When we moved in to the new place, I think I may have mentioned that we inherited a couple of sheep. One’s very old and docile, the other young and strong. They both had way too much wool on them to go through a hot Aussie Summer.
There are people around who will shear a couple of sheep for you, but mostly they do it for friends. The odds of getting someone to come out this time of year are probably long. Not to mention the cost. Bloody everything has to be budgeted with a fine tooth comb when you’ve just moved.
Actually, I should mention that Australian Power and Gas were notable for their assistance during those scary few weeks. They badgered me for a forwarding address and sent nasty letters threatening me with credit reporting and other stuff while I was homeless. This may be standard operating procedure for corporations in the new global economy, but threatening disability pensioners while they’re squatting and freaking out about housing themselves and two children is pretty bloody low IMHO.
Anyways, back to more fun stuff. After a few days on youtube watching shearing vids, I was trying to build up confidence. Afterall, how hard can it be? In the vids most of the shearers are young, thin and male. It was beginning to put me off until I watched the UK’s top woman shearer in action. She’s pretty much like me, size wise, so all of a sudden I’m brim full of confidence and looking for some shears.
The motorised ones are basically beard trimmers on steroids. The sort of contraption the Terminator might use for a brazillian. They also cost an arm and a leg. But there’s plenty of vids of old fashioned hand shearing on youtube so we had a squizz for hand shears.
Between xmas and new year there weren’t many hardware or farm supplies places open, so I had to go to Stanhope and bought what are probably crotching shears. 😀 The two blokes at the counter were having a bit of a laugh between themselves at this middle aged city woman who thinks she’s going to be able to hand shear two feral sheep. I almost feel like ringing them back and telling them I did it. Just to be a smart ar5e.
It took two goes and quite a bit of help to do both sheep. The older one wasn’t too bad, she came over to eat a piece of bread from my hand and I grabbed her. She was light enough to hold the way the shearers do in the vids. The amount of dirt and stuff in the wool made it a difficult job though. It took ages and was sunset by the time we finished. She got up and walked off into the paddock looking like a little kid who’s been in the bathroom cutting their own hair with the nail scissors.
The following day the temperature was up over 40, so there was no way we could let the other one go without shearing her too. After chasing her around the paddocks for ten or fifteen minutes she finally got too tired and I was able to grab the wool on her back. The fight wasn’t over though. While the first one had been comfortable to lie around or be rolled over so we could shear her, this one was determined to give us trouble. Every time she thought she could get to her feet it was another round. At one stage she did run off. There was no way we’d be able to catch her again easily, so I wasn’t going to let go. With two handfuls of the wool on her backside, she dragged me across the paddock on my knees until my son could stop laughing long enough to grab her. We basically took turns sitting on her head after that.
After much swearing and laughing, she was finally done and about as relieved as we were. There was some dirt in the fleece but what was more of a concern were the number of grass seeds that had worked their way in and were causing sores on her skin. I bet they both feel a boatload more comfortable afterwards. My arm is still recovering from the bruising where I was kicked. I didn’t realise sheep could kick. Never had one on her back before trying to shear belly wool. And the landlord reckons she’d be good for breeding. Fancy putting ideas in my head like that. I’ll keep you updated…
The fleeces are now out on the old foundation where they can keep relatively clean until being sorted and washed for spinning. Yes, there’s a squillion videos showing how to hand spin wool and it’s great fun. I discovered that my beloved old wheel does have a few issues and I dunno how I’ll be to fix them. Sanding the end of the bobbin did help heaps though, as did fixing the bobbin brake for what they call scotch tension. Thank you, youtube, for teaching me so much. 😀
The kids have already put in orders for jumpers, beanies and rugs. With two whole fleeces out there it may well be possible to do all those. Probably a bit more.
Tell you what though, if I get the chance if there’s enough rain in autumn and winter it will definitely be worth sowing some clover. The pasture out there is about as poor as the rest of the gardens and soil around here. Even the well is dry.
For generations we’ve been taking things from the earth. Taking the nutrients out of the soil in our food, taking water, taking ore. And all we put back is rubbish and pollution. Who in their right mind thinks this can continue? I really don’t understand growth, consumerism or this global economic psychosis. It is completely disconnected from the reality of the cycles of ecosystems.
People are horrified by the flooding in Queensland and attention is being given to revising the irrigation allowances. The drought appears to be over. Water allocations and other drains on the river systems might not be cut back now afterall. It looks good on the surface, however, the well here is making a longer term point. Apparently the folks the current landlord bought the property from used the well for 28 years and it never ran dry. It dried up in the past few years but now even after all this rain and the rivers running again, the well is still very, very dry.
Restoring the appearance of river water is one thing but how long will it take to replenish the water table? What will the long term effects of that be? What if we get another drought again before it has had time to be restored? Might be worthwhile to keep on the water saving bandwagon and keep installing those rainwater tanks and greywater systems.
Anyways. There’s time and space enough here to put back in to the earth. Lots of compost and manure and some love. Lots of love.