Saturday, February 6, 2010


Last Saturday, we sheared. Half a dozen friends joined us for the event and I think everyone had a good time.

Glen came for the exercise and the memories. he and his dog, Katie, just enjoyed being in the barn, working with the sheep. Katie kept the sheep in check, sitting just outside the holding pen, head erect, ears pricked, her entire attention on the sheep. Glen and Dave caught sheep and trimmed hooves. They worked the hardest of everyone and by the end of the day, both were stretched out on the living room floor, sound asleep.

Meg, Katy and Kimberly came to experience farm life and to play with the wool. They all spin and love the look and the feel of wool fibers. They gave shots, gathered up and bagged wool after Tom, the shearer, finished shearing each sheep, and skirted fleeces.

When the shearer finished with a fleece, he kicked it out of his way, and we gathered it up and tossed it out on the skirting table, a big grate hanging from the ceiling. Then we pulled out the dirty bits, the manure caked locks, the section of wool around each sheep’s neck that was matted and full of hay from her sticking her head in the hay feeder. On the uncoated fleeces, we pulled out the wool that lay down the center of each sheep’s back because of the amount of dirt and hay bits buried there. And we grieved each time we discarded a bit of fleece.

The colors were so beautiful – deep black shading to a warm, sun touched brown, or a blend of light and dark gray, and lots of creamy white. The individual fibers were even more entrancing – fine, soft strands of wool with dozens of little waves per inch, crimp in fiber speak.

Our fingers played with the wool, stretching the fibers, knowing in our hearts, our heads and our hands that this crimpy, fine, white fleece would spin into a wonderful, fine, soft yarn that we could knit into a garment of incredible softness, warmth and drape. As the fleeces passed under our hands, we talked and shared stories; stories about sheep, stories about past fleeces we’d spun, and stories about what we imagined we could do with the wool we were stroking. Even the near zero cold didn’t cool our enthusiasm.

Zaida kept the coffee and cocoa warm. When Tom ran his shears off the last sheep, Zaida had lunch ready for the crew.

Shearing gives city folk a taste of farm life. But beyond that, it gives fiber lovers, spinner, knitters, crocheters, felters and weavers, an intimate understanding of exactly where their wool comes from. They know the flock, what the sheep looked like before and after they were shorn, and the fact that beautiful yarn doesn’t come from a factory. It starts in a barn, on the back of a sheep, the product of a year’s growth and care.

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