Going for the long-tail search terms with that title. Oh, yeah. The far distant tail of the long tail.
To aim for a shorter tale, I got to shear a sheep last weekend through the UMaine Extension School. They partnered with Wolfe’s Neck Farm to provide a pretty stellar (if entirely too cold), hands-on learning experience. Also, networking for farmers, FTW. Very impressed with the amount of materials they provided for the minimal course fee–on top of getting to handle sheep and being fed lots of chili, they sent us home with a manual that basically tells you everything you ever wanted to know not just about shearing sheep, but about housing, feeding, judging, and generally caring for them.
A friend who has taken some of the extension courses in the past said that extension education seems like basically a group of experienced people who really want more people to be doing the thing they’re teaching, so they bend over backwards to make it possible. That describes my experience.
Much laughter has been had at my expense by those who have known me since I was a squeamish girly-girl, but I also happen to be pretty good with animals and if my first sheep was any indication, it’s a skill I could master without overly much ado (practice, yes: ado, no). The New Zealand method requires some stamina and flexibility, but much to my surprise, I am stronger and more flexible than I sometimes realize.
Bonus? I picked up a massive, lovely Romney fleece for dirt cheap. Most of the sheep (being bred for meat, not wool, since no one lets a bunch of n00b shearers loose on a flock of fiber animals) had poor quality fleeces, but the farm’s ram was a (filthy) beauty whose fleece was destined for the wool pool. The farm let me have the fleece in exchange for a donation that was more than they would have gotten from the wool pool and much less than than I could have gotten it for at a fleece show. Everyone wins.
Granted, it’s going to be a beast to skirt and wash, but I’m pretty confident it will be worth the effort. Sweaters for everyone this Christmas! Or, you know…one a year for the next five Christmases. We’ll see. 🙂