And in the blink of an eye, shearing day came and went. I look forward to this day with such anticipation…eager to see what a year’s worth of wool farming looks like. With such a late spring, and snow still on the ground, I was literally taking the last wheelbarrow of manure from the barn as the shearers showed up. They set up their electric clippers while I gathered garbage bags to hold the wool, trying to prevent the sheep from escaping the closed barn as it was raining hard outside. Wet sheep do not make for good shearing. While our barn is quite small and my large sheep take up so much space, it was challenging to take photos while also stuffing wool into bags. All in all, these shearers took about 3 or 4 minutes to shear each sheep which is fast when I am juggling a few different hats ~ wool stuffer, sheep barricade and photographer.
My merinos, gotland, and romney crosses lose so much weight with their shearing, it is hard to know what condition they are in beneath all that wool. This year’s shearer was very impressed with my flock…the quality of the wool and the health of my ewes was very high, he told me and other farmers. Such praise is not to be taken lightly from a husband/wife team that shear thousands of sheep a year. They live in their van and travel western Canada, stopping at farms to shear. After 7 months of this kind of work, they travel abroad.
When they left, we lugged up the heavy bags to the house. I wanted to lay out all the fleeces to dry out a bit from the moisture in the air. Good thing I like the smell of lanolin so much because for a week, our house smelled very sheepy. I skirted the wool which means I got rid of any especially dirty areas and shook out as much hay bits and second cuts (short wool tufts). When they felt good and dry, I packaged them up into four boxes and shipped them off to a wool mill to be processed into yarn. This year I am trying a new mill which has more refined machinery to create even more luxurious yarn. My skeins ought to be ready by Christmas…I can hardly wait!
In the meantime, last year’s shearing arrived home from another mill…75 skeins of my merino wool, made into worsted weight 2 ply yarn. I hope to have some for sale in my Wool Maiden shop very soon.
Shearing day happened over a month ago now and since then, the snowy and muddy barn yard has given way to the lush green pastures of May. Oh, I love May! The grass is thick and the flowers are blooming and the temperatures are not sweltering….and the sheep are happily grazing without too much effort on my part. Every afternoon, I let them out onto the grass, rotating them every seven days to maintain good health. Last week they were up in our yard and our ram even came into the house when the door was open, surprising all of us!
Back in February, we welcomed home Aspen, son of Flora my merino. The sire ram was a Romney, and Aspen has the most beautiful fleece I’ve ever seen. I had sold him a year and a half ago to my friend who lives down the road. He had exhausted his time there and was ready for the freezer. After a disappointing realization that I hadn’t bred my sheep last fall on account of our cross-Canada bus tour which we postponed til next summer, I made a last minute attempt to borrow Aspen to breed my ewes. I had about ten days left before their breeding window closed for the season. It was worth a try as he is a wonderful ram, gentle and sweet-natured…I love him! At the end of our agreed time with Aspen, I asked to buy him back and my friend was too happy to agree.
Aspen, the gentle ram
And the good news…Aspen earned his keep in February as it is apparent all five ewes are pregnant! I can’t believe we made it in time before the ewes were not breed-able anymore this year. Stay tuned for lamb spam at the end of June!