Though we're do-it-yourselfers in nearly every way, I have drawn the line firmly at sheep shearing. It's an art.
And an art that involves sharp blades close to soft skin sounds like the perfect time to call in the professionals, don't you think?
And so we did.
The shearer came and made short work the fourteen sheep we had that needed their annual haircuts – our ewes, last year's lambs, and our merino ram.
It's a big day on our farm and everyone helps out. Wrangling sheep or labeling bags; shoving oversized fleeces into undersized bags, or sweeping the floor before the next sheep, there is plenty of work to go around. But most of the hard labor falls to the shearer. My back hurt just watching him! It's a big job and we were one stop of many during a big week of farm visits.
From a fiber perspective, shearing day is akin to bringing in the tomatoes at the end of a long summer. "How did we do this year?" and "What should we make first?" are the sorts of questions in my mind as the pile of fleeces in the corner grew taller.
The goal each year, of course, is a batch of clean fleeces that are nicely sheared and ready to scour and spin.
For the record, we haven't worked out the "clean" part yet, especially since goats tend to eat over the tops of the sheep and are notoriously messy eaters. But my friend Kathryn has talked me into trying coats next winter, which should help immensely.
And now I am dreaming of what will come from this fresh batch of wool. I recently cast off my first homegrown knit (more on that later this week!) and it was unlike any other knitting project. A shawl, knit from the wool of sheep I know and love. What could be better?
This year I have roving in mind, so I can learn to spin properly once and for all. (I'm not the best as carding my own wool to spin, if you must know.) And while I've done a bit of spinning from our own fiber it's not been enough to find my groove.
Oh, yes. I believe I'll spend next winter spinning by the woodstove.
I can hardly wait!
And so shearing is done for another year, and just in the nick of time (we hit 80 here yesterday). What a difference a haircut can make!