Saturday, February 03, 2007

Farm Photo 2/3/07: Sheep Shearing Delays


Lucky Buddy Bear—Stock Dog Extraordinaire

Slight change of plans. Since this is about the least treacherous stretch of our steep and curving (and very icy) driveway, we cancelled last Thursday's scheduled sheep shearing session. We didn't want our sheep shearer to make it down the driveway and then not be able to climb back out.

The last thing I want to do is annoy him in any way, as sheep shearers are few and far between around here, and this guy is really good. When I heard he was out of commission last year due to a broken leg, I started making panicky phone calls looking for a substitute shearer and came up empty.

Fortunately he was a fast healer, and late in the season I managed to sweet talk him out of his convalescence and into coming out and shearing our overheated sheep.

More below. . .


I'm trying to reschedule for next week, when these single digit temperatures and wind chills at zero or below will hopefully be over. Meanwhile, after a couple of days of serious procrastinating, we decided we couldn't put it off any longer, so this morning we bundled up, headed down to the barn, and gave wormer shots to all 43 ewes.

The original plan was to do this after they'd been sheared, as it is much easier to catch up a smaller, sheared sheep than a giant woolly one. What makes sheep catching such a challenge is the fact that—much as you would like to—you cannot grab a sheep by all that handy wool. If you do, you will permanently tear the skin from their body, which, as you can imagine, is a pretty horrible thing.

Anyway, wool and all, things went better than expected, and—much to our surprise—we were finished in under two hours. This is mostly due to the fact that we finally bought ourselves a shepherd's crook. Who knew they were so handy? You simply thrust out your crook, nab a nearby sheep by the neck, and reel them in.

Well, in a perfect sheep catching world that's what you do. And although our world this morning was mostly perfect, there were a few times when the sheep were definitely winning.

At one point Joe was forced to snare a feisty yearling lamb using what can only be referred to as The Tackle Method. He lay on his side, clutching the little darling who lay on her side, panting and holding up her front leg to reveal the bare patch of skin underneath where the shot is given.

"This is a warning!" he bellowed from his spot on the barn floor. "I can and will catch you all!"

Unfortunately it was one of the few times I didn't have my camera with me. The lamb's horizontal position made my job extremely easy, and I said, "I think you should catch them all this way."

Meanwhile, Lucky Buddy Bear was wishing it had taken us an entire week to work the sheep. Half English Shepherd and half Australian Shepherd, he was in his element and having the time of his life this morning. At five years old, Bear has become a huge help when it comes to catching up the sheep and working with them in general.

The times we want to strangle him for herding everyone in the wrong direction or doing the exact opposite of what we'd told him have become very few and far between. On top of that, he has an enormous, smiling personality, incredible good looks, and of course he adores his sheep. We are the ones who are lucky.

A year of Farm Photos ago:
2/3/06: New Digs
2/2/06: New Purpose--Visual Pleasure
2/1/06: Reflecting


© FarmgirlFare.com, the freezing foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories, photos, and weather reports from her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

16 comments:

  1. What a fascinating life you lead! I love hearing the details and, of course, we love your photos!

    Fab!

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  2. Farmgirl's Mum2/03/2007 10:47 PM

    I was a little concerned when I received your email this afternoon ("see below") since I am arriving on Monday.

    "It's supposed to be 1 degree Monday night. Yes, that would be ONE Farenheit.

    Have you ever been here when there's been snow on the ground? Because I don't think it's going anywhere between now and Monday."

    No, I have NOT been there when there was snow on the ground! But your photo is worth more than 1000 words!

    Are you going to give me a sled to get down the driveway???

    See you Monday in my woolies!

    Love, Mum

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  3. Mom's coming! waves Hi, mom!

    I went to a book reading (Robert Pyle's newest) in a cold building today and my toes have been frozen ever since. Mine aren't any warmer now but they send sympathetic warm fuzzy thoughts to your toes!

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  4. Bet you were ready for some bread and something warm to drink after sheep wrestling. I would have to go to bed early after a day like that too. Keep warm & enjoy Mum's visit too.

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  5. Sounds like you're feeling better yourself, too.

    Have you read Far from the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy? There is a dog in there who is very expert and very willing to tend his flock. Unfortunately, for doing what he does best, he meets a sad end.

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  6. I don't suppose you've ever seen the British TV programme 'One Man and His Dog'? Teams from around the rural parts of the UK compete.

    It makes sheep wrangling look such a peaceful, calm and enjoyable task - just whistles, hand signals, an occasional slight raising of the voice and, with the help of an amazing dog, the sheep obey. Just occasionally, there's a renegade sheep who refuses to comply, and that's always a highlight.

    My cat loves watching it.

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  7. I had a friend, one time, catch a sheep mid-air! We had flying sheep that would bounce up and over us when we tried to pen them up - admittedly we had a lousy setup for catching sheep but we weren't living at "our" place, so we couldn't change the set-up. Mary was helping and one of the ewes did her leap-over-arm-flailing-ineffectively-to-stop-her ... Mary lunged, grabbed and caught a full grown Merino ewe in her arms - and no camera, as in your case!!! But Mary stood there and held the ewe until Norm ran over and helped put her (ewe) on the ground and push her into the barn.

    Ain't sheep fun? Wish I had them, again - I miss the wrangling!

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  8. Sounds like you have a heck of a day. I can't wait to see shearing pics. I really wish I was going to be there. I love shearing day!

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  9. superbowl sunday for me means reading about your super sheep adventures and your super-douper diggity dog. How much more entertaintment can i take? i can't wait for half time! Your daily journey includes touch downs and tackles. Maybe prime time should read your bog!

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  10. Yes, shearers, like farriers, are a dying breed (literally unfortunately). The shearer for this neck of the woods comes from MN and he has all the work he can manage. At 70 some years of age, I'm sure he'd like to back it down a bit, but there is no one else to take his place. You kids might just have to learn how to shear them yourselves!

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  11. I love that picture!
    Sheep sharing must be a intresting experience. I'm looking forwards to reading your post about it...

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  12. I can't believe you're shearing now?

    We won't be shearing ours until May - folk law says you shouldn't shear until after Mays full moon - and I stick to that.

    The wool lifts when the temperature rises slightly and is easier to remove. Plus they must be really really cold?

    Do all US sheep keepers shear this time of year?

    Heather (UK) whose sheepy friends wouldn't thank me for doing it now - brrrrrr!!!

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  13. lambing shearing... the life I missed when I lived in UK at the estate with the farm around it...

    that cold!!!! brrrr

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  14. Am glad you are at least doing well whilst you wait for the snow to melt.

    I look forward to summer once again!n

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  15. Beautiful picture! And look at those big fluffy ears!

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  16. I just linked to your site from Kristin Nicholas' site.
    What a treat! I can hardly wait to try your oatmeal toasting bread and pita recipes.
    Thank you very much. I've also read a few times your ten tips.
    Love the pictures on your site too.
    Thanks.

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