My clients vary from people who've been raising sheep for years, take them to shows and have stud farms, through to folks who are having their first go at sheep and don't really even have a yard to put them in - so when I go to a new place I'm never sure what I'm going to find.
Luckily, this lady has had sheep for a while and had a yard and sheep that were in reasonably good nick. She started with 40 and has gradually reduced numbers to 14 - unfortunately not paying any attention to gender splitting. So I shore 4 ewes, one lamb, two rams, two cryptorchids and 5 wethers. In sheep, the males grow considerably larger than the females and they will chase the smaller ewes away from the choicest pasture. Consequently the ewe that has been rearing a lamb has been struggling to get good food* and was really thin. We separated the girls/lamb from the boys, gave them a drench and put them in a paddock by themselves where they should be able to pick the best grass and improve condition.
* The reduction in sheep numbers means the pasture has got long and rank which is not ideal for sheep, and the kind of short, sweet grass a lactating ewe needs is scarce, creating competition for it.
Then it rained, but only a little bit and only for about 10 minutes.
The next client has Arapawas which are my favourite to shear because they're small and have virtually no wool on their heads and legs, and are usually in good condition. They're a bit wild, and he has one large old wether that decided to get up just as I was shearing the last bit - he's big enough so both feet came off the ground and I ended up riding him backwards around the pen for a while till we were able to restrain him again. *cough* So professional...
Arapawa Norm gave me half a fleece because I want to do that thing where I shore the sheep, spun the wool and made myself a thing (possibly woolly socks), just so I can say I did. And Arapawa wool is lovely and soft and comes in some very pretty colours. The fleece I picked is a medium grey/silver, fading to a caramel fawn at the tips. I suspect it'll come out looking like nondescript beige when spun but it should have some interesting high/lowlights.
So, 24 sheep down and off home to bake a batch of oat biscuits (OMG BAKING), then go watch the fireworks from a beanbag in alphamatrix's lounge. Because she moved in on Saturday! *squee* Dear Wellington burners, please all buy apartments in my building so we can own the bodycorp and have street parties. Thx!
Next morning it was off to finish the Horokiwi sheep. Shearing Horokiwi is always fun because I travel from place to place and along with me travel three very entertaining gentlemen named Steve, Keith and Greg. I'm not sure if they do it on purpose but they banter constantly and keep me laughing the whole time, which makes the job go much faster. The other thing they do is dress up in overalls (green for Long Service apparently) and catch the sheep for me - so it's like having my own squad of uniformed minions bringing me sheep. Greg says he thinks shearers are for shearing, and they shouldn't have to be chasing sheep around the paddock as well. I appreciate this sentiment!
So after shearing English Leicesters, Perendales, Pitt Island Merinos, Romneys, Nondescript Black Sheep, Nigel The Elderly, and the extremely-wrinkly-for-no-reason romneys that Steve has dubbed The Corrugated Sheep, we had been rained on and thrown around and it was lunch time and there were 9 sheep to go. It had actually rained a fair bit - enough so the footing was getting a bit treacherous and the sheep were a tad damp - but we went up to the last place anyway. I figured I could introduce myself and organise to do theirs some time during the week after work. BUT! They had a shed, and thus dry footing - and it was sunny and windy and warm again so the sheep were dry enough to do.
The catch was, their pen was 50m or so from the shed. This is where Steve, Keith and Greg came into their own. Taking turns in pairs with the owners, they caught each sheep and manhandled it the 50m to the shed where I was set up, and handed it to me. That is totally service and I'm thoroughly appreciative because while I find shearing relatively easy, catching and manhandling sheep that are bigger than me really takes it out of me. Doing it this way not only helped me stay fresh, it sped up the whole process and I was done shearing by 1:30pm. Then there were cups of tea! ;-)
58 sheep and much laughter later, I'm caught up. Yay! I have to go back to Horokiwi this weekend for another, separate group of sheep, but from here on there's no queue - and when I've done the Horokiwi sheep I always feel like I'm winning.
Body inventory of What Hurts Today: surprisingly little. My right forearm from twisting and manoeuvring the handpiece (which weighs about 1.5 kilos). The fingers on my left hand from 'walking the skin' constantly, and knuckles on same from 'punching' flanks to straighten legs. My neck from the funny angle I have to hold my head on. A few bruises and slight aches in triceps, rear deltoids and between the shoulder blades, and my feet hurt. But that's it. Going to the gym and specifically training for sheep-related movement has paid off. I also felt stronger and fresher for longer, and didn't get tired and grumpy at the end.
(some of this may be related to eating my greens as well eh?)
And then I got home and made a batch of chocolate chip biscuits because that's what all shearers do when they get home from shearing. While doing this I changed my hair. It's now a dark auburn colour with pink streaks in a couple of places. I will take photos but the Sunday evening of a weekend spent shearing sheep is not when you'll catch me looking my best so there are none yet. A lady has her limits!
Also, I didn't get an interview for the job. They said my CV was very impressive and I have similar skills to those who will be interviewed, but that the others had experience in public health policy and legislative change. Ah well. I wrote thanking them for the feedback and asking that they keep my CV on file.
I guess your normal programming will resume now - with seminormal hair! (i like it)