Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Shear Fits

The computer came home this past weekend. Now I can get back to blogging! I tried to do this yesterday, but it wasn't a good day apparently. I had a lot of trouble uploading my pictures (or should that be downloading??) so I basically had to wait to do that. It was very frustrating.

In my last post from home I mentioned that I wanted to shear the sheep that upcoming weekend. I did get that done. Not all in one day, as I had hoped. You'll see.

Professional shearers can shear a sheep in less than five minutes. When I first started doing it myself it would take me at least two hours. For one sheep. I know that sounds a little unbelievable but it is true. That's why when I just had three sheep I would do one a day. It was much easier for me to do it like that.

As I got more proficient (if you want to call it that...) it took less time. That made it easier for me and I'm sure for the poor sheep. Now it "only" takes me about thirty minutes per sheep.

Most professional shearers have ginormous clippers and shear the sheep on the ground. There is a way that they flip the sheep around on the ground while they shear and they are able to get a whole fleece. I haven't yet learned how to do that so I use a stand. Also my clippers are the medium sized kind. I just about choked when I bought them many years ago for $300+ so I hate to think how much the really big clippers cost.

Below are before, some during, and after pictures while I was shearing.

I started with Francine, Ewenice's daughter by a Dorset ram.

Here she is almost finished. The only thing left to do on her is under her jaw on her neck (where I couldn't get on the stand because of the head holder) and the area underneath between her back legs.

In order to finish the job I have to take her off the stand and carefully do the under the jaw part while holding her tightly. Because, of course, all she wants to do is get away from this madness! The between the legs part is harder for me because I have to flip her down onto her back. They don't like to get into that position because they are very vulnerable that way. You can see the dirt on her rump where we had a little struggle with that issue. But finally she is DONE!

Next up was Jamie. Now mind you, they don't just hop up on the stand like a dog. That was a struggle all by itself.

Here I'm showing you how beautifully thick (and long) Jamie's wool is. It's too bad you can't feel the difference in the wool so you'll have to take my word for it. The Dorsets have a very nice grade of wool (though not as fine as a Rambouillet). That is my left hand; I just have my thumb tucked under. It looks wierd, huh!

And she's DONE.

Ewenice was next. I really like the clean head and legs on this breed. (That means less to shear.)

Here she is partly done. Cheviot wool is not too bad either, but just a tad courser than the Dorset's.

And she's DONE!

Now it's 3of4's turn. This is Jamie's daughter, also a full Dorset.

Here's the poopy butt I mentioned some time ago. You can imagine how if left unshorn it could create a problem with the hygiene. Not just getting plugged up but also if this were in the summer the flies could create serious havoc.

All better!

And 3of4 is DONE!
Finally it was Baby's turn. I really thought I'd get them all done in one day! We started off just fine and I had her literally half done. The left half. I like to switch it up a little so I don't get too bored. Then disaster struck. Baby stepped off the stand on the right side. Remember, I was on the left. Instead of stepping back over when she felt no footing beneath her she kept trying to feel the ground with her right rear foot. She lost her balance and fell off the stand. Since her head was still tied in the head holder she ended up rolling onto the ground and pulling the whole stand on top of her.

It all happened so fast I didn't have a chance to try and grab her and bring her back onto the stand. As it turns out she ended up dumping the last of my blade wash so I couldn't finish her.

She looked like this for the rest of the day, that night, and the next day until the late afternoon after I went to the store to get more blade wash. Blade wash is a very important element to my sheep shearing. The sheep wool has a lot of lanolin, an oily substance, that gunks up and slows the blades down. When the blades get all caked up they don't work. After every few minutes they get dipped in a bowl of blade wash which loosens the gunk and I clean the blades with a stiff brush. Voila, good as new.

The next afternoon I finished her up and here she is DONE!

And now today's blog is DONE!


Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see you back in blogging action. Do you ever make renewed plans to sell the wool? Is it even called wool at this point?

tina f. said...

I don't ever plan to sell the wool (it's always called wool except maybe on a "hair" sheep like Perry). I can't shear it in one piece to make a proper fleece. So when I do it, it comes off in chunks and there are usually too many "second cuts" which takes away from any value. To be worth anything ideally the fleece will be clean and all one length (no second cuts). I could try spinning it myself (I have everything I need to do that) but right now I'm too lazy ;) Perhaps one of these days I'll make an attempt at making a skein or too...

Anonymous said...

You're B A A A C K! YAY! I've been waiting forever-and-a-day, and kept checking the blog frequently,too, mostly to my dismay... until today! :)

Your explanation to the other anonymous party (not me), was quite interesting. I wonder if you would deem it worthwhile to get a professional sheep shearer occasionally?? The concept is that he/she would sheer the sheep very quickly, thus "harvesting" a proper fleece. Then you could sell the fleece to pay the shearer. Okay, I think I just answered my own question. I'm just too excited about your being BACK! Also I'm so glad your computer is up and running: I wish you many happy blogging hours!
Love, You AZ sis

Pam said...

Awesome! I figured you might have some pictures once you got your computer up and running! This is really cool to see. Thanks for posting it :)

Debbi (and Bob) Brown said...

What do you use for blade wash? We now have Tunis, and find some of them to be quite oily (grin). A few I have been able to shear with only one blade dissembly, but several we have sheared require 3 to 4 teardowns and literally scraping the paste off the comb & cutter.


Bob Brown
Unicorner Farm
Axtell Texas

Debbi (and Bob) Brown said...

Wow, actually stumbled on something that works quite nicely to remove the grundge from comb & cutter! It's kind of a no brainer when you think about it too 8-)

DISH washing detergent! Designed to disolve grease hehe. I used about a tsp (approx 1/2 squirt) of Ivory in a cup of water. We have two sets of cutter & combs, so when one set gets gunked up, I take it and put it in the soap (I used a throw away container, pimento cheese). In a VERY short time the comb & cutter are completely clean!

A quick wipe with a paper towel and then a little oil and you are ready to go again!