Baa, baa, black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes, sir, yes, sir, three bags full.
One for the master, one for the dame,
And one for the little boy who lives down the lane.
Seems like a lot of wool for one sheep, but you'd be surprised. This week, Nathan, our shearer, came to give Ike and Izzy their annual haircuts. It's amazing to watch him - he flips them onto their butts, pulls out the electric clippers, and in about fifteen minutes releases a very relieved sheep with about half the volume of when he started. There's a specific technique to shearing: the idea is that the fleece should come off essentially in one piece. Then, the wool is gently washed to remove the lanolin, carded (this means combing the tangles out), and spun. Washed but uncarded wool is called "locks"; carded but unspun wool is "roving"; and spun roving is "yarn." At the York County Fair each summer, there is a contest called "From Sheep to Shawl," in which teams of four or five members shear, wash, card, spin, and knit wool into shawls in a given time frame, usually about four hours. It's one of the most popular events at the fair.
Shearing day is fun. Everyone has a good time, and the sheep, although a bit astonished, feel much better afterward. Ike and Izzy are Babydoll Southdowns, which is considered a small breed (they weigh about 175-200lbs), and their fleeces fill up a king-sized bed sheet each. So "three bags full" isn't an exaggeration. I thought I'd share some before and after shots with you.
The "before" shot - Dinner before Nathan arrives
Once on their butts, the sheep freeze
and let Nathan go to work.
Almost done - the fleece is coming off in one piece
Voila! A complete fleece and a relieved sheep.
The "after" shot - until next June