There are certain farm chores that come with the territory. On a sheep farm one annual task we have is shearing. Most folks shear their sheep annually although some of our sheep need it twice a year.. A great deal of our farms success depends on the wool our sheep provide so it’s an important date on our calendar.
Regardless, the shearing must be done.
Several years ago we decided to make an event of it and include the public. That’s it, we’ll invite folks that have never had the opportunity to see sheep loose their winter coats. Some folks have never even seen a sheep before. As the annual event has progressed it has turned into quite a big ordeal. Hundreds of folks each year come to the farm to see, learn and enjoy the farm setting.
This year will go down as one we’ll NEVER forget.
Shearing for us always takes place in late February or early March. We plan as far out on the calendar as we can but generally cannot set the date too far in advance because setting that date depends on a few things out of our control. Number ONE, we’re dependent on the shearer. As you might imagine, shearers are not easy to come by. When you find one you like you do your best to work closely with them and develop a relationship you both can depend on. Once you get your shearer to agree to a date all the event planning begins. We cater lunch and offer other activities for folks once they get here. How do we know how many people to plan for? Well we don’t really. We generally go by the previous years attendance and add a buffer. So, we order food ahead. We plan help. We commit to a band. Yes a band; there is something special about sitting on a blanket looking out over a pastoral setting, listening to some musicians pickin’ away.
OK, check, check and check. Everything is in order.
The last thing we’re dependent on is the weather. Yup. Counting on the weather is like tossing a coin in the air. Mother Nature is going to do her thing regardless of how much time, money and effort you’ve invested. Once you’ve set the date (as far in advance as you can for obvious reasons) there is no turning back. We’ve all seen a next days weather forecast change or even sun when Al Roker said rain!
Well 2019 shouldn’t have been a total surprise what with the onslaught of rain we’d had. Weeks before and leading up to the day…the rain did not let up. From the first day the extended 10 day weather forecast is posted on television and smartphones, I am tuning in. First thing each morning even before coffee I am reviewing every weather outlet to see the latest predictions. Thursday, before this years event, they had predicted rain all day. THE SUN CAME OUT! Me, the eternal optimism kept imaging Saturday would be the same. Under my breath I also muttered, “it is going to be what it’s going to be”. I knew we’d have to deal with it.
The caterer called giving us the option to cancel or reduce our quantities. A few of the band members came by to say it was OK if we wanted to cancel. Alas, the event had been advertised and the shearer was coming…THE SHOW MUST GO ON.
Saturday began with more rain then I had seen any day that week, POURING! Even if it stopped before the gates opened we’d have mud galore.
How should we prepare? Would people even come?
Although the attendance was certainly down we had some real troopers out here! No one seemed bothered. Most were fully aware what to expect from the weather. Some learned their water resistant clothing wasn’t as water proof as they thought!. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves! Everyone understood I couldn’t ‘warm’ it up or move the puddles.
We sheared, we ate, we got wet and shivered a bit together and somehow, in the midst of all the rain and mud I so enjoyed the day with way more folks then I’d anticipated. In many ways, I didn’t realize it was raining until I removed my wet clothes!
I had several memorable interactions.
The interaction I most wanted to share is the young girl and her parents who together had been discovering the world of knitting. They had decided, to buy some wool and take it through the process of washing, carding, spinning and finally knitting. They were picking a freshly shorn fleece to buy and I encouraged them while here to pick a sheep and really connect the wool to the source. The family was able to deliberately pick a sheep that attracted her. They were able to pet the sheep and watch the sheep get shorn. With a tear in she and her mother’s eye they shared with me how that experience touched them! They will always connect with that finished handmade piece in a way that cannot be matched! I learned of the girls grandmother in Switzerland that would be so happy to hear their experience.
I will never forget that experience and I will never forget them!
Win, loose or draw with the days finance report…it doesn’t seem to matter after a day like this!