Tag: sheep ranching

East/West, Home’s Best!

#mustlovecowboys

My new cowboy is a shepherd.

Now there’s an image crisis there, because we see shepherds differently than we see cowboys.

Cowboys are square-shouldered, horse-back riding, Stetson hat wearing, maybe even gun-totin’ working men. This is the cover of book one of my Double S Ranch Series….

www.ruthloganherne.com

Shepherds make us think of Bethlehem… long cloaks, robes, cinched waists and sandals.

But in the American West, that image doesn’t cut it. In my upcoming “Shepherd’s Crossing” series with Love Inspired, four sisters inherit a share of a sprawling, beautiful western Idaho sheep ranch developed by their uncle, one of the heirs to a publishing empire years before. When the girls’ father embezzles money from their mega-publishing empire, leaving millions of dollars in unanswered debt, the girls are left to fare for themselves… but when their uncle leaves them the ranch– well MOST of it– the girls see a chance to begin anew.

Of course the other part of the ranch goes to a smokin’ hot cowboy hero who has a significant past with the oldest sister, but that was a dozen years before… and the last thing he wants to do is share the ranch he’s worked for twelve years with a bunch of Steel Magnolias sporting impressive university degrees and no knowledge of sheep or the ruggedness of a northern winter.

But the west isn’t The West anymore… like so many changes in the past forty years, the demographics of sheep farming have weakened in the hills of Idaho. The fleece and lamb market faded, farmers sold off, and modern irrigation methods have made unprofitable land arable again, so that hay is beginning to edge the famous Idaho potato out of it’s esteemed #1 position. WHAT????? SAY IT AIN’T SO! Irish gals love their potatoes!!!!

And the big game hunters who lobbied for Bighorn sheep to be brought back to Idaho, don’t want farm sheep roaming the hills in the annual sheep walks… They’re afraid that the domestic sheep carry germs/bacteria that sicken the Bighorns.

An industry torn, and change ensues… with hay and cattle encroaching on what had been Spanish Basque shepherding practices for decades.

Setting a romance in the West is the easy part… making it real to the reader, bringing them into the hills of Western Idaho, the rolling bluffs giving way to mountain peaks, letting them see the sheep heading into the hills, guided by Peruvian shepherds now… Swarthy-skinned men, recruited from the mountains of Peru, here to make a new life, guiding sheep on the annual brush-clearing trek, now threatened by change.

So much has changed but brown-skinned cowboy shepherds still prevail, and in this series we bring the true diversity of today’s America to the helm… Mixed sheep and mixed races sprinkle the landscape like spring wildflowers, natural and good. And that’s the beauty of writing today’s romance.

Publishers want it real. They want it relevant. They want that romance front and center, and what better way to create conflict than thrusting people out of the comfort zone completely? Lizzie Fitzgerald wanted the career her father eschewed, the career crafted by her grandfather and great-grandfather, publishing icons in their time.  She was born to step into their shoes but her modern technology and her father’s greed left her with no company… and even cost her job with a Boston paper. And now she’s here, face-to-face with her first love, the man who fathered her lost child… and never lifted a finger to help.

Setting this series in the hills, mountains and valleys of Idaho is absolute pleasure. The Northwest allows all kinds of weather, excitement, danger and good old-fashioned ranching at its best, even as times change, people leave the land for urban development (oh, those SILLY PEOPLE!!!) and story-tellers like me re-create one of the most iconic and beloved images of our time and times past…

The American Cowboy. 

This series begins next year, but I’ve got a copy of  my just-released Christmas duo with Jillian Hart to give away today! Leave a comment and we’ll tuck your name into Colt Stafford’s big ol’ Resistol hat….  And as you read these beautiful holiday stories, you’ll share in the joy of the upcoming holiday season and sweet, sweet romance.

And while most of us live life in small towns, cozy nooks, or urban streets and suburban neighborhoods, the romance of cowboy lore… and the American West… goes on.

 

Except in Baseball where this New York Yankee will be cheering for PINSTRIPES all the way during the post-season!!! 🙂

 

 

Filling the Creative Well

Kathryn Albright

Enjoying a day on a sheep ranch.

I need to take time to “refill the creative well” every once in a while. Constantly pouring out words on paper can slowly drain my creativity. Every writer is different in how they go about this, but for me, a get-away trip always turns my thoughts to new story-lines and ideas.

When I learned last week, that one of the sheep and carding farms nearby in southern Wisconsin was having an open house and spring shearing event, I seized the chance to see firsthand how those fluffy coats became skeins of yarn. It was the first warm, dry weekend of the spring and I was itching for a road trip. (My husband likes to drive. I like to ride. It’s a win-win!)

Merino_sheep

Merino Sheep

We traveled the hills and hollers of southern Wisconsin and finally came to Rainbow Fleece Farm and Carding Company. It is a small operation near Madison, Wisconsin. The owners sell their yarn and wool throughout the United States.

The steps from the wool on the sheep to a skein of yarn at this particular farm are ~

  • When the wool is about four inches long or more, the sheep is sheared. A years growth equals about 8 pounds of wool.
  • Wool straight off a sheep is known as “greasy wool” or “wool in the grease.” It contains a high level of valuable lanolin (used in hand creams and cosmetics.)

    Shearing Sheep

    B. Jones shearing a Merino ram.

  • The wool weighed and then picked clean by hand as best as possible.
  • The wool is washed until the rinse water runs clean—usually about three washings. This is called scouring and on this “green” farm it is done with a mild soap.
  • It is spread out to dry in a warm area out of direct sunlight.
  • At this point or any hereafter, the wool can be dyed.
  • A blending or carding board is a board with small metal pins sticking up over its surface. Globs of wool are spread on the board. This is where a person can get creative with colors and textures—adding the colors wanted. (this is the part I had never heard of & found fascinating.)

    Creative Well

    Blending or Carding Board

  • The wool is then pulled off the board in a clump. It can then be stretched out into a thread, twisted together and spun onto a spindle.
  • Wa-la! Yarn!

    CSIRO_ScienceImage_11160_Siroscour

    Unwashed and washed wool.

 

At Rainbow Fleece Farm it was fun to watch a true working dog (Border Collie here) do his job.

I am already envisioning a story that takes place on a sheep ranch in the old West…

How about you? What do you do when you need a change or a little boost of inspiration?

A walk? A change of scenery? Baking? I’d love to hear!

Western Spring Weddings

 

 

Comment for a chance to win a copy of my newest release,

Western Spring Weddings.

(Guidelines link at top of page.)

Just Take Them Sheep Right on Outta Here

Texans are resilient. They defeated the Mexicans—twice—took a beating during the Civil War and Reconstruction, and then chased the Comanche clean out of the state and into Oklahoma. All of those events were watershed moments in Texas history.

And so was the day they came.

ThePlainsHerder_NCWyeth_1909

The Plains Herder, NC Wyeth, 1909

Sheep. Hundreds of thousands of them, munching their way across the land like wooly locusts. The sight of a single woolyback could boil a cattleman’s blood. The critters trampled the range, close-cropped the forage, and left behind an odor neither cattle nor man could abide. They also carried a type of mange called “sheep scab” to which cattle were susceptible.

As if all of that weren’t enough, pastores herded on foot, not horseback. Horses were a status symbol in the Old West. Cowboys figuratively and literally “looked down on” mutton-punchers.

Sheep are not native to Texas, although they’ve been in the state since padres brought Spanish transplants with them in the 1700s. Since the animals provided both food and clothing, no mission was without a flock.

In 1800, 5,000 head of sheep lived in far south Texas, along the Rio Grande. By 1870, 700,000 woolies had moved in, primarily with Germans and other Europeans who immigrated to central and western Texas. By 1890, the state was home to 3.5 million of the critters. Of the 30 million sheep in the U.S. in the middle of the twentieth century, one-third were in Texas. At that time, the state produced 95 percent of the country’s Merino wool.

Due to market fluctuations, drought, and some disastrous government programs, in 2012 the entire ovine population of the U.S. stood at only 5.345 million; 650,000 of those, still the largest bunch by more than 100,000 animals, were in Texas. To this day, mutton, lamb, and wool make a significant contribution to Texas’s economy.

SheepRaidInColorado

Sheep Raid (Harper’s Weekly, Oct. 1877)

Ranchers in the mid- to late-1800s never would have believed such a thing possible. In fact, they went to great lengths to prevent the possibility. The notorious clashes between sheepmen and cattlemen that scarred the entire West began on the Charles Goodnight range in Texas. Between 1875 and 1920, one hundred twenty serious confrontations occurred in Texas, Arizona, Wyoming, and Colorado. Across the four states, at least fifty-four men died and 100,000 sheep were slaughtered.

Real and imagined problems led to the sheep wars. Texas cattlemen already were becoming testy with one another over grazing and water rights. Add sheep—which, as a means of finding other flock members, scent the ground with a noxious substance excreted by a gland above their hooves—and the range got a little smaller. Add sheep “drifters,” who grazed their flocks on other folks’ land or public property because they owned no territory of their own, and the situation became volatile. Add barbed-wire fence…and everything exploded.

The Texas legislature outlawed grazing sheep on private range without permission and on public land at all. Cattle and horses faced no such restrictions. Consequently, sheepmen were among the first to throw up fences in order to keep their flocks in and other animals out. Sheep fences lit one of the first matches in what became the Texas Fence-Cutter War, which erupted across more than half the state for about a decade starting in the 1870s. The cattlemen erected their own fences, and soon everyone was at someone else’s throat. The fence war died down, for the most part, when the state legislature criminalized fence-cutting in 1884.

Merino_Sheep

Texas Merino Sheep, courtesy Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

Not long thereafter, most Texas cattlemen were shocked—and somewhat relieved—to discover good fences make good neighbors. They also discovered mutton and wool sold even when a mysterious disease known as Texas Fever made driving cattle to the railheads in other states well-nigh impossible.

Today, many Texas ranchers run sheep and goats right along with their cattle, and all the critters get along just fine on the same property.

Of course, had stubborn Texans on both sides of the fence paid attention to the native Indians who’d run cattle and sheep together for a hundred years before the trouble started, they might have spared themselves considerable aggravation.

In my debut novel Prodigal Gun, sheep and a barbed-wire fence touch off a war in the Texas Hill Country, bringing an infamous gunman home for the first time since he left to fight for the Confederacy. The book releases tomorrow in both paperback and digital versions, but it’s available for pre-order now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and .

There’s an autographed print copy up for grabs! I’ll let Random.org draw a winner from among those who are kind enough to comment today. Please leave me a way to get in touch.

PGCover_v3A dangerous man. A desperate woman. A love no war could kill.

Widowed rancher Jessie Caine buried her heart with the childhood sweetheart Yankees killed on a distant battlefield. Sixteen years later, as a Texas range war looms and hired guns arrive to pursue a wealthy carpetbagger’s agenda, Jessie discovers the only man she ever loved isn’t dead.

At least not yet.

Embittered by a brother’s betrayal, notorious gunman Calhoun is a dangerous man, come home to do an unsavory job. A bushwhacker’s bullet nearly takes his life on Jessie’s land, trapping him in a standoff between the past he tried to bury and the infamy he never will. One taste of the only woman he ever loved puts more than his life and her ranch in the crossfire.

With a price on his head, a debt to a wealthy employer around his neck, and a defiant woman tugging at his heart, Calhoun’s guns may not be enough to keep him from the grave. Caught between his enemies and hers, Jessie faces an agonizing choice: Which of her dreams will die?

Petticoats & Pistols © 2015