Shearing day is always busy, but this year I had two film crews to deal with as well as sheep, lambs, photographing and cooking a slap up meal for all. We were so lucky with the weather only having a slight mizzle of rain at one point but our (new) year old shed with an even newer floor kept the damp off the sheep.
The film crews were here to film two different aspects of my Zwartbles sheep.
One film crew coming from the USA was documenting the wool from sheep to end product, spun yarn. They were staying with me all week as I was taking them down to Cushendale Woollen Mills to film the Zwartbles wool being cleaned, teased, carded and finally spun to yarn which takes several days.
So the first film crew ‘The Wool Crew’ arrived the night before to get woolly sheep on film preshearing. There was a wonderful evening light so I hope they got some good shots.
The second film crew a mix of Irish and Americans came to film about food. They were touring Ireland to film a very special documentary, ‘Ireland: Food-Island ‘ Produced & Directed by Imen McDonnell
So I had cooked a wonderful Zwartbles lamb stew, garden salad and dessert was home made raw sheep milk ice cream with vanilla and rhubarb.
Shearing day starts with the ‘Woolly Film Crew’ having raw sheep milk on their breakfast cereal.
The day started like any other day with the usual rounds of feeding and head counts. Then bringing in the sheep and dividing lambs off the ewes. This takes some work as they don’t want to be separated but it makes life much easier for everyone. Once the lambs are finally stabled away, the ewes are herded into a pen at the back of the shearing trailer where each must wait its turn to go up the shoot.
Next the Shearer Andrew Forristil preps his shearing space. Putting a board down on the ground on which to keep the fleece as clean as possible as it is shorn. Oiling and making sure the shears are ready for work. Getting into his shearing chaps and putting on his shearing slippers.
When shearing a sheep there is a system; one shears up one side then down the other. All the while the sheep is moved, rolled, held, & if done correctly relaxes into the system as its fleeces comes off in one big piece. I will be posting a separate photographic blog on shearing a sheep and rolling a fleece.
When a shorn sheep is released right after shearing she staggers about like a drunk for a few moments getting used to the sudden loss of weight. The fleece can weigh as much as 11 pounds or more.
As we neared the end of shearing the ewes where calling for their lambs. When we released them they came trotting out into the field passing their shorn selves, with no interest.
The lambs had been having a nice quite time in the stables so it was time for the lamb ewe reunion, which is very noisy confusing affair as the lambs don’t recognize their Mothers who have had a drastic make over.
The lambs charged out of the stables towards the gate on the other side of which the ewes were waiting.
I open a small side gate so they can filter through slowly mixing and finding each other
I herd the flock out into the field so they have the space to mix and mingle, lambs screaming for their Mothers who are standing right in front of them and ewes trying to reassure them saying yes this is really me.
Having left the bags of wool in the field some funny moments were had, as the lambs could smell their Mothers fleeces through the sacking.
Finally everyone has met up and calm is back so off up the orchard lane the flock go Sweety Pie the last to leave making sure I close the gate.
So now its time to load up the wool to bring to Cushendale Woollen Mills the next day and clear up the shearing shed.
All that is left is the white wool which is my discard unlike the vast majority of shepherds whose discard is normally the black fleeces. I like to do things the hard way I guess.
Once the shearing is over we settle down in the garden for a lunch of lamb stew, baked potatoes, salad, sheep cheeses and sheep milk ice cream for dessert. Then the second film crew ‘Food Island Film Crew’ came; we ate filmed and chatted even more. The food all sheep related went down very well and the sheep milk ice cream was a huge success.
As all the sheep were now in the orchard we went up to film them up there with the ‘Food Island Film Crew’. The sheep were very polite and met us at the gate.
Imen’s Son ‘The Little Farmer’ became instant friends with Little Wren.
Little Wren wants to know how everything works so she is politely shown by Imen.
Once Little Wren figures out the place to be is in front of the camera that is the only place she wants to be.
Mike tries to film sheep looking picturest under the flowering apple trees, but Little Wren is persistent in trying to hog the camera
Even her Mother calls to her asking her to come away from all those humans
When it is time to go the Ewes all come to the gate to say their good byes and to have one last picture taken.