Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Done With Shearing

We finished the last of the shearing today. There were only four sheep with prime fleeces left, plus a few that had wool break earlier this summer. Since their fleeces weren't worth shearing to sell, we just trimmed the matted bits of the wool break off and left them with the remainder of their coats to keep them warm for the winter.

The nerve-wracking part of the process was catching Nicholai. He is a very polite and dignified ram, extremely well behaved. But if we scare him, he can get very dangerous. If he was frightened enough to charge, he could easily put me in the hospital. So, as always when I want to handle him, I had to charm him rather than force him.

As soon as I approached him with the lead rope in my hand, he knew I was going to try to catch him. I never chase him or try to corner him. I talk to him. I bend down, look him in the eye, and say his name repeatedly until I get him to stop and look at me. Then I approach and scratch him under the chin. I never take the next step until I can see that he's calm.

The next step is trying to hold onto his horns, which didn't really work today. I got a good grip, but he's so strong, he just twitched his head and wrenched my hand loose. Then I had to start over charming him again, to try to get a rope over his head instead.

I ended up having to follow him around the catch pen for a few minutes and finally just tossed the loop of rope over his horn to catch him. Once the rope is on him, he stops and becomes very polite to handle.

We led him to the shearing stand with a little grain to coax him along, since it's easier to move him that way than to try to drag a large, muscular ram by force. Once on the stand, he stood perfectly still, with immense dignity, for the whole shearing process.

As I expected, as soon as he and his ewes were sheared, he got all excited about all the sheepy nakedness, and spent the rest of the afternoon chasing his girls around.

We got more than 4 lbs. of fleece off him. Although his wool is rather coarse, I always like it. I keep thinking how great it would be to make felted boots or a long winter coat out of his thick wool. But I have no time for projects like that, so his fleece will go up for sale with the others.

That'll be part of my project for tomorrow---photographing all the fleeces so I can list them for sale.

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