Monday was one of my favorite days of the year–when I get to watch someone else skillfully, patiently and perfectly do a job that is far from my favorite thing about owning sheep. This was the second year that Kristin–who travels all over the area–came to shear our Southdown sheep and 4-H lambs. We do this every spring, just before the weather gets really hot and uncomfortable for them.
I remember when the sheep were first delivered to us by Sarah. Her husband handed me two tool boxes with clippers inside and said, “I went to sheep shearing school. Do you know what I learned? I learned that I never want to shear sheep.”
I kind of feel the same way. I’ve sheared plenty of sheep but something about this year-long growth and Southdown’s notoriously difficult fleece to shear made me happy to farm out this chore to someone much more experienced. The first year we had to shear these sheep my sister and I made an attempt–and at one point I remember my sister turning to me and saying, “I think we’re in over our heads.”
So when Kristin arrives each spring to take on this task, I happily stand back and take pictures as I watch her skillfully and carefully zip the wool off these girls.
The night before Kristin comes, we hold off on feeding the sheep so that they don’t have full bellies when she shears. This makes the sheep much more comfortable when they are flipped for shearing. And because they are more comfortable, they don’t struggle against her–risking getting cut, or Kristin taking a sharp hoof to the face. .
This year, I decided it would be fun to set up my tripod and take a time-lapse of the process. The whole thing, in real-time, takes Kristin about 6-8 minutes, depending upon how much the sheep works against her. Thankfully, I think everyone was on their best behavior this year. Click below:
After the sheep are sheared and turned back into their pens they immediately begin to stamp their feet and push each other around. They don’t recognize themselves–these suddenly naked, smaller sheep that I’ve thrown in the pen with them. And it takes them about 24 hours to settle down and realize that everyone is still here, just looking a little whiter and thinner.
In year’s past, Kristin has taken the sheep wool with her and turned it in to the Maryland Wool Pool. But this year, we’re holding on to it and going to attempt to have them turned into a blanket for the girls. I’m still researching the process, including how we will ship the wool, but it looks like it will be making the trek to Prince Edward Island to be turned into one of these beautiful blankets.
I’m pretty sure it’s going to be something we all treasure for a very long time.