Sheep story

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In another lifetime, or so it seems, I spent a lot of time with sheep and goats.

My dear friends, Frank and Louise, raise wool sheep, angora goats, and herds of cats on their small farm south of Pittsburgh. From the time I dated Frank's son, Sam, at university until I left for Japan, I spent many weekends on the farm helping with the fencing, mucking barns, cleaning goats' feet and chasing sheep around the pastures to give them medicine.

It was hard physical work, but never too hard--mainly tiring, satisfying and fun. We cooked crazy foods, drank a lot of bourbon, and generally enjoyed life in the very best ways. I love Frank & Louise and the farm and I miss those weekends.

As I read this article on NEWS.com.au, I recalled a lot of happy memories:

Hermit sheep loses years of wool

sheep.jpg A VERY woolly New Zealand sheep that survived six years in the wild was today heading back into the hills near naked after his heavy fleece was shorn off on live worldwide television.

The merino wether was shorn of nearly 27 kilograms of fleece now being auctioned for the cancer charity Cure Kids.

Owner John Perriam said today that after the experience the sheep, named Shrek, was in "fine fettle".

"He's quite incredible. His personality has changed, he's almost saying 'thanks mate, I want to go back to the hills now' and he was pawing at the doors of the shed this morning," Perriam told Radio New Zealand.

Merinos, which produce a fine wool used in clothing, are usually sheared once a year, but Shrek had managed to avoid muster for six years until found in a remote part of Bendigo Station in Central Otago near the Southern Alps in New Zealand's South Island.

Shearer Peter Casserly, 56, took more than 20 minutes to take the fleece off.

"The fleece was very heavy and pulling the skin up so it would have been very easy to cut him; that's why I was only snipping away slowly. I couldn't put in many long blows," he said.

Casserly, who has been shearing since he was 17, holds the world blade shearing record of 353 sheep shorn in a nine-hour day.

27 kg is a lot of fleece. The average merino fleece is around 7 kg and fills the volume of about three fluffy bed pillows.

After shearing, Louise always had a few greasy fleeces wrapped in sheets tucked up into the loft above the kitchen. I never got to shear the sheep. Louise claimed that as her right--I think she worried that anyone else might nick the sheep.

But I did wash, card, comb and dye wool, make felt, and spin lumpy yarn. Never managed to get the hang of knitting, though.

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