Skip to main content

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!


Popular posts from this blog

Trade Offs

As we were building fence for the soon-to-be-lambing ewes this morning, someone drove by and asked my partner Roger how long it took to set up the electro-net fencing we use for the sheep. Roger replied, "It's not too bad," to which the driver said, "Seems like a lot of work." Roger's answer - which both of us use with some frequency, was, "Yeah - but this way we don't have to feed any hay!" The driver, who obviously wasn't a rancher, didn't understand - and I suspect even some of my rancher friends don't understand the trade off we're making. Building electric fence is a lot of work - wouldn't it be easier just to feed hay?

The paddock that Roger and I built this morning encloses about 5.75 acres of high quality forage. Since the ewes are on the verge of lambing, their forage demand is peaking. They're eating nearly twice as much grass now as they need in the late summer - after all, many of them eating for three (and p…

No Easy Answers Part 2

In mid October, some friends who graze their cattle in the mountains of western Lassen County (less than 200 miles from our home), became the first ranchers to have cattle “officially” killed by wolves in California in nearly a century. Wildlife officials confirmed that the Lassen pack killed a 600-pound heifer; four more heifers died (and were partially eaten by wolves), but the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) couldn’t confirm the cause of death. While I learned about the depredations shortly after they happened through the rancher grapevine, news of my friends’ losses weren’t made public until the California Cattlemen’s Association and California Farm Bureau Federation issued a joint press release this week. The October 28 edition of the Sacramento Bee ran the story.
If you’ve read my previous blogs about wolves, you’ll probably know that I’ve frequently been frustrated with the Bee’s coverage. The paper has run guest opinions disguised as news articles, and appar…

Humbled and Excited

More than 20 years ago, I went to work for the California Cattlemen's Association (CCA). After two internships, I'd been hired by my friend and mentor John Braly as the membership director in 1992. By 1996, I'd been promoted to assistant vice president - pretty heady stuff for a young guy who hadn't grown up in the industry. I started looking for new challenges. Dr. Jim Oltjen, who was (and is) the beef extension specialist at UC Davis (my undergraduate alma mater) suggested that I think about going to graduate school to prepare for a career in extension. I considered it, but the timing wasn't right.

Fast forward to 2013 (or so) - I'd been working as a part-time community education specialist in our local University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) office for several years. The farm advisors in the office - Roger Ingram and Cindy Fake - suggested that I consider getting a master's degree and applying for a future farm advisor job. This time the id…