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Shearing

Modesto trailing sheep across the Adams bridge

This spring, shearing was a process, not an event.  In order for our spring schedule to go smoothly, the shearing crew needs to be done by May 1st.  This gives us time to trail in an orderly manner to our lambing grounds, which takes four or five days.  This year the crew showed up on April 30th.

It has been a phenomenally dry spring, so they had not been delayed by weather.  Two reasons accounted for their late appearance.  Our long-time shearing contractor had retired to his farm in New Zealand, along with his wife, a wool-packer extraordinaire, his three-year-old daughter and their newborn twin sons.  The gentleman who took over his business was not nearly as experienced or efficient.  In addition, our government’s jihad against legal foreign workers has taken its toll on shearing crews.  Our crew did an excellent job, but was much slower than we were used to.

This year’s shearing, which lasted two weeks, took us into lambing, which starts May 8th.  We had pregnancy tested many of the ewes in March, so we sent the ewes pregnant with twins on to the lambing grounds.  This meant they trailed, heavy with lambs and with wool, and were sheared while they were beginning to lamb, on our private land on the lambing grounds.

Luckily for shearing, but unluckily in general, we lost only one day to rain.  It was the only rain that came in a month.  Hallelujah—we finally finished and were able to get on with the business of lambing.

guard dog watching sheep on the trail

waiting for the shearers

Sheep wagons at Badwater

Shearers at work

Shorn ewes in front of portable shearing shed

Amanda carrying wool to the mechanical packer

Maeve and Tiarnan on the wool bales

Stacking the wool bales

Tiarnan and ewe check each other out

Pepe, Dunkin and Siobhan

Afrenio and Pepe help Maeve practice mutton busting

Maeve and Seamus with the guard dog puppies

Modern sheepwoman: Meghan on cell phone

The first twins

 

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The long trail south, with an aside from “Moby Duck”

The long trail south, with an aside from “Moby Duck”

Every year in mid-April, we begin the long trek south with the sheep.  Most of them have wintered on the Red Desert, north of Wamsutter, Wyoming.  They trail sixty miles or so to the Badwater pasture–a checkerboard pasture southeast of Creston Junction.  When the Union Pacific put the railroad through in 1865, the U.S. government gave them every other section for 20 miles on either side of the track as an incentive.  If they’d just given them a solid ten miles, it would have made life easier for future generations, but that is how it is.  Half the sections are privately owned (and many of them were sold by the railroad over the years) and half are BLM-administered lands.

This annual journey includes crossing under Interstate 80 and over the Union Pacific tracks, thankfully on an overpass.  It is a trail fraught with hazards, as the traffic is sometimes heavy and the railroad overpass is blind on the approaches.  We do a lot of flagging and keep the sheep in the right-of-way as much as possible.

I recently read “Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author,Who Went in Search of Them” by Donovon Hohn–a book which tracks the vast number of container ships who travel from Asia to the United States with consumer goods.  I was interested to note that the sheep were passing over railroad cars carrying containers that clearly originated in China.

Containers which came by sea from China.

When we pass through the gate into our good neighbors Duane and Debbie Rodewald’s pasture, we give a huge sigh of relief.

Pepe, surveying the route

Modesto, pushing the sheep under I80

Guard dog leads the sheep under the interstate

The road isn’t closed today.

Heading up the railroad overpass.

Sadie helping

Going through Rodewald’s gate–hallelujah!

 
 

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