The hottest day of the year has come very early! There's a saying in the Pacific Northwest that summer starts on July 5th. Typically in the month of June the temperature may creep towards 90 F once in a while, but it rains every few days and the evenings are still cold. So we don't worry about shearing the sheep until late June.
It's June 4th and the temperature is going to hit 98 F today and 96 F tomorrow. We will crush the all time highs for these two days. This is following the hottest May on record. The poor sheep are not taking it well. And that is how we ended up shearing sheep in the hottest day of the year.
A number of years ago we bought an electric sheep trimmer. The noise scared the crap (litterally) out of the ewes. Within three minutes of trying it on Lilly, it broke. So we do it by hand. It is grueling. Hours of cutting wool on sheep who are pissed about being chained to a fence and having us pull and prod. They often do piss on us to show their dismay.
We start with the most difficult. Pixie has the worst wool. It mats and leaves little space to cut between the mat and the skin without nicking her. But this year wasn't nearly as bad. Next comes Lilly. Lilly is the most fidgeting animal I've met. She fights and fights, kicks, head buts. By the time we finished Lilly at 10am it was already in the mid 80's and I was sweating like crazy. Jeremy went up to the house and made a picture of Gatoraide for us to share. I tried to straighten out my back from a couple hours bent over.
Then came Sue-Sue. I love Sue-Sue! She's funny. While we were shearing all the others, she was sniffing my butt and nibbling my shoulders. She loves cheek scratches. Sue-Sue is also the tallest. Which means less bending over. My back got a little break.
Baby was second to last. I thought she would be easy considering that she is the smallest. But even trying to catch her was hard. At one point she was jigging and jagging and spooking the rest of the sheep. Pixie freaked and bolted, jumping between Jeremy and I and kicking her hind legs. She hit Jeremy in the chest and me in the arms. It will be a nice bruise later. Finally Jeremy grabbed Baby and we got her ready to go.
Baby held still. But her wool was a sold mat. Like one of the brown Welcome mats for the front stoop but with little strands attaching it to her body. We could cut about a quarter inch at a time. Shearing a sheep a quarter inch at a time take a long, long time. It was a couple of hours. And she got nicked a couple of times. Not bad, but a little bleeding. I was dripping sweat off my nose and chin and was actually a little out of breath at the end.
Then Notag. Notag is the best sheep, next to Junior, of all time. She just hangs out. The halter and chain weren't completely necessary, but helpful to keep her in one place. It went very fast. Thankfully! My hands were loosing strength and starting to swell.
Now I'm in the living room, with a fan blowing on me. Showered (cold) to remove all the wool and dirt and pee. I took two ibuprofen, but it's not helping much. I'll two more soon. Typing is hard, like typing with ski gloves on. At least they are not over heating (it's now 95 F). We do a pretty terrible job. It looks like prison cuts. A true montly crew. All uneven, tuffs everywhere.
Here is a before and after of Lilly. You can see all the wool around my feet after the shearing.