Yesterday afternoon, Sean called to say he was on his way home from work. He is on Spring Break this week, and we knew we were going to shear. Since he was on his way home, it was fairly early and it was nice, warm and most imporatantly, dry, we decided to go ahead and shear that afternoon so we would have it done and be free to do other things the rest of the week.

 It took us a couple of hours to get things going. We had to get sheets of cardboard to lay down so we wouldn’t be sitting in the dirt, we had to find the right cord for the shears, a pair of scissors, the shears themselves, the dogs had to be shut up inside the house and we had to catch a sheep.

                                                                    tootles before shearing

The sheep knew something was up the minute all five of us entered the sheep yard. Usually there is one or two of us down there at a time, not all five.  A professional shearer can shear a sheep all by his lonesome, but we are not professional shearers.  Chad lure the sheep over behind the barn where there is only one escape route with a bucket of feed. Then Sean and I stand in front of the “exit”. When the sheep realize something is up, they come barreling out from behind the barn and you have to just grab one and hold on.  The sad thing about sheep is, if this doesn’t work the first time, you just keep repeating the steps until you finally catch one. Either they just aren’t that smart (my guess) or the desire to fill their stomach is stronger than their fear of being caught.  Tootles is a little more easy going than Ivy, and will walk up to you so you can pet him occaisionally. Ivy doesn’t want anyone but Tootles near her.  So of course we decided to shear her first.

So we caught her, and Sean, Chad and I walked her over to the cardboard.  Like I said previously, we are not professional shearers. A professional shearer kind of sets the sheep on it’s hindquarters, and has a system so that he can shear all the wool off the sheep in a kind of blanket. The sheep looks nice and neat after being sheared by a professional.  Unfortunately for my sheep, they got us instead. We knew the wool was not coming off in a nice blanket, and that our shears would probably give out once we finished shearing the stuff that had been covered, and we would have to finish by cutting the wool off with scissors.  So we just sheared the blanket, the part that covers the sides and back, first.  As Chad held Ivy’s back part down, Ryan held on to her front feet and kept her head down. Sean sheared as I collected wool and handed it to Reagan, who put the wool into designated bags.  The shears managed very well on the part that had been covered, and I think there aren’t any second cuts in Ivy’s bag of wool.  But after shearing the part that had been covered,  the shears faltered some on the dirty wool, and I ended up shearing around her head and neck, and her hindquarters with the scissors.  It isn’t pretty, but at least all the matted dirty wool is off of her, and she has a clean start for the year.  After it grows out for a little while, she’ll look better. ivy sheared

Soon the same process was repeated with Tootles, and now I have four bags of wool in the back to be washed and processed. I couldn’t wait last night though, and combed out a bit of both colors of wool so I could spin them up.  Spinning wool that still has the lanolin in it is interesting.  It doesn’t smell dirty, just sheepy, but it is a little harder to get the wool to slip. I got double the amount of wool that I got from these two sheep last year, even though last year I kept almost everything we shaved off them, and this year I only kept the very best part. The wool off of tootles spun up to a smooth fine yarn when plied back on itself, and I’m very excited about it. I haven’t had a chance to ply the yarn spun from Ivy yet, and today I start washing. I expect it will take me a very long time to finish washing it all. 

tootles yarn

Today we are all exhausted, and I’m not sure how much we will be getting done today. Hopefully we’ll get something done besides sitting around watching the discovery channel.