There’s been a lot of sheep shearing going on around here during the past couple of months. Often it’s just a solitary farmer shearing his own sheep in his own farm yard. The farmer above is shearing one of his Texel sheep. He keeps them for meat, like all of our local farmers. The wool is just a by-product, shorn off quickly with electric clippers, stuffed into bags and shipped off to China.
But we also have sheep shearing festivals, where wool plays a much more prominent role. I’ve been to two of these, and here’s a compilation of what I’ve seen.
Below you see the Holtinger Schaapskudde, 630 sheep kept together by one of the sheep dogs.
These Drenthe Heath sheep are kept for landscape management, grazing on saplings and keeping the heathland open. I’ve written about this herd and their ‘job’ before in this post.
As you can see, most of them have already lost their warm, white, brown, grey or black winter coats.
A small group of sheep has been herded into a pen. Now it’s their turn to be shorn. Visitors to the festival can point out which fleeces they want.
The wool is especially suitable for felting, and some visitors will be coming back to take part in one of the felting workshops given on the premises.
The sheep they’ve chosen is then dragged out from among the others. It is placed in a rather unflattering upright position first, and the shearer starts clipping around its neck.
After that the sheep is laid down on its side, and the shearer frees it from one half of its fleece, turns it over and then removes the other half.
This particular sheep kept very still, and didn’t seem stressed at all. I think it’s because the shearer is very experienced. And he uses hand shears, unlike the farmer at the top of this post. Perhaps that’s less stressful for the sheep, too?
I took the picture below, of an onlooker’s feet, especially for my readers in other parts of the world:
Yes, some of us actually do wear wooden shoes! They’re light, warm, comfortable to wear and even count as official safety footwear. I’ve worn them a lot, and our daughter did too as a small child. (She prefers Jimmy Choos now, though.)
Apart from the actual sheep, there’s a lot of other woolly goodness on offer at these festivals. Fleeces for spinning and felting from various sheep breeds:
And also lots of lovely hand-made things. I particularly liked these felted slippers, decorated with beads:
Some people brought along their spinning wheels. This spinner told me that she spun all the yarn for the rainbow of cabled ponchos on the rack next to her, but that somebody else did the dyeing and knitting.
In the photo above you can hardly see the cables, so here’s another one. This one’s taken from the front and shows the stitches and the construction better:
Colourful and cosy, aren’t they?
I thought all sheep shearing would be done by now, but I just found out that there’s another sheep shearing festival and wool market next weekend. If you’re in the area, it’s on Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st of July 2019 at the Shepherds of Balloo. More information can be found here. Judging by the list of participants, it’s going to be a big event.
To close off, here’s a close-up of one of the Drenthe Heath sheep. I think they are just so photogenic, don’t you agree?