Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Controlled (?) Chaos

Shearing is potentially the most chaotic day of the year. I expect an unknown number of volunteers (ranging from three one year to a possible 25 this year); I have no control over the weather; and I have no control over the events of the day. No matter how hard I try to be ready for everything,  I always spend a lot of time running back and forth to the house for missed items, coffee break goodies, extra mittens for whoever isn't warm, antibiotics, soldering iron, extension cords, barn records, etc.

Once when I went to the house for coffee and cookies at 10 am, I realized that I hadn't started the crock pot. The stew was thawed but not hot by noon. Fortunately, we had the microwave and lots of sandwich fixings.This year when I went in for a third extension cord, Newton, the dog, had had diarrhea in the front entry way, the kitchen and on the carpet. I wiped up the mess and ran back to the barn.

Every year we have some old hands at shearing and some novices. Dave teaches how to give shots and trim hooves. I explain how to label bags and sweep the shearing floor. But I spend most of my time teaching people how to skirt fleeces. Even with coats, the fleeces still need to be skirted. We pull off the dirty wool that was around the sheep's rear ends. We look for veggies in the wool around the ewe's necks. We sorrowfully throw out complete fleeces if the sheep lost their coat between coating and shearing.

I work around the skirting table advising and correcting and demonstrating good skirting technique. I run to the house and back. I help drive sheep into and out of the shearing pen. I try to talk with everyone in the barn.

This year, Ann Arbor Miller, a wonderful photographer, joined us in the barn and I was able to see shearing through her eyes, a completely new view. I saw Greg concentrate on trimming hooves, watched as Tom, the shearer finished a ewe and rose to release her. I saw the silvery simplicity of Tom's tools and watched the concentration on Betsy's face as she skirted.

On a day when the temperature was 6 degrees below zero, twelve people worked in the barn in complete comfort, enjoying the job, the company, and the sheep.  The chaos was all in my mind.

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