Getting Fleeced

This weekend, I think I’ve earned another country living badge (if only such things existed) – I have witnessed my first shearing, and even managed to not make TOO much of a nuisance of myself lending a hand to bag up the fleeces.

I’ve been pestering our farmer for a while about getting my hands on some Herdwick fleeces, I have a plan for them (hopefully it’s not just going to be a rather elaborate new collection for the sheds); the fleeces are actually ridiculously cheap and so it wasn’t too hard to convince him to part with some – and then somehow instead of financial recompense, I agreed to provide labour in return for fleeces.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous about it all, not about the sheep thing, more about being shouted at by a farmer as I messed up all the fleeces, but actually it was all pretty calm.  The fleeces were remarkably easy to roll up – as long as you don’t mind getting covered in lanolin and sheep’s wool (ridiculously itchy when it works its way through your clothes, into your bra), handling a fair bit of sheep poo and ending the day smelling like a sheep (though I did notice the other lady, who was wrapping and part of the shearing team wasn’t anywhere near as filthy as me).

Fleece 04

I was told that years ago, when the wool was worth more, buyers were more fussy about how the wool was rolled, and given a quick example of how it was rolled and folded in on itself, but fortunately now it’s worth very little, the fussy levels have also dropped – which is good as I couldn’t figure the rolling and tucking in thing.

Fleece 02

The farmer got shearers in (because “It’s bloody hardwork”), and it was amazing how quickly they managed to do each sheep; I think, all in all, it took a couple of hours, and about 300 sheep were running around fleeceless by the end of the afternoon.  The sheep were all fairly serene as well, there was the occasional one that’d have a bit of a kick about and you had to dodge its legs whilst wrapping the fleeces, but in the main they seemed to sit back, think of England and just get it over and done with.  To be fair, given how hot some of the fleeces were, as I was folding them, I’m not surprised many just sat and took it, as they must have been roasting (pun vaguely intended) in their fleeces over the last few weeks.  Seeing as I’ve mentioned roasting, as a carnivore, whose favourite meat is lamb, I find it strange how much sheep really do smell like lamb, and goats like goats’ cheese.  Maybe I’m just food obsessed.  Although I’ve not noticed beefy cows, yet.

I did also get to have a go at moving the sheep into the pen ready for shearing, this wasn’t quite as straightforward, as they had a pesky habit of running the other way, and when I did make a grab for one, I’d somehow forgotten how easily their wool pulls apart (despite having spent hours handling it by this time) and so I was left with a fist of wool and a Herdwick on the run.

By the end of the afternoon I was gleefully offering my services at the next shearing, and found that I’d actually enjoyed it far more than I’d thought I would, and didn’t make too much of a hash of it.  I’m now also the proud owner of a bag (or sheet, as I’m assured they are called) of Herdwick fleeces…maybe I should start off making some of those country living badges.

Fleece 03

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