Friday, May 18, 2012

Through Another's Eyes

We hosted a 2-day wool handling school last weekend - taught by Ron Cole, who consults on wool for the American Sheep Industry Association.  Saturday's activities were classroom-based - Ron taught us about managing our sheep and our facilities for quality wool production.  We learned about new fabrics, about what happens to our wool after it leaves our farms, and about methods for improving the quality of our wool.  On Sunday, we met at Thompson Ranch - our shearing site.  Derrick Adamache, who has sheared our sheep every year, sheared approximately 125 ewes on Sunday (he sheared the rest of the flock on Monday).  We learned how to evaluate fleeces, how to prepare our wool for sale, and how to properly set up a shearing site.

In addition to my regular crew (my friends and fellow sheep producers Roger Ingram and Callie Murphy), the class consisted of 20 students.  Some, like Robin Lynde (of Meridian Jacobs) were already in the sheep and wool business.  Others, like Paul Tu, were beginning to contemplate purchasing sheep.  All of us learned a great deal.

One of the reasons I enjoy offering our farm as a learning opportunity is that it gives me a chance to see our operation through the eyes of other people.  Dona Snow was gracious enough to share some amazing photos.  Seeing our farm through Dona's lens, I realize how fortunate I am to be doing what I do!  I share some of my favorites below - enjoy!

Mo and Taff show their eagerness to work in different ways!

The first group of ewes - waiting for us to get started!

We separate the ewes from their lambs while we're shearing.  This ewe is not happy about our system.

A bumper sticker on Derrick's truck - I couldn't agree more!
Swords into plowshares (or perhaps shearing gear).

We use a "bull pen" shearing set-up.
Ten ewes are put into the shearing pen,
which makes them easier to catch.

The fleeces look so clean and pretty from the inside out!

Ron Cole (in the blue shirt and shorts) teaching the class how to evaluate
and "skirt" a fleece.

Ron Cole spreads a fleece on the skirting table.

Laura Armstrong (on of our farmers' market customers) throws a fleece
onto the skirting table.  Laura is a fiber artist!

Bringing another flock into the holding pen.  Who's the short shepherd?!

Mo at work!

Taff at work!

Sometimes the easiest way to herd a lamb is to catch her and carry her to the flock!

Cooling off.

Our mule ewes.

Locks of wool (and vegetable matter contamination).

I hope to shear as well as Derrick someday!  Derrick is a wonderful teacher who takes time to
instruct even in the midst of a busy day of shearing.

Skirting a fleece on Robin Lynde's outstanding homemade
skirting table.

Portrait of a happy Border Collie!

Throwing a fleece onto the skirting table.  This technique allows the second cuts - short pieces of wool - to fall through the table.  This increases the value of each fleece (because long fibers are easier to process).


Sewing up a "sausage pack" wool sack - each sack weighs nearly 200 lbs.

Big ewe - big fleece!  She's much cooler now!

Black-eyed Sue

Bruce - one of our 11 rams.  Shearers charge double for rams - they are larger, stronger, and more difficult to shear!

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