Sugar Getting Shorn

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.

Filming Fully Fleeced Zwartbles Evening Before Shearing

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.

Young No Matter the Species, Want To Be in Front of Camera


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.

A Hogget Gets Her Close Up


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 @ModernFarmette 

The Girls & Lambs Ready for Their Close Up

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.

Sunset Night Before Shearing

Shearing day starts with the ‘Woolly Film Crew’ having raw sheep milk on their breakfast cereal.

Sheep Milk for Breakfast


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.

Part of Flock in Shearing Pen

Loaded & Waiting

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.

Final Check of Shears


The First One in the Que


The First One Out Shearing has Started


Second in Line Pretending Nothing is Happening


Off Comes Her Fleece


Shorn & Released

Then onto the Next One While Others Wait


Cameraman Dan Getting an Overview Shot

 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.

A nearly completely shorn sheep


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.

Only One More to Shear


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.

Shorn Ewes Coming Face to Face with Their Bagged Fleeces


Calling for Their Lambs Ignoring Fleece Bags


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.

Charge of the Lamb Brigade


The lambs charged out of the stables towards the gate on the other side of which the ewes were waiting.

Lambs & Ewes Meeting at the Gate

I open a small side gate so they can filter through slowly mixing and finding each other

A Ewe Greeting all the Lambs Looking for Hers


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.

A Field of Confused Calling Sheep


Mothers Have to Find Their Young in the Confusion


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.


Ram Lamb Wolf Tone Thinks He Has Found His Mother


He Cries & Calls to the Bag of Fleeces


His Mother Comes Up & Convinces Him She is Mother


A Quick Reassuring Drink To Make Sure


Mother & Son Reunited

The Sheep Have an Audience To Reunion Chaos

These 2 Lambs Asking Film Crew ‘Have You Seen Our Mother?’


Maaaa Are You There?


I Can Smell Her, Maybe She is Inside


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.

Sweety Pie Saying Good Bye

So now its time to load up the wool to bring to Cushendale Woollen Mills the next day and clear up the shearing shed.

Wool Loaded & Ready


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.

My Discard or Rubbish Wool is White!!!


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.

Sheep Politely Meet Us at the Gate


They Are Not Camera Shy


Imen’s Son ‘The Little Farmer’ became instant friends with Little Wren.

Little Wren Making a New Friend


Little Wren wants to know how everything works so she is politely shown by Imen.


Curious Little Wren Fascinated By iPad


Little Wren’s Sister Wagtail Getting Filmed

Little Wren Watching Her Sister Being Filmed On Imen McDonnell’s iPad

 Once Little Wren figures out the place to be is in front of the camera that is the only place she wants to be.

The Question is How Close For the Close Up


The Little Farmer & Little Wren Have an on Camera Conversation


Little Wren Getting Offered a Snack on Camera


Mike tries to film sheep looking picturest under the flowering apple trees, but Little Wren is persistent in trying to hog the camera

Little Wren Trying For Another Close Up

Even her Mother calls to her asking her to come away from all those humans

Little Wren’s Mother Calling for Her


Little Wren is Now Mike’s Persistent Assistant

 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.

Ewes Posing for One Last Photo



A Close Up of Her Nose












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