Once sheared however, sheep look spindly and not at all like sheep in a children's picture book -
As you can see, my Polled Dorset ewes were hiding a thick covering of fat under their sheep-fros. A mild winter and a daily handful of barley each has gone straight to their hips. I probably didn't want them to be quite so fat before the ram visits in a few weeks, but too fat now is better than too thin. I have cut out their barley rations though.
Shearing day - my own personal Hell - came a bit late this year due to the rain, but still too soon for my liking. If I kept a smaller, less woolly variety, I wouldn't find shearing such a trauma. I know, I say this every year. The trauma was compounded by a shoulder injury I sustained falling off of Alan the day before we sheared. Blame the rain again for washing out the bridle path. Alan's legs went out from under him sideways and it threw me into the hedge. I rolled under him, but he's so sensible that instead of kicking me in the head while panicking to stand up, he actually waited for me to crawl out from under him before getting on his feet. Alan is my new best friend.
I was too scared to tell Steve my shearer/drill sergeant that I was a bit stiff. These are tough farming men, and professing any weakness is just not done. So I pulled up my big girl shearing trousers, washed down a Vicodin with a cup of cold black coffee, and said nothing. By the time we sheared the seven lambs and three half-breed sheep, my shoulder was burning and there were beads of sweat on my forehead. I suggested lunch to buy some recovery time before we started on the ewes.
Setting up in the paddock to shear the ewes
By now my energy was spent and the Vicodin was wearing off. I sheared the first couple of sheep trembling with muscle fatigue. That fact that Polled Dorset sheep are notorious fidgets and kickers only exacerbated the situation. I focused on my reward: opening a good bottle of red wine when it was all over. Even Steve was beginning to tire, and slipped with the clippers. One sheep got an ear wound so gory that Tarantino could have used it in a film -
As blood is only about the sixth most disgusting substance I come in regular contact with, I was happy to play nurse and clean up the wound while Steve wrestled with more fat, woolly, uncooperative ewes.
We finished twenty sheep by 6pm. Our neighbour the professional shepherd did a flock of 50 Polled Dorsets, alongside his son, and they were finished by 2 o'clock. And his son sheared with a hernia!
I will collect this year's Ram / baby daddy in a fortnight. By the time all the little lambs are born I will have forgotten all about shearing, and be complaining about the sleepless nights on birth watch. I will never give up shearing my own sheep, if only for the perverse pleasure I get from farmers complimenting me on 'having a go at it'. Props from a farmer is praise indeed.
But you don't have to wait until October for pictures of cute baby animals. I've hatched some more chickens, including Buff Orpingtons and Welsummers -
And some French Copper Marans, which will eventually lay deep chocolate-coloured eggs -
The Orpington/Welsummer batch is being mothered by a Buff Orpington hen -
The Copper Marans are being mothered, appropriately enough, by a Chocolate Orpington who we've named Mrs. Cadbury. I don't mind a few more chickens around the place, they don't need shearing.
My shoulder, I'm pleased to tell you, is completely healed. And I enjoyed my job-done-for-another-year glass of wine immensely. Now, to get that vegetable garden under control...