Amy wrote this on January 2nd, and we all agreed that we would share it on the blog alongside photos from our big shearing day on Jan. 3rd.
I have been thinking a lot about beginning a new year, and setting intentions for the year going forward. So much happened in the last year, in the world and on the farm, and through it all I feel like I grew a lot. I have learned a lot.
One of the things that I keep coming back to is a brainstorming session we had here on the farm. We looked at all we are doing on the farm and looking ahead for some long range goal setting. We did an exercise where we wrote a long list of all the activities that happen every day. We then looked at this list in a myriad of ways. The one that sticks with me isn't about profitability or convenience, or cost or time management. It is about what brings us joy.
We all rated each activity on a scale from 1 to 10 of how much joy it sparked in us. It was enlightening to see what sparked joy in each person working here, and what did NOT spark joy for each of us. I won't share all the findings, except that for me it turns out that sheep are a big 10.
I love my flock of sheep. I love shearing them; a few minutes to get to know this creature who prefers to live out her days in the wind and rain and sunshine. Shearing is an intensely physical job, but it's also a dance with a partner, a rhythm with shears and wool and a pattern of dance steps between the shearer and the sheep. I feel strong and happy when I am shearing. I love being in the barn with them when they are lambing, and watching them graze in the summer, and moving them to new pastures.
I have always loved sheep since I was a young girl in Vermont. I begged my parents for a sheep to live in the vacant lot next to our house. It wasn't until I moved to Orcas that I got to have a flock of my own. I have never looked back. My first sheep was Bossy, of Bossy's Feltworks. A Cotswold/Suffolk cross with curly wool and a strong sense of leadership and connection with her flock and her shepherds. She was a really smart sheep. She has shaped the trajectory of my life since 1997 when she first arrived on our farm. There's still some of Bossy's genetics in my flock.
In any case, going forward this year, I highly recommend thinking about your life, and what sparks joy for you, and follow that path however you can. You never know where you will end up!!
Tomorrow we will be shearing our flock of ewes in preparation for March lambing. I am not sure how many there are.... about 65-70 I think. It is the first time this year to get our hands on each sheep, check their health, vaccinate them, give them a pedicure and a new hairdo, and make sure they are ready for motherhood.
There will be five shearers in the barn (thank you Sarah Maki Smith and WSU Shearing School!) and a few more of us handling the sheep and the wool. We will skirt the wool, and pack it in boxes for shipping to wherever it needs to go. This is a long busy day, and I can't wait!!
Here's to 2023 and choosing Joy on a scale of 1-10!!
A quartet of Women Shearers: Kathy Morris, Jennifer Pietsch, Amie Stevens and Amy Lum are all graduates of WSU Shearing School.
Turns out the new milking platform is also perfect for skirting.
The Milking Parlour has been turned into Wool Central. As you an see, we have just a little bit to skirt and sort...
About 70 sheep were shorn at the work party. In the weeks before the big shearing party, Amy had sheared 80 of last year's lambs. Everyone looks so trim and clean!
Special thanks to all involved at this big shearing work party: Shearers* Amy Lum, Kathy Morris, Jennifer Pietsch and Amie Stevens; Vaccinators and Shearer Support Crew: Crystal Mossman, Martha Lum and Pi; Wool sorting crew: Shannon O'Donnell and Mandy Troxel; Pit Crew: Eric Lum
*Orcas Island Shearing is a trio of Orcas Island Farmers: Kathy Morris (West Beach Farm), Jennifer Pietsch (Orcas Moon Alpacas) and Amy Lum. They've been shearing together for a decade.