In mid-winter, we shear the ewes that are going to lamb in March. When it goes well, we even shear before lambing starts! We do this for several reasons. Even though it seems early to shear, all goes better if the wool is off before the first lambs hit the ground. We raise our own bucks, which means that in order for them to be “of age”–at least some of them, by next winter, late winter/early spring is the time to be born. It is important for the ewes to be out of the wool for a couple of reasons. In cold weather, if the ewe is not cold, it doesn’t occur to her that her lambs might be cold and she should seek shelter. And when those lambs are looking for nourishment, it is helpful if tags of wool are not hanging down in strategic locations. Anyway, thanks to Cliff and Donna of Hoopes Shearing, we have spent two days shearing the early lambing ewes and the mature bucks. What did the bucks do wrong, you might ask? Well, then we don’t have to figure out how to get them staged for the main shearing in April (April, right Cliff and Donna?).
Often, well actually, always except for this year, it is pretty cold in mid-February and we feel guilty removing wool coats from the sheep while we are all wooled up in sweaters and long underwear. I don’t know if we have weather or climate change to thank, or blame, but this week, we had ideal shearing weather–not too cold, not too warm–Goldilocks Weather.
We do have a few lambs on the ground, due to errant buck lambs–born last March–you get the picture.
Sorry, but it was too dark in the shed to get shearing shots!
Once a cook told me, “When Sharon said things would slow down after the summer, I didn’t realize that summer lasted until November!”. Well, it’s true–in my mind, the busy season begins when we start the sheep on the trail in mid-April and comes to an end when we ship the calves in the fall. The work doesn’t really end then–we still have to pregnancy-test the cows and trail the sheep to their winter country, but it really does slow down a lot. By now, all but the most die-hard hunters have gone, the sheepherders have gone back to their camps after a month or so around the ranch headquarters, and the cows are settling into their winter pastures. We still have some heifer calves to sell, but we have just put the steer calves on a truck. Their buyer is feeding them in Nebraska this winter. This means that we listen to several nights of mama cows calling for their babies, although the older cows know their calves are gone, and that their job is to nurture the calves in their bellies. We have few quiet nights this time of year, as we wean first the lambs, then the calves. We have a lot of guard dogs around until the winter bunches are settled in, so lots of barking accompanies the night song. Often the coyotes will taunt them, setting off a chorus of barking and howling that would put the Hound of the Baskervilles to shame. Soon enough, winter’s quiet will set in, with only the creaking of the ice and the caw of crows to break the cold silence.