Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary, Princeton MA
After being cooped up the past couple of weekends due to illness, we needed to get out and DO something, even if the weather was a little cold, windy and damp. A bit of Googling ensued and then we were off, with Wait! Wait! on the radio as we drove an hour west, out through the farmlands of rural Massachusetts, to a sheep shearing demonstration. At least once a year I like to pay some sheep a visit, a sort of pilgrimage to symbolically thank them for all the wool I buy, knit and/or wear. I think it’s important to acknowledge that yarn doesn’t just magically appear on the store shelves (well, unless it’s acrylic…), but is part of a process that begins with a grand bargain: in exchange for food and shelter, the sheep gives up his coat once or twice a year. It’s a process that has been going on for thousands of years; sheep were domesticated early on, though originally for their milk and meat and not their hair. In these modern times, it’s easy to forget that all that yarn began on the back (or belly) of a sheep.
I’ve seen sheep sheared before, but this was the first time I’d seen someone actually use shears, instead of clippers (no electricity in the barn). Good gracious me. Wrangling a very large sheep with big scissors? It’s an art form, really. The sheep in question, a big male, was less than impressed, but quickly surrendered to the process (see second photo). Nine pounds of fleece came off him, and then he happily hightailed it back into his pen.
Outside the barn a pair of twin lambs frolicked while I
whined about how cold it was tried to take pictures of them. You’ll just have to trust me that there were two, because the other pictures are just a blur of white. Also, despite signs barring people from being in the sheep pen, there were a couple of kids (human, not goat) in there for no apparent reason other than to argue about the names of the lambs and get in the way of people trying to take pictures of the lambs. *ahem* I know, I know, the primary audience of these things is families with kids, not middle-aged women with a yarn fetish and their patiently amused boyfriends. And they were probably 4H kids who know infinitely more about raising sheep than I do….but there were “why can’t I go in there?” whinings from the under 5 crowd that, frankly, I concurred with.
After the shearing demonstration we attempted a short hike but wimped out; too windy and raw, and neither of us was dressed appropriately enough. It’s a beautiful spot, though, not far from Wachusett Mountain, and I’m looking forward to going back later in the spring.