In each of the last three years, I’ve volunteered at a sheep shearing at a nearby Shetland sheep farm. In fact, this is the farm that has the sheep whose fleece I’m using for my Shetland Tartan Blanket Project. Sandy and Bill Truckner of Twin Springs Farm, have a smallish farm (about 38 sheep) but an incredibly organized process thanks to the talents of Sandy and Bill.
We had a beautiful day, warm enough to open the doors to the garage where the shearing happens to let in light and warmth.
My job for the day was to keep track of which sheep’s fleece showed up on the skirting table. Each sheep has an ear tag, and someone puts bright pink surveyor’s tape on the neck fleece so that we can tell which sheep’s fleece it is (since the ear tab stays on the sheep, of course). Sandy has a list of the sheep by name and ear tag number, and also makes a little notebook with tear out sheets with each sheep’s name and number.
We take some of the obvious vegetable matter and other bits of undesirables off the fleece, roll it up, put it in a clear plastic bag, and add the torn off name sheet. The bags stay open to let the fleeces dry. Sandy later goes back and airs all the fleeces and finishes skirting them to her specifications.
Of course, many people decide to buy fleeces at the shearing. Although I didn’t really need any more, I had to bring home the fleece you see above, because it is the most luscious black, and with the suntanned tips, it will make a lovely heathered yarn. The picture of the sheep above is Quncey, the lamb that goes with the fleece. Isn’t she cute? It’s hard to believe that all that fleece came off such a little sheep. Well it was really dense on her. It ended up weighing 3 pounds.
I’ll wash it up and will probably get about 2/3 of that weight available for spinning.
Sandy always feeds us a scrumptious lunch afterward, supplemented by goodies brought by the volunteers. We began about 9:00 and finished at about 3:30. It’s a long day of bending over and wrestling squirmy sheep for Chuck, the shearer. He’s amazing. For those in the barn, they catch the sheep, pre-skirt them and lead them to the barn. For me, it was a long day of standing and hauling fleeces. It occurred to me afterward, that I had lifted 38 fleeces, each about 3 pounds. No wonder my arms were tired. No need for any weight training on this day. A wonderful day really, and I’m already looking forward to next year.