Shearing Season

This weekend on the farm is when the sheep undergo a dramatic visual change.  You see this weekend the sheep will be sheared.  Shearing is the removal of one year’s growth of wool.

Shearing does many things, first it removes one year of wool growth, the removal of the wool makes life more pleasant for the sheep going into summer.  Secondly, and in many ways more importantly we are able to determine our shepherding ability this past winter.  The wool hides many faults, that can’t be detected by the eyes.  It is hard to determine the ewes (momma sheep) body condition with all her wool on.  You must put your hands on the sheep at this time to truly know her body condition.

With the removal of the wool, the sheep look silly and naked.  But like us the wool (we have hair) grows back slowly.  And there are many great products that our wool can be turned into, such as socks, scarves, blankets and far more.  AndHogIslandwool is EXTREMELY rare.  There are less than 300HogIslandsheep in the world.

This year the shearing takes place on the farm on Saturday 14 April, at 9 a.m.  You see when it comes to sheep, the shearer comes to the farm, and these sheep don’t go to the shearer.  This year’s shearer comes to us from Virginia Tech, where Joe is a doctoral candidate working with sheep.  Joe brings an absolute wealth of sheep knowledge with him to the farm, and it is always a blessing to get someone else’s opinion.

Joe is not the first doctoral candidate to shear our sheep, we have had one other, also from Virginia Tech, and Scott has his PhD now and is a Professor atWest VirginiaUniversity.  I will never forget how Ginny and I met Scott.  You will remember part of the story even though you have never heard it before.

The last time April 14th was on a Saturday, Ginny and I were attending a shearing school on the campus of Virginia Tech at theCopenhaverCenter.  It was a great school, but the thing I remember most is what Dr. Scott Griener said, “After taking the school, you might decide to keep paying the shearer.”  Scott and Joe were both instructors at the shearing school, Scott was working on his doctorate, and Joe was working on his Masters.

Ginny and I got to know both of these gentlemen and have benefitted greatly from their knowledge.  These guys ask challenging questions and keep us on our toes.  We look forward to shearing because of young people like Scott and Joe.

So back to the April 14th and 15th and why we remember the dates so well.  Ginny’s birthday is and has always been April 16th.  Big deal you say, I have a birthday also.  Well the last time that April 16th was on a Monday, there was a National story about Virginia Tech, and the shooting spree that took place on campus.  Ironic as it is that this is how we will always think about this three day stretch.  And that it is also about that time of year for shearing to take place.

The farm is the place to be this weekend if you would like to see shearing, if you can’t make it Saturday, you will have wait until next year.  Secondly, Ginny could use the help skirting the fleeces.  Remember, I will be at the farmer’s market until 1 p.m. and our daughter Catherine will be manning the store.  Be gentle on her, she doesn’t know everyone like we do.

So please come out, ask your questions and leave with your knowledge buckets filled.  And I’m sure that everyone can walk away with a prize.