Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Shear The Sheep 1st Day of Summer

It's the first day of summer, June 21st and it's going to be hot. Right now we are having the "June Gloom" and perfect for shearing sheep. I can't wait on this because we are going on a trip early in July. I can't expect Kiely to shear my sheep. She doesn't like shearing and sheep, it would be like asking her to clean sewer pipes with her bare hands. Yes, our sheep have lots of tags loaded with urine and feces and everything else they've rested on when they were really wet. This year was so tough because we had more rain than I can ever remember.
I was so surprised the way the sheep shearers in the movie the "The Thorn Birds" were able to shear sheep so quickly. The sheep weren't the long wool sheep, but it was amazing to see. I know they were professional shearers brought-in for the movie. I have heard that that the sheep can be shorn in less than a minute. It will take me all day, plus.
My Steve was able to shear the ewes a bit long before lambing. We wanted them to have a clean birth and the wool cut. The shearing process was made to make not only the sheep clean, but my tiny lambs were able to nurse easily. The udders were easy to find and all the long tags in the back and under the ewes were removed.
The Proper Way-I'm Not Strong Enough!
June is known for the foggy days and suddenly as summer is here and the 4th of July around the corner, the heat will begin and our sheep will be miserable and also susceptible to parasites or fly-stuck. That can happen by water getting down in the wool and flies laying their eggs, right there. Scary thought, but it makes me move fast to get the shearing job done.
Last year, was really cool and I mean, all summer. I had a huge wedding itinerary and I didn't do a thing except get the ewes ready for lambing. The year before was done until the shearing blade dug right into our ram's side. What a huge bloody mess. Everyone was there witnessing the disaster. Our family was taking turns shearing. The heavy shears make us so tired and our Finnsheep have the largest amount of very long wool that is unbelievably crimped. Steve took the finest wool and the cleanest and then pressed hard against Einstein's side to stop the bleeding. The bloody wool was removed and we applied medication and then he stuck more clean wool on the open wound and left it to dry. I gave the ram a long-lasting penicillin injection and he completely recovered without even a scar. I know not to ever pull the wool out because the skin is so thin that the blades just tear-up this breed's tender skin. I love Blue-Kote antiseptic. My dad used it on my skinned knees, but I think I've been around that topical purple medicine way too long. I'm really allergic to it now. One whiff and I have an asthma attack and I think it's the Scarlet Oil that does me in. The reason for the wound was by pulling the wool out from the sheep to make the shearing go faster and also one of the clipper blades was set to far forward. Pilot error.
My thoughts all early morning was this mind-set to psych - me- out to go do the shearing and not hurt him or traumatize him for weeks. I know the others will be easy, but Einstein the ram? He has layers and layers of wool. Einstein self-felted all the outside wool by rubbing one side of the fence to irritate our buck in the neighboring pen. No butting the fence like the buck. The ram had the urge to torment and tease Tundra, our young buck.
Picture from: Katie Daisy
My whole problem today was trying to take a gigantic ram, that weighs more than one of our horses and lead him to the stanchion. He didn't want to go up there, but treats worked and finally he got up there with me calling, "Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby." He still thinks maybe there was a bottle up there and he'd do anything to drink from a bottle of goat's milk. Einstein would sit on my lap this minute, if he knew I had bottle in my hand. That is a really scary thought, by the way.
I had alfalfa ready when the treats were gone and he just munched-away while I clipped. I got under the felting and went down lightly trying not to pull and then the weight of the felted part was pulling, I then would do a horizontal clip and take the heavy part off. The clippers got so hot even though I was using "Kool Lube," a blade cleaner, and I made numerous stops to use fine machine oil on the clippers. It didn't faze him, he didn't feel it, not one bit. I would take off tons of wool from one side and go to the other side that I had just clipped. Whoa! The foggy mist has just fluffed his "Fro" right-out. The ram sheep grew a full wool coat in just an hour. It popped-up right-up.

Wool has some unique properties and can actually cool a sheep, keep them warm, and repel water.

The closer I got to his back the more I realized he was changing color. He was born black and still young, the outside felted-part was bleached brown by the sun. Now, he is gray. I am finding white wool mixed with black. He almost looks silver and so soft. The lanolin was trapped and my hands are so soft. I rubbed my face against his clean wool and he did feel and smell like a new, soft, baby lamb. One of my most precious memories of baby lambs is holding them close and thinking each year how soft and sweet newborns are as soon as the lamb is dry. The are the best cuddlers. Einstein still loves to be loved. The wool removal didn't make him any smaller looking to me, confirmed my idea that their will be no holding him my lap.
Oh, No! Einstein Melted!
My shear gave out about 3:00 pm. I had worked most of the day on ONE sheep. I lost a part and was too tired to try and find it and reassemble it. I put Einstein away and while I picked-up wool, I found the missing piece and screw. Steve will fix it tomorrow, he is an excellent shear and clipper repairman.

He is busy eating again, pushing the ewes away from the alfalfa for the evening feeding. Einstein's basically the same. The ram is all poofy again, but silver color. Not one person will notice I spent more than four hours on him today. All that wool weight gone our ram feels like a lamb, again. This is so funny, I shear off his wool and it weighs close to 30 pounds. Is there a shear for humans? That would take care of my short haircut. Nevermind, I need eyebrows.

 I hope he feels great, he might be a little cooler but the weight off his feet will make him light on his toes and I might see him hop around. Einstein must feel like he could do the sheep dance, Boogie-Wooly.

1 comment:

Our Aitken Love said...

I love the cartoon of yourself. Pretty fun fun! Love you!