When we put Flat S in her envelope last March, we had no idea what adventures were in store for her. Since she left home, she’s walked the Greenwich Meridian in the UK, gone bike riding in sunny California, visited the 3500-year-old grave of a king in Sweden, and gone surfing in the Atlantic Ocean. We never imagined she would have all these (and so many more) wonderful experiences!
Well, we’ve just heard from Flat S again, and her surprising exploits continue. She has been spending time with our wonderful discussion forums moderator and super-prolific seamstress Nicole Keller and her family on their farm in Australia. And since her visit overlapped with sheep shearing season, Flat S pitched in to lend a hand. Here’s a report on the happenings from Nicole.
When Flat S arrived at our farm in South Australia, she brought the sunshine with her which was very handy as we were about to start shearing. And no-one wants to shear wet sheep.
As we have two properties on either side of the town, we often have to move stock back and forth. This is called droving. The animals (in our case sheep) are gently walked along the road. Signs are put out to warn other drivers of livestock on the road. This we can do with horses, a ute, or in our case a four wheel motor bike and one of our kelpies (dog), Ruby. Tilly was very jealous of Flat S as she is never allowed to ride on the bike off the farm.
The sheep are quite happy and graze as they move along. Often the older ewes (female sheep) remember the way and take little persuasion to walk.
Once the sheep arrive at the main farm, they rest for a day in a paddock. Then they are “penned up.” This means placing the sheep in a large shed (like a barn) to keep them out of the rain.
Its very unpleasant to shear wet sheep. The poor shearers can become quite ill with dizzy spells and headaches from the humidity and ammonia odor the wet sheep give off. Wet wool cannot be pressed (packed) either.
The floor of the shed is slatted so that all the sheep waste falls through. Cleaning out under the shearing shed is a rotten job that is never sought after. The shed is divided into various sized pens. Only so many sheep are placed in each pen to avoid overcrowding.
The pen nearest the shearing board (where the shearers stand to shear) has a little door that each shearer uses to enter the pen and catch his next sheep.
The shearer catches a sheep and gently flips it over onto its rump and drags it out to the board.
Often shearers will use a sling (back aid) that is suspended by springs (not unlike the baby Jolly Jumper) to support himself and help protect his back. The shearer will then start to clip the wool using mechanical shears. This motion is called a “blow.” The wool is clipped from the sheep neatly and cleanly. It doesn’t hurt and a good shearer will rarely cut the skin.
The shearer turns the sheep and continues to clip the wool with long blows, in a gliding motion. The fleece pretty well stays in one piece.
When the shearer has finished the sheep, the roustabout folds the fleece up and picks it up. The fleece is then thrown on the skirting table, and then the roustabout will get a broom and sweep up any stray wool before the shearer gets back with the next sheep.
Our shed is a three stand shed, meaning we have three shearing plants that operate the clippers. The roustabout has to keep up with all of them. It’s hard work as Flat S found out. “Broom, Flat S!”
The fleece is then “skirted.” This is when the ratty edges are removed. The wool is then “classed” and sorted accordingly.
The fleece is classed (or graded) by its color, the length of staple (the length of the wool from the skin), its softness, and its cleanliness. Its stored in different wool bins accordingly, until it is ready to be pressed into bales.
When the bin is full the wool is placed in a bale inside a hydraulic press. The wool press can compress up to 200 kg of fleece into a bale.
Once a bale is full, it is labeled with its contents and the farm’s brand.
The bales are loaded by tractor…
… onto the truck to be transported to the wool broker. There the wool is tested prior to sale.
It’s not all work for Flat S, though. There was time for a quick game of backyard cricket with the Fab Five. Howzat?
After a busy day in the shed, Flat S was well and truly ready for sleep. Liddy and Tilly were happy to share their bed.
Quiet now girls. It’s another big day tomorrow.
I hope you enjoyed your stay Flat S and have a nice holiday in your next location after all your hard work!
As always, we can’t wait to see where she goes next. Thanks Nicole!