Today was shearing day at my friend Robin’s farm, Elderberry Farm. She has an assortment of sheep: Polwarth, Shetland, Jacob, Shropshire (and crosses) and two guard llamas Hamish and Joy.
After the shearer is done with an animal we put the fresh, still warm fleece on the skirting table which is made of chicken wire. We spread out the fleece and remove any dirty or matted parts and sections with too much vegetation in them. Vegetation in fleece is called vm for vegetable matter and spinners talk a lot about vm because we hate having to remove it before we spin. There may also be short bits of fleece called second cuts. These happen when the shearer makes a second pass over the animal to touch up the haircutting job. Removing the undesirable and otherwise icky parts of fleeces is called skirting.
This section of fleece has a lot of vm so we removed it from the fleece and throw it in a garbage bag. Some shepherds keep the skirtings and spend time washing and cleaning them. Others just throw them out or use them for compost.
Jean fell in love with a gorgeous Polwarth Shetland cross fleece with lovely long locks and Shetland like curly tips. She was not planning to buy any fleece today but a true spinner cannot resist a beautiful fleece.
I took home Hamish the llama’s fleece, a gorgeous brown and white soft fleece. Hamish has been guarding Robin’s sheep for 14 years. Llamas are excellent guard animals quite capable of killing a dog or coyote. Robin says the coyotes just run past her farm, knowing there are llamas there.