I've mentioned my Blackie ewes, Mild Thing and her sister Wild Thing, before. But I've not talked about their shearing. But seeing as how I'm still recovering from shearing Wild Thing today, this is as good a time as any.
These two are out of a flock I originally purchased in Wisconsin several years ago. Wild Thing was known as "Pretty Girl" when she was younger, and she was a beautiful lamb. Mild Thing was unremarkable and unnamed. The two sisters stuck together like glue, which is fairly unusual in sheep. By the time they were a year old and had their first lambs, they were virtually identical in look and personality. And after several generations of lambs of their own, that personality was becoming distinctively nutty. A name change was in order. They became The Stupid Sisters.
Now, they weren't really stupid. Most sheep, despite their reputation, aren't. They just think different. And these two think real different.
Skittish doesn't really describe it, although skittishness is certainly a component. They're not aggressive in the sense of going out of their way to attack you, but they can surely feel their Wheaties and show some serious battle moxy in an attempt to escape or evade a perceived predator. And in their case, the shepherd is a perceived predator.
Shearing time is always fun with these two. We managed to do it over two weekends this year for the first time, as these two are really that inseparable. Last year they were sheared by Stuart, and he swore he never wanted to do them again. The year before that, Wild Thing ran us ragged while Mild Thing watched from a holding stall. When it came her turn, she stood perfectly. I even got her belly wool in the traditional way, turning her on her butt. I did have a lead and halter on her, just in case, but never used it until I went to lead her back to the paddock when we were finished. She bolted, literally knocking me off my feet and dragging me out of the barn! I should have been ready, because it wasn't the first time one of these two had pulled that trick. But she'd been so good, and so sweet while I sheared her that I'd forgotten. That's where their current names originated: I remarked that "This one should be Mild Thing, 'cause her sister must be Wild Thing!"
In 2007, our granddaughter Elizabeth had watched us shear these two and had called it "Grandpa's Sheep Rodeo". Indeed. But Grandpa won that year too, just like I did last year and this year, and every year so far.
Their fleece isn't anything special - Blackies have a double coat and a very coarse outer that has a tendency to felt. It is good for carpets and mattress stuffing, but that's about it. I've seen a very nice rug that was woven out of Wild Things fleece from 2007, and it was very nice indeed. But I probably wouldn't keep them around just for that - they really are the most cantankerous and hard to handle sheep in the flock.
I put up with them because they throw fine, fine lambs with apparently none of their psycho personality, and they are simply excellent mothers. I've heard it said that the first thing a lamb thinks about when it's born is how to die. Good mothering instincts are worth their weight in gold in sheep, and Wild/Mild Thing both have superb mothering natures. We've never lost a lamb out of either except 2008, when Mild Thing late term miscarried. I've never seen a sheep heartbroken before, but Mild thing was literally pining for her lost lamb for a couple of weeks, and had to be chased away from continually hanging out in the spot where she lost her.
These two, warts and all, are the core of the breeding program we've put together over the past few years. You know, the one I've not mentioned here before. But you'll be hearing about it as it comes to fruition. Suffice it to say that things are going along just fine, just fine indeed.