Sunday, March 18, 2007

Shearing: electric or blade?

Today we sheared a few of the sheep. We started out with an electric shearer and freshly sharpened blades but only finished two ewes. My husband hurt his elbow recently (he actually has tennis elbow though he does not play tennis) and so it was bothering him to help me with the shearing. I am not experienced enough to hold and shear the sheep by myself---I need more practice to do both at once--so we quit for the day and cleaned up. I can however hand shear (also known as blade shearing) and since two rams are penned along our drive eating the grass there I decided they were good candidates for the slower process. At one time or another I have hand sheared every sheep I own. Some of the sheep are easier than others to do it on since they don't "fidget" too much. I like doing the blades since I feel more comfortable getting some of the easier to cut parts (cut as in bleeding). Like near hocks,elbows and bendy places---which I have cut before.
Above are pictures of me shearing Guy with the hand shears. He is the easiest one for me to do out of all of them since he is an extremely calm ram. I do actually tie him while doing the job, but I don't have to. If I don't tie him he will snuffle in my hair and face while I bend over him. Then while snuffling in my hair or face he will turn towards me---which doesn't help when trying to get his rump or back legs. Guy's haircut was almost finished today but he will need to get a few parts done the next time the electric blades come out. Like on his belly, which I have never learned how to give a close cut on with hand shears.
Guy has the most gorgeous color fleece. People love it when they see it. Notice the grey under color. Guy does not carry grey---his brown is a special color that has a grey cast to it--like a taupe color but better. It is a color that seems to come from one of Barbara Webb's lines and I was lucky enough to accidentally get two sheep with it. Guy and my ewe Princess.
My sheep never do look as professionally done as those that hire people to shear--they always have head and leg "tufts" sticking out. Sometimes even slightly uneven sides. Oh well---nobody is perfect. We find it difficult to find professional shearers though---so we went to a school and had someone teach us. I think I need to go back since I have forgotten some of it though. Practice makes perfect I always say.... but I don't do it enough and I forget some of the technique in between shearings. It takes a couple of sheep just to get back in the groove each time, but doing it ourself is still better than worrying if we will get someone to come and do it at all.
Today was not a good shearing day as I started out with my finest wool sheep and my most aggressive newly sharpened blade (having forgotten not to do that from a previous time). So of course they both got a bit nicked up, which makes for a stressful shearing anyway. That is the other thing I like about hand shearing---much less able to take out a hunk. Though when they are really sharp you can still accidentally cut them.
Please don't think that all sheep are cut every time and bleeding hunks of flesh when finished---but sometimes they do get nicked up. And for as bad as they feel---I think we feel worse. Well maybe---they don't answer when I ask them. Though Rosalie,one of my ewes sheared today, must have forgiven me since she came over for a pet later that evening for no reason than to get a pet. So she either has a short memory (likely) or she forgave us (hopefully).
Here she is: sweet little Rosalie. We didn't photograph her "war wounds"---they are on the other side. We switched to a 20 tooth comb half way through her fleece---we were to dumb to catch on sooner.
Now that she is sheared I can safely say she is not going to have triplets. She just doesn't look big enough for triplets---but she does look bigger in "person" than in this photo of her. AND you get to see her "tufties" that I left behind :-D

SmallMeadow Farm Icelandic sheep, Irish Dexters and heritage chickens.