Sunday, May 25, 2003

I would put up a new picture today, except that last Sunday's still serves very well. We have had more rain in the last few weeks than we did in the months of June and July last Summer. Already the light greens of Spring have given way to something darker and more lustrous. The ground squishes when you walk in low lying areas. The pasture springs that feed into Gooney Run at the foot of our hill are flowing freely. If I am quiet, I can hear the sound of rushing water all the way up at the house. The end of May is normally sheep shearing time, but that has been delayed as our flock walks in knee high wet pastures, rain soaking into their thick, sodden wool coats.

Yesterday we took advantage of a break between showers to put seventeen ewes from the flock into the barn to dry out for a Memorial Day Morning Shearing Marathon. A professional could shear our entire flock (well over a hundred, counting this year's lambs) in a day. We move a bit slower, taking a while to get up to speed each year. My wife is also very picky about her girls' appearance after their annual cut, and spends extra time on each to make sure they look sharp before they head back out to the pasture.

Some of the sheep take very well to the process, and seem relieved to have winter's wool off as summer's heat kicks in. Others want nothing to do with it and fight you every step of the way. It has to be done though, as they would be dead from heat exhaustion by August if we let them keep their coats. The yearlings are the worst. Imagine a hundred and fifty pound toddler getting his first haircut and you begin to get the idea. My back hurts just thinking about it.

Some years we actually have a volunteer or two come out for a real hands-on farming experience. There are some things that they don't have the experience to do, but extra hands are always welcome. There is an art to shearing in the traditional fashion that involves throwing, balancing and turning the sheep as much as it does actually using the clippers. We shear a few of the flock that way, but in the interest of being able to stand up and function at our day jobs, most of the flock will be cranked up on a show stand and trimmed out with a minimum of bending and turning. It is slower, but easier on the shearer. It also makes it possible for the amateur volunteer to help without immanent disaster involving escaping sheep, power cords, and sharp blades on electric shears.

We will be at it most evenings and weekends for the next couple of weeks. Come on out and lend a hand!