I know, I know, that pun has so been done, but I had to. We spent all of yesterday shearing our 30 wooly sheep (the rest are Katadhins, which are hair sheep, and so they shed). On the referral of our friend Robin who works at the Atlanta zoo, we hired Randy Pinson, pretty much the last and only sheep shearer in Georgia. Under his confident and gentle hands, each sheep parted with its wool while we watched, asked questions, and began to learn how all this is done. Shearing really is quite an art form. You've got to know exactly how to handle the sheep in order to have clear access to its body without hurting or causing undue stress to the animal; you've got to work the fleece so that it all comes off in one, whole piece; you've got to have the physical strength to stay bent over the sheep for hours; and you've got to have a light but firm hand so as to get the wool cut without cutting the sheep's skin. It's not really something that can be learned from a book or by being told. It's something you've got to watch and practice. You've got to cultivate the "feel" for it.
It was so cute and so sad to see our big fluffy critters reduced so much in bulk in just a few short minutes. Some of them just looked completely pathetic afterwards, but it will all be back in just a few short months!
We also took some time to do some basic care: replacing ear tags, body condition scoring, FAMACHA scoring, and any necessary de-worming. We bagged the wool and now are left with the task of figuring out what to do with it. The original plan was alway to sell the wool as industrial-grade for carpets, felt, etc. However, we've had so much interest from handspinners and knitters that we are looking into selling whole fleeces, making roving for spinning, and of course, making yarn. In the meantime, I am taking it upon myself to start a project of taking one of the fleeces and seeing it through to a knitted garment, or sheep-to-shawl, as it is sometimes called. I will document the progress here on the blog over the next few weeks. My goal is to be done by the time we start milking in late spring (!!!). Y'all help keep me to it!