By the time I got there, Greg had already mustered about half the ewes into the paddock by the sheep yards. I got to stand strategically, make Big Scary Noises, and watch Ben and Kaya, the sheepdogs, do their job and get the sheep into the pens:
Watching sheep move like a school of fish really will never get old. (And actually, now that I look at that picture, it looks like Ben's doing all the work; the black spot within the concrete block at the very right of the picture is Kaya having a paddle in the cistern.)
Once we got the ewes in, Greg got to work getting the shearing stations ready and I got to work taking more pictures of sheep.
When the shearers arrived, they started setting up, and Greg and I went back up to the top of the driveway to collect the rams for shearing as well. Greg gave me a four-wheeler and the task of getting the rams back to the sheepyards, which I was more than happy to do. I missed tearing around on four-wheelers!
Look at 'em go! Except, as evidenced by the fact that I could take pictures and drive a four-wheeler at the same time, here's a shot of the spedometer:
Four kilometers an hour. Yeeee haw.
An eternity later, when I finally got the rams out to the sheepyards, the shearers were all set up and ready to go. There were four men and three women, most of them related, and it was amazing to watch them work. They had obviously been working together for a very long time, and seemed almost like a single machine rather than seven different people.
Three of the men were up on the platform, doing the actual shearing, and the three women stood on the floor below, skirting the fleece as it came off, sorting the belly wool, neck wool, and dags into three different piles before taking the remaining fleece to the wool baler, that contraption in the center of the photo there. The sheep on this farm are Romney, Finn, Texel, and Perendale, all varieties that have been bred for meat rather than wool (even though I think the wool is really lovely!). So, rather than selling each fleece individually, the wool gets packed into bales and sent to an auction or an agent who will buy it for carpet wool.
So when each shearer finished with a sheep, the woman on the floor would roll it up and heave it at the wool baler, aiming for either of those two wooden bins. The fourth guy there was in charge of the baler, and would take the fleeces the women threw him and pack them in those bins as tightly as possible. He started with his arms (I got to help with this bit, and my skin up to the elbows was buttery-soft from all the lanolin), but as the bins got more and more full, he just hopped in and stomped on it like he was making wine.
The sheep themselves, although sometimes nicked and slightly dazed, seemed little the worse for wear. However, their heads now seemed waaaay too big for their bodies:
Ben the sheepdog and I herded the shorn ewes out into one of the far paddocks for the night (or rather, herded them twice, as I got them all in the right spot before realizing that I hadn't opened the gate. Awesome.), and, after stealing a judiciously large handful of wool, I made my dirty, sweaty, and sheep-greasy way back to Bob and Sandy's. All in all, I couldn't have asked for a better shearing day!
(Not sure what's going on with the shaggy guy in the front there--he may just have been too ornery to sit still for the shearing.)
Next up: big city living after two months of complete rural immersion. Do I still remember what traffic lights look like?