All the abattoir work is over now. P collected the meat this afternoon. The man in charge (head slaughterer?) said the sheep were in really excellent condition. We decided to keep the fleeces and will send them off to be treated. I guess we'll try and sell them online, to cover some of our expenses. On the other hand, we might lose money on them as the curing process is, like everything else in Finland, quite expensive.
They did a good job with the butchering and the packing. We're very pleased, but it is an expensive process. There is only one abattoir in our area, so no competition. The region really really needs another one for sheep as the numbers are increasing fast and there are already bottlenecks this time of year.
Overall, we have probably broken even (not including the investment in fencing and the new shed), but we will definitely apply for an EU subsidy next year as it helps pay for the slaughtering costs. Most of all it was fun and we've saved a mint in tractor fuel (we didn't have to mow) and also in cash handouts as we usually paid the boys to cut the grass in the field. The visakoivu plantation is now naturally fertilized with organic manure and we have a freezer full of chops, sausages and shanks. Win win, as they say.
Today was the big (bad) day when we said goodbye to all the lambs.
Thanks are due to all the friends and neighbours who helped out at the crack of dawn to get the ewes into the trailer. It took a bit longer than expected which meant that F was late getting the train into Helsinki and late for school. Meanwhile P had called ahead to apologise which caused quite a commotion. No one had used "shepherding" as an excuse for being late before (after all, this is down-town Helsinki - it probably happens all the time in the countryside). He was hero of the day.
Peter dropped Elisa off at her winter residence in Perniö (she was ecstatic to find some male company) and then took the lambs (and all the paperwork) to the abattoir. It was a long, long day.
We will be able to visit Elisa during the winter, we've promised to visit with some sacks of carrots and bags of oats in the new year.
Straw for the sheep shed was delivered today. Of course, they weren't supposed to eat it all: it's meant for bedding since the ground got colder and damper. But they seem to prefer sleeping outside now that it gets dark early. They feel safer in the open I think. They watch the forest.
The sheep breeder up in Ostrobothnia told us her neighbour had lost 12 sheep to a wolf attack at the end of September. So, she is now taking all her sheep inside at night to keep them safe from wolves (in spite of the huge dog she has on guard at the farm).
More on her Facebook page.
Cosy and nice.
Elisa knew something was up... in the morning she kept her distance. A couple of times I tried to get close but even with a bucket of bread and some carrots she was very edgy.
So Peter and I went for a walk in the forest had a cup of coffee and a sandwich and dscussed tactics. We agreed that curiosity always gets the better of them, so we decided to walk down to the lake (they love it down there, especially if we are around chopping wood or if the dogs are taking a swim) and sure enough they all followed. I sat on the grass and waited for Elisa to wander over. Which she did. And that was it. Peter took hold of her while I started clipping.
Here, at the halfway "Mohican" stage, you can see how dark the "undercoat" is compared to the longer wool. Yesterday she was a shaggy brown ewe. Now she is back to black.
She will be staying outdoors for another week or so. It freezes at night so we didn't give her a short back and sides.
We should've done this 3-4 weeks ago, maybe even earlier, but it won't take long for the wool to grow again and she'll be indoors anyway.
We had estimated anything between one and two hours. I think it took me just over an hour to shear her completely and then we clipped her hoofs.
She was so calm, patient and gentle. She must've got seriously bored and hungry waiting for me to finish. Anyway, I'm sure she has her own opinion on how I rank as a sheep shearer...
Of course, I didn't even attempt to get the fleece off in a single piece: I'll leave that to the pros.
I think she quite enjoyed all the fuss and attention. She certainly makes less fuss about having her hoofs clipped than Zelda does when we clip her nails!
The next morning, Sunday... ice on her nose from grazing in the frosty grass, it was -4C this morning.
She seems happy enough and was pestering me for more carrots all morning. They also had some parsnips and the rest of the parsley from the garden.
Yes, the moment you have all been waiting for. I am going to shear Elisa on Saturday. Watch this space.
Anyway, it looks dead easy in this video.
The shears (on the left) are Burgon & Ball Ltd Sheffield steel shears - virtually unchanged in their design from 1730! We found the older pair in a flea market, they are probably Fiskars but we're not sure, Anyway, they look pretty similar.
This little madam took herself to the Other Side, all on her own. P was busy excavating a drainage ditch in the polytunnel. He noticed she was grazing on the wrong side of the fence but decided to leave her there as he was too busy to take chase.
Next time he looked she had gone back in with the others.
When I chopped up Desi's turnips for the sheep they all got really excited but then became totally underwhelmed when I threw them into the field. These lambs are like babies. They are tasting things for the first time. Some like turnips, some just sniff them and walk away, some have a taste and then walk away. Badger (who's no lamb no more) looked at me disdainfully as if to say: me? eat turnips? we're not cattle, you know.
They look in really good condtion, fat and woolly and happy and very bright. They enjoy the cooler weather. We walked across the field togather to see if there were any apples left on the trees (there weren't). Elisa shoves 108, 109 and 126 out of the way so that she can walk next to me :cute:
Before I left I gave them armfuls of carrots plus toppings. They ALL like carrots.
I'm gonna miss 'em. It will seem very, very empty without them.