Saturday, April 18, 2009

shearing day, part 2

I was in the kitchen writing when I heard the truck pulling into the driveway. I was already on my third cup of coffee, totally amped about the big day. I raced to the window and saw Jim McRae and his business partner Liz unloading gear from the back of their rig. I went out to meet them, slightly self conscious that I was about to help shear sheep in jeans from Banana Republic...

Whenever I am around professionals in the sheep world I get slightly nervous. I feel like a high school football coach about to chat with a guys donning Super Bowl rings. I worry about what I wear and what I say like I'm on some sort of date. I walked up to them, shoved my hands in my pockets, smiled, and tried to play shepherd. I asked how I could help and what could I carry? They handed me a toolbox and we were off for the pen.

The sheep were not excited to see the new company. They turned skittish. They knew this game. Jim and Liz went about the business of setting up their work area. They laid down some plywood to work on, and changed into shearing shoes. (These weird flat, wool shoes so their feet stayed flat and comfortable.) Then Jim grabbed Maude and Liz grabbed Marvin. Side by side they got their haircuts and manicures. To my complete surprise, Maude was an angel. She was limp as a ragdoll kitten in Jim's hands. Marvin however, fought a bit. He shook his butt on the ground and belted out a few complaints. Sal was last, and fought like a champ, but eventually let Jim finish the job. The whole time I tried to help best I could. I packed wool into bags, helped fetch gear from their boxes, plugged and unplugged stuff at their request...I just tried to be of use. I learned today what a big job this really was. I was grateful professionals were doing this instead of me.

I snapped photos as they worked them over, slightly amazed at how much wool was streaming off their bodies. My books say each 150-pound sheep was packing about ten pounds of wool each. I believed it. When the shearing was done, hooves were trimmed, butts were slapped (of sheep, not people), and the three very silly and naked looking sheep were all pacing in the pen. I thanked Jim and Liz, handed them their check ($49!) and let the trio out into their little pasture. I gave the troops a little hay, scratched their heads and necks, and watched them prance around like little does. They seemed happier without all that wool weighting them down. Then I looked over at my three bags full, propped against the fencing. I stood there grinning, my hands all oily from lanolin proudly on my hips. Sometimes things work out. Not always (hell, rarely) but sometimes.

I had a spring shearing of my own sheep under my belt. I felt rich.

Then, I heard a ruckus in the trees above. A pair of crows landed above me and apparently they had a lot to comment on. I waved to them smiling and went inside. Life rolls.

shearing photos!

shearing day, part 1

Thought I'd check in while I'm waiting for the sheep shearer to arrive. I am beside myself with excitement. Here's a shot of Maude (in front) and Sal taken moments ago. Say goodbye to that fleece kids. I can't wait to see them without their wool. They'll look ridiculous.

In a few hours I'll have three comfortably shorn sheep and enough wool to keep the people of West Sandgate in all the knit hats they can handle. I'm looking forward to hand processing a chunk of it, and also planning to mail off a bunch to professionals at a small mill who will send me back blankets and yarn. This summer I'll be knitting at campfires and on the porch, stocking up the pantry with next years Christmas presents. Friends and family will be wearing Maude, Marvin, and Sals' spring line.

This day: is a dream come true. For so long I have pined for sheep. I am so far away from the big dream, a full-time working lamb and wool farm. But today is the first time I ever helped clip my own hoofstock. I know it's only three sheep. I know Cold Antler isn't a big operation. But this is how things start. While no friends or family will be here this year to help, as the years go by more and more people will be a part of this. And someday it will end with bonfires and guitars and wine.

Yes, yes. This is the beginning of many good years with lanolin on my fingers.

Friday, April 17, 2009

what's up connecticut?

The UConn Co-op, which is the University Bookstore, is hosting a Sustainability Fair this weekend. I'll be there Sunday at 2pm to talk about homesteading and living green. If you're in the area, stop by and say hi. I may even have Jazz and Annie with me (which would be appropriate, being huskies and all), but even if I'm sans dogs, it should be a nice discussion regardless. And the fair itself should be an educational event, full of interesting characters and helpful information. It's a green scene out there, for certain.

Also, sheep shearing tomorrow morning! Hoo! It'll be an exciting morning getting up early to prepare, get extension chords ready, find some plywood to work on. The shearer, a fella named Jim, is stopping by early. I promise to take lots of pictures, for certain.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

what are you in for?

breaking out

After a few years of homesteading, I now know exactly what the sound of fugitive sheep hooves on a wooden porch sounds like. When a breakout occurs, the flock always make a run for the porch. It makes sense. That's where the hay is stored. And this morning, as a light snowfall covered the farm, I was shaken out of bed by a "clop clup Cluppy BANG!"- which is what clumsy hooves knocking over a water pail sound like. Very cumbersome antics, those.

As this happened, Jazz and Annie whipped their heads out of sleep. Jazz showed every tooth in his wolfy mouth. This is also, something I am accustomed. Waking up to fangs doesn't phase me in the slightest. I pet his head, half awake, and told him "That'll do.." He lowered his lips over his canines and placed his head back on a pillow, then curled his back for another round of sleep. My dogs are all talk and no consequence. I however, needed to wrangle some ovine...

I smiled, stretched, and went outside with the camera to get photographic evidence of the convict. There by the porch was Sal. (The only one who jumped the fence. The others were watching from the pen.) He was chewing on his pilfered breakfast, glaring at me. I laughed. Then I grabbed an armful of hay and asked him to follow me back to the pen. He heeled beside me like a golden retriever. The snow fell like cold ash around us as we walked back to the flock.