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New-age life coach presents - the Science of Sheep! - Tactical Ninja

Nov. 19th, 2010

09:22 am - New-age life coach presents - the Science of Sheep!

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Last time I posted about shearing, people told me they wished I would post photos.

It just so happens that last night I did some shearing (cos it rained on the weekend and I wanted to catch up because I will have them all done by Christmas damnit!), twelve ewes and lambs of the same variety (moorits) as the ones I posted about last time.


Meet Womble. Womble is the clan matriarch and the only sheep I've ever seen that has a varicose milk vein*. Anyway, all of these sheep are show sheep and thus they have to be shorn between certain dates so that when they go to shows they all have the same wool cover and can be judged evenly. These ones will be shown in January/February.



It gets a bit complicated because the sheeps' owner keeps the fleeces from particular sheep for spinning and her instructions are 'no second cuts**, just leave them on the sheep'. I find this really hard to do because I like to leave the sheep looking nice, but she's the boss. Added to this complication is the fact that most of the moorits around these parts are some form of merino derivative***, probably because merino wool is finer than the standard breeds used in the North Island, and makes for softer clothes when handspun.

The problem with this though, is that merinos are hell wrinkly:




I could go into a sheep-geek rant here about the various breeds and what's been done to them in the name of commercialism, but that would make for a long post that might only interest one or two people. Anyway, merinos are wrinkly and have very soft skin, and this trait seems genetically quite strong because lots of the local moorits are also wrinkly with soft skin despite the merino influence being a few generations ago.

So here I am, trying to shear these wrinkly things without cutting them. This generally means lots of second cuts, but in this case I have to leave them on the sheep and not go back to tidy up after.

All this, by the way, is preamble to this 'after' shot:



As you can see on the sheep on the left, there's quite a lot of wool still on around her throat. This is where those merino wrinkles mostly come out on moorits in the form of a dewlap - and there's nothing quite like taking a giant slice out of that to make lifestylers gasp in horror - so I tend to go carefully and leave wool behind. The other place is when you're shearing along their sides, the weight of the fleece pulls the soft skin out from their body and again it's easy to take 'shoelaces' off, so I tilt the comb to avoid that and this leaves wool on. The sheep in the middle has the telltale 'railway tracks' that get left behind when you do this.

But if you look past the 'not my best work' shearing job, you can see these are quality sheep. The one on the left won Best Black/Coloured Ewe at Carterton show (in the wool), and by the time they're shown again their wool will have grown in about an inch and the railway tracks will be gone.

Sadly, the farmer let the lambs out before I grabbed my camera. The little guys are darker in colour (they fade as they age) and when freshly shorn they look like they've been dipped in chocolate.

So there you have, pics of sheep for those who asked, complete with more commentary than you could ever want.

la la la...

* The milk vein is probably actually an artery, and it runs roughly down the centre of the belly to supply blood to the udder. On most sheep it's only noticeable when they are lactating fully - when the lambs are 3-8 weeks old - but Womble's one is about 3/4 inch in diameter and all squiggly and prominent.

** Second cuts are when the comb doesn't quite contact the skin and a stripe of short wool is left. Usually you go back and cut it off to make a tidy job, but those short bits getting in the main fleece are hard to remove and lead to lumpy wool when you spin.

*** Moorit is a colour, not a breed.


This week's study has been about Maori mythology and how it feeds into the oral tradition. Next up - how this relates to the protocols and customs around powhiri. I'm finding some of it a little confronting because some of the values are quite alien to me, and in some cases in direct opposition to what I believe is 'right'. But I'm here to learn and so I'll keep reading and absorbing and even if I don't necessarily hold a particular value personally, this does not preclude me from understanding and acknowledging its significance within Maori, and thus New Zealand, culture.

Nyah.

Fidels + housewarming = yay Friday! And the weather forecast says rain this weekend so I'll probably be shearing after work one or two days next week. Ah well.

Comments:

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From:ophe1ia_in_red
Date:November 18th, 2010 09:05 pm (UTC)
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Fascinating! Thank you very much for posting this.
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From:tatjna
Date:November 18th, 2010 09:08 pm (UTC)
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You're welcome. I like blurbling about sheep, I just didn't realise anyone else would be interested!
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From:tatjna
Date:November 18th, 2010 10:28 pm (UTC)
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Sheep seem to come with a lot of jargon. Hence the multitude of asterisks.
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From:rivet
Date:November 18th, 2010 09:25 pm (UTC)
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I'm indifferent to the metal, but interested in the different styles of comb :)
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From:tatjna
Date:November 18th, 2010 09:33 pm (UTC)
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I can probably do that as well with a bit of research.

Particularly interesting (to me) is the methods used to pull combs and how that impacts their shape, cutting edge and efficiency.

But yeah, next week.
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From:tatjna
Date:November 18th, 2010 09:26 pm (UTC)
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Coming right up!

I'm not kidding, I can do that.

Also, I can haz feedback on Important Job Thing Nao?
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From:tatjna
Date:November 18th, 2010 09:36 pm (UTC)
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Same reason I'm hoping it'll rain this weekend even though it's in my best interests to shear as many sheep as possible, as fast as possible.

Cos you're not immune to your own humanity.

m'ler
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From:tatjna
Date:November 18th, 2010 10:07 pm (UTC)
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Um, just pointing out that the 'it' you're talking about is something that's relevant and important to me.

AND I NEVER GO AWAY
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:November 19th, 2010 04:22 am (UTC)
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Oi! I'm quite fond of her pre-woodchipper corporeal form...
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:November 19th, 2010 04:19 am (UTC)
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metal \m/
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From:rivet
Date:November 18th, 2010 09:24 pm (UTC)
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Thank you! I like hearing about the things other people are passionate about.
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From:weeweekittie
Date:November 18th, 2010 10:51 pm (UTC)
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"I could go into a sheep-geek rant here about the various breeds and what's been done to them in the name of commercialism, but that would make for a long post that might only interest one or two people."
Am I one of those people? If not, I'll be number 3!
This whole entry is so neat, I love every bit of it.
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From:tatjna
Date:November 18th, 2010 11:02 pm (UTC)
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Aww, thanks! ;-)

There will probably be a lot more sheep ranting over the next few weeks. This weekend (if it doesn't rain) will probably produce photos of The Fattest Sheep On The Planet.

(he weighs more than me and has two bums)
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From:clashfan
Date:November 19th, 2010 02:14 am (UTC)
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Thanks! I like reading about this. I was raised in the city and know next to nothing about livestock of any kind.
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:November 19th, 2010 04:23 am (UTC)
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Hey, does that mean you can put "shearing prize winning sheep" on your CV?
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From:tatjna
Date:November 19th, 2010 09:33 am (UTC)
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I totally should. With photos, at the top!
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From:heartofawarrior
Date:November 19th, 2010 05:53 am (UTC)
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Nifty! I like hearing about what interests other people - it means I get to learn new things that I might not otherwise find out :-)

And, Womble is an awesome name. Just sayin' :-D
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From:ferlengheti
Date:November 19th, 2010 08:38 am (UTC)
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this made me enormously happy. not only are you super-knowledgeable, but you have a way of making that knowledge accessible to people like me. =)

my interest is in the sheepies' personalities. do you notice a difference between breeds? is there a breed thats more personable, or one that seems smarter? is there a breed you dread dealing with because theyre irascible lil fuckers? how do they change in character when they grow up? everyone seems to think lambies are adorable and sweet and lovely, but grown sheep are dumb. i think grown sheep are smart as fuck, but that may be based on my adoration of the tv sheepdog trials when i was a kidlet.

i also adore you, fwiw. xx
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From:tatjna
Date:November 19th, 2010 09:35 am (UTC)
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This sounds like a topic for a separate post - sheep do indeed have personalities and the differences between breeds are quite interesting.

This weekend if it doesn't rain I'll be running the gamut from bog standard commercial romneys through to arapawas and weird mongrel spotty ones, so there'll be lots to say!

Also, I keep forgetting your skull but it's still here and doing fine. ;-)
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From:ferlengheti
Date:November 19th, 2010 09:53 am (UTC)
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YAY sheepie personality exposition! MWAH!

also, YAY SKULLIE!!! so excited... i cant decide what to do with it yet! so many ideas...
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