It is moments like this I am really grateful my roommates are sheepdogs. Not a lot of humans would put up with a house smelling like that. Gibson was padding right beside me, and while I usually cringe at wordplay, I looked him right in the eye and said, "I have to warn you, baby, it smells like warm ewe." The border collie didn't care. Gibson would do whip-its of that stench if he could.
This past Thursday, three good friends were able to sneak away from their work in order to help me with my own. Miriam, Cathy, and Trevor got here in the afternoon heat to assist shearer Jim McCrea with the flock. There were seven chubby sheep to shear, four of them were British Longwools with staples decent enough to spin. The other three were the Scottish Blackface, a meat breed known for wool that makes fine rugs, tartans, and general weaving. But the good stuff is the stuff off the backs of Sal, Joseph, and the two new ewes purchased from Patty last fall. They are all Romney(ish). One ewe is a purebred Romney and the others are half Cotswold, Border Leicester, and Merino. Those four fleeces are the ones worth spinning.
So when the shearer arrived in the late afternoon, we got to business. A makeshift pen was made to hold the flock. All fourteen sheep headed into it for grain, save Brick, who understood a trap when she saw one. Miriam let Gibson outside and it took me and him not time at all to get the renegade into the pen. She slid through and Trevor shut the gate behind her. Jim the Shearer clapped for Gibson. I was insanely proud of that small gesture.
It didn't take long for the seven adult sheep to be shorn. I had a small table with beer growlers from the Argyle Brewing Company and mason jars to pour it into for the helpers. I set out a container of garlic chevre and crackers if anyone felt peckish. Miriam and Cathy also brought snacks to share, so this shearing day had some Craft Services. Cathy's handmade salsa, I am still thinking about it.
The three males and four females went fast, under the expert work of Jim and his apprentice. Miriam was able to snap some photos for her project of the farm (more on that later!) and Trevor managed some impromptu, accidental, mutton bustin'. But the work got done, the new fencing was set up to organize the field into managed grazing sectors, and the fleeces were safely stores inside from the threat of rain.
After shearing was done I was feeling great. A slight buzz from the combination of heat, work, and beer had me feeling wonderful so after I paid the shearer ($8.50 a sheep plus travel costs) and said thank yous and goodbyes to my friends, I headed out for a four mile run. When I came home from that I was a happy, tired, mess and had a shower with mint soap. In a perfect world I would be under the King Maple, swinging from the hammock chair, watching the first drops of rain fall while I sipped some iced tea and swayed.
The rain never did come and the gardens wailed. I still swayed. I'll take an imperfect day on this farm any day. Especially, these days.