Sunday, February 05, 2012

Sunday Dose of Cute: Sheep Shearing Day 2012!

2012 Sheep shearing day 1 - FarmgirlFare.com

Last Saturday our longtime sheep shearer—who thankfully hasn't retired yet—arrived at the farm about 9am and sheared 33 of our 42 sheep, 20 of whom are pregnant. Lambing season will start around the first of March, and you can learn why we now shear the sheep before lambing season here.

Ten-year-old Silly, the oldest member of our flock (all my really old pet sheep have died), didn't need the stress of being sheared in the middle of winter (we'll shear her ourselves in a few months), and the other eight are Katahdin hair sheep, which don't need to be sheared. You can read more about how and why we added Katahdins to our flock four years ago here.

The shearer left about four hours later with payment of $6 per sheep, plus a tip and half a batch of Nigella's big chocolate chip cookies. Despite this being the earliest we've ever sheared (we were his first sheep of the year!), we lucked out and only had to reschedule once. We'd planned to shear Friday, but the sheep weren't dry from Wednesday's rain, and you can't shear wet sheep.

Lots more below. . .

On Saturday morning, I was surprised that the outsides of their coats were still a little damp, despite them having slept in the barn Friday night, but we went ahead and sheared anyway. We have the flock split into two groups (pregnant and not pregnant), and we put the non-pregos out in the sun behind the barn to help dry them off while they waited for their turn.

The weather after shearing can cause problems, too. The first three or four days after the sheep are sheared are the most critical, especially during winter, and it's important to keep them warm and dry. Freezing rain is the worst, and that's exactly what arrived just as we finished up last year. The entire flock ended up having to live in the barn for three days. Nobody was happy.

Thankfully this past week has been weirdly mild (mid-60s in late January!), with only a few frosty nights and no rain until yesterday. The shorn sheep are all doing great, and we only had a few mild cases of sunburn.

Below are scenes from sheep shearing day 2012. For answers to lots of sheep shearing questions, including what we do with all the wool (which currently isn't much), check out this 2010 sheep shearing post. And you'll find all of the previous sheep shearing posts here.

The colored marks on the backs of the sheep are from the marking crayons we use when working the sheep, so we can keep track of who's already been worked.

And speaking of wool, do any of you spinners, knitters, crafters, or fellow sheep farmers know of a good place that cleans and cards wool for a reasonable price? And have you ever had any wool processed so that it could be used to stuff pillows or in quilts? You can leave a comment below or email me: farmgirlfare AT gmail DOT com. Thanks!



First up!


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Lucky Buddy Bear's weirdest habit—he loves to lick the barn.

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2012 Sheep shearing day 32 - FarmgirlFare.comIt's my baby Cary!

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She only looks pregnant.

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Down to the final four, except for the rams (Ava on the left is a Katahdin).

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Note Marta Beast in back guarding her freshly shorn sheep.

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We shear the rams last.

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Time for the I Survived Shearing Day treats!

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There's a lot more room around the treat troughs now.

© FarmgirlFare.com, the close cropped foodie farm blog where the sheep always feel better after having their itchy coats cut off, but they aren't nearly as cuddly after being shorn—and there's a lot less safety padding when they knock you around during feeding time. But at least they're still really cute—and it's easier to give them a good scratch on the neck, which some of them really love.

19 comments:

  1. So glad you pointed Cary out. Made my day!!!
    Nancy in Pittsburgh

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  2. I've used Zeilinger's (www.zwool.com) to process some less-than-perfect Romney into bed-sized quilt batts. They came back wonderful, but return shipping was rather expensive.

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    1. Hi CatMcCall,
      Thanks for the info - I'll definitely check them out. Yes, that shipping can be a big expense. I sold some wool a while back to an avid spinner/knitter, and she sent it off to be cleaned and carded (I don't remember where), and while the price was pretty reasonable and she was happy with the results, the surprise huge return shipping fee about killed her. :)

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  3. Nekked sheep always look so sad to me! I have heard that sheep shearing is hard, backbreaking work and looking at your pictures, I can see why! Glad the weather cooperated for ya'll this year! :)

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    1. Hi Candy,
      Yeah, it's always sort of a visual shock going from super wooly to naked. ;)

      As for the shearing itself, it is backbreaking work - and an experienced shearer makes it look much easier than it really is!

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  4. I loved these sheep shearing photos! The beautiful blankets of newly shorn wool made me think of the glorious textiles to be spun and the greasy softness lanolin. The sheep made bright by their new, clipper-ridged 'dos' remind me that the refreshing renewal of spring time is just around the corner. Thank you for sharing.

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  5. They're so cute! I just love their pretty faces. I'm guessing the sheep around here won't be sheared (shorn?) any time soon. It's unseasonably warm for us too, but that means it's been in the 20s, vs. our typical -20s.

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  6. so sweet! Luv your blog!

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  7. Great photos and story to go with them. Your links always lead to a story I didn't know about the farm (why you have Katahdins) or a story I love to re-read (Cary!).
    Did you and Joe build the barn for your sheep? Is that why the slats are separated? For ventilation?
    Looks like some Junior Sheep Shearing Supervisor badges need to be handed out soon.
    Thanks for sharing your farm-life.

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    1. Hi Dominique,
      I'm so glad you enjoyed this post and some of the links to previous posts. I always try to include links to info in the archives so new and curious readers can catch up, and it's great to know they're helpful. :)

      As for the sheep barn, back in September 2009 (I can't believe it's been that long already!) we demolished our old, falling down, very low ceilinged barn (that was originally used for hogs) and built a big beautiful sheep barn on the same footprint. You can see photos of the demolition here.

      Most of the work was done by two of our Amish neighbors, with Joe helping out. I took lots of photos of the whole process, but I'm afraid that's one of those posts that has slipped through the cracks (okay, more like swallowed up by a black hole), although you can see a little more of the barn here.

      The siding on the barn is rough cut lumber from a local Amish sawmill, and as the wood dried, it shrunk, leaving small spaces between the slats. This is actually what we wanted, because it allows plenty of air circulation through the barn. The trick is that you don't want the spaces too big. :)

      As for beagle Bert, he's always working on a new badge. I'm going to have to make him a little vest to display them all. ;)

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  8. There is a small fiber mill in Ruckersville, VA. I have not personally sent any fleeces but several friends have and I've seen the processed fiber. They do a nice job and are considered "reasonable" for this area. Click on this link http://www.centralvirginiafibermill.com/ to learn more.

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    1. Hi Renate,
      Thanks so much. I'll definitely check it out. :)

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  9. Thanks for the post. I always learn something in your shearing posts. I really enjoy it, since I live in the city and never see important stuff like this. It helps to know where my sock yarn comes from.

    $6 dollars doesn't seem like much, but I guess when you can whip through a bunch of sheep PDQ it adds up. Plus the cookie bonus doesn't hurt.

    It looks like the sheep are just laying there letting him shear them. Is that what really happens?

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    1. Hi Eleanor,
      Now that's something I'd like to learn how to do - knit socks. I finished one sweater about 20 years ago and haven't knit anything since - despite keeping all these sheep! :)

      The sheep shearing fee is a pretty good deal for everybody. On the one hand, $6 a sheep seems like a lot to me (and adds up when you're doing a bunch of sheep) since I used to pay just $2 a sheep - and the price the shearer paid me for the wool more than covered the cost of shearing.

      On the other hand, we're extremely glad we don't have to do it ourselves. Been there, done that! :)

      As for the sheep just 'laying there letting him shear them' - let's just say an experienced sheep shearer has a LOT more control and command over the sheep than two hopeless amateurs do. Our shearer used to work those huge flocks out west, shearing hundreds and even thousands of sheep at a time, often shearing each sheep in something like one minute!

      Some of our sheep struggle and fight him more than others. He actually got knocked down twice this time. What they really don't like is the loud noise of the shears. The young first timers are really nervous, and some of the older ewes are just big brats when it comes to doing anything. :)

      When Joe and I shear (which takes forever), one of us has to hold the sheep while the other one shears - and they still really fight us. Probably because they know how goofy they're going to look. ;)

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    2. Thanks for getting back to me Susan. More interesting stuff. BTW, simple socks are not difficult. Everyone makes them out to be, but they really aren't. The difficult socks are those fancy ones with all kinds of patterns that go all over and fit the sock to the shape of the calf. I would love to try some of those, but I don't think I'm quite up to that yet.
      Cheers!

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  10. Great posting, Susan. It's always fun and interesting to see what's going on at the farm. (alway hard work!!) The sheep look 'fresh' and the dogs are always right in the thick of it, aren't they?

    Thanks again for sharing this with us!!

    Barb

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  11. If you haven't seen the Pixar shorts movie, with the short of the sheep that gets sheared, you should! I absolutely giggle when I think of your sheep getting sheared and then looking sad cause they are naked!

    Pat, St. Peters, MO

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    1. Hi Pat,
      I'll definitely have to look it up - thanks! Have you ever seen Wallace and Gromit in A Close Shave? That's a favorite around here. :)

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