This morning began at 6:00 for Mike who made homemade cinnamon rolls for the family. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone on a farm gets up at the crack of dawn, which is happening at 4:30 in Illinois this time of year. We are also not unwilling to use modern conveniences like a bread-making machine to have the dough ready to roll out at 6 a.m.
As expected, the sheep shearer arrived at 7:30. In less than two hours, we had 19 sheep sheared, and he was on his way to the next farm. Shearing day really is more than just shearing. Since we have our hands on the sheep -- not an easy task for some of the less-friendly sheep -- we take the opportunity to check their physical condition, trim hooves, deworm if necessary, and in the case of one ram, we check the horns to make sure they aren't growing into his head. On shearing day, everyone in our family of five has a job.
Mike was the person to catch the sheep, which wasn't too tough since 15 of them were in a 10 X 15 stall, where we put them last night. We didn't bother locking up Princess because she is so friendly, she's downright annoying. I think she might have been mad at us after shearing though. She certainly was not one of the more complacent sheep. We also didn't catch Snuggles last night for a similar reason -- he's so fat and lazy, he is not hard to catch. In fact, saying that we "catch" him is really giving us more credit than we deserve. Then there were the two senior rams, who have been in their own pen since last fall. So, mostly Mike's job was to grab the sheep nearest him and lead it to the shearer whenever he was ready for the next one.
As the shearer finished each sheep, Margaret and Jonathan would take them and trim their hooves. In this picture, Jonathan is holding Snuggles (an Old English Southdown, my only non-Shetland) while Margaret gives him his pedicure. I wrote the name of each sheep on a large white trash bag, then Katherine gathered up each fleece as the shearer finished, and she put the fleeces into the bags as I held them. I administered the dewormer during the sheep's pedicure. I came up with the brilliant idea of referring to the shearing day as the sheeps' spa day, hoping it might help them to have a more positive outlook on the event, but they don't seem nearly as happy as I am when I have a pedicure or get my hair cut.
The strangest part of the whole ordeal from a human perspective is that when a sheared sheep rejoins the flock, everyone else starts picking on them. When I get a haircut and a pedicure, people tell me how nice I look. Sheep, however, have an entirely different perspective. This is mostly a problem with dominant sheep. Suddenly they look much smaller, so the other sheep think they can now become dominant over this wimpy little sheep.The spotted Shetlands look so much more spotted when they've just been sheared.
Shearing day is one of my favorite days of the year. I love days when we get up early and get so much done. And I think we are teachable! So many people say they could never do what we do, but I know they aren't giving themselves enough credit. This year went smoother than any year prior to this. Mike laughed and said, "I think we can keep the sheep now." Yes, life is good when it feels like you might actually know what you are doing.