Monday 5 July 2010

Shearing - or not?

Now they say a change is as good as a rest, there could well be some truth in that. A 'phone call was received from a local farmer requesting assistance as his clipping gang were due in a day or two, on telling him I'd give him a day he followed that up by saying "it'll be like a holiday for you"!

Having been clipping myself now for a week or two and finding myself chewing away over the past few days on sheep which weren't really fit for clipping - some were lacking in rise which makes getting the wool off a slow and tedious job - I found myself actually looking forward to a 'holiday'.

Fighting with sheep and wool, sticky wool which was well adhered to the sheep and really didn't wish to be removed just yet, I found my spirits were lifted at the thought of a change of scenery, finding myself on the other side of the clipping boards, wrapping wool and fetching sheep forward. Like they say, a change is as good as a rest.
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It was interesting viewing the procedure from a different angle, having a bit of a crack and time to quickly sneak a few snapshots. I felt quite refreshed watching the lads with sweat dripping off their nose and chin ends, have to say I was quite warm but never needed to reach for the towel. The grunts and groans that came out of them occasionally as a sheeps foot made purchase on the shearers body or an awkward beast caused grief and frustration made me feel even better in myself as I merrily wrapped the fleeces and went about my business.
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My view really was different to what I am accustomed to as I was working at the back of the shearing trailer, with only a sheeps head to view as it waited patiently for it's turn to be cowped (tipped) at the shearers feet to be clipped. This blue faced leicester was a patient soul, there were a couple which managed to jump the shearers door which resulted in me running to the front to help contain the beast before it ran away in a cloud of dust to join all its mates which had already been clipped.
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I was truly seeing the job from a different angle, not often I find myself at eye level with the sheep being clipped, unless of course I've ended up on my backside and sheep and self have an eyeball to eyeball, even then the view is different to the above and a great deal more stressful!
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Kale and Moss found themselves tied up to a tractor, out of harms way but in a position where they could view the proceedings. Glen was infront of the trailer assisting with filling the pen and keeping the sheep running forward for the shearers, a job which Moss found himself doing in the afternoon whilst Glen took a well earned rest.
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This Swaledale tup was almost shorn and soon the wool would be passed through to be dealt with on my side of the trailer.
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Difficult to tell but the wool is off and the tup is about to be released,to run out of the shed and join the other naked souls waiting outside in the sunshine.
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A pile of wool is all that is left to show a sheep was once sitting there being shorn.
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Suddenly I get a face full of wool as the shearer kicks the fleece under the race where the sheep are patiently waiting for their hair cut, as he kicks the fleece under with one foot he has the other foot already on the sliding door of the sheep race preparing to get the next one out and clip it - no time wasted.
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There really is no time wasted, as I'm messing about taking pictures the farmer grabs the fleece and gets it wrapped, there will be another fleece turning up in no time so it's necessary to keep on top of the job. Camera was put away and I concentrated on the job in hand.

It was a grand sociable day, one of the shearers started his career with me many years ago and there was much to catch up on along with some leg pulling and friendly banter. A change was indeed as good as a rest, my 'holiday' was appreciated but it did also make me realise just how much I enjoy clipping and for the time being at least I am mebbes happiest on the other side of the boards, although keeping up with these lads would have been a challenge, I have my own pace!


Kate and The Irishman said...

It would be wonderful to think that this Tarset Wool could be put to good, lucrative use. Have you (all) thought about setting up a cottage industry and collaborating with Ingrid Wagner, the Big Knitter, at Kirkharle? Or what about starting an eco-insulation co-operative with others in the North Tyne?(Listen to this enthusiastic, and probably naive, townie go on! Just seems such a shame that this wonder-full commodity should be worth less that the cost of harvesting it!)

Tarset Shepherd said...

You're right, it would indeed be wonderful, ideas have been bandied around by a local group.Farmers themselves can do without the hassle and always need a middle man to get everything up and running hence the reason they follow the easy option regarding selling their wool.

Much of the wool is only of use for carpeting or insulation, ideas for packaging were brought up but apparently the cost would be horrendous to turn wool into a packaging material. All ideas are always welcome, someone who gets ideas into motion are even more welcome.

Anonymous said...

I have just completed my second visit to Northern Ireland & Donegal. I feel as though I was meant to be here, feeling "at home" and peaceful wandering the back roads. Such a beautiful place and seeing all of the sheep going about their business makes me happy through & through. I found your blog by searching for "sheep on its back" after seeing one while searching for my ancestors' homestead in Fern. My new friend Craig Maxwell explained that it was not a good thing. We waited at the farmer was called to come & right this ewe who had 2 impatient lambs waiting for breakfast. I have read all of your posts and have enjoyed them greatly. I am an artist & have come home inspired by the sheep that I saw. Many sheep-inspired works are already on my table. I collected a little bag of wool from a fencepost, as soon as I learn how to wash & prepare it, I plan to do something special as a reminder of my "home away from home".

munnaza said...

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