ... Prepare for cute!
... We still don't have any posts for 2016!
Okay, okay, I have been really bad about posting lately. Turns out that even in a relatively mild winter, like this one, there still isn't all that much news going on around a farm in wintertime.
Here, then, are some pictures of sheep, because there also aren't enough sheep pictures on this website.
If Cheever did his job, we will be expecting our first Babydoll Southdown lambs in a few months ... Maybe even a Harlequin lamb or two, if we're lucky!
... The kitten's name is Oswald, and he is my photography helper.
This is Cain, a solid silver harlequin (and you can't tell unless you open his fleece). Ozzy looks mildly perturbed by him.
This is Renegade, Cain's half brother, who is one of the most unique harlequin appaloosa alpacas I've ever seen. Ozzy has little interest in him.
Here is Poppy the sheep. While it may look like she and Ozzy are snuggling, she was, in fact, politely "escorting" him out of her paddock. She's done this before, and it's something I really need to get a video of, because it's about the cutest thing imaginable. (I have noticed that "sheep + another animal = insane levels of cute.")
Here is everyone's favorite alpaca, Sparky, sniffing Ozzy. Ozzy looks a tad frightened of her.
I crouched down to try and get better photos of this interaction, and Sparky immediately walked over and began to play one of her favorite games: Take the Clip-On Sunglasses off the Hat. I attempted to get photographic proof of this, but it didn't come out great:
Weirdly enough, one of our other harlequin gals, Mozzarella, has also played this game in the past. What is it with harleys and my clip-on sunglasses?
Finally, here is Penn (AKA Pennyroyal Rose -- Snowmass Royal Rose x TGF Tinker Bella x Snowmass Legacy Gold -- hey, maybe if I start writing shorthand alpaca pedigrees like the reining horse people do, it'll catch on) sniffing the kitten. I'm ending with this one, because it's the best photograph.
Also, Ozzy looks fairly content here. Kind of. Either that, or Penn's breath smells awful.
The Howling Hill Farm sheep program is finally starting to come together.
In my last sheep-related blog post, I mentioned how I wasn't really sure whether we were going to breed Harlequin Sheep only, or Harlequins and spotted Babydolls. At this point, I am still not sure ... And more importantly, I am really not sure that it matters.
We will be breeding cute, friendly, correctly conformed, solidly-built, miniature sheep with beautiful, soft (20 microns or less), uniform fleece with a high-frequency crimp and medium staple length -- with spots and other fun patterns. They may be registered as Harlequins, or they may be registered as Babydolls (Olde English Miniature Babydoll Southdowns), depending on the breeding that produced them.
Here are two new additions to help further our goal of these sheep. The first is a new ram, Cheever. Cheever is a registered Babydoll who had a spotted sire and who has a few black spots on his rump. He is the tankiest, puppy-doggiest ram you ever will meet -- totally perfect for our farm.
... And this is Lily. Lily is a registered Harlequin, as both of her parents were dramatically spotted registered Harlequins. She is white, but my guess is that she is, genetically, spotted -- a white with white spots, if you will. She is also compact and lovely, and her wool is amazing. Fleece shots of this one forthcoming. Lily is half-sister to Noah, so she will be bred to Cheever.
I am so looking forward to next spring.
K writes this stuff, for some reason that has yet to become apparent.