Wednesday, September 20, 2017

My Self-Loading Sheep Shearing Table

This is the latest iteration of my shearing bench.   I rebuilt it several times and may modify it more in the future.  It is assembled with screws so it is easy to take apart if need be.

I later substituted inch-wide nylon belts for the footholds to make them easier to put on and take off the sheep.

Here's how it works.  First you stand it on end. 

Then you back up your sheep to the seat.  The seat has two extending wings so that the sheep's rear stays in line.

Then you tip the sheep onto the chair.

Then you tip the whole works over while holding on to the sheep with one hand.  I have a lawnchair like seat that I tip sheep into for trimming their hooves.  It occurred to me that I could incorporate the same idea into a shearing table.

Once the sheep is on its back you remove the seat. It slides out easily.

Next, slide the sheep forward...

..attach the front legholds...

and the rear legholds.

Then you stretch out the sheep.

Ready to shear.

I'm kind of a hack when it comes to shearing, but I'm slowly getting the hang of it.  Notice my old shearing stand in the backround.  I've been trying to make shearing less of a rodeo event for awhile.

Marja gathered up the good wool as I was shearing and much of the short second cuts went on the ground.  A top shearer can clean a whole sheep with almost no second cuts, but I'm nowhere near that level.  Icelandic sheep have long wool and are tricky to shear.

Ideally the shears should ride right along the surface of the skin, but as you can see in this photo, there is a lot of cleanup work to be done.  With experience you develop a sense for the sheep's contours under all that wool and how each shearing stroke, called blows, is best angled.

It seemed like the sheep got calmer as I became more proficient.  I turn off the shears when they struggle and speak softly to them.  Eventually they resign themselves to fact they struggling is useless - they aren't going anywhere.

What you see on the ground is a lot of belly wool or dirty wool and short second cuts.

The bags are full of wool.

Our Pond

The pond has never been this high in September.  It has been overflowing all summer long.

When I was a boy we used to catch painted turtles at a little pond we called Hokey's Dam.    It contained huge turtle called Tugboat that my friends claimed to have seen.  I never saw it myself but it was exciting to think that such a turtle existed.  It was our equivalent to the Loch Ness monster.

Having this pond dug is literally throwing money down a hole, but I have never regretted it.  We swim in in, fish in it and skate on it, and attracts all sort of birds - kingfishers, swallows, herons and eagles.

Silphium, a prairie plant that Aldo Leopold wrote of in his Sand County Almanac.  I planted some seeds some years ago and a few plants sprung up.  This year I enclosed this one with chicken wire so the sheep would not graze it.

I plan to harvest the seeds and plant more of these.  I'm not much for house plants, but wildflowers intrigue me.

The farmhouse looks happy wearing its new red coat.


Telling a story

...a real tall tale

...with action!


One of our greatest joys is to see how all our daughter-in-laws care for each other.  They are like sisters.

The solar eclipse.

Lawn mowers.

Can you pick out the odd goose?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


Silvopasture (Latin, silva forest) is the practice of combining forestry and grazing of domesticated animals in a mutually beneficial way. Advantages of a properly managed silvopasture operation are enhanced soil protection and increased long-term income due to the simultaneous production of trees and grazing animals.

Years ago we planted most of our fields full of pine trees, long before I acquired sheep and realized that I would need pasture one day.

So by default I have begun to practice silvopasturing - grazing my sheep in the pines.  I  mow lanes to set up the electric netting that I use to contain the sheep - and keep predators out.

I have also begun pruning off the lower branches of the pines with a polesaw.  This permits more sunlight to reach the grass and improves the value of the logs that will eventually come from these trees.

It also provides my sheep with a diverse diet of grass, forbs and leaves.

As well as comfort and shade. This is my ram Gunnar. I often find him lying under a thick spruce with low-hanging limbs, which seem to offer some relief from biting insects.

I put bells on a number of the sheep to better locate them in thick brush.

Interestingly, my sheep to relish pine needles during the winter, when they are on a hay diet.  They won't touch them during the summer however.

Momma and son.  The ewes and their lambs are usually found together.
I was wondering why the sheep had not eaten the leaves off these saplings.

Here is the reason.  If you've ever thrown rocks at one of these as a kid you know what I mean.


Monday, August 7, 2017


First strawberries of the season.

Marja-mummu enjoying her granddaughters.

We've got it made in the shade.

Our lakefront property.

Birthday girl.

Fi's birthday party at the Larsen camp.  The lake was cold, but the sauna was hot.

This little girl came too.

Her father had this same gaze when he was born.

First canoe ride.

I brought my friends with me.

Bringing in eggs from the chicken coop.

Vintage  steel Radio Flyer in the foreground, the modern plastic version in the backround.

Wait!  Come back and play with me!