Spring Is On the Way

| 4/4/2013 4:18:04 PM

shearing sheepWe forgot to put the sheep in the barn overnight and the gentle morning storm soaked through the coats of our 10 Border Leicesters. Normally rain is no big deal, but today, it makes things difficult. Lambing season is on the way and we need get the ewes out of their year-old fleece, but the March chill has hardened their lanolin-coated wool into a knotty stiff mass. I flip number 35 onto her back and attempt to steady her wriggling body with one hand. With the other trembling hand, I reach across her pregnant belly, threading razor-sharp shears along her flesh and gingerly begin snipping.

“Shearing sheep is an awful lot like wrestling,” explains Fred DePaul, an expert shearer from Plymouth, Vermont and our teacher for the day. “Except in shearing you get a fresh opponent each round.”

DePaul has been shearing for 50 years – a number of wrestling matches I can hardly fathom as I strain to turn my first opponent on her side.

Before DePaul’s arrival, rumors were circulating that one of last year’s students took so long to shear his sheep it just plain passed out. “I love the students here,” DePaul said, with an encouraging smile. “No one ever gives up.”

Guess I’m finishing this one, I thought, daunted by the sweat and stiffness already plaguing my back. sugaring

As a student at the Farm School, I've been working out of this barn for six months now, forgoing my stable city life to train for a dream I was no longer willing to defer. We started by hauling in the end of last year's harvest and now we are getting set to plant out our own. 

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