Bruce Clement has shorn something beyond 100,000 sheep — he says he stopped counting a while ago — and is mostly retired, still shearing for just a few farmers he’s worked with forever. I’m not sure how I got lucky enough for him to take me on, but I suspect pity played a role, thinking he might guide me away from some of the more egregious mistakes of a very green shepherd. In any case, I’m grateful for his skillful work and the ancillary wisdom he shares as he maneuvers through my flock.
Today’s task was not a full removal of fleece, but rather an invasion of privacy. Shepherds around here call it “crutching”, removing wool from the belly, legs, and crotch of pregnant sheep so that it’s easier to observe their physical state in the leadup to lambing. Lambs will also have any easier time figuring out how to nurse if they don’t have to search for teats in a sea of dirty wool.
The trick to shearing, Bruce explained, is mostly in learning how to handle sheep. When I do it, the activity looks like a messy game of tackle football, with the ewe struggling to get over the goal line. Bruce turns it into something more like judo as he smoothly guides the sheep onto its backside.
And then the crutching itself takes less than a minute.
In the course of the shearing today, we got some more insights into the fate of Monday’s pasture lamb, but the true crime narrative will have to wait for a day or two…