The Curious Sheep

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This past Saturday my mom, Jessica and I ventured over to Rising Meadow Farm in Liberty, NC to enjoy sheep shearing day festivities. Having never seen sheep shearing, we weren’t quite sure what to expect and the weather posed a chilly day for exploring. Donning our handknits we walked down the driveway towards the barn where the fun began.

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As we walked into the dimly lit barn people were gathered around a closed in area where the sheep were corralled. On one side were the three shearers and the other side were about 15 sheep, some already shorn. Every now and again one of the sheep would let out a “beh” and we would giggle or “beh” in return. Curious sheep would walk up to the wooden fence as if to say something. Some would reach out through the fence and nibble on the closest item they could find. One had a taste for a vinyl bag another thought my coat was worth a try.

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Mesmerized by the sheep shearing we must have been in the barn for 20 minutes or more. The shearers would select a sheep from the corralled group and move them to the plywood area. A fluid motion of coaxing the sheep to lie down resolved with the head of the sheep between the shearer’s quads and with their belly exposed. Being a dancer, I had visions of a sheep shearer motif in an upcoming piece.

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We were surprised to see the sheep were all different colors and sizes. Rising Meadow Farm has corriedale, navajo-churro and cvm romeldale fleeces to choose from.

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The sheep were so docile and the three shearers were using hand blades, which made for a peaceful demonstration. After a fleece was shorn off, it was placed on a skirting table where the heavily soiled or unwanted areas were removed by hand. The fleece was weighed, labeled and placed in a plastic bag to be purchased by an individual like myself who enjoys spinning wool.

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The festivities included a family-style lunch with lamb chili, squash soup, pimento cheese and pb&j sandwiches and other goodies provided by the families and individuals who attended. Lunch was served once the shearers finished shearing the last sheep of the flock and made their way into the farmhouse for warmth.

After speaking with the shearers, we learned they travel down from Maryland starting around this time of year and shear their way back up the east coast towards home. Learning how to shear is somewhat of an insider secret among fiber enthusiasts. They said you kinda have to be in the know to find a class. Electric shearing classes are more common than hand blades. Maybe that should be my next challenge – learn how to shear a sheep with hand blades.

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While there I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to purchase my very first fleece. I decided the smaller the better because I knew the task of cleaning and preparing the fleece would be quite daunting at first. I chose a natural colored corriedale fleece because the fiber is known to have similar qualities as merino in it’s staple length and ease of spinning, especially for a beginner like myself.

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We had a wonderful time and hope to make it back to Rising Meadow Farm one day soon. Upcoming Rising Meadow Farm events include a spring open farm day on Sunday, May 5th from 1-5pm and the 11th Annual Farm Fest on Sunday, September 29th from 11-4pm.

I encourage you to head out to your local farm to enjoy a fun-filled day with your community while learning and experiencing new things.

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