Thursday, March 7, 2019
How to shear a sheep
As the time wore on, though, I became to a greater extent and more worried about one bullet point- under Items to Bring, was listed A body with the strength and willingness to learn to shear sheep. Willingness, I could handle, but I wasnt so indisputable about strength. Our classmates, whether farmers or non, would any be bigger and stronger than me- more or less people be, statistically speaking. Erin had been croping out with hearing specifically in mind. Id spent the three months since January Joking about needing to approach, but, of course, never did. In the morning, when Erin and I walked up to the pre-class circle of would-be- she arrs, our instructor was saying something about how, used to be, they discuss you take the class only If you could bench-press 120 lbs.I assuaged my horrible sense of venerate by thinking of when Emily learned to shear (never mind that she was 1 5 then, and Im 23), thinking of everyones encouraging tweets and emails, and swearing that, If I made It through without sincere embarrassment (cutting forth an ear, very day (which, of course, has yet to happen). After a few shearing demonstrations and a rehearsal of the 5 positions of shearing, there actually was nonhing left field to do but try it ourselves. Its Just same learning to swim, they told us, movie goat Jump in .We all go against up into groups of four, grabbed a sheep and a pair of clippers, and got to work. To begin with, you sit the sheep up in front of you- this is first position. Starting at the breastbone (we called it the brisket ), start shearing off the belly wool. Since this is the wool thats dirtiest, it helps to go ahead and wreak it out of the way. Its important to shear wide enough to harbour sealed that youre well-set-up for farther rectify the road. After you take off the belly wool, you melt over further and take the wool off the arms and crotch, sort of scooping the clippers up the business leg, across, and down the left leg.The big danger here is circumstantially shearing off a ewes teats, so youre supposed to cover them up with your left hand (you sure wont shear me off now ). Emily helps me sweep a tricky spot. at a time the belly, crotch, and legs are clean, you rotate about 90 degrees, change into arcsecond position, and start shearing her left hind leg (Im using the feminine pronoun cause, well, most sheep are ewes). Its also in this second step that you clear the wool off from the tail area, and, since her head is slowly accessible, shear off the topk non of fleece from the top of her head. I love how more Reins smiling in this picture. Shearing is funAfter than, you swing your legs approximately your sheep and into third position. Youre going to move your clippers up from the brisket along the cut, and suppress your calamity (or lash, as theyre called) under the left side of her chin. This is, in my opinion, the most thrilling- I mean that in both senses- cave in of shearing. Youre unz ipping the elect along the bottom of the inning of the neck, and it emphatically looks and feels the coolest, Because (obviously) the sheep is cover in wool, you cant tell where the wool ends and the sheep begins unless you have a very exact acquaintance of her specific anatomy and musculature (more on this later).Its pretty terrifying to move a pair of clippers into the unknown- rather, unknown, except for the knowledge that, if you make a mistake, you could cut your sheeps neck pretty badly. If one end of the error spectrum are nicks and cuts, then the other end of the spectrum is second cuts, which are short pieces of fleece that werent taken off with he first laissez passer of the clippers. Second cuts cause all sorts of problems- if incorporated into yarn, they make it weaker, and cause it to tab more quickly- and so its important to keep them to a minimum.In fact, our instructors told us that we moldiness not be so afraid of cutting the sheep, because, otherwise, all wed do is make second cuts. I wasnt so good at not being afraid (but, still, I nicked a few sheep). After youve clear up the fleece along the neck, you keep making parallel passes with your shears- up from the chest, along the left side of the neck, ending right under the warmness up the chest, along the neck, end under the ear.This is the part when its easiest to take off an ear, so, Just comparable with the teats, youre supposed to find it, get hold of it, and make sure to keep it out of harms way. Once the left side of the neck is clear, you start working on the left shoulder. Emily showed Erin and I a arcsecond of fish-shifting footwork that helps get the sheeps shoulder in a better position to shear. The more you know about your sheep, the easier shell be for you to shear- and since shes covered in wool, it can sometimes be hard to tell. If you know shes fat, itll be, as Emily says, Easy, the analogouss of shearing a beach ball.If shes skinny, youre going to have to work a li ttle harder to navigate around the bony hips, shoulders, and spinal processes. Does she have two teats, or are there four (ewes sometimes have an extra vestigial set) to lookout station out for? If shes a pinewood sheep with Merino heritage (hello, Corm), shes going to be covered in the wrinkles and extra skin that those breeds were bred to have (more skin = more haircloth follicles = more wool per sheep), and youre going to have to make sure not to nick those. If shes in good health, she should shear easily.If shes doing poorly, though, the lanolin (which usually melts a bit, and helps o lubricate the clippers) wont flow so freely, and instead stays thick, like wax, and gums up your clippers. I was continually amazed at the intimacy of it, and low-down by the amount of strength and knowledge required- I dont think Vive experienced anything like it in my every adept inch of every single sheep, and then use that knowledge to navigate a potentially breakneck situation (those clip pers are sharp), and end up with a valuable yield (7 or 8 lbs of wool per sheep).That said, its also hot, sweaty, greasy, difficult, dirty, exhausting, poppy, smelly, frustrating, and sometimes bloody. Dragging ourselves spine to the hotel after the first day, I told Erin, If anyone ever tells me shearing like a beautiful, graceful, athletic dance between the shearer and the sheep, Im goanna punch me in the face, and there were survey of Jokes about, Any Job where your read ends goat be higher than your head- thats not a good Job So, back to business. Once the whole left side is clear, you slide the sheep down your shin and into fourth position.A big part of learning the positions is making sure the sheep is comfortable- the more comfortable she is, the less shell effort and fight, and the easier it is for he both of you. Its time for whats called the long blows, which are some of the easiest separate of shearing to learn (but hardest to master). They also look really cool. You move your clippers right across the body, tail to head. You keep making blows along the back, making sure to keep the comb of your clippers right along the curve of her back, until youre one blow past her spine.After that comes fifth position swing your right leg around, hoof it up your sheep, and, holding her nose between your knees, start shearing down the right side- head, neck, and shoulder- rolling the sheep up towards you as you move down her body. Once youre past the shoulder, you start making diagonal passes down the right side- youre or so done After making those diagonal passes down the sheeps right side, all there is left to do is clear off the right leg and hindquarter. See how Erin is using her left hand to put all her weight into the sheeps right flank?That serves two purposes- 1) it straightens out the right leg, so that its easier to shear, and 2) it tightens up the skin, so that theres less risk of it getting caught in the clippers. Honestly, theres so much skin- tightening, head-holding, ear-grabbing, leg- threatening, and teat-saving done with the non-clipper-holding-hand, you might as well say that it did all the work Nevertheless, both Erin and I had pretty sore right 1) vibrate and 2) are dripping with motor oil and lanolin. Its not easy. But, once youve cleaned off that give way leg, youre doneEmily actually took videos of both Erin and me finishing our sheep- theyre up on Faceable, if youd like to see more. And so, here I am after my first-ever sheep, grinning like a goofball. She looks like a carpet after its been vacuumed But the Jobs not over once the sheeps shorn In their varying levels of wholeness- nagging from the gorgeous waterfalls of wool produced by some of the experienced shearers to the utterly destroyed scragglier produced by all of us beginners- the fleeces were taken to the skirting table and sorted.As someone who erred on the side of second cuts, I felt a little abominable Erin and I came away from the weekend physi cally exhausted, but otherwise wildly enthused about shearing- not only are we planning on tagging along with Emily when shes in Virginia next, but were also thinking of going up to free affirm for the wool pool (can you imagine seeing a whole state worth of wool, all in one place? ), and e definitely want to go to Maryland Sheep & Wool, too (anyone have a sick or a spare bedroom for us? ).