A Sheep is Shorn

Thursday, July 21, 2011: a record-breaking hot day with temperatures of about 37 degrees Celcius.  Ridiculously hot.  Oh-my-goodness-I-can’t-breathe hot.  Dangerously hot.

While most of our animals found breezy, shady places in which to lay half-comatose, and drank plenty of water from the various pools and tubs we filled up, I worried about Lily the sheep under her incredibly thick coat of wool.  The poor girl was panting and bothered (though the smaller and less-wooly Sunflower seemed to fare better), and it was decided that we’d have to go ahead and shear her.  I had read about unshorn sheep dying of heat stroke in this kind of weather and felt a little panicked at the thought of anything bad happening to Lily, and I just really wanted the sweet lady to be a bit more comfortable.

Here begins the hilarity.  Catching Lily was a sport in itself.  Imagine, if you will, this farm mama and her husband in a hot barn, trying to corner a panicked sheep who is still getting used to the place.  The sheep runs nose-first into the corner in an attempt to escape, giving herself a nosebleed.  Finally she is caught, and we place a collar on her in order to bring her out into the yard.  (Have you ever tried leading a sheep on a collar?  Goodness me, what a farce! A head halter is the way to go with these lovely beasts.) Once in the yard, this farm mama and her husband wrangle with the sheep until she is sitting on her rump with all four feet in the air, looking perplexed.  Time to begin!

Do you think we have sheep shearing equipment?  Heck no, we do not!  We have pet clippers that we use to shave down the goats in the Spring.  It quickly became apparent that the pet clippers would not do the trick, and so we resorted to the next thing we could think of – fabric scissors.  Yes, that’s right, my brand new, very sharp fabric scissors.  The ones I have not even had a chance to use for cutting fabric, yet.

Now let me just say that going into this, I had never sheared a sheep before.  Ever.  I went up to Thistlecroft Farm for their shearing day (where I sat aside and watched in fascination), but beyond that my only experience has been watching YouTube how-to’s.  Even with proper equipment, the job would have been tough.  With fabric scissors, it was a joke.

Lily escaped twice and had to be caught and wrangled back into position, causing mayhem in the barnyard.  Miss Molly the Border Collie went crazy with herding lust (she’s not yet trained), while the goats and Sunflower the sheep came running to see what was going on.  The kids all woke up from their naps around this time, coming out into the yard to cry about the heat.  Jae and I were sweaty and covered in tufts of wool.  It was the stuff of movies, I tell ya.

In the end, after over an hour of clip, clip, clipping with my fabric scissors, I had most of Lily’s wool off.  It was not in one piece, it was not even, and it will not be usable for spinning.  It is headed for the manure pile.  I’m ok with this! Lily is much more comfortable now, and that was the goal.  I didn’t go in with the scissors today hoping for a fleece to spin.  I went in with the intention of saving my sheep from the heat.  I think I succeeded!

Yes, yes, go ahead and laugh – I still haven’t stopped, myself.  She has a mane, it’s true!  Jae was holding her head & neck and so we decided to just get the job done and forget about her head for now.  The rest of her is shorn and Lily is much cooler now, and that’s what really matters at this point. (See the ridiculous collar?  Oh, my!)

Sunflower was so happy to have her dear Lily return to graze beside her, though paused to sniff at her again and again, as though slightly confused about her lack of wool coat. I was happy to get the thick and sticky lanolin washed off my hands, the sweaty shirt off my back, and enjoy a cool shower.

I think I’ll need more practice before I really get serious about shearing my own sheep…(Though I must say that I’m pretty impressed with how even I was able to cut with those fabric scissors!)

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