just before shearing…waiting…
not enough room in the barn, so peeking will have to do
Dave and his wife, at work on Posey
Shearing day on the farm is a long anticipated event marked with a big red circle on the calendar, and the weeks leading up to it counted off. It seems to approach so slowly, and then happens so swiftly…it takes no more than a few minutes to properly shear a sheep. And make no mistake, it truly is an art form to release a sheep from a year’s worth of wool…stamina, grace and a big dose of strength make it very worthwhile to watch. There are several holds the shearer uses that are so subtle to the onlooker they may easily be missed.
Josh has shown interest in learning to shear, though practicing on my small flock of fibre ewes may have an expensive learning curve. Perhaps when our flock has grown, we can sacrifice a few fleeces to practice.
Until then, we catch any available shearer who travels through our valley, hoping they arrive at the right time. As a fibre shepherd, it is ideal to shear a month before lambing begins. This is helpful for a few reasons : without her woolly coat, the ewe is more in tune to the outdoor temperature and so the lambs have less chance of getting chilled; the ewe’s teats and udder are more sanitary for a suckling lamb; and by shearing the ewe before lambing, the damage of wool-break is avoided. Wool-break occurs from pregnancy hormones and the stress of lambing.
Stella Blue, a Gotland ewe
my dear Posey, a Debouillet merino
ready for shipping to the mill
The sheep are getting reacquainted with one another. They are very visual creatures and once 8 or 9 lbs of fleece comes off, they stand there, quizzically wondering who is who. They sort out the pecking order again, and chatter back and forth, softly baa-ing. It doesn’t take too long to figure it all out, and by bedtime, their routine is resumed and all is well on the farm.
While the sheep sniff and nudge each other, we all were delighted by our naked sheep and to be able to see their swollen bellies and developing udders. It won’t be long now until little lambs are frolicking in the pasture.
And look who is learning to spin…there was a momentary pause in my own spinning projects which freed up the wheel for Sunshine. She is addicted, not surprisingly. Now I understand why many spinners have two wheels.
And the waiting begins…for all that luxurious wool to return home, some made into roving and most made into yarn.
*In its own way, my post today is part of the yarn along. You can see more projects if you stop by Ginny’s blog.
*If you are as thrilled by all things woolly as me, I invite you to check out a new pinterest page I started devoted to all things to do with sheep, knitting, spinning, dyeing…fibre in general. You can check it out here, under the name wool maiden. I hope you enjoy!