Those sheep above are English Leicesters. They may look mellow and laid back (I think it's because of their forelock bearing a striking resemblance to dreadlocks myself), but they are anything but. Any breed of sheep with Leicester in the name is generally big, strong and stroppy, and these are no exception. For some reason they just can't tolerate sitting for shearing, and if you give them anything to strain against they'll spend the whole time making life as difficult as possible. If you don't give them anything to strain against they'll flail instead. This makes everything a lot harder than it needs to be. They have one saving grace and that's that they are usually very easy shearing - the gear goes through their wool like a hot knife through butter. There were 20 of these, and as I did them I realised that there are now no sheep in this flock that I haven't been shearing since birth. The oldest is 8. She sat still. She was the only one.
Part way through there was an interlude with this little chap:
He overwintered at this place with the other rams because his owners only have one paddock and they didn't want out-of-season lambs. All the leicesters look pretty much the same, so he's.. noticeable. He's a Pitt Island Merino derivative (a ways back now, so he's by no means breed standard), and on his off side shoulder he has a perfect heart shaped spot. Thus, he's now called Casanova. He's very interested in Teh Laydeez - in sheep maturity terms, he's now a late teenager. Teh Laydeez, however, are not all that keen on him:
Doesn't he look forlorn, all shut away from his girls?
The next stop was another longstanding client, who has Just Sheep, Dunno What They Are (actually there's one Perendale and 2 Romneys with a couple of crossbred hoggets). At the back we have Gloria, on the right, Trixie, and on the left, Nectarine. That's Nigel's bum you can also see.
You can see that Nectarine (named by a teenage daughter apparently) is not the healthiest sheep in existence by the state of her coat. This is actually looking like the theme for this year - hoggets that have struggled, ewes lighter in condition that usual, everything except the Leicesters really tough shearing. It was also a little sad that Trixie, who is now 12 or 13, has bad arthritis in her shoulders and her teeth are starting to go. It's the last time I'll shear her since she'll be going to the great paddock in the sky before next winter.
There's an interlude here in which I shore 6 of the fattest sheep you've ever seen and the other 9 of the Pitt Island sheep. I didn't photograph them partly because I forgot, and partly because things were getting tougher and tougher as the day went on. You know that saying "Getting the wind up"? For those not familiar, it means "getting nervous". I think it's related to the way windy days make animals edgy. Remember the gale force forecast? This day lived up to it - we were outdoors being blasted by the wind the whole time, which you can't see in the photos. It looks like a lovely day but it was actually quite unpleasant. And the sheep were fidgety and flaily and by the time I got to the last ones I was really tired, struggling to hold my temper with the kicking sheep (who seemed to be mostly kicking me) and so ready for the day to be over.
Here is a photo of two things - first, what happens when you leave your phone in your shearing kit all day and it gets sheep grease on the lens. Second, the size of the yards some people have:
It's really hard to catch sheep in such a large space. Luckily for me, this run comes with a couple of blokes who travel around with me, catching the sheep for me. If it hadn't been for that, I probably wouldn't have made it through the day. Partly I'm berating myself because it was only 46 sheep and I know that real shearers do tallies in the hundreds a day. But then I remember that real shearers are working in a shed, out of the wind, with the sheep prepared and crutched and emptied and in little pens where they are easy to catch, and they don't have to cut their toenails or drench them while they're working, and they don't often get presented with sheep that weigh more than they do.
And the toughness of the wool is just because it's been a bad season and there's nothing I can do about that. Hopefully things will improve as time goes by and the grass comes away. Meanwhile, I spent Saturday evening lying around groaning, and feeling relieved that this group is over for the year. They are lovely people and do their best to make it as easy as possible for me, but unfortunately it was just one of those days that nobody could do anything about. Next weekend I only have about 30 to do, and they should be a tad easier.
The other thing I did was finish these:
I R PLEASED