Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Shearing day

Yes, I called a professional sheep shearer. If you missed my original angst about us not shearing the sheep this year, you can check it out here. My new motto is,
You haven't failed as long as you've learned something!
And we learned a lot through this little ordeal.

We learned that we don't like to shear sheep, and that's okay. It only has to be done once a year, and it's not the end of the world for us to hire a pro to do the job. With a flock of around 20 sheep, we would probably never be good at shearing, because it takes a lot of practice to be able to do it well. It looks ridiculously easy, but it is actually quite challenging. The professional sheared 15 sheep in less time than it took us to shear two. So, from here on out, I am hiring a sheep shearer without apology. Most of those people who ask if we shear our own sheep have never even spun wool, seen a lamb born, milked a sheep, or even touched a sheep, so why should it be hard for me to say that we don't shear our sheep?

Now for this year's shearing story -- The most challenging part of the day was getting the sheep into the barn. One of the other things I have not perfected is dog herding, so Porter still works on lead, which makes his effectiveness only slightly better than a human. On the bright side, we now own eight rolls of Premier's Electro-Net, which means it is enough to create an alley all the way from the sheep pasture to the barn. The only challenge was to get the sheep into the funnel. Mike was incredibly confident that this would be so easy, I didn't even need to help. Jonathan, Katherine with Porter, and Mike would simply herd the sheep into the large funnel and walk behind them until they got to the barn. Easy, right?

Nothing around here is ever as easy as you think it is going to be! Just as we were getting started, there was the roll of thunder. If I saw that in a movie, I'd think it was so contrived! But yes, it did start raining just as we were ready to start herding the sheep. It's July, though, so it's not cold, and no one really cared. Mike thought that the bigger he'd made the funnel, the easier it would be to get the sheep moving into the alleyway of fencing. Wrong! It gave them too much time and space to realize, "It's a trap! Turn back! Turn back!" When 16 sheep turn and start running toward three people, there isn't much the people can do. I was watching from a distance and laughing. They didn't need my help, remember? The sheep didn't stop running until they reached the hay field, which is at the east end of our property.

Mike realized his problem, so he reset the fencing, creating a smaller funnel, so that four people could move in and block the opening as soon as the sheep ran into it. Yes, they realized they did need my help after all! We had very little problem with our plan from then on, except for Snuggles, our only Old English Southdown. I'm really surprised he has not been eaten by a coyote, because I've never seen anything cause him to hustle. He is, without a doubt, the slowest animal on the farm. Mike spent a few minutes behind Snuggles, pushing his back end, trying to get him to move fast enough to keep up with the other sheep. Every now and again, the sheep would stop and look around, but when they saw us walking behind them, they'd start moving forward again.

Getting them back to their pasture after the shearing was quite easy. We opened the door, and they ran outside. They ran all the way to their pasture, and as they entered the gate, four of them leaped into the air. I wish I'd had a video camera. I could hear them squealing with joy, "We're home! We're home!"

If you'd like to read about shearing day 2008, click here. It has all the details of the shearing. My post in 2007 has before and after pictures of the sheep.

10 comments:

Stephanie said...

I don't think you need to apologize for not shearing your own sheep. Besides you are supporting the local economy by hiring a shearer.

Sounds like it was quite the show to watch them!

Spinners End said...

I agree with Stephanie! This year we hired a delightful shearer and he did all twelve sheep in the amount of time it took us to do one. We greatly enjoyed his company as well so we (and the sheep) benefitted in many ways. Just think what you could do with all your extra time...

wardhouse said...

It is never as easy as it seems. =) Glad to read that I am not the only to experience this!
Loved your tale of shearing challenges; brought a smile to my face.

LindaG said...

Now see, I didn't even know you could milk sheep. Cows, yes. Goats, yes. Didn't know about sheep. :)

Glad it all went well and quickly! :)

Chef E said...

I am an ex-hairdresser, and for some reason when I said I was ready for a new career years ago, people would say "Why don't you cut dogs hair", like it is all the same, lol!

I agree with Stephanie! I somehow miss my calling to work on a working farm...oh well, another life...

Nancy K. said...

It is always such a relief (for the sheep and the shepherd/ess when shearing is done.

The professional shearer makes such fast work of it, for such a reasonable price, I'd never even consider doing it myself!

Ketutar said...

ROTFLMAO! When I was young, I was the shepherd and sheepdog of the family. I would have taken a bucket of something "good", like grain, and walked first, and I'm 100% sure the sheep would have followed nicely, quickly and without anyone needing to run or get aggravated :-D
We had 50 sheep and we did shear them ourselves.
I think it's wonderful that you do employ someone to shear the sheep :-) You are keeping the country up by employing people. :-)

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

Linda,
We've only milked our sheep a few times. We made yogurt, and it was delicious!
Katutar,
We did the bucket of grain thing the first year, and they follow us into the barn. That was the LAST time that worked! They have ridiculously good memories.

MaryB said...

Wow. You shear in JULY? You guys must have some nice cool weather for a lot longer than we do. In Texas, we shear in March! I hired a shearer this year to do the sheep and goats, and I always use a professional shearer to do the alpacas. The sheep and goats guy did in 3 hours what would have taken me 3 weeks. I was glad I had some help; I wouldn't have been able to keep up with him otherwise!

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

Mary, We normally shear in April or May, but we were planning to do it ourselves this year, and we kept putting it off. If you read the other shearing post I wrote a week or two ago, it has more info on that little issue. We've had a lot of 90-degree days lately. We'll forever be using a pro again, and we'll be scheduling for late spring like we used to. The quality of the fleeces is much worse than normal, but I'll write about that another day.

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