July | Clipping on the Farm
The photographs show Ali & our exchange student Job Camps clipping. Ali starts in June with the 400 hoggs or one year old sheep being clipped for the first time. They have grown an early "rise" or thin layer of new wool that makes the job easier. We have to wait until July for the older sheep or ewes to produce this "rise" as they have had lambs and milk production which makes a significant demand on their resources. Ali says that in sheep that haven't been thriving and have no rise, it's like cutting through thick felt! Once the 1300 ewes are clipped (with a helping hand from Lance Armstrong for the last 400) it's on to the 30 tups or male sheep that are big, heavy and quite a contract and then it's all done until next year.
My job is to roll and pack the fleeces which are full of lanolin. This waterproofs the animal and although your hands get very dirty, your skin gets moisturised and softened. In fact lanolin is one of the by products of wool that's used in manufacturing all sorts of cosmetics and creams.
The fleeces are then packed into giant wool sacks or "sheets" (about 40 in each one) and sent off to the Bristish Wool Marketing Board in Galashiels. There it gets graded and baled up for further processing. Blackface fleeces like ours have quite course wool and is used mainly for carpeting. Check out http://www.campaignforwool.org for other uses and join their wool lovers campaign!
Farming in the Hills
For more pictures and information about farming life throughout the year see our on your doorstep page for farming & walking in the Pentland Hills.