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?