Spinning the black sheep from its feet to its rear, the shepherdess takes its chin in one hand and the clippers in another.
Sometimes they put up with their 8-month shave, says Amy Wolf. “Sometimes they can just be monsters.”
The sheep is stiff and gives an occasional kick, but she still twists and turns the 125 lb. fluff ball like a wrestling champion. Each new position reveals a new place to shave.
“I don’t sheer like a man does,” she explains. There are few women who sheer sheep, because it requires upper body strength. Wolf uses leverage instead of strength. “I have to rely on physics.”
Kelsey Creek Park celebrated its annual sheer event by offering up its own three sheep for the shave alongside 15 from The Pines Farm in Maple Valley.
It’s a way for the city-owned farm to invite the community into the agricultural world. Those connections are important, because people have grown too disconnected from their food sources, she said.
About 6,000 people showed up for April 28 event, which also included access to the other farm animals, sheep dog herding and pony rides.
The event also gave the Schwider family an opportunity to share about the creatures they’ve come to love.
Such as the perspective that sheep aren’t stupid, they’re passive aggressive, Wolf said.
If a shepherd directs them toward a pasture, they often won’t follow his commands out of stubbornness. However, bring a sheep dog out and “they get smart real quick.”
The biblical sayings are true, Wolf said. “They know the shepherd’s voice.” Her father, Al Schwider later added on that this is especially true when it’s feeding time.
They can still be helplessly dependent. If they get their heads stuck in a fence, they’ll wait all day for someone to pull them out.
“They are great followers,” Wolf said, “and terrible leaders.”
The family’s 200 sheep amount more to a lifestyle than a living. The idea started about 35 years ago, when someone from King County suggested that by starting a farm, the family could earn tax cuts.
They’ve done a show at Kelsey Creek for 8 years.There is technique in buzzing the sheep. Schwider was careful to pull the skin straight, as to not cut them with the heavy-duty shavers. The sheep’s hooves never touch the ground.
Hair can only be run over once during the first sheer, otherwise the “second shave” presents little hairballs that get caught in the spinning process. Shepherds wait until the sheep’s hair is about three inches long, which takes the family’s Romney sheep about 8 months.
Amy Wolf, from The Pines Farm, sheers a Romney sheep at Kelsey Creek Farm for an audience April 28. The Schwider family has demonstrated its craft at the Bellevue park for about 8 years.
Al Schwider of The Pines Farm, helps a sheep onto the stage for its 8-month sheer.
Amy Wolf steadies a stubborn sheep before sheering it. Few women sheer sheep, because it takes upper body strength. She uses leverage to get the job done.
The sheers used to shave a sheep are specially designed to handle the thick wool and the oils that coat them.
Amy Wolf sheers a sheep.
Al Schwider of The Pines Farm in Maple Valley sheers a sheep at Kelsey Creek Farm April 28.