Ready, Set, Shear!

On Friday we rolled up our sleeves and got to work on one of my favorite days in annual cycle of yarn farming.

Shearing day!

This year we've divided the work of shearing our flock over three days, last Friday, next Friday and then Saturday April 6 – when our Sheep Shares yarn farm CSA members will join us and pitch in. Working at this pace gives me time to be hands on with both sheep and fleece and makes for a relaxed, more comfortable day for both humans and sheep.

Rams Ready for Shearing Day. FoxfireFiber
We started with a group of ewes, below. Followed by the big wooly rams and wethers, above.

Sheep in crowd pen on shearing day. FoxfireFiber
Sheep surfing. FoxfireFiber
In the process of me leading the rams into the crowd pen where they wait their turn, the boys managed to trap me in the middle of the pen. Literally, I couldn't budge. Since I didn't need shearing, I took the best route – rolling over the backs of the sheep (I certainly wasn't about to go under them). It reminded me of rolling on a plush-pile, wool carpet, well, except for the distinct ram-aroma. Once I launched myself from the pen (with Mike pulling out by the arms), we got down to business.
Ram and Shearer. Chai. Foxfire Fiber
This our shearer Andy. The wooly monster is Chai, our Merino cross Moorit ram who looked more grizzly bear than sheep, before his haircut.
Rams after shearing. Foxfire Fiber
And here are the naked sheep, post haircut. Left to right: Cilantro, Calvin, BoBo and Fennel. We'll keep them in the barn, protected from the wind until their fleece regrows a bit. Hopefully, more spring-like weather is on the way soon.
Flying Fleece. Foxfire Fiber

Fleeces flew from the shearing board to the skirting table.
Irresistible Cormo Wool. Foxfire Fiber
Ivy, a skirter in training, swooned for the intoxicating fragrance of fresh Cormo wool.
Ivy and Kathryn at skirting table. Foxfire Fiber
It was lovely to have my former assistant, Kathryn join us for the day!
Armful o' wool. Foxfire Fiber
We boxed these beauties right up.Two hundren pounds of Cormo fleeces are already en route to the fiber mill, less than twenty-four hours hot off the sheep that grew them. How's that for a fast turn-around?
Naturally, I saved some very special fleeces to enter in upcoming fleece competions: Cilantro (super fine, mottled silver and black); Chai (rich, chocolately Moorit); Latte (delectable au lait Moorit – even finer than Chai); and Issey (crimpy, cloud-like white Cormo cross). We'll see how they measure up to the competition, starting at the Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair in May.
Cormo Wool Close Up. Gorgeous. Foxfire Fiber
An exhausting yet exhilerating day. One group down, two to go.
Shepherd laying down on the job. Foxfire Fiber

Thank you to Friday's shearing team:
Mike (indentured husband, administerer of warm water and fresh hay to the flock after their haircuts)
Andy Rice (my shearer of 16 years)
Fred Davenport (farm assistant, expert sheepo)
Kathryn Swanson (studio assistant, expert in all matters and maker of very cool leather earrings)
Ivy (Kathryn's cousin – who was a fast learner and up for everything!)
Kangaroo Dyer Gail & her husband Bill Callahan
Caleb Kissling (friend and sweeper extrordinaire – says he would pay me to help on shearing day, if I wasn't nice enough to let him work for free)
Also, thanks to Kathryn Swanson for sharing her lovely photos to round out this post.