February: Love and The Art of Shearing
Wednesday, 5 February 2014 | Whistlebare
FEBRUARY: LOVE AND THE ART OF SHEARING
There comes a time in every girl's life when she's ready for a bit of romance. For some it might involve flowers, champagne and a fabulous dinner but here at Whistlebare we look for something more: consideration, gentleness and, of course, enviable technical skill.
I'm not thinking here about my darling husband. Naturally, I assume he has the whole flowers and champagne angle completely covered. Past experience does not guarantee this, but I am ever the optimist.
On this occasion, I am, as always, thinking about the important girls in my life: the Angora does. For them, true love comes in a different form and sadly, the bucks just don't quite cut it. Even our main stud billy goat Havelock, handsome though he undoubtedly is with his gorgeous horns and musky aroma, isn't true Valentine's material. He may have outstanding genetic traits, giving his offspring many advantages in life including health, good looks and superior fleeces. But when it comes to fidelity he really doesn't rate very highly.
Billy goats have a reputation for being a bit gruff but Havelock is quite the opposite; he's actually rather charming. But there is a fundamental problem: essentially his job is to do his duty by the whole flock so monogamy just isn't on his radar. And when he's not busy with that he tends to indulge in the goat equivalent of sitting on the sofa and watching football.
As for last year's billy kids, which have been left entire, they can be a bit more boisterous, but in spite of their youthful enthusiasm they can't compete with Havelock's undeniable charm. They currently have to settle for waiting on the substitutes' bench ready to help out next time, or join the transfer list.
So where do Angora does find love? Well, they certainly love each other. There are close companionships within the flock and genuine affection for each other, especially within family groups. But the most important man in their lives is the shearer. That's not to say that they don't appreciate it when my husband cares for them, but the relationship with the shearer, in an Angora's life, is the most important one of all.
Unlike sheep, Angoras are shorn twice a year and their fleeces are delicate and need to be removed gently. What's more, it needs to be lovingly clipped from legs and faces. Some of the does are also in kid, due to produce in early March, so they don't appreciate rough handling. Finding a shearer who is prepared to take time and treat them with respect is therefore top of my list of priorities. That's why I am particularly pleased to have found Stuart who fits the bill perfectly.
So, while the human population is preparing to drown in a sea of champagne and rose petals, the Angoras have more practical considerations in mind: consideration, gentleness and, of course, enviable technical skill.