That time of year

Perhaps your mental image of sheep shearing is that of a single individual laboring with an animal on its rump. Joanna and I have always sheared as a team, and you may wonder why. Before I explain, allow me to point out that Joanna is in charge, she shears the animal, my job is to attend to details (legs, head and neck, tail, udder (girls), and delicate parts (boys)). I also lift the animal onto the stand, trim the hooves and deliver medications. We shear on a fitting stand because it’s easier on the back. Notice that the fleece is removed in a single piece. Harvesting the fleece in this way is critical for a handspinner. Fleece character and quality differs from front-to-back, side-to-side, and belly-to-topline. Because Joanna needs to be able to select different parts of the fleece for different applications, she needs to harvest the thing intact. Although I cannot tell you whether our animals find shearing stressful, I can tell you that the older animals remember being sheared and are far more relaxed about the process than are the yearlings. I can also report that, after being relieved of its heavy winter coat, each newly-sheared animal walks back to pasture with a smile and an extra bit of kick in its step.You might be interested in viewing last year’s contribution to this new, time-lapse, genre of farm film-making. Although the clip only runs for 25 seconds, the process required approximately 20 minutes.

23 thoughts on “That time of year

  1. So inspired to get a stand and learn to shear for myself! It’s definitely easier with two, I’m sure. I’m still hiring our shearer(in his 52nd year of shearing!) to come out and help me twice a year. Last week we did all of the Shetlands and the Angora goats, one of the Cotswolds, and now I’m up to my eyeballs skirting. I always grumble a little because of the second cuts! But overall, I enjoy my shearer coming – we worked in the barn from 10 a.m. to 9pm to finish. No dinner or lunch. But a great feeling of accomplishment when all was done! Nice to see this very fun video of you and Joanna!

  2. It’s a long weekend here too in NL. We call it Victoria Day, a throwback to the colonial period. We do Remembrance Day on Nov 11–a throwback to the Armistice Day from the Great war. Me–I think it’s time to rename it. Most of us here just call it May two four (and yes I know next Sunday is the 24th but the rule for the holiday is that it’s the Monday before the 24th) and regard it as the first weekend of spring. hey, we’re a bit late owing to the Labrador current. Anyway, loads of people are off camping and enjoying the sights, which include icebergs and such. Me, just at home, taking it easy. Took some time to cook breakfast-pound of bacon, some turkey bacon, several slices of bologna, half dozen sausages, dozen eggs, hash browns, toast and, yes, coffee. All gone now, except for the last of the coffee. Sat down in front of the TV (I have a wireless mouse & keyboard connected to a an old laptop under it) and thought, “what’s Dave up to?” I was not disappointed. I am always amazed at how you two can get the whole thing in one go like you do. Wicked! It’s actually spring like here finally. 18 C yesterday and 16 C today, sunny too. Might clean up the yard and clean out the cars, who knows!

  3. I really enjoy watching these videos – you and Joanna are a good team, obviously! For me, the videos capture the essence of what I consider the best of all ways to live and work – in the small/family business.

    • It’s like anything else Charlie … fun … once it’s over. We like to have the flock sheared by the middle of the month of May. Weather, here in central Pennsylvania, heats up by then and our two weeks of shearing are hot and uncomfortable ones. All the more reason (for the sake of the sheep) to get this done before summer really heats up. Thanks for the thumbs up review. D

    • That’s a good question. The answer is ‘no.’ But, that’s not to say that certain individuals aren’t very nervous while on the stand … especially the lambs. It seems the noise of the electric clipper is what sets them off. Once that is turned off, and the job is completed with hand shears, they seem to calm down. D

      • And .. another question, is it still popular for people to buy sheepskin rugs? When I was little, I had one in my bedroom, coming from the sheep tannery down the road. But it has closed down a long time ago. Here, it’s not popular anymore.

        • I’m not sure how popular it is Gin … but we produce them here at the farm each year. Just this week, for example, we sent eight wethers to slaughter and their hides will come back to us. We’ll salt them in preparation for tanning. Our shetlands produce beautiful pelts in all shades of natural color. We give them as gifts and even sell one or two from time-to-time. D

  4. What an interesting video. I didn’t realize that there are advantages to taking the fleece in one piece, although it makes sense. I liked your musical accompaniment, too. I can only imagine how much lighter the sheep feel once it’s over.

    • Indeed. I like to imagine that they smile just a bit more widely as they turn to go back to pasture. Thanks for checking in and for taking the time to comment. D

  5. LOL! Just watched that clip. I remember being in awe the last time and it was the same this time! Such skill! So much weight taken off their bodies. They must feel so light and free!!

  6. You’d a thunk that evolution would have developed a zipper or Velcro closure by now.

    I’m not that much of a city slicker … I do live within whiffing distance of pastures and a pig farm … but I had no idea the fleece comes off in one piece. For Joanna’s purposes it does seem to be an advantage.

    • Yup … and shearing on the stand is much easier on old backs. We sheared the rams the other day and that marked the end of another fleece season. I’m glad we’re done because it’s gotten awfully warm very quickly. We hit 85F today. D

      • So they can all admit to having been fleeced (as in taken to the cleaners) by those wily farmers. 🙂

        We’ve been in the 80s for the past week and did hit 90 one day. Nights are in the upper 60s. Where the heck is spring? They say it’s coming back on Wednesday. On the plus side, this is the first time in the ten or so years since we planted our wisteria sprig that there won’t be a frost kill of the flowers.

        • The same with our Magnolias … this is the first time, in quite some time, that they’ve been able to set seed BEFORE having the flowers die off due to frost.

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