Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Sheep in Sheep's Clothing

Tonight I was leaving the fair a little after 10 and noticed a sheep was being sheared. Greg had gone to shoot some other things, but I called him on the cell and said, "Hey, there's sheep shearing going on." He trotted right over. Why? Well, because neither of us know anything about sheep or shearing them. So, obviously, we needed to learn.

For the next hour to ninety minutes, we questioned this very nice lady, Carolyn, who was working to get the sheep ready for judging in the morning. Carolyn lives near Newton, so didn't have too far of a drive tonight, but it was after 11:30 when we left and she wasn't done cleaning up yet so I'm sure it was a late night for her.

Technically, the sheep belongs to her son, Aaron, but he's in college so mom is helping out. And it takes awhile to complete this process.

First is the shearing with a clipper that has 20 teeth, so you're less likely to cut the sheep. Professionals use ones that have 9 teeth and are flared, so they are quicker to use.

After shearing they "card" the sheep, which is somewhat like brushing out the hair that's left on it. The sheep really likes this. He was vocalizing his displeasure at the shearing, but when Carolyn and Larry, a neighbor farmer from Oklahoma who was helping out, were carding the sheep he was standing still and enjoying it.

After that, they did what's called "blocking," which meant they were doing a lot of hand trimming with these large scissors. The sheep's left side is where they stand when holding the sheep and the right side is what they consider the "show side" so they are paying very close attention to it.

This is a Dorset sheep, named for the place in England where they come from. This is a common domestic breed. When they are judged, they look for a variety of physical characteristics about the sheep.

And, lets just say that "all" the parts get sheared.

I was commenting that I knew some knitters who would love to have this wool. But, don't despair. I'm told this particular wool wouldn't be of any use because it's too short.

Last, he got his face groomed - sheared, carded and trimmed.

He was then covered, as were many of the other sheep already in the pens. While the irony that jumps to mind is that we're shearing their wool, and then giving them new "clothes," the reality is that it's just to keep them clean for the judging tomorrow. Because before the shearing, the sheep has to be bathed. And just like with a kid, you want it to last a little while.

In many of the livestock barns, people camp out to be with the animals. Some are more elaborate than others.

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