Monday, July 11, 2011

Shearing at the Homestead

Aside from lambing, the other major event in all shepherd's lives is shearing.  Once a year, every year.  And now is the time.  So Mr. Peep (Hank) was gracious enough to let me snap a few photos of Gingersnap getting her yearly trim.  Some photos are blurry because staging the shot was not an option (speed is of the essence when shearing), and my camera isn't the highest quality, but I think you'll get the idea.  Above is Ginger, our charming model.

First up is hoove trimming.  It is a widely held misconception that sheep are immobilized when set on their rumps.  In truth, they can still kick in this position.  And trust me, Ginger is not as uncomfortable as she appears.  :)

The shearing is started on the belly.  
This wool is typically matted and dirty and not used for spinning.  
Here, Ginger's head is cradled between my husband's legs.

Once the belly is cleaned off, shearing begins up at the neck.  Hank has Ginger's head and ears safely held out of the way and picks his way slowly downward.

Hank continues down and around the neck and shoulders.

Now you can start to see the fleece "peeling" back and draping down Ginger's body
(her head is under Hank's left hand).

The front shoulders are cleaned off, and Hank is working towards the belly.

Now Hank lays Ginger down off her rump (her head is still between his legs) and continues shearing down the full length of her body towards her rump.

Ginger's entire right side is sheared off, and 
Hank does a few more passes down the backbone.

At this point, Ginger is rolled onto her right side, directly on top of the newly shorn fleece.  Hank starts back up at the neck and left shoulder.

Ginger's head is back between Hank's knees while he shears down her left shoulder.

Here, Ginger is peeking out from behind Hank's elbow while he gently shears off the wool in her "armpit" area.  This is a delicate spot as her skin is thin and tends to stretch easily.  One wrong snip could leave a mark!

Almost done!  Ginger's full left side is shorn now.
The fleece is only attached at her lower leg area.

These are the last few strokes of the shears, right around Ginger's rump and tail.

Back on her feet, Ginger is fresh as a daisy!  And soo much smaller!

And of course the reason for all this effort is the gorgeous fleece.  The wool comes off in one piece and can by fluffed and handled almost like a blanket.  The neck edge of the fleece is at the top of this photo while the hind legs are at the bottom.

Next I will skirt the fleece (trim off the dirty edges), pick the fleece (pull out dirt and hay by hand), wash the fleece (in my washing machine but that's another blog altogether), card the fleece (by hand on a pair of carding combs or send it out to a fiber mill to be done by machine) and finally spin the wool.  I could also dye it if I wanted but I prefer to work with the natural colors provided by my flock.

Hank wanted to make sure that I add a disclaimer that he is by no means a professional shearer.  There are several different styles of shearing, but this method works best for us.  And it's always a good feeling when you know you're done for another year!  lol  But once Hank has finished his end of the bargain, it's up to me to see that all this wool magically turns into hats and sweaters!

Anyone interested in volunteering their hooks and needles?

Check out the other Homesteads in the Hop!


  1. I posted a couple of weeks ago on our shearing, and boy, it's not an easy job! These sheep can sure be twisted into weird positions, but - as you say - they can still kick and battle!
    Well done to your hubby here.... and well done to you for making such good use of the wool :)

  2. We got our shearing done early this year (May!) and it's always a relief to have it finished. For about a week, then you have to start handling the bags of wool! :) Great little step-by-step!

  3. Shearing was a bit late for us this year. Didn't get it all done till early July. And I'm proud to say that all fleeces are skirted and labeled...and staring at me to be washed. lol Another successful year, all in all.

  4. Wow, that's just amazing! Thank you for sharing the process, it's very interesting.


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