Day two of shearing and we're still not done. Finished the boys today and made good progress with the bred ewes. Will finish that group on Wednesday and then on to more ewes next Monday. Looks like shearing will span more than a week this year. A little bit like the winter Olympics, minus spandex tights . . .
Decided to change things up a bit with a new skirting technique this year. I hate bagging fresh fleece in plastic. A steamy, freshly shorn fleece exudes sheepy moisture and needs a chance to breathe. And I hate the way a fleece gets jumbled when you squeeze it into the sack. Sometimes it's a nightmare to sort it all out when it comes time to enter in competition. So this year I bought me a huge roll of kraft paper with the idea of wrapping fleeces so they would stay intact. Since I've had no time to work out the particulars, I put my R & D team to work.
And they devised the clever little system shown here. Taking the fleeces directly from the shearing board to the skirting table, we threw them onto sheets of paper, arranging them almost as they were on the backs of the sheep.
The edges of the paper get folded in, first at the sides and then at the ends. And then the whole fleece gets rolled up like a sleeping bag.
The guys perfected this method last Friday. When Adrian and Mark arrived to help today, Mike was able to show them exactly how it all worked. Adrian ran with it.
As you can see, I've got quite the tidy stack of fleeces, all perfectly well skirted. The bulk of them won't stick around for long, having a date at the fiber mill. A handful will hang around for entry into upcoming fleece competitions and then sold as handspinning fleeces. Or hoarded for future use. We'll see.
Cilantro already has big head so I'm not sure I want him to know just how spectacular his fleece is; but thanks for all your nice comments on his shearing. It was fun sharing those shots.
I know there have been many very good questions among the comments over the past few days and apologize for not having time to respond individually. But since several of you have expressed concern about shearing in late winter I wanted to assure you that the sheep are coated, well-bedded, and housed comfortably indoors - and everyone is doing just fine. I came in from checking on them about an hour ago and took this picture with my phone. They were zoning out, some chewing their cud, others fast asleep in the straw. Like me, they're exhausted from the busyness in the barn over the last few days. It's downright balmy out there and if gets any warmer, I'll need to turn on their fan. Thank you for your concern about their well being.
On top of a very busy day, I had an amazing opportunity this evening: to meet and interview Temple Grandin for my upcoming book. She is a renown expert in the humane handling of livestock and gave a talk at Old Sturbridge Village tonight. Holly, Andy, Mike and I joined her for dinner before her lecture for a fascinating conversation. There's an excellent bio pic on HBO this month about how her autism enables her to see the way animals see and has led her to become an advocate for improving the handling and understanding of livestock. More about that in another post.
(note: post edited to correct links)
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