Ramble On

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Sheep Shearing at Wisteria

The new arrivals were curious about
all the visitors during the shearing.
Part of the experience over at Wisteria Farm and Vineyard is the flock of Romney sheep they keep on the premises. The size of the flock ranges up to a dozen, and with a few new additions this spring, may even be more than that this year.  Along with sheep, and especially this woolly variety, comes sheep shearing, which Wisteria has turned into an annual event that I went out to watch a couple of weekends ago.

A couple of sheep had already been shorn when I arrived, and Sue was working on skirting the fleeces - cleaning away exceptional dirty parts of the wool that would affect processing it.  At this point, the raw wool is full of lanolins, making it feel a little oily to the touch, but also leaving you with soft hands after working with it.  The exterior side of the wool is often bleached by the sun and weather, while the underside will show the true color of  the sheep.

Shearing the sheep - there is a technique
to holding the animals so they don't struggle.

Sue, demonstrating how to skirt the fleece.

The newly shorn sheep.
I suspect it is a little stressful for them, but it is really a good thing in the end.  Moussa sat near the barn so that the sheep could relax near a person they were familiar with while they settled down.  It's not long before they realize they've lost those heavy coats - a year's worth of wool on these animals can weigh up to 10 pounds!  Once they feel a cool breeze or the warm sun, they actually get giddy.

There were nine sheep that needed to be shorn that day, and the work only took about an hour or so.  After skirting, we took the wool into plastic bags for storage, so that Sue could begin the work of cleaning it so it could be further processed.

(In the original post, I had referred to these activities as carding, and I asked Sue if I had got that right.  She told me this phase is actually called skirting - I've corrected the post.  Sue said that carding, which is very similar to combing hair, happens later in the process when the clean fleeces are ready to spin, and the fibers are aligned to make roving or rolags.)

Meanwhile, the sheep all made their way out to the pasture to shake off the stress.  They were pretty animated, and two of them actually decided to take a walk down the road - which I hadn't seen in a while.

These two decided to take a stroll
down the vineyard road.

After the shearing, a couple of friends from the wine club got together for a tasting and a visit out on the terrace.  I tried the new Chardonnay, aged in steel barrels, and thought Mary might like it too - she didn't join me on this particular weekend, so I brought it home.

Later on, Moussa came around and recruited me to help with the errand for hay - but I've already posted on that a few days ago.

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