About 6 months ago I wrote about the tradition I have with my Sheep Shearer to supply him with chicken pot pie whenever he comes by to shear. Thirteen shorn sheep later, and one happy Shearer driving down the dark & rainy roads with a hot chicken pot pie later, I settle in to share a tidbit of fall shearing:
The report was good – all of the ewes, rams, wethers and lambs are healthy. In fact, healthier than I thought they were. There are two ewes, Lily & Maggie, that I was giving the season “off” to as I’d expected they needed more recovery from their past year of lambing and fighting a virus which had them coughing into the summer. But I was happily surprised to discover they are quite robust under all of that wool and Fred gives them the thumbs up for breeding!
Except for Miss Pansy’s fleece holding a small collection of burdocks, Fred says they are clean and Balrog-the-Ram won the prize for largest and lushest fleece. I worked on the ground with the fleeces on sheets so as to skirt them on a clean surface. “Skirting” is when you remove the edges of the raw fleece,the “tags”, most of it being dirty or matted. I do not wash and card my own fibers. I may, one day, but for now I prepare them on the sheets and roll them up like sleeping bags to take to the Spinnery. I have 13-bags-full this year and they smell of heavenly sheep’s lanolin. It was with great satisfaction that I collected the bundles and brought them inside for their next step on their way to becoming yarn.
I typically have their fibers spun altogether and the resulting color is a blend of the fleeces. But this year I have enough different fleeces to spin them into separate colors. I am very excited for the results and will certainly post photos when they are complete.
Fred shared stories of his troubles with the mess that Hurricane Irene left his farm in late August. He was without power for 8 days and could only get out of his town on nice days when an old logging road through the woods was opened up. He borrowed his neighbor’s generator for 3 hours a day in order to turn on his freezers to keep them from defrosting and to get water to all of his farm animals. He had no phone and as there is no cell service in his area, no cell phone either. He is very, very happy to be on the other side of the storm, but says that it set him back about 3 weeks in his work schedule.
It was a jolly evening in the dry, illuminated barn with all of those baa-ing and dry sheep(my post from last evening told of how we rounded everyone up into the barn to keep their fleeces dry from the nearly biblical rains we’ve been experiencing.) Fred has a smile and shares great stories as well as enjoys hearing ours. He got a huge kick out of “Obaamaa’s” name, saying he hadn’t heard that one yet and was surprised it wasn’t more common. Between politics, recipes, religion, farm talk and silliness, we covered the gamut while wrestling nervous newbies and the wiser woolies.
Our sheep may not enjoy their bi-annual haircuts, but it is an event that I relish. In the fall we talk about breeding stock, good horns, pumpkin growing and the lamb market and in the spring we talk about who is due and when, the amount of snow and cold of the past winter, the mud and the coming gardening season. Predictable and comforting in its predictability, it is a tradition that is at the same time hard work and heart warming.
- World clippers raise the baa for shear fun of it (thehimalayantimes.com)
- Life – Sheep Shearing Day at Rising Meadow Farm (thesecularity.com)
- Shearing day at Foster Sheep Farm (timesunion.com)
- Sheep Shearing and New Piggies (rollingbayfarm.com)
- Woman To Take Part In Sheep Shearing Competition (baltimore.cbslocal.com)
- March: In like a lamb? (jtwhite5.wordpress.com)
- Call For Sheep Shearing To Be Olympic Sport (news.sky.com)
- NZ farmers group sees sheep shearing at Olympics (seattletimes.nwsource.com)