Monday, June 29, 2015

Sheep Shearing

Not sure how many of you are aware that we still have one sheep.  A few years ago we were down to three. Two of them were quite old, and a couple of years ago we had them put down, as they had got to the point of no longer being able to get around.  I figured that the last sheep would be quite upset being on her own, and we would have to do something about that.  Oddly enough, she didn't seem bothered at all.  Didn't baa at all after her last buddy left.  She just carried on as usual.  I think it is because she has a flock of chickens in the field with her, and those are her companions, or that's my best guess at least.  So she's still here, on her own.  She baas at us morning and evening, because she gets an apple when we go to let the chickens out in the morning, or shut them in the evening, but other than that she does her own thing.  At least she helps to keep some of the grass under control.

I'm embarrassed to admit that she didn't get sheared last year, and the year before she only was partially sheared before the shears got too dull.  I had planned on finishing her somehow, but, well you know how that goes.  Anyway, I could ramble on here, but being the 'frugal' person I am, basically I didn't want to pay for the shearer to come for one sheep, as he had a pretty hefty charge for coming to the farm, and then a per sheep charge after that.  So it had been weighing on me quite a bit lately with this hot weather, that this was a job that NEEDED TO BE DONE!

I did make an attempt to sharpen the electric shears, and then one day last week I walked out there with an apple and a halter and lead rope.  I figured she would be all over me like usual, wanting that apple, but not a chance.  Maybe it was the rope, although she wouldn't even know what that was, maybe she could sense my intentions, but she was having nothing to do with me.  I gave up quickly, as there was not even a small space to try to herd her into, and she certainly didn't need to get stressed out in that heat.

Late Saturday afternoon I was out in the field with her, had taken some bolting lettuce out for her and the hens.  I was saying to Larry that maybe we should start feeding her the apple in a white bowl, so she would connect the bowl with food and it might be easier to lead her where we wanted her with that.  The ewe was stood right next to me.  I reached down and grabbed her neck and was able to hold on.  I yelled for Larry to grab the halter which was on the table on the patio right next to him. We got the rope around her neck and then he went back to get the scissors because I had to trim the wool off her head to get the halter on.  And then I just started with the scissors and basically kept going.  Now there is a technique to shearing sheep.  The idea is to hold them in certain positions to pull all the skin tight so that there are no wrinkles where you are shearing.  This is really crucial when using electric shears or hand shears (which we also have...somewhere), but not so critical when using scissors.  It was slow going, but other than spots were the wool was really felted or matted, it wasn't 'hard'. once I got a spot opened up I just slid the scissors in an inch and then cut along parallel to my last cut.  The fleece rolled off, slowly:)  You learn quickly not to pull on the wool.  That pulls the skin up and you will nick the sheep.  She got a few small nicks but nothing major.  Meredith showed up half way through the process.  She of course had her phone, so took the pictures. It was a stinking hot day, and the mosquitoes were biting by this point. I don't know why we even have mosquitoes, it has been so dry dry dry that there is no standing water.  Anyway, I was telling Larry  or Meredith to swat the one on my left shoulder, lower back, etc.  I'm pretty bumpy and itchy now.

 Meredith also took over from Larry, it was harder on his back than mine, straining to keep that ewe still. She was pretty good most of the time, but did make the occasional break for freedom.  I did have her down on her side at one point, and then sitting between my legs at another. But really, it went quite well, although slowly. 

 I figured it was close to a couple of hours before we were totally finished, and the wool was bagged up.  It will probably just be garbaged because the outer part was such a mess.  I had forgotten that the ewe had white legs, as the fleece was hanging so low you couldn't see them.  I felt great when the job was done, and hopefully she did too.  In fact she should have been bounding around that field like a lamb, she had so much weight removed from her.

 I'm not sure my scissors will be quite the same.  They got a good oiling I guess, but will need a good wash, as did I.  


  1. That was a lot of work. We have a farm south of us that had everything sheered just recently. I noticed as we drove by that all the adult sheep had short hair just like all the lambs. You did a great job as she probably feels better now.

  2. You certainly are a woman of many talents! I know its not funny but reading your account of shearing that sheep with a scissors made me laugh. Too bad your daughter didn't make a little video.

  3. Now you can clean it wash it and card it...and then spin some wool:)

    1. Oh, been there, done that, I should show you a sweater I made (if I still have it). Still have the hand carders, two drum carders, and a simple spinning wheel. I've moved on from that stage in my life:)

  4. Your posts are always fun and interesting. I love hearing about your chickens and garden. I did not know you had one sheep. This brought back memories of the two pet sheep I had when we first moved into the cabin.We had no idea how to shear sheep. Poppy bought shears and we tried. What a mess! We both had more wool on us than the sheep did and it was a hot sticky day!

  5. A couple hours, wow. Bet she is loving it now that it is done, good job!


I love to get comments, so don't be shy!