We choose the word “weekend” this year because the shearing of about 150 sheep happened in the space of three days across five southeast Ohio farms. Today, we’d like to talk about the two farms sheared on Thursday May 26.
As shearing days approached, the southeast Ohio region experienced some overnight rain with more to come, so all farmers we planned to work with were notified that they must corral their sheep into a covered or protected area the day before shearing in order to keep the fleece dry. Wet fleece is dangerous to shear for both the shearer and the sheep, which means shearers generally will not shear a flock that was not protected from rain. With a shortage of shearers in most areas of the country, farmers can not afford to cancel shearing day.
Le Petit Chevalier
Colin Siegmund of Yankee Clippers in Vermont, arrived at Le Petite Chevalier Vineyards and Farm Winery a few minutes earlier than I did. He was kind enough to wait for me to get there, but he didn’t have to. When I arrived, Colin had set-up his equipment and waited with Mark, the winery owner, as I drove up anticipating a fun but physically demanding weekend.
Mark had corralled his five babydoll Southdown sheep in a shed near his house, and a covered porch helped protect everyone. Mark has five sheep, 4 adult ewes and a yearling lamb. Colin did his shearing thing and wrangled each of the little sheep into position, quickly dispatched their layer of wool, and gave the sheep the ability to see again once he clipped their face wool.
I had not experienced Babydoll sheep and they are as adorable as you’d think just from the name. The fleece is medium fine, but short stapled 2 – 3 inches, some of it too short for a mill to process into yarn.
Mark wants his wool made into yarn to sell at his winery, so because of the short staple, I was told by one mill that the fiber will need blended with a longer stapled wool. Once Mark and I work out the details, we will send the wool off for processing, and Mark should see his yarn in less than 6 months from a mini-mill.
Coolville Ridge Road
The sheep at this location near Athens, Ohio, live on a little farm where they get to graze year round and enjoy treats from Jim, their owner, and his family. They are a cross-breed of Border Leicester and Corriedale that in this case grows a nice long-stapled wool with a soft hand, graded as medium-fine at the mill.
These sheep are very large, 250+ pounds each. That can be a deterrent to inexperienced shearers but Colin handles them very well and the fleece comes off like butter.
This year, we had no problems with the sheep, though last year, Jim thought he’d be able to wrangle them just before shearing. That’s not quite how sheep work, as we found out. They are nearly impossible to catch when running wild in their field, and it took us more than an hour to collect them last year.
This year, Jim built a pen to hold them until they were sheared, and that was a perfect addition to his farm. Colin was done within a half hour and had a place to stay for the night in Jim’s guest house. So, we headed out for dinner at Jackie O’s Public House in Athens to fuel up for the really busy day at the Jacob farm in Washington County on Day 2.