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!
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.
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.