Shearing Day

Roger the shearer came yesterday. Because he had car trouble, he was almost three hours late, so shearing consumed the day. By the time I got home to cook dinner after chores, I was hobbling with a stiff back, sore knee, and aching hands. And I wasn’t even doing the shearing!

The day was unseasonably warm in the 60s, and both Roger and I soon shucked our coveralls. Very quickly we had our system.

I had separated the ewes into stalls where they were crowded enough to be easily caught without chasing. After Roger sheared each ewe, she was released into the empty “after stall.” I bagged the fleece, raked the floor around Roger’s plywood cutting base, then wrestled the ewe into my sheep chair, wormed her, and trimmed her hooves.

My sheep run the gamut of sizes. The sheep chair is adjustable but each adjustment requires ten minutes with a wrench, so the practical result is that some ewes barely squeeze their bottoms between the bars, and others fall back into the netting and submerge. In a perfect world I’d have three chairs adjusted to the different sizes, like the bears’ chairs in Goldilocks, but needless to say, my farm is not a perfect world. To trim the hooves of the ewes who did not fit, I twisted my arms and legs in various eccentric contortions to hold them steady. More than once I was straddling the poor girl backwards with my bottom in her face. For this among many other reasons, my set-up will never be featured in the “how to do it” pages of the Premier Sheep Supplies catalog.

Hooves are flinty, and arthritic hands get quite a workout. Often I had to use all ten fingers to close the hoof shears. Occasionally the shears slipped off the hard hooves and gouged my wrist instead. Nicks, scrapes, and bruises from flailing feet are my usual lot on shearing day.

It’s a long day and one I’m glad to have over.

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