We’ve been waiting for shearing day to get here. Virginia’s spring weather can be a little strange–60s and 70s with chilling rain one day and then 90s by the end of the week. And getting on the shearer’s calendar is, well, challenging. It’s a skill in high demand. And you can’t shear wet sheep, so spring rain is always a fear.
Mr. Fix-It can shear in a pinch. He used to do it for us when we had fewer sheep and weren’t as worried about wool quality. But it’s hard on your back and it takes quite a bit of practice to turn out a good quality fleece. It takes practice to really learn the method and when we only had 5 sheep, he would just be getting into the rhythm of it–and we would be done for another whole year. He didn’t enjoy it so much that he wanted to start doing it regularly for practice, so it’s just easier now that we run 15-20 sheep to just have a professional come in and do it once a year.
Besides you get to meet more people! That’s one of the best parts about this farm adventure–all the great people you meet that you’d likely never even run into otherwise! Our shearer’s wife comes with him and sits and chats while the work is going on. We visit about kids and animals and the cost of hay and broken baler belts and other things that just don’t seem to come up much unless we’re with sheep people.
This year Mr. Fix-It and the crew made a folding skirting table for our fleeces. ( I know, he’s awesome.) Skirting is when you take the fleece, spread it out, cut off all the icky, yucky mess around the edges, and blow out the loose dirt and dust. Then you start the washing process. Or in our case, you bag it up and send it to the mill.
Usually we shear and bag the wool and go back later to skirt it and haul it off–which is why we’re always behind on processing our wool. This year we did it right at the same time. It worked great!
This year we also tried something else new and opened the farm for visitors. And had some!
I think it’s so great when people get to get up close and see how it all works. How sometimes it loud and sweaty and smelly. And then you walk away from the shearing shed and see how quiet and peaceful and green it is.
At the farm, you can see how the cows and the sheep and the chickens all interact and work together to form a system. You can understand how the pasture rotation works. You can see how the diversity of grass occurs over time by looking at fields that are one, two, three, or more years old.
And you can see naked sheep. Who doesn’t get a laugh from that?