Monday, January 28, 2013

Helping with Sheep Shearing

 In November, Beth, Emily, and Janet were invited to Ewe Bet Ranch to watch lambing.  We spent a couple of hours there, helping with moving six several day old lambs and their mothers to new places, holding the lambs while they got their ear tags, inoculations, and tail bands.  We also got to see one lamb born, the second of twins.  We missed the first birth while we were doing the other tasks.

We asked if we could come back for shearing day.  By now, we have figured out that you don't go there just to watch.  You go to help, learn, and watch.  Friday, January 25, was shearing day.  Beth had to work until 3 p.m., so she couldn't come until about 3:20.  Rowen took the day off so he could help, but at bedtime the night before, we discovered our hot water heater had sprung a leak.  So he spent the day removing the old and getting a new water heater himself...but that's another story!

Emily and Janet went at 9:30 a.m.  We got there about the time the shearer, Jason Foley, showed up.  This is the only picture we have of Jason.  He was moving pretty fast, so we're lucky to have this picture.  He uses his legs to control the sheep, keeping a leg or a head between his legs.  He has hold of an ear in this picture.  As I watched ~70 sheep get sheared in seven hours, I kept thinking of the verse in Isaiah 53:7:  "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth:  he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth."

Truly, the sheep are very noisy, as they wait in the pens outside the barn.  Some of them are feisty, and don't want to be put down (Jason knew how to do it; it was amazing).  But while they are being sheared, they are silent, except for one that made a purring rumbling type noise.  It was so incredible to me to see that silence and have the verse go over and over in my mind.  I know that verse is talking about Jesus, and how He willingly went to the cross, to suffer and die for my sins, and I was so thankful for the object lesson before me that was a blessing to me.
 Jason started with the under side of the sheep and that part and the legs' wool was tossed over to where I was standing.  It is called "tags" and is put in a separate bag.  The scrappy looking pieces in the picture are also "tag" and I would sweep that up to put in the bag.  Each animal had an ear tag with a number.  I wrote the number down, and kept track of which ones got their hooves trimmed, any deworming medicine or other treatment on a notebook. 
 This is the rest of the fleece sheared off one sheep.  These are two homeschool friends who worked with us part of the day, Evan and Brooke.  The big gunny sack is where most of the white fleeces were put.  We filled two of these gunny sacks in seven hours, and many other bags where other colors, black or speckled, were put.  The owners, the Beemers, wanted to keep some wool to card and spin for themselves, rather than sell it all.  They also sheared several of their neighbor's sheep, and those fleeces were kept separate.
 There was a skinny ladder on the framework of this gunny sack, which Emily is standing on.  The fleece had to be lifted up and dropped down into the sack.
 After the fleece was in the sack, someone had to climb down in the sack and stomp it down to make it fit tightly.  This is when Evan was in there.  You can see that there are several feet of fleeces already in there, and yet the opening is above his head!  He did most of the 'way down deep' stomping for the girls.  Before the next fleece was ready to come, he had to climb out.  He and the girls used the framework to get high enough to be able to use their arms on the top to pull their bodies up and out. 
 Emily in the bag.  I think the kids had a good time, but Emily was sure sore the next day!

 After the bag was full enough to be safe for "old" people, I bravely got in the sack.  I was a little concerned if I would be able to get out again, but the Lord helped!  :)  It is kind of freaky to get in and out of, because of the confined space and the way your upper body has to go above the rafters to get in!
 In this picture, you can see the other bags in the background of the specially saved fleeces.  One very amazing thing to me was that so called black sheep, even though they look brown from being bleached by the sun, have very black wool!  I thought it was so much prettier than the white.  I had to be very careful to get all the black wool cleaned off the shearing floor before a white sheep was brought in.  There could be NO black wool get into the big gunny sack, or it would lower the value/price the wool would fetch.
 Here are the three kids taking a photo op break on the corral fence outside the barn.
 This is the first sack full of white wool.
 By the end of the day, there were two bags full.  Beth got to help Emily sew the top of the second bag shut.  She also helped Emily with putting the fleeces in the bag because the other kids had gone home after 2 p.m.
 There were others who helped throughout the day, besides the owners and the homeschoolers.  A group of female vet students from Colorado State University came.  There were six there from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m. and two more came at 3:30 p.m. Mostly, they were learning how to handle the sheep, (to make them lay down), trimming hooves, giving shots or deworming medicines, checking their eyes for anemia, all under the direction and supervision of the Beemers.  Jason told the Beemers that their time with the vet students was likely more valuable than most of the class time they get, which is all theory.
 Pictures of the sheared sheep after the day was done.  I think there were about seventy who were sheared. 
 One of the vet students asked the kids why they were there; how did they know about it?  The reply was, "We are homeschooled.  We like to have interesting experiences as part of our schooling to broaden our lives."  She said, "I was homeschooled one year, and I was bored.  I wish I could have done something like this, or even known about the possibility.  Maybe I would have homeschooled longer."

It was hard work, but it was fun to work together with others.  We feel like we know the Beemers so much better because of working together with them and their sheep.  Before, we just knew them as the people who sell us peaches and apples in the fall.  Now we know them as friends who delight in teaching not only vet students, but also young homeschoolers.


Trusting Mom said...

Well done, Janet! The pictures and article were fascinating!

The Dickinsons said...

It looks like a lot of fun work.
God bless you all,
The Dickinsons