Friday, June 10, 2011

Shearing the Sheep

Olive, before shearing starts
The easiest way to shear sheep is definitely having a professional shearer do it.  With his expertise and electric shears, he does it in under five minutes, and the cost is low, somewhere around $10 per sheep.  However, we only have one shearer covering the entire vast Cariboo region.  I have only three sheep needing shearing (the fourth ewe is a hair sheep who sheds in the spring) and no-one close to me raises sheep.  The shearer won't come all the way out here during his busy season.  I either have to truck my animals to him or wait until the end of the season, watching my ewes suffer from the heat while I wait.

Therefore, the easiest thing for me to do is to shear them myself.  This year, I'm late, mostly because of the cool, rainy weather, and I've just finished.  I'd probably do a better job of it if I bought proper equipment and took lessons, but I can't be bothered.  I just head out on a nice day with my best sewing scissors, catch a sheep, tie her to a post surrounded by clean grass, and start snipping. 

At first, it's very pleasant.  My ewes love to cuddle, and they're sick of all that hot wool, so they enjoy themselves.  They stand quietly, soaking up the attention and relishing the cool air on their skin.  I'm having a good time, too, kneeling in the shade, admiring the sheen and sparkle of the clean wool, feeling my hands grow smooth and soft from all the lanolin.  I feel like a sculptor, removing superfluous material to reveal the emerging figure of the animal.

"Sculpting" Olive, halfway finished

Michaelangelo's "Captives"
About halfway through the hour-long procedure, my fingers are getting sore, even though I tape them to avoid blisters.  The ewe is becomming bored and figety, which makes it slower going if I don't want to cut her skin.  By the time I'm finished, we're both mightily relieved.

A couple of days later, I shear the next one.  After a week or so, I have three bags full, and I can send them to the mill for spinning into a winter's knitting.

Olive, after shearing (but still needing a bit of trimming on the belly)

1 comment:

  1. i do it the same way :) love your sheep