The First Warm Day in May
The sun is shining, which means it's warming up inland, which means 40 mph. 50 degree winds for us here. We scurry outside first thing in the morning before the wind comes up and do our nonwindy chores, then scurry back inside to don coats about 10 a.m. to do our windy chores. Yes, there are windy chores. Yesterday Cindy and I went up and spent a blissed out morning in a shearing barn on a large ranch, highgrading fleeces. We of course helped with the shearing, and probably somewhat hindered progress too, but there were only two shearers, so we were able to easily keep up and grade wool at the same time. I personally can keep up with three shearers all by myself, but I can't grade the wool at the same time, and since I'm getting on in years (or wisdom), I know I can only do it for a couple of hours, not all day as I used to. Cindy and I kept track of how many fleeces we deemed worthy, against how many sheep were shorn in the 3 hours we were there. We accepted 16% of the sheared wool, most of it had very bad breaks midway down the wool. This wool is special, the flock is a hobby flock of Horned Dorset, which is an endangered farm species now. The shearers don't appreciate the horns, which even the ewes have, and the 14 month old lambs that were being sheared had 6 to 8 inch horns already. It did make me grateful that my little Shetlands have polled (hornless) ewes. The Horned Dorset rams are magnificent. And I told you all that so I could describe a "windy chore". Each of those fleeces was damp from sweat off the body of the stressed sheep, and due to the skill (or lack thereof) of the shearers, and the fact that these were unshorn lambs, which have a tendency to kick and squirm more than adult sheep, the fleeces are full of second cuts, where the shearer got too far away from the body of the sheep while shearing, and had to make a 2nd pass to clean up the sheep, causing a layer of very short fiber to adhere to the longer fibers. Here's where the wind comes in! We carefully pull out and shake each fleece, this removes a little of the dirt, any bits of straw from the shearing room floor, and about 99% of the second cuts. Then we rebag the wool with the bags open to the sun and wind, to dispel the excess moisture before packing them away in our storage bag for later. These were all white fleeces, so right now in my barnyard it looks a lot like it just snowed. The second cuts are gratefully used by local birds for nesting material, so they gradually disappear.
We lost a hen to a fox three days ago. My dog has been on high alert ever since. He had a somewhat friendly relationship with the foxes until this incident, we are now at war. Once a fox has taken a chicken, he'll be back until there are no chickens left, so we're being very careful to shut them up at dusk, and to allow the dog to roam with them in the afternoons as they do their free range bug and grass foraging.
We also just had our water system renovated, so I'm ready for the vast influx of wool that's already started to happen as my friendly local shearer, Wendy, brings us the best of the best from 4 counties worth of flocks. Cindy and I just sit back like trapdoor spiders and wait for the wool... except of course when we're participating in the shearings!
My 3 bummer lambs are thriving, we lost one 2 weeks ago, but the other 3 are doing well. The 2 larger ones are rowdy as all get out, the little one is still having to be coaxed to eat a bottle, but will sigh and condescend to be force fed after the game of chasing him into the dog carrier where he feels safe. He comes running up, baah'ing like the other 2, but then has to play his game.
May your May be all it may be!