Shearing is 83% Complete with No Fatalities

I'm putting a hashmark in the "success" column for today's shearing.

At 9 AM, Shareholder Chris arrived and after some last minute organizing, we started our shearing. Ted, Chris and I started on Tommy the Jacob sheep because we figured he'd be one of the easiest fellows to tackle. My make-shift shearing stand is actually a wooden, home-made goat milking stand I got on Craig's List, as an alternative to the metal stand I got on eBay with a faulty head piece. We used the wooden one last year for several sheep and it worked fairly well. Getting Tommy's horns into the goat stand head-holder-thingy was a little challenging, but worked fine in the end. Tommy's shearing went so well, I forgot to get my camera out to document it. Wow, I thought, this year is going to be a piece of cake.

I did get some shots of Ted and Chris working on Israel, the larger of the two Jacobs. As we got his wool off, we could see that he has been eating just fine, thank you very much, and all those plaintive cries for more food have been just pure greediness. But even though he's nicely fleshed out, he looks so small without his fleece! Using the electric clippers really improved the finished look of those two sheep. Much less of the "Early Weedeater" style they have gotten the last two years. As usual, we filled a trash bag with Israel's charcoal gray, soft, wooliness. After each sheep got his haircut, he also got a CDT shot from Chris, and a pedicure. Full spa treatment, so to speak.

Shareholder Kate arrived and joined in the festivities. It was time to drag out big ol' Shadrach, the Suffolk boy. Shad had never been sheared before so we knew he'd have to learn how to deal with this obnoxious new activity. Early into his shearing, we noticed that the blade (singular) in the electric clippers was beginning to get dull. Note to self: get a spare blade or two, and get them sharpened right after shearing is finished, to be ready for next year. The job got much harder, and it was clear that the day would be longer than I had anticipated. My arm and shoulder were getting really tired from pushing that clipper into the wool over and over. Ted, Chris, and Kate helped out by using the hand shears when they could, to attack the fleece from different angles.

Friend Mary Berry arrived for a quick visit, with her friends Ge'mar and Jenny. How wonderful that they could see first hand how all this sheepy stuff actually gets done.

Then it happened.

I realized as I was grinding away on Shad's back end, that I had inadvertently taken a pretty good size piece of skin away with the last pass of the clippers. Oh. My. G... Now, I have nicked a sheep in the past before, but this was a big hole. It wasn't bleeding badly, but I couldn't decide the best course of action. Yesterday the thought had occurred to me that I might like to have a tube of SuperGlue at the ready, but the thought vanished as soon as it had come and I totally spaced it out. Now I wished I had it. Chris reminded me (my head was spinning and I was kind of paralyzed) that I had TriCare ointment, which might be a good idea. I got it and applied it. But as time went on, I really didn't like the look of that hole. Chris again (vet-tech wannabe) suggested that maybe I could sew it up. Sure, can't hurt. So I dashed into the Red Barn for a curved needle and black thread. I just put a few stitches in to close up the hole, and we'll watch it and pray for healing. I've never done that before. Wow. I did it. Wow.

But, the gash took a toll on my confidence, and I found myself really having to MAKE myself continue with the shearing. I was all of a sudden afraid. But thankfully, I was surrounded by lots of great friends who encouraged me, and I pushed into my doubt. It wasn't the last nick I delivered to the sheep today, but I kept plowing. The job had to get done. Kate really helped a lot by letting my arm rest, and taking turns with the clippers herself. Chris helped with the hand shears, and Ted was right there in my corner.

Once we got Shadrach back into the pen (and he does look very handsome from a distance, if you don't see that big wound on his butt), I decided it was time for a break. Ted left to run some errands, and Kate and Chris and I retired to the Red Barn for the traditional quiche and coffee. Ahhhh. It felt SO GOOD to sit down. Once we got our energy back, we jumped back up to finish Sheep Number Four - Zacchaeus.

Now, Zach (the Tiny Tank) had never been sheared before, either, so this was a new experience for him. We got him out of the pen easily enough, but once out in the yard, he decided that "playing dead" was his coping method of choice. He laid down on the grass and closed his eyes. We had no choice but to go get the green wagon, hoist him up into it, and head for the shearing stand. However, once in the wagon, he changed his tack and tried to jump out. Ultimately, we sat him on his butt, and I held him up while Kate pulled the wagon across the yard. I hope Chris shares her photo of this momentous event some time. Once we got him near the shearing stand, we decided to take the clippers to his tummy and inner thighs right there in the wagon, since we had him in the perfect position. He wiggled a little but mostly he laid his head on my shoulder, closed his eyes, and prayed a little sheepy prayer that all this would just go away.

We moved him (no small feat) to the shearing stand to work on the rest of his body, when he decided he'd just lay down again, tucking his four legs under his rolly-polly body. All of us intrepid shearing ladies were getting tired by now, and it was getting into the afternoon. Kate and I took the shearers to his back, sides, and as much of his neck as we could reach, but it was clear that the electric clippers had gone beyond the point where they were effective. We picked at him for a little bit with the hand shears and then we ran up the white flag.

We pulled/pushed him back to his pen and turned him loose. He looks, frankly, atrocious. But I hope to finish his haircut tomorrow. The boy is for sale on Craig's List, and I can't really sell a half-sheared sheep that looks like he was clipped by a blind landscaper. At least he's cooler. My word, as we took the wool off his back the heat that came off him would have poached an egg. He must have been miserable.

So. Day One of shearing is over and the Red Barn is even MORE full of fleece bags. Lots of skirting and washing in store.

If you see Kate or Chris, please give them a big hug for me, but don't shake their hands too firmly --the will probably wince. I worked them hard. Thank you ladies, from the bottom of my heart. And a big shout out to Ted, who once again proves his mettle by being there for me even when the jobs are really, really, icky.

My full set of photos from today is here:


  1. All I can say is, Oh, my goodness. I know you, and it was much harder than you've even made it out to be. I'm so sorry I could not have been there too help. GREAT JOB EVERYONE!!!

  2. Cindy, the mantra is "shearing not grooming" -- I bet in a week, they'll all look great.

    I was already asleep on the couch by the time you wrote this post -- wheere do you find the energy?

  3. Anonymous1:23 PM

    You go girl! I'm with Kate. The first time I sheared Carter, he looked liked he'd been run up against a chicken plucker. But in a week or so, he looked fine! I can't believe you sewed up that skinned place! You could join the Army as a field medic! As for the shears, I noticed when we were watching the alpaca shearers that they had more than one pair at the ready. It is obvious now, also, why they had such burly manly shoulders and upper arms. Whew! Get some rest!


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