One of my most favorite rituals on the farm comes but twice a year: shearing day. I was lucky to find a true sheep whisperer in Colin Siegmund, who is so gentle in guiding the flock, one by one, to be sheared. Sheep are famously twitchy and easy to startle, but Colin has a way of handling them that keeps each one of my sheep calm and therefore easier to shear.
The joy that comes from watching each fleece being peeled off and falling gracefully in a heap of glorious curls, crimp, and luster, is hard to describe. By the time shearing day arrives, the flock wear six month’s worth of coats: that’s six months of daily tending to, hauling hay and water, finding time to sit still and keep them company, and to distribute chin scratches and treats equitably. It’s a labor of love, truly.
Each fleece is bagged separately, and tagged with it’s owner’s name; although these days I have reached the stage when I can recognize each one instantly. There is a comic joy, too, in seeing the shorn flock wandering around fleece-less and puzzled initially, unable to recognize each other. At some point, they realize how wonderful it feels to be rid of their winter warmth just as the temperatures are rising, so skipping, leaping, and racing around commence, much to our delight.
Yesterday, I began the process of skirting each fleece – spreading it out on the screened table Scott built for just this purpose, and slowly picking out all the hay and poop that gets trapped over the course of the past months. As it gets warmer, I will wash some and send some to be spun into yarn. Carding and spinning are on my list of things to learn how to do this Spring, as well as using the natural dyes I’ve collected to create variations of color. That, and planting in the garden, should keep me happily busy in the months ahead.
Joyful work to look forward to, for which I am so grateful.