By Jeff Sovelove
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.
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
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.