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Category: sheeps

Sheep Shearing For Muppets

Things I never thought I’d do Number 4,916: learn to shear sheep.

When the TinySheeps came to live with us, we kind of knew they’d need a haircut at some point, but it was an abstract concept. We ignored it for quite a long time because, well, sheep shearing was something that happened to other people, in another world.

Then spring arrived, and we thought about it again, briefly. Watched a couple of YouTube videos. Went back to not thinking about it.

Cue summer, and the local sheep start looking rather less woolly… and we have a fistful of choices.

1. Ask the local farmers if we can bring our TinySheeps over when they have their mass shearing.
2. Find a shearer who does small flocks and pet sheep, and fling them around £50 to do our boys.
3. Buy a pair of shears and have a go ourselves.

One of my Life Values is to try as many new things as possible. Learn as many new skills as possible. And extract maximum satisfaction and value from life by doing real, practical things we can look at afterwards and think, “I did that. I did it with my whole heart and I did my best and it was fun.”

Also we like to amuse ourselves and our loved ones, so we decided to have a go ourselves.

Yesterday, we watched some YouTube videos of farmers and shearers shearing their sheeps and making it look easy.

They lie.

I thought we’d be shearing today – Sunday – so it came as something of a surprise when I went outside yesterday evening to ask Joe if he was ready to go out to our friends’ son’s birthday party in their field, and was confronted with this:

Joe's butt and Bronson's alarmed face

Surprise shearing!

Joe had wandered outside with our new shears, wrestled Bronson into a sitting position, and got clipping. Note Bronson’s alarmed face: they’re only a year old, so this is their first experience of the baa-bers. (Geddit? I’m funny. Shut up.)

Joe managed to shear about half of Bronson’s woolly coat, then Bronson got wriggly. So I took over the shearing while Joe immobilised our little woolly buddy.

Sheep Anatomy

Shearing the back, shoulders, and back of neck is fine. It goes smoothly and is relatively non-scary because there’s plenty of fleece and the skin is taut. It’s easy to bend the sheep in such a way you don’t risk cutting them.

But when you get to their undercarriage, it gets a bit nervy – their soft bellies are vulnerable, and you can’t really see their neck skin very well. Their willies hide in their belly wool and are not necessarily where you’d expect them to be if you’re not familiar with sheep anatomy. And their crotch and leg skin pulls easily and is delicate.

Which means we’ve not given them as close as shave as we could have done, but we didn’t want to risk any cuts or injuries.

It’s funny – when you tip a sheep on its butt, they go strangely docile. You can manoeuvre them around as long as you keep them on their butts and keep their shoulders firmly in place. They don’t like it… but they don’t panic and they don’t get angry. Or that’s what we thought. More on that later.

It took us about 45 minutes and two sessions to shear Bronson (he escaped at one point).

We’re not going to win any prizes for speed or neatness, but for a first attempt, we’re pretty damn chuffed with ourselves.

We’ve given Bronson the bouclé look. He’s smart and fashionable.

And he looks TEENY.

Freshly-sheared sheep

Bronson’s bouclé haircut

Fast-forward to today…

Though he be but tiny, he be fierce

First up this morning was Picard. He’s feisty, is Picard, so we thought we’d tackle him first.

Turns out, not all sheeps go totally docile when you tip them onto their butts. Some of them wriggle and bellow at you.

 

Unhappy TinySheep

This is Picard’s WTF ARE YOU DOING face

Picard still has a dangly bit of wool hanging from his undercarriage, but he, too, is now freshly clipped. He sustained a couple of tiny grazes, which I feel awful about (but he doesn’t seem to care).

He was so mad at us, he wouldn’t even eat his strawberries for about an hour. To put his rage into perspective, Picard’s favourite thing ever is strawberries. He’d eat an entire basket of them all at once if you let him.

But he looks super-smart now.

The Goodest Good Boy

Finally, we sat Kernic on his butt and sheared him, too. Kernic is the cuddliest little sheep you ever did meet: if you sit quietly while they’re all out munching, after a while, you’ll get a warm snuffling in your ear and Kernic will lean on you and ask for a cuddle.

He loves to have his chest rubbed. He gets a little smile on his face, and his back legs get shorter, and he goes all sleepy.

We expected him to be pretty chilled about being sheared, and he was. He didn’t like it, but he was fairly co-operative, which is good because he had by far the most fleece to clip.

Good sheep being sheared

Here’s Kernic being the goodest good boy of all

A total of two hours and five minutes later, we have three TinySheeps in their summer uniforms and all is forgiven.

Don’t they look smart?

Three tiny sheared sheep

Tidy.

Things We Have Learned

  1. The first time you shear a sheep it takes bloody ages.
  2. It’s far more stressful for me than it is for the sheep. I was in a constant state of anxiety about cutting them.
  3. Sheep are the oiliest creatures in the entire multiverse.
  4. Lanolin (the sheep oil) washes off remarkably easily.
  5. Fleeces are sooooooooooo soft, like a cloud.
  6. Picard’s and Kernic’s fleeces were softer than Bronson’s (Ouessant pure-bred vs Bronson’s Jacob X Ouessant).
  7. Sharpen your shears between sheeps.
  8. Sheep can kick really hard and it hurts when they hit your kneecap.
  9. Three tiny sheep fleeces fill two big black bin bags.
  10. That much wool will make a LOT of hats.

Woolly Plans

You may be wondering what we’re planning to do with all that fleece.

Good question!

We shall discover how to prepare it, how to spin it, and then we’re gonna learn how to knit. So if you’re a close friend or family member, expect to get home grown and inexpertly made woolly hats and scarves for Christmas, okay?

Of Wonky Sheep And Patient Husbands

So, we have two little sheeps.

Which came of as much as a surprise to me as to you, I can tell you.

It all started when I visited a friend down in Somerset. Her garden runs down to a field, and when I arrived lambing was happening. We ran into the farmer later, and got chatting, and he said, when we asked how lambing was going, “Great. We’ve hardly lost any this year, and it’s been mostly easy. But I don’t know what I’m going to do with this little chap. Think I’m going to have to knock him on the head.”

At which point, I – in slow-motion reminiscent of an 80’s melodramatic action film – shouted, “NOOOOOOOooooooooooooooo! I’ll have him!”

Meet Eric the Wonky Lamb:

IMG_5813

Joe is a wonderful man and I love him very much :)

In a right hurry, we cleared out the garage (which badly needed doing anyway, so really this was a good thing that caused other good things), and fashioned a stable out of old pallets, an old cupboard door from upstairs, and a lot of straw.

Then Eric needed a friend, so I found Tigger (so named because she is very bouncy). She was an orphan lamb and was bottle-fed from birth, and didn’t really like big flocks, so she was perfect. Meet Tigger:

Look at her tiny face!

Look at her tiny face!

Then the story gets sad. When I took Eric to the vet to get advice about how to straighten up his wonky foot, the vet told me to put him down. Nothing they could do.

Well, no bloody way.

He was having a great time running around with Tigger, and was otherwise perfectly healthy. So I decided he’d stay, and I found him a new home. A farm rescue sanctuary in Warwickshire which has experience with all sheep, wonky and otherwise.

So Tigger needed a friend, and Bronson arrived. He’s a Jacob-Ouessant cross and he’s lovely. Look at him:

Little black lamb

Bronson meets Tigger

I’m writing this in October.

We no longer have Tigger. She got ill, very fast, and died, all within the space of a few hours. Bronson and I were totally broken, and he cried every time I left him alone. So did I.

So we got him two friends: Kernic and Picard, both miniature Ouessant sheep.

Here’s the whole woolly family :)

This is Kernic, Bronson, and Picard posing for the camera

This is Kernic, Bronson, and Picard posing for the camera

Bit crazy for keeping sheeps? Maybe. But I don’t care. We love them. They are hilarious and nibbly and they keep the grass nicely mown.

We miss Tigger every day, too. She was so full of love and bounces.

And Joe has finally accepted that this is a place where animals will gather together 😀

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