Monday, June 8, 2009

"Shear" Delight

One of the reasons we decided to get llamas on our farm was because they are supposed to be good livestock guardians. That was a good thing for our goats and sheep! Another reason was because llamas produce lovely fiber (fibre, for my Canadian readers....I wish we could all just spell things the same way...)

Of course, in order to obtain the lovely fiber, one must shear one's llamas. This is a good thing to do in any event, because llamas with heavy fur coats are very uncomfortable in the summer in Iowa, where temperatures often hit the high 80s (that's 30s in Celsius, for my Canadian readers....I wish we could all just use the same scale!)

When our shearer came to do our sheep, we were unable to catch two of our llamas for him to shear. In addition, he told us that he didn't do llamas very often, but that he'd been told that llamas are very prone to depression and that if you shear more than a barrel cut on them, they can die from depression. I had not heard this, but not having time to look it up when he was here, I agreed to just do a barrel cut for now. I subsequently looked it up and asked some fellow llama owners, and nobody had heard of this llama death-by-depression phenomenon, so I decided that even the ones we had sheared needed some more taken off for their own comfort in the heat of summer.

So, while my parents were visiting last month, we decided to shear llamas. I only have hand shears so that's what I used. I think that hand shears are quieter and hopefully less likely to distress the llamas. Some were more receptive than others. Here you can see the hand shears - they are very sharp, indeed! More than anything, I was worried about the llamas making sudden movements and my jabbing them by mistake. Fortunately, that didn't happen.

Rosco was very agreeable about the whole experience.
He has lovely caramel brown colored (coloured) fleece, and a wonderful disposition.
On the other end of the scale, we had Dolly. She was not in the least bit impressed with the proceedings. She wanted nothing to do with the shears and was only vaguely mollified with grain. We knew we had to get her sheared because her coat was so very heavy. Finally, we had to resort to trying to hobble her, so that she would lay down. We achieved this, but only briefly, because Kelly was holding her down while I was trying to shear, and with one immense surge of energy, she threw Kelly off, sending him flying, and I felt her start to move so I stepped back quickly with the shears, narrowly escaping stabbing her unintentionally.

After that, we had to keep her partially hobbled by having one foot roped and off the ground, upsetting her balance, and keeping her tied to a tree. (No llamas were harmed in the making of this blog!!)
This was not ideal at all, and for next year, Kelly is going to weld up a proper llama shearing stand like the ones we saw at the llama show we attended. I slowly worked down her body, taking off as much fleece in one piece as I could.
In the end, here is how she looked. I didn't get as much as I'd wanted to, but she is probably OK for the summer. Kelly calls it the "bumpy cut" and says that everybody in the barnyard wants the bumpy. It's hard not to have it look that way when you're a beginner with hand shears. My hand was aching so much by the end of it all. Good thing it's only once a year!

The rest of the llamas fell somewhere between the Rosco and Dolly attitude, but they all got sheared!

Just so the other animals don't feel left out, here's Willow with baby Onyx, who has gradually lightened to a dark chocolate brown, rather than the black that he was when he was born.
In my "spare time" I have completed this handspun yarn. I'm quite pleased with it! It's 2 ply merino, silk and an unknown wool blend. I love the colors (that's colours, for my Canadian readers...sigh...) and the touch is really bouncy. I am going to send it to a knitter friend to test it out in a "real life knitting situation" and we'll see how it goes. It's my 3rd yarn attempt since I got my Louet spinning wheel.
Have a great week, everyone!


Deborah said...

Interesting about the death-by-depression thing. I haven't heard it either, and none of our llamas seemed the least bit upset about the shearing once it was over.

You're a brave woman, trying the hand shears. I imagine your hands were tired by the end.

Mom L said...

What fun you had!!! I'm glad Rosco is such a dear and that Dolly was the only sassy one. Man, Onyx has grown! It won't be long before he'll be the size of his mama.

You haven't mentioned the bunnies in a while - how are they?


Gail V said...

Claire, your blue and green yarn is bee-yootiful, and I am in love with Cream Puff (just caught up on blog reading tonight). So sorry about little Bramble. I lost two little ewe lambs this year-- it's so hard.

Jennifer said...

Shearing a llama by hand is a big job! I know they will be more comfortable come July and August without all that heavy fleece on them!

IsobelleGoLightly said...

That's a lot of work Claire! I think I'd like a "bumpy cut". I wonder if my lady would trim me up that way? Goat kisses from Isobelle!

clink said...

I'm glad that was you doing the shearing and not me!! Sounds like it was quite the experience!

The yarn is beautiful!!!!! Love the color!!! You might have inspired my spinning mojo with that one!!! Well -- after I finish weeding and planting!

Nancy K. said...

Wow! You are brave ~ hand shearing llamas! I'd say you did a pretty darn good job. ;-)

When I hand sheared my two Shetland rams, my carpel tunnel flared up and I have been waking up at night because my wrist/arm hurt (are all numb and tingly). I hope you fare better than I did!

Your yarn is lovely. I really should start spinning again....

Terri and Randy Carlson said...

Are you going to have it blended with your Icelandic wool? That makes a really awesome roving!

Farm Chick Paula said...

Whew! Shearing is definitely hard work- and especially when you have an uncooperative patient! LOL
Beautiful job on the yarn- love the colors!

Lola Nova said...

My goodness what a lot of work! I can imagine you had sore hands for days.

Your yarn is fantastic, I love the colors too.

corinne said...

You did a much better job at hand-shearing than we did!
I love the colors/colours of your spun fiber/fibre :).
HEY! When are you going to come and visit me? The lambs are alomost grown....they are all sold too so there is no danger in merely visiting :).

Joanna@BooneDocksWilcox said...

Willow and baby, Onyx, oh my gosh cute. How do you tear yourself away?

I can only imagine the big job of hand shearing a llama. wears me out to do a terrier.

Split Rock Ranch said...

Llamas won't die from depression after being sheared. Now, I've had some act like they were going to die from mortification after being sheared all the way down though! The other llamas had NO idea who that "new" llama was. I can't get my hands around shears so I just use a really sharp pair of ergonomically correct scissors and get a really nice looking finish on my llamas. But then I've sheared hundreds of llamas - but the more you practice, the better you'll get at it. And, some llamas you'll be able to shear without the grooming chute, others you'll always need the chute. I've sheared yearlings without the chute and they didn't mind a bit. And then I have some that get sheared every couple of years and they always raise a fuss.

Your yarn is beautiful! I Love the colors in it, they are so soothing.

kenleighacres said...

Your yarn is beautiful - I love the colors! Good job on the shearing. That reminds me that I need to shear our llama. Luckily he is like Rosco :) The llama fiber would be lovely with your icelandic.

Flartus said...

Hey!! I recognize that shirt! Stylin', mama! LOL!

You sure don't shirk from a bit of hard work, do you? Yikes! Do the electric clippers require more skill? I'm glad you managed not to stab Dolly; that would've been quite the challenge getting her to submit the next time around.

Onyx is incredibly adorable. Just when I think I've seen the cutest animal baby in the world, another pops up on somebody's blog. (or bloug, for our Canadian friends--ha ha; don't hit me!)

Mare said...

Spare time??!! You have spare time!??? hahaha The animals look great and that yarn is beautiful Claire! Oh and Onyx is just wonderful...

Christy said...

You are brave! I was a coward about doing the 2 sheep I had. It ended up not being that bad, but I can't imagine doing a llama. The donkeys are cut.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Well we sheared both of our llamas last month naked...and they are happy and comfy. No depressed llamas around here. lol! That must be an old farmer's tale or something. hehe!

I wanted to try and shear my llamas myself, but with my injuries knew that wasn't happening. And after my butcher job on my sheep last year with the hand shears, I'm glad I hired a professional. He did an awesome job...and super quick, too. Worth every penny. And now I have lots of lovely wool to process and spin.

Your yarn turned out lovely! I can't believe it's only your third batch. Wow! That's amazing. ANd you even died it, too?
I hope you'll show your process sometime.
I want to practice dying one day soon. Will probably try kool aid the first time. hehe!