Sunday, March 08, 2009

Shearing Day

The first time I walked into the fleece barn at the Black Sheep Gathering and stood in a room full of fresh fleeces I felt something come alive within me, an emotion powerful and ancient. This primal recognition lifted me as on a wave, awakening memories that could only be written in my DNA, memories of foggy moors dotted with sheep, guarded by the watchful eye of a border collie. I can smell the heather, feel the moisture bead up on my shetland sweater. My mind wanders to visions of hearth and tea kettle, a bite of scone, or a heavy crust of handmade bread and crumble of sharp cheddar beside a flaggon of brown ale. Even as I write I feel an upswelling of emotion.
Yesterday was shearing day at Three Waters Farm and I had the good fortune to be there. Mary Ann, Stephen and I watched as the shearer prepared his mat and clippers, put on his felt slippers, dipped a bit of Red Man with the reverence of one taking communion. Then he turned and said, "OK ladies, who's first. With gentle confidence and manly strength, he caught and positioned a ewe and deftly buzzed away a year of buttery wool. Mary Ann took each fleece as though she was handed a newborn lamb, inspected, trimmed and rolled the beautiful thing into a ball, then into a bag with the ewe's name. We watched Old Lady, Young Lady, Tawny, and the Inscrutable Romney (that's her in the photo) lose their locks in a sweep of finery. And my heart filled with bittersweet emotion at the joy of our harvest and the sheeps' loss of their
 protective blankets.

I arrived here Wednesday night for our yearly dye blowout. I love it here.Good company, good food. It's never boring. Last year there was the goat that hurt it's leg. We had to hold it to give it injections and it fainted in our arms every time (hey, I can relate). We watched Young Lady getting ready to lamb, but holding off until we finally went to town. I really wanted to see that lamb being born. We watched for three days. Of course, when we finally had to go to town, out popped a little racoon faced black BFL lamb. This year I watched that yearling render his hoggit fleece, soft, black, as we all spoke of chocolate and the caramel foam that graces a cup of well made espresso. 

This year Old Lady had given birth to triplets on the second coldest day of the year and things were nip and tuck. The morning after I arrived found me not in the dye studio, but in the barn, cradling a 5 pound ram lamb in the bib of my overalls. And during one of my short trips to the house, Young Lady managed to give birth to another raccoon faced black lamb. Just like that! I came back to the barn and there was a wet, steaming lamb on the ground. Why? 

Over the last three days Mary Ann has managed to save the lives of all three with bi hourly bottle feedings and plenty of attention to the mother. Even as we sat at the computer, Mary Ann perused the screen with a tiny ewe lamb looking on from the bib of her overalls, a bottle sticking out of her pocket like a misplaced udder waving in the breeze. Yesterday was magically warm, 70 degrees, and finally everyone looks great despite rough beginnings.


jillian said...

What a magical adventure!
How many fleeces are you bringing home???

Lynne said...

At least two, maybe three. Want some? There's BFL!!!

diane_s said...

Thank you for a wonderful post . It was a really good read and it sounds like a great place to be.