Sheep Shearing Basics: How to Guide

Shearing Sheep

Shearing sheep is a process that’s been used for many years to harvest fleece, cool sheep, and prepare for lambing season. Shearing is most commonly done in early spring, but you may find that some sheep with long fleeces are shorn twice a year. While PETA may want you to think that sheep shearing is a gruesome and painful process, a good shearer won’t leave a single nick on the animal. Even if the clippers happen to snag the skin and leave a mark, it’s no different from shaving your beard and sticking a piece of tissue on the cut. Lanolin, a wax secreted by the sheep, helps heal cuts and keep the sheep skin and in good condition.

There are two general types of tools that can be used to shear a sheep. Hand shears were originally used and still may be in some places, but electric shears have become commonplace for modern shearing due to their speed and safety. While electric shears can be quick and safer, it’s also important remember that they have different care and may get hot. Keeping the blades clean and lubricated can ensure the best and quickest clipping experience as well as a long life for the clippers.

To begin shearing, you sit your dry sheep between your legs and make sure she is comfortable and balanced. Begin shearing down in long strokes from the breastbone. The teats can get cut by shears snagging them in the wrong way, so it’s best to cover the teat with your non-shear hand and clip around it. Clip the legs when the belly is done, and then turn the sheep so unclipped areas are accessible. Shear the rest of the legs, head, tail and neck. Take special care around the neck and ears because they’re sensitive areas that can be easily cut. Shift the sheep’s position so that she’s on her side, and continue to navigate her body so that you can shear long, parallel strokes to finish taking off the rest of the wool. Remember that thinner animals may be more difficult to clip due to the angles, and cut wrinkled skin can be avoided by pulling the skin taut. If a sheep has been shorn well, the fleece will be in a large sheet and there will be no “second cuts”. Going back to cut more fleece off after the original shear will leave short pieces of wool which aren’t economically ideal. Trying to spin these second cuts can make a weak yarn that won’t have the quality of a yarn from a whole fleece made entirely from the first cut. If you’re selling fleece, a bad cut can cost you money!

Crutching is a form of partial-shearing a sheep. This cut isn’t for making money off of fleece, but rather making lambing and suckling easier. Shearing for lambing season involves clipping around the vulva to make the birthing process cleaner, and then taking wool away from the nipple area so that lambs can find nipples with ease.

If you want to put your shearing skills to the test you can enter yourself in a shearing competition. Yes- that’s right, they compete for who can shear a sheep best! These competitions aren’t only judged based on the fleece that was sheared. A shearer is docked points for a sheep that is cut, and any abuse or poor handling of the sheep is not acceptable.

Shear your sheep with confidence and compassion and you’ll hopefully have an un-nicked sheep with no second-cuts on the fleece. Frustration has no place in the shearing world, and your patience and care to make the sheep comfortable will make for a faster and less-stressful shear. Whether you’re getting ready for lambing season, harvesting fleece, or preparing for a show, a good shearing will help your cause and set you ahead. Perfecting the shearing process may take time, but it will be worth the practice!

Getting to Know Pandas & Fiber Production in China

Shichahai Theatre Panda Show in Beijing

Since we have been stuck in this farm for so many years, happily that is.. we decided to extend our world knowledge on things like fiber production, nature and animals.. or just anything related to farms in China on a general level. What made us start this courageous voyage, was the need to find the truth behind the badly painted nation of China. Also we are doing this for the sake of our children, who deserve to live in truthful awareness of what is happening to this planet. Nowadays, with media and news all over the world.. not just China or America. Is guilty of not telling the exact truth on news, or more over for not giving out the information that we need to make our own choices.

As a farmer on our vine yard fiber farm, there are many important decisions to make. Depending on the way you grace animals, or grow vegetables one has a huge impact on our nature. Right now, and most importantly it all accumulates to the health of our planet in the future. You could say, that we got sick of American news channels telling us that the forces on the other side of the border are evil. Thus, focusing the attention on a totally irrelevant subject, when the first thing we should look at is how we do things ourselves. As well as what example are we setting out for the rest of the world. It’s a shamefull thing in fact, what the United States are doing to this world in a suttle way that just kills us slowly but surely. With increasing cancer rates and other illnesses, we are bathing in an ever increasing GPD, which had nothing to do with the well being of our nation.

So for the destination of our planned trip, was an obvious choice. The big nation of The People’s Republic of China. It was going to give us a view from the other side, from a country that is so important to the America.. especially when it comes to the farming industry. We are taking our kids with us too, and will be landing to Beijing with them. Planning is still going forward, but we need to find a way for our children to connect with China.. and to become friends with the culture and their people. So we found this amazing looking, fun show known as “Kung fu Panda Show Beijing“. It looks to be just what the kids need.. Something very traditional Chinese such as Kung Fu performance, combined with nature and animals,, the well known and loved Panda element. Sure, we want to go to the Panda zoo too, even though we were kind of against it at first. Because obviously in the zoo, they are captive and not in such good conditions and we want to see more positive stuff too. That’s why this popular Beijing show is going to give that right boost to get our children, as well as the adults hooked on China. Do you think it will work? Time will tell. Rest of the planning is going full steam. For example, we are looking for fibre manufacture factories as well as smaller farms to visit.

Organising such a trip doesn’t seem to be too easy, but should be fine as long as we can find the right tour guide for the job. All suggestions are extremely welcome, so please leave a comment with us if you have any experience from Beijing or rest of the China. Also if you have seen kung fu or the panda show at Shichahai Theatre, or know about the theatre stuff there, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Here is the trailer & we would love to know what you think. About the future plans, we will keep you in touch!

Thanks.

Martha Gibbs

Quality Farm Products

Quality Wool

We have always believed in sustainability and we will continue to support who share the same believes with us. Collecting wool and other methods of creating fabrics for clothes for example is a responsable work. It is easy to have a negative impact on the nature and the animals that provide rich resources for us. In fact, it is as easy as following the steps and guidance of big corporations that want to take this world to a more productive and less caring world. There are aso many chemical products and electricity consuming machinery available that it’s easy to be loored in by the great promises of wealth in large number production. We never bought into that, because we are fourth generation farmers that know better.

And the question is not always is it ecologic or not, often enough we are talking about more simple down to earth things. Like enjoying our work, making a more durable and quality product in the process of traditional production, and such things. It’s all part of the huge picture and it seems that wherever we look people to choose to concentrate on one part of that concept of farming. We think that this in it’s essense is what is hurting the farming industry. We want to correct that, and bring awareness.. in fact, we want to bring back not just quality farming products but fun and enjoynment in life. When you truly have that in the essense of tradition and beauty, you can really make this world a better place.

A one that we can confidently leve for our children. Future generations are probably the most precious resource we have. Let’s make good yarns for them and their children.

Martha Gibbs

Keeping the Flock Warm

Wool

It’s winter and the best time for our wool to flourish in this world, when people most need it. We made anything from premium yarns, roving to fleeces in our very own island. In our past, business has been tremendously successful and our products very popular. But what for us made them special, was the longetivity of use which will continue from generation to generation. It is because we put so much love into our products that 100% originated from our farm. We are a flock of warm hearted people. And that is not a title that we invented for ourselves, it’s what people have been saying about us for years!

It’s because we know the value of keeping our bodies warm and want to share that same experience with others. There is just nothing better, or at least not that we can imagine it.. than having a beautifully crafted wool shirt to keep you warm over the winter. The very same products that we sold over the years, are the very same that we have been wearing ourselves. It’s really a beautiful cycle of life that starts from the farm.

In these days, our flock of sheep and other animals that have provided the wool of us has become less. And our lives have become more meditative, while still respecting the nature and continuing with tradition. We never went into the business, because of a financial motive. And that is perhaps one reason that made us so successfull. We heard the most rediculous things, such as that long lasting products could not make a profit. For us this was not the case, and we are enjoying the effects with out simple lives.

Let’s keep warm! <3

Martha Gibbs, Vineyard Fiber Flock

A Vineyard Fiber Welcome

Beautiful Farm

A warm and big handed welcome from the fun and loving Martha’s Vineyard Fiber Farm team! We must admit, that out lifestyle got the better of us, which concluded is huuuge downtime for our website. But just like mom always use to say, if you cant hear from them, it’s probably because they are having too much fun. And this is exactly the case, we have been busy making yarn, farming, studying and planning the future. The years have passed fast, and they have been very exiting too. And even if we have some extra time to spare, probably we use it for knitting sweaters and so on.

So why have we come back, well the answer is pretty simple. We have a new member on our farm, who has It skills. Yes, we are very thankful for the amazing Danny, who has been more than helpful to fix our website and put it back online. Thank you Danny!! Now all we have to do is write, and ask Danny to put some nice pictures in for us. He is doing photography too, so expect a lot of beautiful pictures of the farm as well!

As for the writing team, we are now the two of us that have promised to be more or less engaged with the operatings. Susan Shepherd & the one who’s writing at the moment, Martha Gibbs. Well, agriculture is seeing interesting times so we have a lot to say too. We want to preserve our culture and have our voice heard. So please, throw away your preconceptions and read on!

Martha Gibbs