Wool Away!

"Wool Away!" is the command given by the shearer to the "fleece-o" to pick up the freshly shorn fleece after a shorn ewe exits the shearing board. In the lingo of a "down under" shearing shed, the "sheep-o" pulls sheep from the holding pen and walks her onto the shearing board; the shearer shears; the "broomie" sweeps away the fribs, dags and bellywool; and after the sheep is shorn, the fleece-o tosses the fleece pizza-dough style minus the spin – onto the skirting table. The skirters then get to work.

Since we are a small operation, our "sheep-o" often doubles as "broomie"; shearer also serves as fleece-o. So Andy is the one who scoops up the fleece souffle from the board and throws it onto the skirting table.

I had a battalion of skirters Saturday! It was our Sheep Shares Yarn & Fiber CSA members shearing celebration. Sheep Shares members from near and far arrived (some brought family and friends). Skirting wool was a team effort.

Shearer at work. Foxfire Fiber

 We oohed and ahhed and fondled and pat and boxed wool all day. By lunchtime, our fingers glistened with lanolin. When our hands got cold (it was darn brisk in the wind outside the barn) we buried our fingers in the warmth of the wool. The shorn sheep were funneled into a pen in the carriage barn. We kept the south doors wide open to let in the sun's warmth.

Wool fondling. Foxfire Fiber

We took breaks for trail mix, muffins, coffee – and to play with Meg, Andy's energetic border collie pup.

Meg, the Border Collie, fetches. Foxfire Fiber

Meg, border collie, chases sticks. Foxfire Fiber
By mid morning we were giddy with the heady fragrance of sheep and fresh clipped wool.

Cormo wool tulips. Foxfire Fiber
We sheared our granny ewes too. Here's Pansy (below), a thirteen-year old granny, getting a special snack. And a pretty lock of Pansy's wool, above. 

Pansy, Cormo ewe. Foxfire Fiber

While we helped Andy pack up his gear, the flock in the Carriage Barn basked in the afternoon sun.

Shorn Cormo Ewes. Foxfire Fiber

 After the the last fleece was boxed, we trundled up the road for a pancake lunch at Davenports Maple Farm Restaurant. The sap is still running up here on Patten Hill, but this will be the last weekend before the Sugar House restaurant closes for the season.

Sheep Shares gang at Sugar House. Foxfire Fiber

We filled three tables. Pancakes, waffles, eggs, maple syrup and more coffee filled our bellies. Knitting filled our hands. It was a satisfying ending to a morning of hard work. A big thanks to the Davenports for hosting our lunch – and a huge thanks to our Sheep Shares members and their guests for helping Andy, Mike and I finish up the flock.

Boxes of fleeces. Foxfire Fiber

Tomorrow morning I load boxes and boxes of fleece into my truck. As soon as I finish morning chores, I'm headed to FedEx and the fleeces are headed for the fiber mill.

For 2013, it's "wool away."


Note: Wool Away is the title of renowned shearer Godfrey Bowen's book about the art and technique of shearing – hard to come by since it's out of print, but a fascinating read if you can find a copy.