You know, there are some things that are just better when left to the professionals. Things like dentistry, bull fighting, and space travel are obvious examples of this, but I would like to add sheep shearing to the list as well.
Shearing your sheep is important to keep them clean, mobile and healthy. They really do appear to be a bit relieved when you rid them of a winter’s worth of wool. They also appear to be a bit cold and embarrassed for a day or two after we strip them down and leave them to run around the pasture in their birthday suits, but they quickly get over that. Probably all of our laughing and pointing doesn’t help.
We decided that this was a great day to get our sheep sheared. We’ve done it before and we remember that while it’s not exactly enjoyable and we aren’t particularly good at it, how hard can this be? Let’s just buckle down and get the job done.
A professional sheep shearer can shear a sheep in approximately one minute.
It took three of us 45 minutes to shear one sheep.
Now, in our defense, we don’t have the proper equipment. We shear our sheep using cattle clippers. As you can probably imagine, cattle have different hair styling requirements than sheep do, but we’ve made it work with the cattle clippers before. This year however, I think they have gotten a bit dull. Or perhaps we have gotten a bit dull. In any event, it didn’t work as well as it has in the past.
Our first client of the day ‘Mary’ has two little lambs; their names are Leonard and Penny. Leonard and Penny were no help at all. As soon as they discovered that their mother was in something of a defenseless situation they ran at her with gusto, acting as though they hadn’t been fed in days. In their feverish desperation they got on either side of her, wrestling past those of us trying to hold her, and started pushing her around in their attempts to feed. So picture if you will; one of our sons holding her head in a vertical position, me straddling her behind her shoulders, and my husband using the clippers to trim her wool, while two opportunistic lambs repeatedly run at the back of her to feed – effectively pushing her hind quarters back and forth like a ship in stormy seas.
The clippers are being about as effective as a spatula would be for removing wool. My son is a bit ticked off because he apparently has better things to do, and my back is starting to spasm from riding a ewe around the barnyard. You can imagine that all of this irritated Mary somewhat and made her even less co-operative during her 45 minute spa treatment.
After we had been holding Mary still for approximately 20 minutes and we really only had sheared her back legs and hips, it was decided that desperate measures needed to be taken. While one of the guys used our stupid dull cow clippers, trying to chew their way through a years worth of wool, I pulled out my jack knife to try and cut away wool in other areas. You know that you’re in a desperate situation when you are trying to shear a sheep with a jack knife.
So, with great relief 45 minutes later we had finished shearing one sheep. The three of us limped away, battered and bruised, backs aching and protesting having to stand stooped over while wrestling an adult sheep and her two maniacal lambs. It was decided that we will wait for another day to attempt the next ewe. It’s a good thing we only have three ewes to shear. At this rate we will hopefully be done by fall.
It’s not professional or even remotely pretty but Mary has a new style today. It’s actually hideous. However she has managed to provide us with some laughs, some exercise and a great idea for a mother’s day present for me – sheep shearing clippers!
Here is a ‘before’ picture…
And, here is after…
Baa baa white sheep have you any wool? Yes Sir, yes sir, a garbage can full.
Don’t worry all of you knitters who are gasping in horror over the idea that we might throw away all of this beautifully trimmed wool. I use it, but not for knitting. I will use it to insulate the brooding area of the chicken barn, to stuff into old pillowcases for dog beds, and some will be found in the nests of the birds that come to pick away at what is left over in the yard.
I also plan to use some of the darker wool to lay on a plastic lawn chair by my brother in law’s outdoor shower. I will put a razor beside it. I anticipate some hilarity, so will hide somewhere to take pictures of his reaction….which I will blog about.