Tag Archives: Shearing Day

Shear Bliss

Too corny?

Ah, well.  Yesterday the flock finally was freed from their heavy fleeces (just in time for temps to plummet and rain to fall all day today). But yesterday. Yesterday was glorious.  Later in the evening there was much more frolicking than I have seen since…..well, last spring.


I love watching Emily work, and I love seeing the wool coming off to reveal the little bodies underneath.


Wembley’s fleece came off in a solid, felted clump, not unlike a rug.  Poor thing. When a sheep has been as sick as she was, it’s no surprise.  I’m sure the three or four baths I gave her didn’t help. But, now she’s well and free of the old fleece and can start a new, healthy coat.


Now, this. This is what I love to see. The colored flock. The sun-bleached outer layer, the darker layer at the skin, and all the variation in between.


The pure Border Leicesters were mostly silver underneath; the Border Leicester/ Cormo crosses were more black underneath.


Our friend Amy came and helped out with hooves, while Emily’s dog watched (and snatched hoof clipping to chew on).. Seriously, she was a HUGE help. And unsurprisingly, Emily can easily manage a sheep one-handed while Amy and I struggled tag-teaming them.


The goats were surprisingly well-behaved for her.


Neve helped out, too, of course!






Ursa – who is seriously the tiniest thing once you get her out of her coat!


Wembley the Wonder Lamb.

I know everyone is sad we were unable to have a party for shearing this spring, but trust me, we had a great reason (BABYBABYBABY) that Susan will update y’all with soon enough.

In the meantime, I hope all of your steps are as light and carefree as the flock!

“What I learned at the Washington State Sheep Shearing School 2014” by Patricia Ford

**** I am super excited today to bring you a blog post by Patricia Ford, the winner of our first ever The Shepherd and The Shearer  Shearing School Scholarship! Thanks so everyone who participated in the 2013 The Shepherd and The Shearer Project. YOU made this happen for Patti! We will have details soon about The Shepherd & The Shearer 2014. -XOXOXOX,  Susan****

Sheep Shearing is one of the oldest professions there are. It is a skill that does not involve any type of technology and it is a method that has not changed for many years. I’ve always dreamed of having my own flock of sheep and shearing them myself but for me this is not possible. I am a military spouse and our family moves around every few years. A couple of years ago, I decided to intern in sheep farms so that I could learn as much as I could about animal husbandry.  I figured if I can’t have sheep of my own, might as well be around them when I get the opportunity. It was this desire that led me to attend the Washington State Sheep Shearing School in Moses Lake on April 7th thru the 11th.  It was a five day class with the sixth day being an Advanced Tune-Up session for intermediate shearers to “sharpen” their skills.

I had been looking forward to taking this class for a long time and finally the day had come. On my way to the Grant County Fairgrounds, which is where the class was held, lots of questions crossed my mind for example, “How many women will be there?” “Will I be the only middle-aged woman attending?” “Will I be able to learn how to shear?”  The first day of class we had a brief introduction between everyone there including 16 students, instructors and volunteers. The age range between shearing students was majority 30’s to 50’s and there were students from all over the Pacific Northwest, California and Alaska. Plenty of women were involved in the school including eight students, the school’s coordinator and a teaching volunteer.

On day one of instruction, each student received a binder loaded with information about sheep shearing, and everything there is to know about the sheep production industry including, handling and repairing equipment to wool packaging and care, animal health, physical conditioning, setting up a business and marketing plan and more. We were briefed on how the five day lasting class would go and then we went to the shearing trailer.

The shearing trailer is a mobile unit that has eight stations. It accommodates 16 students at two per station. There are four stations on each side allowing the instructor to observe everyone.  The trailer unit is constructed of 2 inch square tubing and is bolted to a flatbed trailer. It has a fold up roof, sides that fold down and a tip up wall and chute. The sheep enter on the left rear and circle around the front to the right rear. When set up, the trailer forms a 20 x 32 foot building with a wrap-around chute, with drop doors for accessing sheep easily and effectively. The trailer is set up each year and put away the day after the shearing tune-up session.

We were assigned two students and an instructor per station and all of the shearing equipment was provided by the school. There is so much to learn in sheep shearing and at first it seems so complicated to coordinate holding the sheep in place and properly shearing in the least blows possible and avoiding second cuts. The main instructor, Mike McWilliams has been teaching this class since 1993.

I have to admit I was a little bit intimidated on day 1. It seemed a little but much to take in at one time. I was being instructed on what to do while hands on a sheep and shears. We learned the New Zealand sheep shearing method with a goal to sheer in 48 to 50 blows per sheep. We also learned about shearing equipment set up, shearing moccasins as well as throwing, skirting and rolling a fleece. The first day I sheared three sheep and I was proud.


Day 2 was the most difficult for me because my body was sore from using it in a way that I was not used to and I was a bit discouraged at not being able to properly sheer on my own yet but I sheared six sheep anyway and continued to give it a go. Besides shearing instruction, the focus of day 2 was: handling sheep without hurting and exciting, quality wool clipping, preventing wool contaminates, wool packaging and care and physical conditioning. We also learned how to trim hoofs.


By noon on day 3 I began to gain confidence in what I was doing and suddenly I understood what the instructors were saying. We learned how to do maintenance and repair to the hand piece as well as sharpening electrical blades and hand blades. This was a very “hands on” exercise as we all had the opportunity to sharpen the blades.


On day 4, I had gained my confidence and still with observation of an instructor was able to sheer by myself. On Thursday we learned why sheep should not be fed for at least 12 hours before shearing. We got a flock of sheep that made a mess in every station of the trailer. It was a bit icky but it gave us the opportunity to see for ourselves how there must be cooperation between shepherd and shearer. After lunch on Thursday we also learned how to properly sheer alpacas and llamas. Some students were able to shear these hairy creatures but I didn’t. Instead I opted to go back to the trailer and continue shearing ewes, withers and rams. There was no telling what kind of sheep we would get from the chute when we reached in for one.

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On Thursday we had a Shearer Dinner Recognition sponsored by the Columbia Basin Sheep Producers. Dinner consisted of all you can eat lamb chops and leg of lamb, it was quite the feast. The invocation was given by WSSP Director Jerry Richardson.

Friday we had a demo on shearing with hand clippers. Being the last day of school for us, we sheared for half of the day. We had a review and questions and our shearing school ended with the handing out of certificates. A couple of the students received a Junior certificate of achievement meaning that they have the ability to sheer 10 sheep per hour, but the majority of us received a Learner certificate indicating that we completed one week class and can properly shear sheep.

On Saturday the Advanced Tune-Up Session was offered in the trailer. Beginners were invited to attend the advanced shearing instruction. I attended this session until noon and I am glad that I did for it was on this day that I sheared on my own from start to finish from grabbing the sheep from the chute and shearing by myself. I was proud to have sheared eight sheep including one ram and one wither, all in a time lapse of three hours. I don’t know how other schools are offered for only two days, for me the second day was the most difficult and I am glad I was able to shear for six days.

Thanks to the Washington State Sheep Shearing School I am now able to shear a sheep within a time frame of less than 20 minutes. I am certain that with time I will get better at shearing. My next step is purchase my equipment and network around the Monterey and Santa Cruz areas to shear small flocks. I’m not certain where my husband will be stationed next, East Coast or West but I am certain that wherever we go, I will be shearing sheep.

The school is sponsored by the Washington State Sheep Producers, the Washington State University Cooperative Extension and the Columbia Basin Sheep Producers Association.  Further information about the shearing school is available on the WSU Grant-Adams Extension web site, http://animalag.wsu.edu

Spring 2014 Shearing Party

Another shearing party, come and gone!

Yesterday’s super laid-back party may have been my favorite one yet (aside from the absence of several people that shearing just isn’t right without).

There was plenty of food, beautiful weather, a great new venue, and lots of friendly faces!  For us, not having too much going on to worry about made it easier to enjoy, and we were free to spend more time talking to the people that came out to see us.

Since we had fewer animals with us to shear, Emily was free to take it a little slower and entertained the crowd with anecdotes and explanations about the various fleece types and how the animals react to being sheared (hint: they really don’t).

Unfortunately, Susan was laid up in bed as-per doctor’s orders, but Mike brought her along via Skype and she got to see how we were doing at various points throughout the day. It was pretty strange not having her there, but we had some extra help in our good friend Trina, along with her daughter, Rachel, and Maddie brought her friend Hanna to help as well.


Paul, Trina, and Rachel.  I couldn’t have managed without these three.

Because we had rented a pole barn in the county park there were plenty of people out who just happened by either walking their dogs (always a bit dicey for us) and riding horses (the park has quite a lot of trails for horseback riding).   It made for a pretty varied group.


Susan sent samples of the newest Juniper Moon Farm yarn for everyone to try out.  (My favorite is Marlowe!)




The kids were very entertained by the animals.  Emily made sure they got to pet them before and after their “haircuts”.



Emily patiently answered questions, explaining that shearing doesn’t hurt the animals one bit, and that they are bred to relax when handled properly (key word: properly).  It’s something that those of us who see them every day know already, and forget that not everyone else is aware of it.


I hope everyone who came out had as much fun as we did, and that we were able to answer everyone’s questions.

Trina took a lot of fabulous pictures all day and they are posted on the Facebook Shearing Party page, HERE.

It’s Shearing Day!!!!

If you are heading to our Shearing Party today be aware that some GPSs are ending you on a wild goose chase. If you have any trouble, stop and ask a local for directions to Pleasant Grove, the place where Old Farm Days is held.

When you arrive, drive straight to the back. You will see a covered picnic area and you’re there!

TGIF, Y’all!


Well, I don’t know about you but I will be very happy to see the back of this week. I don’t know when I have been so physically and emotionally taxed in the span of five days.

To further complicate matter, a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday ended with the doctor ordering me on to bed rest for the next two weeks. As I said on Raverly, that’s sort of like putting a crack-addicted monkey on bed rest– insane on it’s face and not likely to end well for anyone.

But I have spent enough time with doctors in the past three years to know when they are serious and when they are serious-serious. There was no wiggle room this time around and I’ve been working from a cozy nest of pillows and duvet covers ever since.

The good news is that being locked down in one place makes it easier to get through all the computer work I need to do. The bad news is I won’t be able to attend the shearing party this weekend. Huge bummer.

It will be so weird not to be at my own party, but the show must go on and some very lovely people who love me will be making sure the party is still awesome. Amy and Paul Karasz, my friend Trina and my sweetie, Mike are incredibly generous and gracious people, and they will be at Pleasant Grove to meet our guests.

Whether you are coming to the shearing party or not, I wish each of you a happy and restful weekend.

Shearing Day Reminder!

A reminder that we’ll be shearing April 5th, which is less than three weeks away! We don’t want you to miss out on the best fried chicken Virginia has to offer, nor all the fun, so please do try to make it.

Click on the photo to RSVP thru facebook!


If you want more information, check out this post!



Spring Shearing April 5th, 2014


We hope you’ll join us for a Spring Shearing Celebration on Saturday, April 5th, 2014! This year we’ll be celebrating at Pleasant Grove (located at 1731 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy, Palmyra, VA 22963). It’s an outdoor park and we’ll be celebrating rain or shine, so please remember to dress appropriately.

Emily Shearing

We’ll be partying from 11a-4p with lunch provided. There is no admission fee this year, so please bring whoever you’d like, but help us make sure that we have enough food by RSVPing to this Facebook event!


Did I mention that we’ll be shearing? Because we have to move the animals to the park for shearing, we’re only bringing along some of the sheep and goats. Our animals will be in Emily Chamelin’s capable (and much healed) hands. In fact, she recently sheared 200 sheep in one day! That’s the first time that she’s been able to do this in America, so I would say that she’s in great condition after her accident.


We know that you love your pets as much as we love our animals, so for everyone’s safety, please leave them at home.

Dasiy and Bama nuzzeling

But things that you CAN bring! Please bring your knitting, crocheting, or spinning, layers of clothing (who knows what the weather will bring!), your good humor, camera, and possibly some lawn chairs or a picnic blanket to sit and enjoy the day.


The Best Western Zion Crossroads is the place to stay nearby. It’s right across the street from a shopping center, and just 15 minutes away from Pleasant Grove.

Best Western Zion Crossroads

One of my favorite things is being able to see the folks I’ve gotten to know from our Ravelry group. If you’ve never been to a shearing before it might seem like we all know each other. Well, many of us do!

SuzyQ from Oklahoma and RealHelen from Massachusetts

We’ve spent many hours getting to know each other through the group, but please don’t be shy! We’re incredibly happy to meet our blog readers, shareholders, and those who have fallen in love with the farm through our commercial yarn line.

Can I let you in on a little secret? Even though I’ve been a friend of the farm since 2008, I’ve never been to a shearing! That’s the trouble with working in theatre – I never had a weekend off to be able to come down when shearing was. It made me heartsick every. single. time. So I’m incredibly thrilled to not only go to shearing this year, but help host it! We haven’t worked out all the details yet (holy cow where did January go, time to get moving!), so please tell me about what you loved about shearings past!


Shearing day 2

(A bunch of these bottom photos were taken by Joel Eagle.)

Give me some ideas for what you’d like to see done this year!

Fall Shearing with Emily

Emily came Saturday to to shear the colored flock for Fall. We were all so happy to see her! I mean, every time Emily comes it’s a party, but were all really anxious to see her in person and find out how she was doing post-injury.

For those of you who missed it, Emily was shearing a few months ago and a wild kick from a thrashing sheep drove her electric shearers in to the back of her left hand, severing the ligaments and tendons. Obviously this is a terrible injury for anyone, but for someone who makes her living with her hands, it was devastating.

I am happy to repost that Emily is nearly back to 100%. She has a badass scar on the back of her hand that she is very proud of and has almost full use again. She’s got another surgery next week to remove all the scar tissue that has built up inside her hand and then she should be all set.

Fall Shearing

[Amy and I took turns taking pictures while Emily sheared. You should definitely check Amy's blog for more pics in soon.]

Fall Shearing

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The lambs were sheared for the first time. Patmore got a lot of love from Neve before and after.

Fall Shearing

Cini and Sabine were thrilled to see Emily, as always. She is part of their flock.

Emily had a chance to look at our calendars and pick a couple of potential dates for our public Spring Shearing. I have to make sure they don’t conflict with a couple other things but then I’ll be announcing the date ASAP so y’all can start planning.






WOW! What a party!

I think I can safely say that our Fall Shearing Celebration-slash-BY HAND Magazine launch was the best party we’ve ever had at JMF. The weather was perfect, the food was outstanding, the band spectacular and the fact that so many of you came out to share this momentous event with us was completely overwhelming.

The thing is, a party of this magnitude doesn’t happen without the dedication and hard work of a whole lot of people. My mom and my sister have been working on all the details of this party for more than a month and they both came in from Texas for a week beforehand (my mom DROVE! From TEXAS! With a car full of party stuff!) My mom set up and ran the shop, re-landscaped the front of the house and stuck labels on magazines with alacrity.

My sister Carrie took care of the menu, the decorations, ordering supplies and a thousand other details that came up. Carrie is definitely someone you want on your team!

Our friend Danny came down from Boston to help get the house in order, repainting, re-fencing, fixing the gate, hanging the lights, and just generally sprucing up the joint. (If you live in Boston and need a general contractor, hit me up for Danny’s info. He is a MAGICIAN. He can fix anything, he is a master carpenter and painter. (He did a gut rehab of my mom and sister’s house when they lived in Boston that was absolutely amazing. Now he’s a close family friend, which, if you’ve ever remodeled a house, you will know is a very big deal for a customer to still be speaking to a contractor at the end of a job.)

My friend Vicki drove up from Texas with my mom and worked he backside off all week, doing every job that anyone threw at her and did so with a smile on her face. Vicki, I owe you HUGE!

My mom’s boyfriend Ted flew in from Kansas and tried like crazy to get our (apparently broken) apple cider press working, in spite of the fact that he’d never even tasted apple cider before. And he did a lot of other great stuff, but really put his heart into the apple cider press.

My friends all pitched in and worked their butts off all weekend. I don’t think I would have made it through the weekend without Muffin, Shirra, Tanya, Kris & Charlie, Jen Cox, Amy & Paul, the other Paul, the Randolphs, and Lisa and Will.

Speaking of Amy and Paul, Paul set up our credit card system at the 11th hour (cause he’s awesome like that) and Amy -knowing I was running around like a loon- took the pictures below for y’all. And all these for her own blog. Cause she’s awesome like that.

And I want to thank one person who didn’t make it to the party (due to an online ticket-purchasing fiasco that would bring a tear to your eye.). When I went to my friend Jeannie and said, “Hey! Let’s make a magazine!”, Jeannie said, “Let’s!” For the last few months, Jeannie has been my sounding board, the voice of reason and the person who kicked my butt when it needed kicking. I was terribly sad that she couldn’t be at the party to share the excitement and joy BY HAND brought to our supporters. Thank you, Jeannie, for always being there.

Shirra’s blog post about the party has even more awesome pics over here.

P.S. For those of you who couldn’t attend the party, the digital issue of BY HAND Magazine is now LIVE! 

Lunatic Week of Madness

This week is just so packed with crazy that I’m not entirely sure I’m going to make it to Sunday. The BY HAND launch party and Fall Shearing Celebration is on Saturday and I’ve had a house full of helpers since Sunday.

In addition to getting the farm ready for the party (loads and loads to do around here) we are getting the magazines ready to ship. And – by total coincidence- the roving for our Spinners’ CSA shares came in this week, and I really wanted to get those out ASAP, so there have been many, many, many trips to the post office.

Are you coming to our party on Saturday? I hope so, because it’s going to be amazing! And it may kill me, so there might not be another one any time soon…