Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dressing the sheep

When we were kids, my brother, sister and I dressed our German Shepherd, Haidi, in my brother’s underpants and t-shirt. We thought it was hilarious. Haidi endured.

Now, Dave and I dress our sheep in polyester coats.  We do it to keep their fleeces clean during the winter when they eat hay. My youngest grandson’s bib keeps his front clean. The sheep coats keep sheep backs clean. When sheep eat they chew with their mouths open and hang their heads over their neighbors backs. Fragments of hay dribble out of their mouths and settle in their neighbors fleeces. Thus the need for coats. 

A fleece with veggie bits in it is lousy for spinning and for felting. Big woolen mills treat their fleeces with acid to destroy the veggies. That acid also changes the wool fibers. Dave and I use coats instead of acid to produce clean wool. 

Coating sheep is not easy. The sheep don’t help at all. They don’t remember what size they wear from year to year (Dave and I don’t seem to remember either). They don’t like to put their heads in the neck hole and they fight us when we put their hind legs through the leg holes. As often as not, we look at a sheep after she’s coated and decide that the coat is too big or too small. We undress her and begin again. We’ve never had a sheep learn to dress herself, so Dave and I keep at it year after year.

Haidi, our German Shepherd, was embarrassed to be wearing clothes. The sheep don’t show embarrassment. Once they realize that they can’t rub their coats off on the barn door or a gate, they relax and, hopefully, enjoy their new windbreakers.

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