When fleecing time rolls around, Angela Maas is the go-to sheep shearer for a lot of ranchers in Minnesota. Angela is one of the few shearers who’ll come out to a farm to work on a handful of animals, and she’s fast building a reputation for the patience and skill with which she performs her task.
Angela became a proficient spinner/weaver while still in her teens, and acquired a working knowledge of sheep production and wool selection with help from her friends John and Judy Lewman, who own Spring Creek Farm (a family-run business that supplies products for handspinners). Then Angela turned her attention to shearing, and was fortunate enough to train under the farm’s expert clipper, “Pistol Pete” Ordorff, who’s practiced his trade for more than 55 years. Under Pete’s instruction, Angela learned to fleece with a minimum of second cutting (going over the same area twice, an act that produces small tufts of wool which ruin the product for handspinners) and without lacerating the animals’ skin.
After serving a three-year apprenticeship, Angela hung out her own shingle and began to prove her ability as an independent shearer. Her prices start at $1.50 per head, depending on the number of sheep and the amount of travel time involved. Fleecing takes upward of three minutes per animal (although in one instance Angela spent more than eight hours shearing eleven sheep because their wool was full of clay dust that kept dulling the blades of her clipper).
Earning recognition as an accomplished fleecer is usually a slow process because shearing is done only once (or maybe twice) a year, but Minnesota’s sheep farmers are rapidly coming to appreciate the skills of Angela Maas.