Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sheep Shearing

I made omelets at 6:45 to go along with our strong coffee to fortify us for the work day that awaited.

Jason arrived shortly thereafter and opened up the box of shearing equipment.

I was so happy that he took the initiative to read the instructions.

We gathered up supplies, mason jars of cool water, put on our work boots and moved out to the barn. Took deep breaths. Said our positive affirmations: You can do this. We can do this. God, please help us do this and not hurt anyone too badly.

Grabbed a sheep and set her on her bottom just like in the Youtube videos.

I oiled the clippers, plugged them in and wondered where in the world to begin on a wiggling creature, cradled in Jason's arms, covered in the most abundant of wool.

It was nervewracking. But somehow or another, before you know it, the wool was off of two ewes with minimal damage, a nick here or there, but nothing too bad. The expensive clippers glided over the skin just like a hot knife over butter and the wool slid off the animals beautifully. Some other friends arrived as we were in the middle of the third ewe and I got performance anxiety and cut the dickens out of her. Made me swear and get very annoyed, but somehow managed to shake it off and focus on the task instead of the worry about others watching me do what I had no idea how to do.

We worked out an assembly line, with some of us on shearing duty and the others on hoof trimming duty. We found our group cohesiveness and chatted and grunted and occasionally received a few good kicks.

It was a wonderful thing to realize that we could shear our own sheep. Very hard work, but I actually enjoyed it, knowing that with some practice I would eventually figure out my technique and style.

I wanted to work through and get all of the sheep done before we went in for lunch, but started to run out of steam. At 12:45 my hands and arms did not want to obey me and I was afraid that in my exhaustion I would hurt one of the sheep. I turned over the clippers to Jason and headed in to the house to prepare lunch for our hungry crew.

With a fridge full of garden produce from our friends and our backyard I decided that lamb curry was in order. I sauteed a couple of pounds of our lamb stew meat, took it out and then sauteed onions, carrots, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, fingerling potatoes, and zucchini all together in the big wok with some curry powder. Once the veggies started to simmer, I threw the meat back in the pot, topped with salt and a lid and we made more coffee. Sliced bread and cucumbers. Talked about sustainable living and community with our very interesting friends who happened to come over to help with the sheep.

Our gang sat down to a delicious meal, ate, grew very tired, drank coffee and headed back out to the barn on a deliciously not hot day.

At this point the clipper ceased to work the way it had been working and I thought it was because I was exhausted.

I was exhausted, but after further investigation, we determined that the clippers weren't working the way they had been.

We gutted it out through the last three sheep, taking turns, a couple of us, trying to figure it out. The blades were sharp. We worked on the tension. Made sure to keep adding oil.

Still didn't find the sweet spot.

We decided that it would be more efficient for us to stop and wait on the last three sheep until we figured out how to keep the clippers working the way they were supposed to.

Cleaned up the barn. Gathered up the goods. Returned to the house to set out on the front lawn with cold water, cold beer and some cold wine. And cheese and smoked trout.

We shared stories, played with baby Samuel, laughed at Coco as she investigated our party, and relaxed for a few minutes, completely worn out by the hard physical labor and thoroughly satisfied with our community effort. Nora climbed up the plum tree to pick a few plums. Maggie hung out in the hammock with her pal Mary and Patrick and Max shot bows and arrows and walked out to the woods and the rest of us sat.

I wish I could say we were done, but I felt it was wise to know our limitations. It is empowering to learn a new skill. Or at least to be in the process of learning. Not only how to shear, but how to maintain the equipment.

We are thoroughly moisturized by all the lanolin. The greasy wool was rich with it. Our muscles are thoroughly worked over.

I love our farm so very much. Even the hard parts, like having to do hard and scary things like sheep shearing. Everything is so much bigger than us, we have to be involved with other people in our community and I feel enriched. So, thanks, Jason and Rachel and Kathryn and Max and Mary and Jonathan and Carl and Jenna and Raymond (and of course my own children, but that goes without saying.)

And now, these weary muscles are ready to fall into bed. I certainly hope I will be able to move to get out of bed in the morning. I wonder if the others are going to be as sore as me when they wake up tomorrow???

No comments: