Shearing…once, twice…done

Ah, shearing day, finally. Friday we got the shearing area all ready replete with hay for the sheep to eat as they were done being sheared. We don’t feed them before shearing because then their rumens would be full and it’s like eating a Thanksgiving dinner and then doing somersaults. No thanks. After each sheep is sheared we put clean, and much smaller coats back on and put them in a separate area where they can regroup, eat and wait for their comrades. Our shearer was to arrive at 9AM Saturday. Here is the flock, coats removed, no breakfast yet and waiting. We keep them pretty confined during the pre-shear, as it’s easier to get a sheep out of a tight flock then to try to catch one in a larger space. And it’s a sight to behold when a stranger, like the shearer or the vet, comes into the barn. The sheep cram into the smallest, tightest group imaginable….far, far away from the stranger.

Here’s the shearer, David Hinman, getting set up, for the first time. Yes, the first time. You see, it was like this. David brought out the first ewe to shear and we were all set, everyone in their places. We had Steve, our farm helper, ready to put coats on after shearing. Jack was sweeper(cleaning the floor between each shear) and to help Steve. I was taking the shorn fleeces away, labeling and putting them in a safe area during the process. And our friend Sandy was there to watch and enjoy. And then the lights started flickering. David was shearing away and said “what’s up with your lights?” and I said “Oh s***”. We lose power in Westmoreland on the average of once a week. But the lights kept flickering only, dim, bright, dim, bright. My toes were crossed. No please dear Lord, not now, NOT TODAY! And then, dead. No lights, no power, no shearing. The first ewe was half sheared and here we were at 10:15AM!
So David packed up his equipment and said he’d go shear another flock and come back in the afternoon. He had no sooner driven out of the yard and the power came back on…10:45AM. well, I have never been too good at the “oh well, whatever, that’s cool.” I was fit to be tied. I was ready to drive to the Public Utilities Commission office in NH but of course it was Saturday. Nothing to do but wait out the hours. We figured David would be back by 2ish. So we let the sheep have a bit more leg room in the same barn, gave them water and waited. And so did they. Sheep are good at just waiting. They didn’t like it, but they were fine. And sure enough David rolled back in at 2:30 and we commenced the process. Here is Ashley, our 13 year old ewe, being sheared. She has the most incredible fleece I have ever had the privilege of handling. And each year, the past few, I keep it for my stash…sorry! (<: This is Daisy. It is so neat to see the fleece come off their body in one beautiful piece. When I gather it up after it is shorn the fleece is still warm.
We finished up at 5PM, got the flock back to their regular barn where they had fresh hay and fresh bedding in the barns to bed down in for the night. They know the route from one barn to the other, it’s down the lane about 50 feet. we opened the gate and before Jack could lead them to the barn they took the lead and were in the barn single file and eating away,. That was a first. Who ever said sheep are dumb is all wrong. Spoiled they are but what they give back is worth all the effort! What’s most amazing is how small they are now without the fleece. Twice as many can fit along this one wall of feeders.