I’m not sure I’ve ever written about shearing. It just happens. Well, not really, there’s lots of planning and “getting ready” that has to happen before the big event. We think of cutting hay and threshing wheat as harvests, but sometimes we don’t think of shearing in the same way. But it is in every way a harvest — of sunlight energy in the form of renewable natural fibers. This remarkable gift is transformed into clothing, shelter and a host of other applications that all benefit man. Shearing is a timeless and important event. We’re fortunate in ranching, to have many events to look forward to throughout the year, and each marks a new season, measures your efforts, and provides a new hope.
Waiting Their Turn
The day before, we clean the shearing shed, paying particular attention to the floor sections right where each shearer works in removing the wool. Making sure all the gates and panels are in place, any loose or stray boards are picked up or fixed, electricity is functioning, and supplies are gathered, are all part of the preparations. Scott built the bins where the sorted and graded wool will be kept prior to going into the baler or big sacks. Dan, Blaine and Scott planned how to bring the sheep in and keep certain groups separate, and do the necessary sorting before and after they are sheared. Also the route to get them to the headquarters is important, as we have hay up and freshly sprouted plants we don’t want them to damage as we come down into the valley. And in taking all these steps before, you can’t help but anticipate the action with excitement. And you can’t forget feeding the crew! I handled the breakfast, but this year asked Tangie whom many of you in the craft industry have met at the trade shows, to feed us the main meal. What a blessing and a feast!
Hard at Work
We have the privilege of shearing in a historic shed that can accommodate 12 shearers at once. It was constructed more than a hundred years ago, and the wood is beautiful. Unlike some of our old buildings which have only dirt floors, the shearing shed has a wood floor throughout, with gates and gate handles worn perfectly smooth with a glossy finish from a century of lanolin and working hands moving over their surfaces. Many of you have heard me speak, or read my words as I talk of the sounds of sheep as a symphony. The shearing action is its own symphony. We bring the sheep in and move them through a sorting alley, where the ewes go one direction, and the lambs go another, simply by swinging a gate open or closed one after another as they go by. And of course, they immediately begin calling to find each other — that’s their symphony. Then we bring the ewes up through the sorting pens and into the corrals, where they then funnel into the shearing shed alley. Many have been on tour here to see the design of this marvelous structure. Once the pens are full of sheep and the shearers are set up, they pull the cords on their motors, and the shearing symphony begins. Maybe it’s the only beauty I’ve ever known from the sound of motors! The sheep are silent at this point, and you have a new movement in this symphony, it’s the sound of the shearing motors, accompanied by the shearing dance! The shearers move the sheep by rolling and bending, turning and stretching, knowing where to place the pressure to straighten a leg or relax the sheep as they clip the wool smoothly away. The whole fleece comes off in one piece in 3 to 4 minutes, and the sheep gets up and exits out the little half door at the end of the building, while the shearer begins again with the next sheep. This repeats itself again and again, hour after hour, a timeless event in the culture of sheep
The rest of the year, this building is silent. But for me, every time I take visitors through it, I can hear the sounds and smell the smells, and am immediately transported to this special event. We’ll be sharing it soon with the upcoming Vogue Knitting Destination Experience June 5-8! Contact Doreen@sohopublishing.com and join us for this incredible weekend. You’ll be glad you did!