How I Spent My Morning

My neighbor came over this morning to ask for help.   He raises sheep and today was shearing day.   Jay is in 80’s and too old to wrestle 300 pound sheep.  Since the shearer needed an assistant, Jay’s grandson was slated to do the work – but the sheep were too much for him too.  That is where I came in.

20150128_090545The first chore, herding sheep into the shearing pen. was the easy part..   You chase one and the rest follow.  The next chore, wrestling them into position for the shearer, was quite another matter.

I learned a few things about sheep.

  • They have front teeth like lawn mover blades.
  • Their back teeth can grind rocks into sand.

To control one of these ladies, you insert your thumb into the place in their mouth where they don’t have teeth.   You don’t want to get that part wrong.  Once you have them slobbering all over your hand, you bend their head back to convince them to go where you want.

Believe me, it takes a lot of convincing to motivate 300 pounds of mutton.

20150128_093802The shearer’s job is to shear sheep, not to round them up or argue with them. It is the job of his assistant (that was me) to cut them out of the flock and wrestling them into position.

The next task is to get them onto the shearing mat.  Think of it as the reverse of high school wrestling where the object is to get your opponent off the mat.

Once you get them close, you lift their head up, dump them on their butt, grab a front leg and sit them up for the shearer – who is very particular about where you place them.    It is useless to argue with the shearer about where they should be.  He will just wait until you have it right….  which means trying to scoot 300 pounds of Velcro across a barn floor.

It took about an hour and all the energy I had to get the hang of it.  By noon, I completely exhausted myself and didn’t earn a dime  – you know, kinda like blogging.

Author: Almost Iowa

www.almostiowa.com

26 thoughts on “How I Spent My Morning”

  1. And the pay for volunteer farm work is so great, too. Bet you ripped your britches, got sheep pellets in your truck, and right now he’s telling his buddies something dumb you did!

  2. Well, you got a free work-out, right?

    You nailed it with that last line. Mostly. I’ve been fortunate enough to sell some photos discovered through my blog. But for every image I sell, I’m certain many more are “stolen.”

  3. And I bet every muscle in your body is going to remind you of this experience tomorrow morning. Fascinating post, though, as it points out just how dang hard so many of the farming and ranching tasks actually are. There’s a system and an art to just about everything. Do they just lie there placidly while being sheared or squirm to get away?

    1. I was surprised how passive they are for the shearer. He nicked one hard enough for stitches. The ewe hardly flinched as he sewed her up. I’ll bet she will be feeling it tomorrow more than I.

  4. Well that’s made me feel a tad better having popped out for morning coffee only to find the heavens opened and we got pissed right through. No…I’ve had a better morning than you! As ever a fine read by the way.

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