Sunday, 15 November 2015

Sheep shearing

The friendly sheep farmers that we have the good fortune to know, arrived last week. So now our four Ms are sporting very short, very fine coats. What's left of their woolyness sits in four bulging hessian bags waiting to be made into yarn. My dear husband will take it to an ecological spinner company and after almost a year we will get it back. And I can knit us a pair of socks, or so...

Shearing Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My is interesting, to say the least. They like the feel of a shorter coat, when it's done but they do not help out much, to get there. First of all, they are quite large animals. They like their food and find plenty of it, so lifting them up on the shearing table is a challenge. The friendly farmers have the right touch and I help out by pushing at the back. Style does not come in to this process!

I say "help out" but my input during the whole session is basically to be there to keep our ladies calm, be in the way and to be slightly silly in general. I do it well and that's why our farmer friends have to be friendly. 

How the shearing would have been done in the past.
Credit: Dasha Dimitrova

Secondly, sheep tend to panic easily, so shearing our M's means a firm grip or you go flying off the table with one of them. My is really fast at throwing herself backwards and that can end badly. This year she also realised that by pulling up her legs she could be extra special and end up looking like a black, fluffy egg on a pedestal. No browny points for her this autumn...

Sheep farmers have the calmest of nature. You need it and I'm learning more, all the time. Having sheep like Molly and Mindy around helps a lot, though. Mindy told Mandy to calm down and she was really brave this time. Her input was just vocal. Fog-horn springs to mind.... Molly stands still, asks about some snacks and worries that everyone isn't having a good time. And after they are all sheared, Molly starts an almighty fight, because now they all look different, smell of oil from the machine and because she needs to let of steam. They go out and fight the living daylight out of each other for an hour of so and then have to come in for a rest. Strange animals, sheep....

Our funny hens spent the whole morning in the forest because the shearing machine was loud and you just never know... As a treat, my dear husband brought home straw for the sheep, as it gets a bit nippy being slightly naked in November. I made nice bedding for them with golden straw on a thick base of sawdust. They then spent the night eating straw and kept warm that way. From being round in the evening they changed to an almost barrel sized look by the next morning. You can't win, with sheep...

The hens got some straw as a treat, just because they always like that - treats that is. It turned out they love straw and it has now turned in to a bit of an obsession with them. They spent three whole days playing with it and had no time to go out. They moved straw around the whole hen house, around the sheep pen, around the stable in general and then started pecking through the straw still in bales. It was amazing to watch - small birds going hundred and ten around the house, building and fixing, straw everywhere. The poor sheep never knew where their snack would turn up next.

I had to put my foot down before they all collapsed from being overworked and forced them out into the sun. Not a popular move but they still had time to build, in the evenings. Who would have thought hens could get even more special. Lina almost had a fit because she had to carry on turning our compost and also build straw creations. She spent two days running back and forth and I thought her little heart would give up, but she is calmer now. Monty went over to help with the digging and that was kind of him. He loves her so much and she pecks him hard in the chest and tells him all about how beautiful Waldemar was. So he lives in hope and digs up the compost in the meantime. There's some wisdom in that but as my brain has turned into straw and wool, I can't grasp it, yet.

Text by Nina

Next blog post on the 22nd November.

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