Monday, July 20, 2009

Shearing Day 2009

Shearing Day 2009 has come and gone. It is a really big day here at our farm. First we have to gather all the adult sheep together into one spot. This takes a couple days because the sheep are grazing several different fields. We don't own a big trailer and so The Farmer takes many trips with varying numbers of sheep in the back of a landscape trailer. Sheep don't like to ride in trailers which makes catching them the absolute worst part of the project.

This year there was a major chance of rain and so we had to find a covered space to keep the sheep in overnight and then shear in on Thursday. We decided on the winter greenhouse barn since about 40 adult sheep are grazing a pasture just outside this space. The disadvantage was that the greenhouse is very hot! But it was our only choice this year. Maybe someday we'll be able to have a covered sheep shed but that's a long way off. Many years, there is no chance of rain and we are able to set up under a large maple tree and stay nice and cool. But not this year!

We don't shear our own sheep. Both The Farmer and I have taken classes many years ago and have actually sheared a sheep. After the class, we decided it would be much better to find a talented shearer. We've had many shearers come to our farm over the years but for at least 15 years, we have had the pleasure to spend a day with Kevin Ford, one of America's best "blade shearers" who happens to live not too far from us. Kevin is smart, courteous, well-traveled, and a fabulous shearer. He began shearing for us when we had only about 40 adult sheep. Now that we have over 100 sheep, Kevin always suggests he find another shearer to help him out. That way, the job won't take many days, as it has in the past. This year, he brought along Gwen Hinman. Gwen lives in New Hampshire and shears with electric shears.

Shearing Day is a long, very hot, dirty, smelly day. Noone stays clean. The Farmer catches the sheep and then hands it off to either of the shearers. He is good at it and the sheep do not fear him. Our sheep don't mind being sheared, in fact some of them actually fall asleep as the shearer clips the wool off them. They certainly must feel much better after the wool is removed, especially with the heat. Once the sheep is done, the wool is gathered up and then tossed onto a plywood board for "skirting." This year, we had our neighbor Kayla help out because I had some other obligations in the early morning. Kayla was a quick study and did a great job pulling the nasty bits off and then packing the wool into bags. By the time I arrived at around 10:30, there was a real rhythm going.

At around 1:00 we broke for lunch and drove on up to our farmhouse for sandwiches and salad. Lunch on shearing day is such a nice time. We get to catch up on Kevin's year, hear about his many shearing adventures and talk a little about books. Kevin has written a book called Shearing Day and many of the photos were taken while he was shearing our sheep at our farm. Then it was back to the greenhouse to finish it all up. Julia arrived home from summer camp just in time to be bored to tears for a few hours.

There's a plus about shearing day - we get to finally know how many adult sheep we have. Shearers charge by the animal so that at the end of the day, we have a current count of animals. We now know that we've got 151 adult ewes and rams. We also know that most of them are in good condition. It's much easier to see if they are too fat or too thin when there is no wool on them. With the exception of a couple thin yearlings, everyone looked great.

Here are some photos I snapped in between skirting wool. Enjoy our day of shearing. At least you won't get as dirty as we did!

Gwen shearing the belly of a ewe with her electric shears

Gwen finishing up a ewe

Here's a series of photos of Kevin working on one sheep. I always have my camera with me on shearing day and take a break from sorting to snap some photos.

"I'm going to look beautiful when my hair is done."

Patiently waiting

One last snip

Kevin is finished and The Farmer gathers the wool to toss over the barn door.

Inside the greenhouse, shorn and unshorn sheep

Nessie and some of the shorn sheep outside the barn.


Kate said...

Seeing sheep get sheared always reminds me of the Wallace and Gromit short A Close Shave with Shaun the Sheep.

Karen said...

Oh boy! That's a big job! I'll bet the sheep feel cooler without all that wool, anyway. Thanks for the fun photographs!

Sara said...

Wonderful post! Love the pictures! Love sheep but they are stinky buggers.

stringplay said...

Thank you for all the wonderful pictures (and the education!). Looks like lots of hard work.

Gigi said...

Oh my, that looks like hard work! An old friend who used to ranch in West Texas sometimes talked about shearing time -- hard work for you even if you're not actually doing the shearing -- all that food & drink to provide, not to mention all the rest of the 'commotion' that goes on. The little sheep all look so clean after, don't they? And all that lovely wool!

aija said...

Great photos! Do you sell the wool to a co-op? How does that work?

mean_jeannie said...

how fascinating! i love following links on various blogs just because i get to stumble upon something totally new and interesting to me. thank you!

Michele in Maine said...

Wow, what a nice job he does! The sheep look so sleek. Congrats on a busy, productive day.

Willow said...

I so enjoyed reading this post. I have seen sheep shearing, but never tried it myself. It's a dirty job, but one I think I'd enjoy, strangely enough.