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Here we will talk about some of the more significant experiences we have shared with our sheep. The weekend was reserved for shearing. No, we hadn't done it before, yes we had actively observed, got the right kit, read some more, watched a few more videos, but we couldn't put off the moment any longer. Particularly since we had rung the vet to make an appointment for brucellosis testing, to be greeted with the question: "will your sheep be tondu?" (sheared). To which I replied. "Oh yes, TRES tendu!" (nervous). "No, toooondu!" "Ah yes, of course!" So that was it. And here is the album....

This first photo has to be called "plucking up courage". We had our Horner electric shears, hand shears for removing cling-ons (technical term for this = dagging!), hoof clippers etc. 

Long ago in the days of yore, when men were men and sheep were nervous, you will see that it was thus because of the shearing. Nowt else.

 Yes, we are aware that this isn't the optimal position in which to shear a sheep. We tried a variety of positions, depending on which bit launched itself first out of the pen. Some (positions) were less comfortable than others. The unbalancing them by grabbing one leg part worked quite well: it was the turning over we could never quite get right. Or get used to the fact that the wool is a different consistency depending where it is on the sheep: tough and highlandish on the back and fireside fantasy soft on the sides.

By the time we got to #5 (this was #1), the general effect was a tad less random. We found that each coat was vastly different, with #1 being average, #3 being rich and fluffy, and #5 like trying to shave a hedgehog with a feather (well, how I would imagine it to be). And yes, we cleaned, greased, adjusted, cooled down the shears between sheep. Meanwhile the shears got hot, heavy, slippery, lanolinny, and kept switching off as the ball of the thumb slid over the switch.

By this point we'd decided that we'd settle for taking just a reasonable layer off, avoiding skin and other collateral damage. - The skin comes up more (or less) with the wool, which is more (or less) stuck to the skin. So many variables per sheep that it was impossible to predict what would happen next...

Once it's sorted and cleaned, that's our outdoor pussy cats' barn beds for the winter, and possibly chook hutch insulation as well, if it drops down to -15C as last winter (hopefully we should have chooks again by then - currently re-resecuring fencing to 2m since sadly the newbies were all had in a dog/fox drive-by). The wool didn't exactly all slide off in one piece. We stopped counting at 20.

 G&T anyone?

 Oi, wot you done to my mum?

Getting the hang of the machine now. Unflattering photo care of giggling offspring.

They said it was their first time. That they needed experience. But why uuuus? Why naaaow?

Baaarely what one could call a close shave. 

Reunited with their lambs, and either heading back off down the field or leaving for good. They didn't seem too stressed out though, considering.  We did talk them through it, and they are not showing signs of flashbaaacks and they do come back up to the barn of their own free will without breaking into a sweat.

 And to think that we have friends who can do 100s in a day. It seems to be slightly easier to watch the stonking growth rate of the lambs than it does to take a woolly layer off their mums.

Wagging their tails behind them.

So what's the verdict? Well we took about 20min per sheep, for a mean 5cm-ish of fleece, poor loves, but they were very patient. Just as well we only had 5 to do. We have a pretty pile of wool in a "big bag", and which is mercifully no longer attached to around 80-90kg of sheep at the other end (we just stopped the invasion of the cling-ons, so that it is mainly fleecy stuff...). No blood baths, or indeed shaving cuts at all, once we'd worked out that the skin is quite tender, and comes up terrifyingly fast underneath the blade as you go (visions of a certain Specsavers ad). We did toy with the idea of trying to sail in closer to the skin as we gained in confidence, and went over some spots a couple of times in a vain attempt to even it all out, but each fleece was completely different, as was the shearing position, the weight, and all round mental state of each sheep. But  look, we dared to lose our shearing virginity in style and in public, and we hope that others can benefit from this part of the site as we develop it!


© 2014 Echorenovate Sally Woods-Bryan & Leslie Bryan Microengineering