Well, shearing day kind of made up for fiber retreat gaff last weekend.
Marilyn & I went out to Ewephoria Farm in Lawrence yesterday to help skirt, bag & label the fleeces from the sheepies that were being undressed. Ewephoria farm’s just south of Lawrence, about an hour from my place. Tina & George are just delightful, and they let us tag along and see how it all works. It was such fun! I also go to see the llamas Carmelita & Aphrodite running across the field. I can’t believe how gracefully they run! They look feather-light, their little hooves curving daintily under as they glide through the air.
They didn’t shear everyone yesterday, maybe a dozen or so? But one of the sheep in question was the spotted merino ram donor of my beautiful new fleece.
He’s the dainty-nosed charmer I met a couple of weeks ago when the Spinsters Club visited Ewephoria Farm. Here he is with his little wool outfit still intact:
I love how the greasy merino looks like lava on the outside. His little jacket just came off, which is why he’s so clean. He’s a very sweet guy, like a big, goofy dog. Now here he is naked:
What a difference!
And here’s his glorious fleece, still warm:
Tina bags them in clear bags. Look how pretty!
I think this is destined to become a colorwork sweater. And a closeup:
I also a lovely fleece from Ninny (ewe), a spotted Merino ewe with an adorable freckled face.
Not quite as fine as Mr. Fabulous, but an absolutely dreamy dark color I want to eat up with strawberries and whipped cream on top!
The rest of these aren’t the same sheep all the way through (next time, I’m going to take a minute-by-minute shots of the same sheep, so you see what the process looks like beginning to end), but they’re representative, so you can get the idea.
Before Romneys (The Romneys aren’t coated, but there was very little VM in their fleece & Tina skirts pretty fearlessly–Marilyn & I kept asking “Does this go out?” and the answer was always to chuck it. I wish all the fleeces I bought were so nicely skirted. Marilyn had a better instinct for skirting. I think I was a little timid because have the stuff we were chucking was nicer than stuff not skirted out of allegedly skirted fleeces I’d bought in the past.)
So here’s how it went. Tina or George would go into the little side yard next to the barn where all the girls (and a few boys) were waiting, grab one, halter her, and lead them out. Then–Darn it, I forgot his name!–the nice man shearing them would deftly roll them onto their butts, holding them with his whole body and shearing at the same time. Most of them didn’t bat an eye, and lolled docilely throughout the shearing. For all I know, they were resisting, but it looked very natural. I think the sort of wrestlers’ grappling hold hindered any resistance, and they were mostly pretty experienced with being sheared (or could watch while they waited to see it wasn’t a big deal and their flockmates returned unharmed a few minutes later). Once on their butts, they looked like big, fat, woolly teddy bears, and they’d just sort of stare idly around, no fearful rolling eyes or anything.
He started with the belly, and you could tell right away some were pregnant. Others weren’t as obvious, and the 3 of them would conjecture. Then the legs.
Then he’d start at the top and kind of work down and around the body until it was like a lady climbing out a fur coat in slow motion. You know, a goat-lady. Or maybe a snake shedding her skin is a better analogy. Except yuck! Or an orange peeling. You get the idea.
You can see the cut side, which is the lighter, free, crimpy side that is falling off the shoulders. The grease holds it together into more or less on piece on the outer side. At the bottom , you can see the outside of the fleece, which is generally darker on light colors and lighter on dark colors.
And he seems to do the whole thing in a pretty fluid, continuous movement.
Afterwards: Live! Nude! Sheep!
He’s waiting for his shot. He was very patient.
Then they get their shots if they didn’t already, George or Tina examine anything that needs checking, maybe trim a hoof or two, and back in they go. It all went very smoothly, with one exception. I think it may have been that white sheep in front, and it was my fault. I did a pretty fair job of holding them steady before and during shots, but this one got huffy after her shot, and I gave her too much slack on her little lead and she threw a little hissy fit. I got in the way repeately and apologized lamely while Tina and the shearer wrangled her back into the pen. But it was all over in a minute or less, and nobody shamed me about it.
In between each animal, they rake the carpet, and Tina gathers up the fleece, skirting up big hunks of it as she goes. Then it goes up on the skirting table (the top of which is a screen covered with half-inch mesh hardware cloth) and gets skirted some more, and second cuts get shook out and either fall through the holes or get brushed away. Afterwards, there was a wheelbarrow full of waste fleece next to the skirting table and another next to the shearing carpet. The cheapskate in me got a little of the impulse that always made me wrap up everyone’s restaurant leftovers and take them home. But I was taking home two huge, beautiful fleeces that I’d bought, and who needs a Hugo when you’ve got a Rolls Royce? (As sensible as that is, not hoarding ANYTHING is very contrary to my nature. But I’m working on it.)
Not everyone got sheared today.
The handsome lass on the right wants to come home with me.
Lambs! These little moorit cuties were tiny last time I was here.
Mama & baby Merinos.
The little boy wants to come home with me, too.
Without grain for bribes, I got a lot of pictures of sheep butts.
And if that’s not enough fibery goodness, I just got 3 of my tops back from Zeillingers! They’re all lovely and I can’t wait to spin them! They’ll be for sale this weekend at artclub.etsy.com.