Spring has arrived in our small corner of the world. The cherry tree is full of blossoms, and so far, the deer are behaving themselves and not tearing the bark off of it. (I think that the liberal application of "liquid fence" worked!) Spring means many things on the farm: fences need straightening, tree limbs are removed from pastures, purchasing more hay, new babies are being born, and it's shearing time! I've compiled quite a series of photos for you to enjoy.. it's a lengthy post - enjoy!
Last Monday was shearing day - and our friend, Marcia arrived with all her gear in tow to do the job. Shearing is one of those days on the farm where everything has to be juggled around. animals are moved from one barn to another,
a portable generator is borrowed from a man down the road (since there is no power is the middle of the pasture by the barn) - neighbors show up to help corral the little ones, and we section off a part of the barn using hog panels. Shetlands get pretty docile when they are confined. Normally they are jumping all over the field, only coming close for treats. Yet when they are closed in the barn, they nuzzle close, hoping for a bit of a chin rub. It's lovely.
For those of you who have animals, you understand, everyone else, maybe not so much (*smile*) It all sounds simple. right? raawwwrriiiiggght. (another big smile) There is always something interesting that happens - a surprise or two, you might say (big grin).
Shearing time requires that everyone involved be cheerful, calm and flexible. Despite all the years we have done this, it is still an exciting event. Will the fleeces be good this year? Will the animals behave? will the weather cooperate until we're done?
The morning of "the big trim" arrived, and rain was threatening. Shearing wet animals is absolutely no fun. wet wool= sticky wool. fast moving shears don't like it very much. There is also the element of danger if you were holding sharp electric cutting tools, that are plugged into a generator... hmm... rain is no fun. So, Klaus hurried out to catch the last few stragglers (there is always one or two who love to run to the other side of the hill when everyone else is patiently waiting.)
Klaus searched around for all the animals - one of the goats was hiding in the trees - he looked a bit closer and saw that she would soon give birth. (soon, as in at any moment) Very gently, he encouraged her into the barn, and settled her with some fresh bedding, hay and water. Here she is looking at me in that smirking way of hers.. almost as if to say Hah!
In the meantime, all the other curious goats managed to run the other direction (away from the shearing spot) So much for the goats. Their turn will come another day! (I sometimes wonder if they plan this kind of thing, to spare their pals the indignity of getting a trim?) It was effective.
Fortunately, the little Shetland Sheep were much more cooperative, and sweetly toddled off into the barn with minimal fuss. (except one.. of course) We managed to encourage the last one into the shed when our neighbors showed up - and the shearing began.
I never cease to be amazed that someone as tiny as Marcia can toss about a big old ram. Klaus brought him out to her, and Marcia quickly plopped the guy onto his behind, and began. The process starts with a bit of a "pedicure" (sheep style) then the shearing really begins. The older sheep are fairly calm about the whole thing, having gone through this for many years, but the new ones can be quite a bit like greased pigs in a mud pile. We all hang on tight to the little ones. This a photo of our docile girl "Joan" - she kept trying to fall alseep during her trim.
- generally it's a different color as well.
A couple of the shetlands were so tiny that Marcia had to kneel down to shear them. Here are a couple of 'first-timers' to the whole process. They sat still for only a moment, then kept trying to jump up and run away. this one is very curious as to what all that buzzing noise is, and why she's getting so chilly suddenly!
When they begin to get a bit nervous,
it's a good thing to have a shearer who stays calm. Marcia is tremendous - and actually will sing to them softly if they get too jittery (tho' she recently told me that she sings as much for herself as for them *smile*)
tiny little animals - under those big old coats, they remind me of teddy bears. Even Emo,
our ram, looks like just a little guy underneath. We put them all back into the small section of the barn
after they have been shorn, so they can greet each other once again. They almost appear to be whispering to each other "don't go out there, Natasha, or you'll be getting a buzz cut too!" Yet, one by one, we bring them out, until everyone is shorn.
When we're finally done with the whole group, we lower the hog panels, and let them run. All ten of them come bursting out, acting as if they have been closed in forever (truth be told, we only had them closed in for about 2 hours)
The final chapter of this day was the birth of the twins. In the farming world, there is little that is more adorable than a new baby goat. The Mama seems pleased with herself, and so are we. There is one boy and one girl. Within a day or two after the first births, the other little mama goat gave birth to one baby.
We've kept them enclosed in a small shelter so they could bond; and today was 'freedom' to the new goats and their Mamas. It's raining heavily, so they have not ventured too far yet. It won't be long until they are prancing up the hill with their cousins.
So there you have it - it's been a busy week. Marcia (our shearer) will return in another two weeks or so, and it will be the goats' turn!
Never a dull moment around here! Happy spring!