Wednesday, January 31

Farm Photo 1/31/07: This Year's Sheep Shearing Plan

You won't be seeing this in 2007

Oh, there'll be bouncing baby lambs of course. In fact, if all goes well there may be as many as 50 of them racing around here by the end of April. What have I gotten us into?

What there won't be, though, are big woolly mamas, because The Plan this year is to shear the sheep before lambing season starts.

More below. . .

There are several reasons to do this, most of which will benefit us at least as much as they will the sheep. First of all, shearing them now will eliminate the need to "crotch" all of the pregnant ewes. Crotching—for those of you fortunate enough to not be familiar with the term—is where you snip off all the dirty wool around the tail and udder of a pregnant ewe so things are cleaner back there during the birth, and access to the milk bar is free and easy.

Picture me on my knees, holding a large pair of scissors (I don't trust myself with our large and loud electric shearer in those delicate areas) and staring at the woolly back end of an indignant sheep being held in place by Joe. When I've finished with that area, he flips her over onto her rump so she is resting against his legs in a sitting position. This leaves her legs free to kick the heck out of me if she feels like it.

We've never sheared this early before. Most years we don't get it done until late spring, and then it's usually during some record-breaking heatwave. I have to admit we're a little nervous, especially since the temperatures have been dropping into the single digits at night.

We manage to keep coming up with some really good rationalizations to reassure us—like the fact that the people down the road already have a pasture full of newborn lambs who appear to be just fine out in the cold, our sheep have a nice comfortable barn to cozy up in, etc., etc.

But this morning Joe pointed out the best reason of all to implement The Plan. "Anything is better than shearing when it's 95 degrees outside!" And I'm sure that even the sheep would agree with him.

There's only one small glitch. The shearer (who lives about 60 miles away) is supposed to arrive at 10am tomorrow, and the latest weather forecast has bumped the one inch of possible snow up to a 90% chance of 2 to 4 inches of accumulation.

I believe I've mentioned before that scheduling anything in advance around here is an extremely iffy proposition. So first thing in the morning we'll poke our heads outside and assess the situation.

Tonight there is nothing we can do but grill the lamb chops, check the last of the homegrown potatoes that are simmering on the stove, and heat up the haricots verts (from the garden by way of the freezer) and a hunk of crusty bread. I've been busy breaking in my fabulous new commercial bread pans, so as soon as the oven is hot enough, I'll put in the three rising loaves of Farmhouse White sandwich bread—at least one of which is earmarked for the shearer. Cross your fingers that he'll get it.

A year of Farm Photos ago:
1/31/06: Being Adorable Is Thirsty Work
1/30/06: So Do You Think Martha Is Pregnant?
1/29/06: The Latest Additon To My Collection
And WDB#19: Robin Knows Every Warm Spot On The Farm

©, the currently wooly foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories, and photos from her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.


  1. Glad you are feeling better! That picture is absolutely precious. I can't wait to see all the lambs this will be my first spring knowing about farmgirlfare. I hope we get lots of pictures.

    Oh, and good luck getting the sheerer in for the applications of what must look like a reverse donut. Stay Warm.

  2. Mary/ So. CA2/01/2007 2:22 AM

    Susan, hope you post pics of "whole
    lotta shearin' goin' on"! mary

  3. eeeeek!!!! baby baby baby baby baby!!!!!!!!! I just want to dive into my computer screen and snuggle up with them!!!

    Way to raise so much money with the other bloggers! That's AMAZING and wonderful. Congrats!

  4. Susan, I was holding a brown paper bag over my mouth and nose while reading that first portion of the post. I was freaking!! I have to have my spring lamb cuteness fix. My friend doesn't breed her sheep anymore so you're all I have. I think early shearing is as dicy as you say, but I am sure the hungry lambs will the tickled pink to find the "milk bar"! lol! Okay, promise me no more posts where I have to grab a brown paper bag to breath while reading. The was just mean! lol!

  5. can you tell me if chickens eat slugs and cutworms?

  6. "...Tonight there is nothing we can do but grill the lamb chops..."

    ?????? Errr, I guess there are things that we're better off not knowing...


  7. Susan,
    "Picture me on my knees, holding a large pair of scissors (I don't trust myself with our large and loud electric shearer in those delicate areas) and staring at the woolly back end of an indignant sheep being held in place by Joe."

    You just scared the hell out of SweetThing -- or my imagination did. I can even picture the tip of your tongue peeking out as you concentrate.

  8. Linda Sue in Texas2/01/2007 6:13 PM

    Yippee! Back in action and baking up a storm - well maybe that is where all this SNOW is originating! We are abundantly blessed with babies right now - thankful we don't do the hinny shaving! Take care and enjoy those nekkid ewes.

  9. Shear now and then wool sweaters for all when it gets cold! Just think no overheated sheep this spring.


    That was the name I had picked out if I won Menu for Hope III.

  10. Another reason we shear before lambing is if the weather does turn cold, the ewes will go "eek, it's cold" and head for the barn, taking their little darlings in where it is safe and dry.

    We'll help Vicki out with her spring lamb fix - wait 'til she sees pictures of Shetland lambs - they pretty much define "cute"
    :-) T.

  11. Hmmn, now I thought you had said you would not mention that Farmhouse White without posting the recipe? I've been making the crusty bread, which turns out fabulous no matter what I do, but I really need a sandwich bread too. My kids are complaining that the other bread is too crusty. How silly is that? I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been impatiently waiting for this recipe!

  12. hmmmm....all of a sudden...the "farm life" doesn't seem quite right for me

    "where you snip off all the dirty wool around the tail and udder of a pregnant ewe so things are cleaner back there during the birth, and access to the milk bar is free and easy."

  13. As a child on the farm, I always thought it was so much fun to watch the reaction of the lambs when their sheared mothers were returned to the pasture. It didn't take long, as the ewe would smell the lamb and butt it away if it wasn't her baby. Of course, it didn't take too long for them to sort it out, but seeing this was quite funny to me.

  14. Oh I'm grinning just thinking about the lambs to come. Warm wishes to all of you.

  15. just a word of advice--dogs and sheep--I lived near grazing sheep and they are standing sweet targets for a hungry dog--it's a natural instinct I guess and when there are more than one dog-watchout--

  16. How'd the shearing go? Did it go?

  17. Best of luck with the early shearing! I bet that is one exciting/exhausting event on the farm.

  18. Oh so cute! I


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