My shearer called in the middle of last week to let us know that he was coming on Saturday, January 27th. My immediate reaction was relief, since I no longer had to worry about the many things that can go wrong when shearing is delayed until after lambing. That relief was quickly replaced by a rush of panic. There was so much to prepare! And I had no idea what the weather might bring.
The next few were a blur: volunteers recruited, food prepared, paperwork updated for immunizations, preps for fleece samples and fleece weights, coats washed and mended, and the ewes locked in the night before. Although there were some last-minute glitches (like illness causing our shearer to proceed very slowly since he was still on the mend, and four of our eleven helpers having to cancel at the last minute), the Winter Shearing of 2018 came and went fairly smoothly, all things considered. Fifty-three ewes were sheared on Saturday, and their fleece bundles now line the walls of my dining room, waiting to be skirted and prepared for sale.
This was the last of our big ewe shearings in Iowa, and as such, it was bittersweet. I made a lot of quick observations as the day passed, and I will leave you with some of them, accompanied by some of the photos taken throughout the day. Enjoy!
— The weather was perfect on Saturday: sunny and cool but not too cold. Many of us took off our jackets mid-morning and worked in shirtsleeves until late afternoon. The wind from the day before helped ensure our fleeces were dry!
— It’s much easier to keep up with one shearer than two. With his family still weak from the flu, our shearer worked solo this year, and that allowed us to work with a much smaller crew in the barn.
— Our helpers are among the best — every year! They include a combination of shepherds, fiber artists, and people who have an interest in sheep and what we do. They come from near and far (this year, our farthest came from 150 miles away!) to help us harvest the wool and to participate in this amazing process. And we couldn’t do it without them. We will miss them, and we really appreciate their help!
— For the sixth year, Romeldale January (born 2010) stood at the gate to volunteer for shearing as our shearer set up. Interestingly, her granddaughter Qash (born 2017) stood there to watch January’s shearing — but after a bit, she decided shearing was not for her and headed to the back of the barn. Our helpers were able to gently convince her that it wasn’t so bad — and when she rejoined the flock freshly sheared, she jumped for joy in spite of the single lamb she carries!
— This year’s fleeces look to be among our best! Whether from constantly improving genetics as we fold our young lambs into the flock or whether from a combination of management improvements and weather — or from all of these — they are stunningly beautiful!
Skirting will begin today, and will likely continue for a couple of weeks, but I will keep you posted! I cannot wait to open the bundles and get to work!