Friday, September 5, 2008

The Difference A Day Makes

After my bad Tuesday I didn't get to the remaining two ewes, but did manage to finish them on Wednesday. I wasn't even sure I would be able to do it then because Wednesdays are the days Gus and I go to the convalescent home. I leave here around 3:35 to get there as close to 4:00 as possible. My round of visits usually lasts 20 to 30 minutes and then I head home, usually arriving just at 5:00 or slightly before.

This Wednesday, however, we have a new Hoffman Hound handler who along with my supervisor came to watch Gus and me in action. So with the inevitable questions and chatting that goes along with it I didn't get home until after 5:00. My concern was that with my "new" (at least to me) method of shearing the sheep it might get too late since it is definately getting dark earlier now (and a bit cooler in the evenings).

I know I've said this before but if you are a new reader I feel I must give my usual explanation of how things are around here. I'm a hobby shepherdess and by no means an expert. So if you are an expert don't laugh. If you are a novice please don't take everything I write as gospel. These are my own experiences and may not work for other people. That said I shall continue.

Since all my tools were ready I decided to go ahead and take the plunge and finish the shearing.

I had wanted to call a professional sheep shearer when I first realized it was time to shear again but I couldn't find his number. I was trying to find a way that would take a little less time and be easier on me and easier on my blades. It seemed that I was having to change the blades once or twice because they seemed to be getting dull terribly quickly. The blades would start getting hot quite rapidly too. I was using Blade Wash and Kool-Lube like it was going out of style.

I know shearing a dirty sheep is a lot tougher than shearing a clean sheep. The blades will get duller faster cutting through dirt than through clean wool. When the sheep aren't washed the blades also get clogged up with lanolin, particularly on the finer wooled sheep like the Dorsets. Then they start to run really hot and the sheep jump around too much because the blades are burning. Then they start to really jump because every time they jump I cut their fine skin with the blades. Then I feel really bad and swear next time I'm calling a professional.

I also remembered when Carli was in 4-H she had to keep her sheep slick shorn. (That means shearing all the wool off--not in a "show clip" like the breeding animals have. The equivalent would be like a show dog poodle with his show clip vs. a home poodle in a typical smooth puppy clip.) One of the tricks her 4-H advisor used to help with the shearing was a spray bottle of water she used to spray an area of the sheep prior to shearing, like they do sometimes at a beauty salon when they cut your hair.

Another thing I remembered was one time we went to wash and shear her lamb and I kept getting electrical shocks. Everyone knows (or should know!) that water and electricity don't mix.

I decided to give it another shot.

I got my area all set up with the plugs off the ground. We have one of those shower hose end attachments for the garden and I used that to gently wet the sheep all over. Then I poured a generous amount of Dove shampoo along her back and started scrubbing all over and under and around her. I used the same shower attachment to rinse the soap out as best as I could. Then with the sheep still dripping I began to shear.

I was very careful to keep my hands dry while handling the shears. It was amazing how quickly the blades went through. The wet skin kept the blades cool. I didn't have any trouble with the blades bogging down. I only had to dip them in the Blade Wash once or twice for each sheep, with the exception of the greasier Dorsets which took a bit more blade washing. But still I never had to change the blades. I never once got an electrical shock, which probably would have made me stop right then and there. And also importantly, there were much fewer nicks and cuts than I've made in the past.

I don't think I sheared any faster than normal, as the washing and rinsing made up for any of the potential time saved. On Wednesday when I went to finish the last two sheep, Jamie and Ewenice, I decided to not wash Ewenice (the last one I had left to do), but rather just give her a good soaking. I was afraid it was going to get dark too soon and I didn't want to have soaking wet sheep at night. Sheep are very susceptible to pneumonia. (They aren't as bothered by natural rain because the rain water doesn't usually get through their thick wool to their skin.) Ewenice still manages to get a lot of dirt on her back. While it was still easier to shear a wet Ewenice than a dry Ewenice it would have been even easier to shear a wet, clean Ewenice.

Here's the aftermath of Wednesday evening (taken the following afternoon).
Ewenice feeling cooler and looking for a treat.
Francine has lost her front legs.

I finished Wednesday with about an hour of daylight left. Since it was still in the upper 90's I wasn't too worried about Ewenice or Jamie getting sick. In fact they dried off rather quickly and now all is well.


Anonymous said...

Poor Francine, no front legs. At least she has a caring shepardess who loves her anyway !!
What do you plan to do with the clean wool? HMMM??? I bet you could whip up something with it.

tina f. said...

First of all, it's not THAT clean. The main idea is to get most of the dirt up from the skin, where the blades go. Secondly, I don't clipper neatly enough for the wool to be useable except maybe as stuffing for a pillow or something along those lines. I make way too many second and third and fourth and... cuts on the wool which makes it useless for spinning. And let's not forget it's a soggy mess when I cut it off!
Now I have heard it makes good mulch around trees and such, like a weed barrier, but I haven't tried that. So unless YOU want it, right now it is going to be garbage bin stuffing! :-<>

Anonymous said...

Well, I probably have enough projects going on right now. And the thought of hair on the ground just does not appeal to me.