Feeling sheepish at the Cooper Gristmill

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By Jeff Sovelove
Ewe!
 
That’s all we can say about the annual Born to be Shorn sheep shearing event at the Cooper Gristmill in Chester this weekend. 
 
As everyone knows, wool is a fine insulator even when it gets wet. So the rain wasn’t enough to keep kids (and their parents) away from this informative event.
 
Ewes from the Fosterfields Living Historical Farm in Morris Township were recruited for their annual haircut. 
 
This process doesn’t harm the sheep in any way and actually is beneficial to them.  Margaret, a veteran sheep-shearer, explained that sheep need to be sheared every year or else their coat can grow too long, resulting in heat stroke.
 
Or they can go “wool blind” — their facial wool can grow so much it obscures their eyesight.
 
Slideshow photos by Jeff Sovelove
Margaret goes to work at Born to Be Shorn, May 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Farmer Chris helps corral a sheep for shearing, at Born to Be Shorn, May 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Lynn Vanassen from North Country Spinners of Sussex County with her travel spinning wheel at Born to Be Shorn, May 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Farmer Chris shows freshly sheared sheep to Elias, 2, of Netcong, at at Born to Be Shorn, May 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Kids helping to wash the wool, at Born to Be Shorn, May 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Felt crafts done by needle, at Born to Be Shorn, May 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Nap time at Born to Be Shorn, May 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Freshly sheared fleece at Born to Be Shorn, May 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
A lamb and an ewe at Born to Be Shorn, May 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Margaret with sheep- shearing at Born to Be Shorn, May 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Farmer Chris with the freshly sheared sheep and a crowd of kids, at Born to Be Shorn, May 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
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Farmer Chris from Fosterfields helped grab the sheep, and then Margaret got to work, hand shearing with an expertise that comes from her 19 seasons of shearing. 
 
Each sheep shearing yields about 8-12 pounds of raw wool, which then must be thoroughly cleaned and air-dried before it can be spun into thread or made into felt. 
 
When it’s sheared, the raw wool is full of lanolin, which is used in many cosmetics, skin creams, and lip balm.  It looses about 20-30 percent of its weight during the cleaning process.
 
The kids helped to weigh and then clean the wool in Oris soap, which must be done gently; agitating the wool results in felt, which then can’t be woven or pulled apart. 
 
The youths then went on to do various crafts, make their own toy sheep, and help spin wool into thread.  Lynn Vanassen from North Country Spinners in Sussex County was on hand with her travel spinning wheel to demonstrate how it’s done.
 
All in all, the afternoon wasn’t too baaaaad.

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