May 19, 2010

Scottish Blackface
Photos by Sue Weaver

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Yesterday was my Mom’s 63rd birthday. Boy, is she old! Dad thinks so too, so to make her feel better, he got her an extra-special present this year.

See, a long, long time ago in 1973, Mom’s British penpal sent her a book called British Sheep Breeds; Their Wool and its Uses. It’s what you call a coffee table book with lots of big, pretty pictures of beautiful sheep. Mom called it her “Wish Book,” but several breeds stood out among the rest.

Her favorite was a breed of sheep called Scottish Blackface, also called “Blackies” by people who raise them.

They have long, flowing, white fleece set off by big horns and black faces and legs splotched with white. When Mom told her English friend (who raises sheep) that it was her favorite and she wanted some, her friend said, “They’re wild and jump like stags! Get something quiet like Southdowns or Hampshires.”

Scottish Blackface

But you know my mom, she had Blackies on her mind. Even when she discovered there aren’t many in North America and she got Classic Cheviots instead, she kept on wanting those splotch-faced sheep.

Then when she wrote Hobby Farms Sheep; Small-Scale Sheep Keeping for Pleasure and Profit, she actually got to meet some Scottish Blackface sheep. And when she read “Three Bags Full; a Sheep Detective Story,” she knew she wanted a ewe just like Zora (read my blog entry about “Mom’s Favorite Book” to read about Zora, the sheep of the abyss).

So, a few months ago she said to Dad, “I really want a Scottish Blackface ewe before I die.” That’s when Dad saw his chance to make Mom’s birthday stand out above all the rest. He went online and found Blackie breeders Graham and Margaret Phillipson of Littledale, a sheep farm and English-style bed-and-breakfast in Richland Center, Wis.

Then he called Mom’s best friend and sister-in-sheep, Lori Olson of Boscobel, Wis., and asked if she’d visit Mom for her birthday and bring along a lamb. She did! She brought it in an airline carrier in the back of her car and when Mom saw the lamb she thought, “Now I have my Zora!”

But it’s better. Dad bought Mom a ram lamb instead of a ewe. Now they’re going to breed Scottish Blackface in a very small way.

Mom named her lamb Othello, after Othello in “Three Bags Full.” Now Mom’s walking around with a great big grin on her face. She says this was her best birthday EVER!  

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