Malcom, MacDuff, and Pepper, my Shetland three, were sheared late in October. I was in the midst of house renovations then, and so I stored their fleeces until such time as I could turn to the task with all the expertise of my novice state: i.e. I knew I would have to read up on the how-to’s, and watch videos for visual guidance. It would take some time to accomplish. Well, time finally came my way last week, after the hustle and bustle of the holidays and a return to my quiet shepherding life.
It was bitterly cold in the barn as I spread out each fleece and got to work on them one at a time. My husband lent a hand, too, and Bowie took up residence under the skirting table, occupying herself with bits of wool as they floated down. We had a small space heater set up to warm our fingers, although plunging our hands into the wool itself was quite sufficient.
It was quiet as we worked, picking away at all that finds its way into a sheep’s fleece: hay, straw, little leaves, and (of course) poop. In doing this work, I remembered Summer and Fall days out on the pasture, keeping company with the flock and moving them from pasture to pasture. I remembered the pleasure of watching them from the farmhouse – just a glimpse through a window as I passed by, or a longer stint of sheep watching from the backyard as I gardened or hung things to dry on the clothesline.
And my first Summer and Fall as a shepherd seem to unfold right there on the skirting table early one winter morning.