Friday, April 30, 2010

Shearing Day!

Originally uploaded by kbshee
Yesterday was shearing day at Silk Creek Farm and I went out to help Bil and Julia (seen in this photo, along with the newly sheared Atom). This is the second year for shearing and I was excited to see how much we had all remembered and of course, to see all the alpacas.

Our shearer, 'Fast' Eddie, was scheduled to arrive between 12 and 1. As Bil refers to it, we were all in Cable Repairman Mindset and figured he would get there closer to 1. I gave a midterm in my big class and had planned to get there around 12:30, but at 11:00 one of my grad students, Jennifer, said "we'll finish this up...why don't you go out to the alpacas?" So I did, and arrived at the farm around 11:40. Who was arriving at the same time? Fast Eddie. And when he's ready to start, he's ready to start. So when we started, we were a small group of helpers: me, Bil, Julia, and Bil and Julia' beautiful daughter Georgia. Luckily Eddie had an assistant, so we managed pretty well. One of the most challenging things was getting the alpacas where we wanted them when we wanted them. In this picture, Bil and Julia are trying to get Atom to leave the shearing area and go enjoy some brief sunshine.

Originally uploaded by kbshee
There are two shearing stations set up in the barn, and Eddie shears one alpaca while the next alpaca is being prepared for shearing. My job was to hold the alpaca's head and neck while Eddie sheared, while Bil and Trevor (Eddie's assistant) brought in the next alpaca (and released the finished alpaca) and Julia and Georgia bagged the fleeces, tagged them, and then cleared the shearing area so the fleeces wouldn't get mixed up. It was pretty intense at the start because Eddie, as you might have guessed, is fast, and we were all very focused on keeping up with him. After the first few alpacas, though, more members of Bil and Julia's family arrived and then things got a bit less intense and we kept up great. We sheared 18 alpacas in about 70 minutes. That's fast! One of the biggest challenges was keeping the bits of fiber out of the pullies that hold the alpaca's feet during the shearing. But you learn fast...once I realized that we needed to keep an eye out for the pullies, it was much easier to keep them clear.

Originally uploaded by kbshee
Shearing is a stressful on the alpacas, and so getting them done fast is great for them. I really enjoy my role in this. Holding their heads is one way to keep them calm, and I get to talk to them, look in their eyes, and basically try to make this uncomfortable experience as comfortable as I can. We had a fair amount of vocalization this time, and quite a bit of spitting, but all in all everyone did well. They've been kept inside all week because of the rain, and so were all so happy to be released from the confines of the barns out into their pastures. This picture is just the brown fleeces...there's piles more of white ones as well. I'm guessing close to 100 pounds of least...were shorn yesterday.

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