Friday, February 24, 2012

Shearing Day

Shearing day has come at last!  We are shearing a month later than usual.  Last year was so full of rain that lambing was filled with illness from all the wet and damp.  So, thinking I was planning ahead and filled with perspicacity, I decided to lamb later in the year.  I was trading less grass for the mommas to eat in May and June for a healthy, easy lambing period.  Well, that shows up how ridiculous it is to try and outthink mother nature.  Here we have had the driest January and February for years, and I could have my whole lamb crop on the ground basking in the seventy degree weather.

It means that the girls are heavy with wool, some of it at least 6 to 8 inches of fleece.  I have worried constantly that the hot weather will cause the Shetlands to begin to shed, the first stages of their natural process which allows their fleece to felt and then fall off.  I moved the rams up this afternoon, and sure enough, Yolo is shedding.  I am hoping some of his very fine wool will be okay.

So for those of you coming, here are the directions.  The shearing will start earlier for the members of the CSA, but we will be welcoming you to the general shearing at 10:30am.  Please bring a potluck dish if you wish to stay for lunch.  Kids are welcome, but no dogs please, or be prepared to leave the dogs in your car.

From the East Bay and San Francisco:

Drive north up the 101 and take the first Petaluma exit, Petaluma Blvd South, and head into town.  When you see the Victorian clock tower in the middle of town, look for Western Ave, at the light.  Turn left on Western (if you come to Washington you have missed it) and turn left.  Follow Western for about two miles, until you see a large green sign with an arrow pointing to the left.  The sign reads Walker Creek Ranch.  That road is Chileno Valley Road.  Turn left and drive 3.6 miles.  Look for the signs to the farm at 2263 Chileno Valley Rd.

Cell phones don't work out here in the country.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

February Already and Almost Shearing Day

Open Shearing Day, Sunday, February 26, 10:30 am

Please mark your calendars for the Windrush Farm Shearing Day. This year it will be February 26, at 10:30 am.  Our CSA members will be coming earlier, but we plan to open the shearing to all comers after 10:30am.  Do come and bring a potluck lunch dish to share.  Last year we had about 15 people who arrived to watch, and to dig into the sorting and skirting of fleeces.  John Sanchez is the shearer, really a member of the family, who is a joy to watch shearing.  He is authoritative with the sheep, catching them calmly and holding them in a way that encourages them to give in to the process.  He shears calmly, making sure not to cut  or injure the sheep in any way.  The heavy lanolin that coats the sheep's wool helps any injury to heal, and we have medication on hand to make sure any nicks heal quickly.

When each sheep is sheared, she gets a wormer injection, her feet trimmed, and all her fleece removed.  The first step is to remove the belly wool, coarser and sure to be filled with seeds and mess.  Then John deftly shears the rest of the wool, turning the sheep to get the coat off in one whole piece.  It is mesmerizing even for me, after all these years.  When John hands over the whole fleece, it is body temperature warm and softly fragrant.  What a gift these animals give us.

Next, the fleece goes onto the skirting table, and eager hands go around the edges of the fleece removing any dung-dirty bits, short wool from the feet, and any bits that seem to mar the fleece.  The fleece is labeled and bagged, and anyone who wants may claim it.  Depending on the fleece, the price ranges from $7 to $9 per pound.  Purchasers may choose all or part of a fleece.  I limit the amount of Shetland wool available to be purchased, but not the Corriedale X.

John keeps shearing to finish the flocks. We will have the Shetland flock sheared first, and then go on to the Corriedale X flock.  I will have to get the boys up, so we have Yolo and the two little boys, and then the Wensleydale X ram.  We will set out a potluck table and plan to eat about 1:00.  John shears through lunch, so we may have to take it in shifts.

We shear rain or shine, as I can keep all the animals dry.  We are shearing later this year, so the fleece is quite long.  Come if you can. It is a memorable experience.