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Sheep Shearing on St. Patrick's Day

Posted 3/18/2013 7:26am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Last week we received an email from our friend Pete, a vegetable and sheep farmer who has sheared our flock every spring for the past 15 years; he had a small accident in the woods and broke his arm and unless we wanted to wait for another six weeks till he had recovered, we needed to find another shearer. Today was our scheduled day to have the sheep shorn, just in time for the arrival of lambs in about three weeks.  We've known of other shearers in the area, but there is something very comforting about handing over your flock to a guy you know and trust so it was with a little fear and trepidation that we began making other arrangments. Thankfully we were able to hire Kirk in short order, another shepherd / school teacher who also has a lot of experience shearing sheep and of whom we had heard good things. The only problem was with Pete out of commition, Kirk was quite busy and the only time we could schedule him was 7 am, Sunday morning, St. Patrick's Day.  We're not Irish but we usually try to limit our Sunday work to a minimum. However first and forefost we are pragmatic farmers who understand trying to apply strict rules to nature and life just doesn't work for the well being of our animals or selves.  So yesterday morning we were up at the crack of dawn; Roy set up chutes and gates and I, nursing a slight back injury, made sure we had plenty of coffee and stood around giving unwanted suggestions. When Kirk arrived right on time at 7 am, we were almost ready to go.  Averaging around 15 sheep an hour and with a few breaks to change clippers and stand up and stretch; Kirk had the job done easily before lunch. 

Shearing is very hard work.  It didn't help that our Cheviot's wool seemed especially tight and uncooperative. As the day went on it seemed to get easier and we learned from Kirk that some of his shepherds run their sheep around before shearing to heat them up and get their glands flowing - it seems to make shearing go more smoothly. Interestingly enough, as the day went on, the temperature rose and we packed the unshorn ewes a little tighter in the pen, the shearing did improve. We have some little ewe lambs who are easy to flip into a sitting position, but they are slippery and squrimy. The older ewes, all them beginning to bag up in preparation for the lambs, are difficult to manuever into position. One of our rams is jumper; after he was shorn he jumped out of the holding pen and went dashing about visiting Bob and Buddy (where he was not welcomed -- Bob gave a good horsey bite in the rump!), then lept into the sow pen, again he was not welcomed, so he jumped into the pen with the young feeder pigs who thought he arrived to initiate a game of tag. Meanwhile we were trying to coral him back into the proper ram holding pen beside the steers.  It was quite a circus. 

Sheep shorn, animals fed, lunch over, I got a shower and sat on an ice pack on the sofa and slept through college basketball while the girls and a friend from the neighborhood ran up and down the stairs chasing each other with nail polish and eye shadow.  It was actually a very satisfying Sunday, topped off with celebrating St. Patrick's Day with a grilled Reuben sandwich at a local diner.