Monday, October 5, 2009

Shearing Day!

The autumn wool harvest is one of the most anticipated events on the farm. The October wool clip tells the story of a years hard work. Icelandic sheep are typically shorn twice per year, with the fall shearing being the most valuable. Days spent grazing on lush pastures keeps the wool clean and fresh, compared to winters spent at the manger eating hay. The sheep are breathtakingly beautiful in the fall. I take as many photos as I can. I almost wish I didn't have to shear them. I make frequent stops at the grocery store, picking up boxes for the fleeces.

The sheep go into the barn the night before, off feed and water. With the Icelandic's huge rumen, shearing on a full stomach makes them incredibly uncomfortable (think about bending over to tie your shoes after a huge Thanksgiving meal). The shearing station remains clean as well. Our shearer David Kier arrived, followed by a number of friends, some who helped and others that watched. We had 12 people here, so it was a great help, and shearing went so smoothly. Two friends captured the reluctant sheep, Randy my husband brought them out to David, who sheared. He is so calm and gentle with the sheep. He takes his time with our small flock, yet each sheep is finished in under 3 minutes.
The sheep barely realize what has happened. David skirts out the belly wool as he shears. I scoop up the warm fleeces as he finishes,as another friend shoos the sheep out of the barn, and another sweeps the board clean, and the whole process begins again. As he shears, I quickly lay out the previous fleece on a skirting table. The wool is fragrant, full of lanolin and life. I love the smell. Second cuts fall out, I pull out any contaminated parts, then push each beautiful fleece into a separate box, labeled with the date and the name of the sheep. These fleeces go into the Wool House, and will be fully skirted this winter. Then I'm ready for the next fleece. The day goes by too quickly.
We are finished! I prepared a big meal for post shearing. I made the mousaka recipe from the October issue of Saveur. It was everything I hoped for. Also some fresh bread, corn from the garden, and a nice Syrah. Then, apple pie with apples from our orchard and coffee. It was a fun and relaxing meal, full of laughter and sheep talk. David has has many years of sheep experience, which he graciously (and modestly) shares. I so enjoy him, his grace and vast wisdom. A good shearer is priceless!

4 comments:

tonya fedders said...

Oh what a beautiful post! And such a happy ending. I love a good shearer story.. so nice that you have found a shearer that you like and is gentle with the sheep. Wish we lived closer, I would have loved to either sweep wool between shearings, or help with the meal! It sounded like a very nice time.

Terri and Randy Carlson said...

Thank you Tonya! I wish we had more sheep friends who lived closer. You can't really appreciate the wonders of sheep unless you've lived with them.

Kelly or Alex said...

It sounds lie you had a wonderful day. We finally found a shearer. Not too many want to bother with 4 sheep. This was his first time with icelandics and he was surprised at how spunky the girls were. Only one minor nick on one of the girls when she was attempting to vacate the premesis. Our wool is loaded with plant matter. We are planning on fencing the hay field next spring. After second cut we will put the sheep out there to graze till shearing. No hay! or burdocks or nettle. ugg...
Kelly

Kelly or Alex said...

It sounds lie you had a wonderful day. We finally found a shearer. Not too many want to bother with 4 sheep. This was his first time with icelandics and he was surprised at how spunky the girls were. Only one minor nick on one of the girls when she was attempting to vacate the premesis. Our wool is loaded with plant matter. We are planning on fencing the hay field next spring. After second cut we will put the sheep out there to graze till shearing. No hay! or burdocks or nettle. ugg...
Kelly