By Jeff Sovelove
There’s no such thing as a quick trim.
Not at Saturday’s Born to be Shorn event, anyway.
Under bright, sunny skies at the Fosterfields Living Historical Farm in Morris Township, Margaret Quinn used her custom-made shearers to demonstrate how sheep got haircuts before the invention of electric clippers.
Quinn knows what she’s doing–she’s been shearing sheep for 22 years–and each one takes about an hour.
‘Born to be Shorn,’ May 1, 2021. Video by Jeff Sovelove for MorristownGreen.com:
Answering visitor questions as she worked, Quinn explained that the key to hand-shearing is being familiar with the animal’s body — both for efficiency and the sheep’s safety.
Because they are herd animals, sheep tend to hide any illness, so the herd won’t drive them away. Gaps in wool growth may indicate a sheep has been ill, Quinn said.
Different breeds must be sheared differently, according to the coarseness of the wool and wrinkles of the sheep’s skin.
Sheep are sheared annually, starting when they’re a year old, to prevent overheating in summer, and to prevent overgrowth that can hinder the sheep’s ability to see and move freely.
The first shearing is called a pocket fleece; all the wool from a sheep after that is called a fleece.
Fosterfields’ sheep are Shropshires, a heritage breed that would have been on the farm in the early 1900’s.
Saturday’s guests also had the chance to visit with lambs, wash wool, churn butter, see the chickens, and interact with Hobbs, the farm’s retired Belgian Draft horse.
All in all, not a baaaad way to spend an afternoon.
Waiting their turn at the Sheep Salon. Video by Jeff Sovelove for MorristownGreen.com: