Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sheep Shearing Day: Pictures and Homeschool Ideas

When the shearer arrived, I was still sweeping the dining room floor after supper, so I didn't get out to see the beginning of the shearing.  The shearer is Willard Malwitz.

Thank you, thank you to Mr. Malwitz.

This is the ram.  He is being done on our driveway, in front of the garage.

When a sheep is plopped on its hinder, it will instantly settle down.  I've heard tell that a sheep, if stuck on it's back, will soon die because of some sort of breathing issue.  I wonder if this is part of why they seem so calm in a sitting position.

The shearer held the ram's head between his legs when necessary.  It was getting quite windy by this time.  The wool would blow across the area Mr. Malwitz was working, somewhat impeding his progress.

The kids gathered any loose wool and put it in the box before it could blow away.

Done with the difficult belly area, and now on to the sides.

And then the back.  Look at that thick fleece.

He looks pretty naked.

This is the "after" shot of the ram.

And the "before" of the ewe.

They moved into the garage for her.  She looks like she's wearing a thick scarf.  She is tamer than the ram.  She nipped Mr. Malwitz once on his chest.  He said that often the tamer sheep are harder to shear because they are not afraid.  They remain a bit more frisky even in the sitting position.

I wish I could have better captured how nice and soft the large pieces of fleece looked as they fell loose.  Even though the two sheep looked the same to us, Mr. Malwitz said the ewe's wool was much different.  A different clumpiness to it and much oilier.

I didn't stay for the finish of the ewe.  The kids were getting wild and it was getting pretty chilly after our nice 70 degree day.

This morning it's very cold and wet.  I feel bad for the naked little sheep. But then I remind myself that most other sheep are sheared before lambing starts in March.  That means there are still days of below zero weather, with snow and even blizzards.  If the sheep survive that, I am sure they can live through low 40s and wet.

The sheep newly shorn
Look so forlorn
Out in the wet and the cold dreary day.

But they'll be alright
They will live through the night
And frolic once more when the sun comes to stay.

There are a great plenty of homeschool ideas to use with sheep.  There are stories on shearing and wool; spinning and yarn dying; weaving and crochet and knitting.

After Joe tried to spin a hemp bowstring using a piece of dowel and a plastic sour cream lid as a drop spindle, I ordered a couple of wooden drop spindles for our family along with a few bundles of wool.  I got them from Pacific Wool and Fiber, in Newberg, OR.

We haven't used them much, but we've lent them out, so they have been used, at least.  We still hope to have a chance (make time?) to figure them out one day.

A New Coat for Anna, by Harriet Ziefert
In post WWII Eastern Europe, Anna needs a new coat.  But there is no money to be had even for necessities.  Anna's mother barters the few remaining family treasures to first get wool, then spinning, then weaving and tailoring done for Anna's new coat.  She and Anna pick Lingonberries to dye the spun yarn a lovely red before it's sent to the weaver.

An accomplished homeschooler who keeps the wonderful Bugs, Beetles, and Barefoot Days blog posted on her fieldtrip to the Worcester Museum, Worcester, MA, and its sheep shearing demonstration.

Charlie Needs a New Cloak, by Tomie DePaola
Charlie is a shepherd whose cloak is in tatters.  When he finally decides to address this problem, he does the shearing, carding, spining, dying, weaving and finally even the sewing.  His labors yield a beautiful and warm cloak in time for the coming winter.

A creative homeschool mom has done a unit study based on this book.

There is also a social studies unit using Sheep Shearing as the center point at Hot Chalk Lesson plans.

Other books I've seen recommended, but have not read or used myself:
Farmer Brown Shears his Sheep, by Teri Sloat
Farmer Brown Goes Round and Round
The Thing That Bothered Farmer Brown
This series, done in cute rhymes, traces the entire wool to sweater process.  These books appear to be out of print, but check your library.

Phoebe's Sweater, by Joanna Johnson
Phoebe's mother is knitting a sweater to help Phoebe get ready for a new sibling.  Although I've not read this, it's become a favorite among knitters for both the sweet story and the knitting patterns included.  The author keeps the Phoebe on the Road blog to celebrate the many things fans love about Phoebe.

The author of the Step into my Thimble blog has a list of children's books that present knitting in some capacity.

The Weaver's Gift by Kathryn Lasky is a lovely photo journal of the process from baby lamb to woven blanket.  It's out of print, but definitely worth finding used or through your local library.

There is another story I would have loved to include, but it's name and author elude me. I believe it is a beginning reader, such as a Step Into Reading book.  I believe it is about an old Scandinavian fisherman who knits all winter.  Can anyone help me out here?

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