Saturday, July 28, 2007

Shearing Day Two


The tempo really changes when there is only one shearer working. Today's crew was Kevin and his blade shears, The Farmer and his sheep handling skills, and me popping in and out. It was awfully hot, again. I know the sheep are very happy to be feeling less heavy. There's a bit of gladness and a light step as the sheep steps away from Kevin's feet. All of a sudden, they know they are free. They take a few steps and let out a baaaaaaah to locate their friends. Friends answer back. The sheep then realizes they can run a little faster than before and they're off to the green pasture to eat.

In preparation for shearing, we don't feed or water the sheep the night before - similar to before surgery for humans, I suppose. It makes for a less messy situation for the shearer definitely. It also makes the sheep quite desperate to imbibe again.



The shearing is a totally painless process - the worst of it for the animal is the surrender to be turned onto their backside and to let the process begin. There is never a struggle and the shearers are gentle and kind to the animals, uttering little encouraging words. This year, one of the more seasoned ewes fell asleep while shearing and she had to be awakened to get up. I've seen this happen in human beauty parlors, so why not with sheep?

We have had Kevin shear our sheep for so many years that he has become an old friend. Each year, we catch up on what is going on each other's lives. The conversation over the day reaches vast into our mutual interests. I think of Kevin as an intellectual who happens to shear sheep. We talk politics, farming, who has what kind of animals, who is making money and who isn't, what other farmers are doing to make money, who has what kind of sheep. Then we go into local and national politics and food production and favorite restaurants. It's a busy day and although it can get very boring (The Farmer says that watching Kevin shear is like watching moss grow), it is always a good break to the summer. We also find out how healthy our animals are - this year, they are looking very good - not too fat nor lean. It's hard to tell what's going on under all that wool.



Kevin and I always talk publishing. He himself is an author of a book on shearing called Shearing Day. He self-published it (Feet on the Ground Press - sound familiar - it's Anna Zilboorg's press too - they are friends) and has just run out of his first print-run. He is looking into a re-print. He constantly asks me why I don't self-publish my books. I go into what I think about self-publishing - the pros and the cons - of which there are many for both ways of publishing. Then he tells me I could be making way more money doing it his way. We have discussed this issue for the better part of seven years now. I value his opinion but there are some things I don't feel like I have the energy for in my life right now and one thing is marketing books and finding a place to store them where the humidity won't get to them.

How would you like to spend a day like this bent over with very sharp shears in your hands?



So it's over for another year. I've pulled some of the best fleeces aside and am thinking of putting them up for sale. Is anyone interested?

16 comments:

marit said...

It is always impressive seing a professional at work! And it never stops to amaze me how well (most) sheepshearers handle the animals. Thanks again for sharing :-)
Marit in Norway

Tina said...

Kristin, I love reading your blog with all your wonderful stories. Makes me want to move back out to the country sometimes. I have a spinning wheel but absolutely no idea how to use it. If I did, believe me I'd be interested in some fab wool!

Snarled Yarns said...

ME! I'm interested! I'm looking for a milk chocolate or a light fawn or a dark chocolate if you have any. (or all three)
I'll email you so we can talk.

Lee Ann said...

The black fleece is lovely...what breed of sheep are we talking about? I just bought a set of combs and am about to process my first fleece (finally! I've had it for a year) so I may be interested in your fleece, depending on the breed.

Baa Bonny Belle said...

I have helped at a shearing once...a full day of fleece skirting and rolling up. That was an incredible day...though the work was extremely exhausting, I so enjoyed it. I do love the smell of raw wool (probably the only one in Graham, Washington as far as I know, giggle). My family thinks I'm nuts.

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

I hope Kevin has someone to give him a good back rub after his day of shearing. I find the 'good' people who work with any kind of animals do that little bit of 'talking' to their charges. It gives one faith in the soft spirit of humans.
Do you suppose the sheep comment to each other about their new 'do's'. It must feel cooler, but will they now have a problem with insects bitting this new freshly exposed skin?

Gammy aka Peggy said...

Oh, I got to see all the pictures this time!!!!! What an interesting post and such an interesting man, Kevin, I am sure.

Paula said...

That sure brings back memories of my own sheep raising days. Great pictures ~ I especially like that last one. Everybody with their new haircuts headed out...
I think I need to find Kevin's book for my nephew.

"Lily Pettigrew" said...

Count me in, I'd feel honored to be able to purchae some of your lovely wool! Please contact me when you have it ready for sale and let me know what type and colors and $ per lb!

Thanks!

Penny said...

i'm interested, if not for me than for some wonderful spinners who have been patiently teaching me.

Patricia said...

You might consider bringing some of it down to Stitches East and selling it there.

Patty Bolgiano

Willow said...

I'd love to have some of the wool! However, I live in California. Just thinking about shipping costs... And then there's the whole home dynamic of dh saying, "What? More fiber? You haven't spun up all of the ### pounds of carded, uncarded, llama, sheep wool you already have stored in the guest room closet!" I'll think on it!

Felicia said...

I got a chance to try out shearing a sheep with those over grown scissors at a old timey farm festival a couple of years ago. It isn't as easy as it looks! LOL

Miss Eagle said...

Kristin, I have enjoyed this record you have made of your shearing. I am a former trade union organiser with the Australian Workers Union. While the AWU is a large and historic general union covering a wide range of trades and industries, it is best known for being the shearers' union - although the shearers' influence is less these days because of changes in the industry and changes in attitudes to union membership. How many sheep are there, Kristin? And how many sheep are sheared a day? When you say blade shears, I presume you are talking about unpowered shears. Do you have a proper shearers stand and a proper table. I have some lovely pictures of an old Australian outback shearing shed, I think I'll do a post on The Trad Pad at http://tradpad.blogspot.com so you can see.

Thank you for most enjoyable words and pictures. Your blog is one of my great favourites.

Blessings and bliss

Anonymous said...

I am always amazed that they haven't invented a machine that can shear a sheep, which means every inch of the wool in all our stashes starts with the talents of the sheep shearer. Bless them!

Marie

Chookyblue said...

OMG ...I have just had a great chuckle reading you shearing blogs.......even read them to my husband...have to show him the picks yet....we have merino sheep about 2500 and I have 2 brothers who are shearers.......they shear about 150-200/day.......you have really brightened up my night and we would never be able to do it your way........so interesting to see and love your comments along the way......looks like you have a few offers for your wool......goodluck.....thanks....