Friday, April 17, 2020

It's kinda like childbirth

Call it "shearing amnesia." Every year (for the last few, since I've been doing it myself with scissors), I face the task with a bit of dread but mostly resolve. I set ambitious goals for harvesting a fleece a day. Sometimes I'm even lucky enough to have an easy first one, and think "That wasn't so bad; let's do it again right away!"

Okay, this has NO similarities to my one childbirth, of which I have NO amnesia because it was NOT easy. But my memory definitely gets soft on shearing . . . or could I possibly getting slower at it every year???

Rooing Blake on Sunday took me an hour and a half – and that seemed quick and easy. That perception set off a little warning bell in the back of my mind. I've been telling myself I can scissor-shear a sheep in three hours, but was that true?

Monday afternoon after I got home from work, with an eye on the clock, I decided there was enough time to roo, not shear, another. Sarai is my only other sheep I can dependably roo, so she got put on the stand. After easily rooing what would be skirted off, I checked under her coat – nope, too well attached.

Poppy's vet appointment* was right in the middle of Tuesday, making me reluctant to attempt one before or after. By Wednesday, I was feeling a lot of pressure to get another fleece harvested, but I had also been suffering from an intermittent toothache** and Brian needed some senior photos taken for his yearbook page. When my dentist called to say I could come in that morning, I dropped everything and went, getting back right after Brian's last video class. It was overcast but bright so perfect mid-day photography conditions, so we took off for some of his favorite haunts to get some shots***. As soon as we got home I headed for the barn and got Bing on the stand. Four hours later I was struggling with waning light, an aching back, and a weary sheep. (I finally got the main fleece bagged, but I still need to trim up the remaining bits, so no photo of Bing yet.) Not only that, but my horses weren't getting exercised and my puppy wasn't getting sufficient attention. I felt like crying.

Today I didn't wait until afternoon to start. I got Blaise on the stand by 10:30 a.m., starting along her backbone.

I haven't found a perfect method for scissor-shearing that keeps the fleece together, off the ground, out from under the sheep, and out of the way of my work. I decided to sacrifice keeping Blaise's fleece intact in order to meet the other objectives, and that worked out well . . . but still didn't finish until 4:30.😳😖😱  (At least she's in good flesh!)

I think that three-hour figure must have been a total delusion – or maybe what I told Rick to keep him from blowing his top. But I now have a revised plan which I think is far more realistic than "a sheep a day." On days I don't have off-property obligations, I will shear a sheep. On days I do have off-property obligations, I will skirt a fleece or two.

* A separate post on "Floppy Poppy" with before and after photos when I next have the chance to blog.

** The dentist couldn't find anything wrong, so we're hoping the pain is from strain due to my cross-bite and missing molars. I was SO worried that another tooth was failing, and SO thankful that doesn't appear to be the case!

*** I got some nice pictures of Brian and sent them off to the yearbook editor; I'll share some of them here later. Right now I need a quick shower and a good night's sleep.

That's it for now from . . .


Retired Knitter said...

As you were describing the process for shearing a sheep, I got to thinking ... how is it done in very large herds? I assume it is needed in all sheep - not just those used for wool.

Mama Pea said...

Oh, Michelle, I feel bone-tired just from reading this post. (Don't worry, I'm sure my feeling of tiredness is just sympathy/empathy for you and will pass!) Whadda schedule your days have. Your stay-at-home rules are different than ours here in Minnesota. Dentist and vet offices are closed up tight except for emergencies. No one is going out to a job unless their position is deemed essential. Anyway, I digress. Your task of shearing the sheep seems like hard labor and something a very small percentage of people can put on their resume. Talk about hands-on! There will be easier days ahead, so hang in there. Looking forward (when you find the time) to those posts about which you hinted.

Michelle said...

Elaine, commercial shearers use big, electric shears (or occasionally big, handheld shears) and work amazingly fast, sitting a sheep back on its rump and rolling it around like a giant lump of dough while they wield the wicked-looking tool. And the tool (the cutting blade) IS wicked, with flared, sharp teeth (look them up on the internet!); sheep often get nicked or cut, occasionally even fatally. Shetlands are smaller, more angular, and feistier than big, commercial sheep, making them more prone to nicks and cuts.

Mama Pea, I don't think our stay-at-home rules are much different. My part-time job IS essential; we receive VA and SS benefits and pay bills for clients who can't manage their own finances. My dentist is only allowed to take emergencies, but a possibly abcessing tooth IS an emergency. The small animal vet's office takes more than emergencies, I think, but people must stay in their cars; a masked and gloved staff member comes out, takes the animal, and brings them back. Rick is doing more than emergencies but he's not in close contact with people or inside closed spaces, and always wears a mask.

Jeanne said...

I found it so interesting, when we took our kitty in for a checkup, my daughter and i were both allowed into the office and the exam room. I knew that most vet offices were doing it as you described. We were both surprised. We even took the little service dog in and had him scanned to make sure he had a chip. He did. We finally got his papers from CA, after he'd been with us for 5 or 6 weeks. The gal who sold him to my daughter was rather lackadaisical, I guess you could say.

I'm anxious to hear about Poppy's appointment!

Michelle said...

The latest post about Poppy is up, Jeanne!

Claire MW said...

Now that I only have 1 sheep, shearing isn't feeling quite so daunting, but it still takes time with the scissor shears, and I must do it soon because things are finally warming up a bit around here.