Characters At The Ranch Pen

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Danni’s Finn sheep with triplets

Most writers get questioned about where the characters and ideas for their books come from and I’m no exception, so today I’ll begin a series of posts about where the characters in my novel The Cedar Tree originated.

We’ll begin with when once upon a time, a young lady nicknamed Danni brought home a couple of armloads of orphaned lambs–called bummers–from the livestock auction. She and her little sons got the bummers fixed up on the bottle, and since lambs are some of the most charming creatures in the world, Presto! Danni was entranced. She dove into the sheep business.

Soon, those first bottle lambs needed shearing, so a neighbor came and did that job. Then Danni possessed a number of raw fleeces and had no idea what to do with them. There weren’t enough pounds of wool in the fleeces to be worth the effort to find a wool buyer. What should she do? Donate them to the sheep ranchers who lived a few miles away from her? Throw them away? No. She became interested in wool processing, from the sheep in the pasture all the way to the sweater, rug, or blanket. Eventually, as she learned to wash and dye wool, spin it into yarn, knit it into socks, scarves, hats, and sweaters, and even weave simple pieces on what is called a rigid heddle loom, she realized the wool from her commercial grade bum lambs was not going to suit her needs for fine woolen textiles.

She began studyin’ up on sheep breeds and settled on Finn sheep as the answer to her hand spinning needs. Not only do the Finns–which originate in…well, Finland–have amazingly soft, beautiful wool, they have litters of lambs! Most of the time the ewes have at least triplets, quadruplets are not uncommon, and they even had quintuplets a time or two.

As time passed, Danni’s flock multiplied by leaps and bounds. Fifty ewes, all of them popping out three or four lambs at a time…my goodness! She also branched out into different breeds–Shetland sheep from the Shetland Isles of Scotland and both the horned and polled Dorsets which originate in the British Isles. The Finns and Shetlands have the soft, beautiful fleeces, but they are bony, so Danni found if she crossed some Finn ewes with a mean Dorset ram she got a meatier type sheep for her family’s dining pleasure but still had a pretty nice grade of wool for hand spinning.

So, what does all that have to do with characters or anything else, you ask? Only this: Danni learned sheep from the ground up and many of the characters and settings in her stories grew out of that experience.

Return sometime next week for the continuing saga of how Annie–the beautiful young Navajo woman and shepherdess from Danni’s novel The Cedar Tree–came bursting slowly out of Danni’s brains.

Thank you for reading and God bless all y’all while you enjoy Savior Like A Shepherd Lead Us from the album The Heart of Hymns. There is some advertising for the album, but it’s a good song and a cool video.


*These artists don’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just like ’em.

9 thoughts on “Characters At The Ranch Pen

  1. Pingback: Navajo Stuff At The Ranch Pen | From the Ranch Pen–A Danni McGriffith Blog

    • Well as we say down here, Come ahead on! Thank you, tho. Hand crafts of that nature are rare now, but just a necessary part of normal life not too far back in history. I have the greatest admiration for those “spinsters” who kept their families clothed. They didn’t have time to run around getting into mischief that’s for sure šŸ™‚

  2. I am literally speechless. Okay, not literally because I’m still typing, but I’m sputtering. You continue to amaze me, Danni. Sheep sheering, wool spinning, textile making. Oh-My-Lanta. One day I’m gonna show up with my face pressed against your window and ask you to show me all of these wonderous abilities you have–and I’ll probably have Jonathan right behind me itching to see all of Gramps’s trucks and tricks. And, of course, I love hearing where stories come from – look forward to hearing the rest!

    • Well, I would be tickled for you and Jonathan and the kiddos to show up! I’d teach you everything I know in just a few minutes and then we could move on to fun stuff šŸ™‚
      I hope y’all have a wonderful weekend

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