Window break.

Stress line.
Fault line.
Scar tissue.

I could be getting all Buddhist, but the surprising connectedness of most living things strikes me afresh sometimes.

I knew about tree rings; that the story of an entire tree's life is written there, but until last weekend I had no idea the same was true for a sheep's fleece.

In the shearing shed, where the freshly-thrown fleece is assessed for quality while it's literally still warm from the sheep's body, a swift and brutal criteria is applied to small tufts of fibre pulled from it, not just for micron measurement, but for tensile strength. Basically can it be pulled apart? If it tears it's a disappointing day for the farmer and it's designated to the lower grade bins.

This fleece is not destined to be a Zegna suit.

The gaps that appear in this ignominious tuft appear as window-pane like, hence the name, and indicates a point in the fleece's growth where the sheep was stressed, albeit briefly, which physically affected the follicle, and ditto affected the wool growth at that point.

Or, as Daniel Kiely (sheep farmer, shearer, Extreme Sports enthusiast and Host extraordinaire) would say - assuming the sheep's inner monolgue:

Geez, anythin' 'd stress a sheep right out...

"Ah!, I've fallen in the dam!
Ah! there's me own shadow"! ...

And then the wool's shit, mate !

You may remember that just before last xmas, I adopted a sheep called Bob.

Bob lives with approximately 2,500 odd of his mob on a drought-stricken property Uamby, in north-west New South Wales. A recent invitation to all Adopters to a barbie on Uamby happily coincided not only with my birthday, but also a simmering hankering to get out of the City, so Goat and I took a long weekend off to make the four hour trip.

The fleece that the Kiely's sheep produce (the stuff that passes the window-break test, that is) is super fine merino, and ultimately destined for Italian mills and fine suitings. No yarn, and certainly
nothing for spinners. Michael Kiely tells me it's "too fine" for the local spinners, who prefer something with a higher micron range that they can "grab a hold of".

It was a fine day: bush bashing in the back of a splintery old ute for a
mini-muster (really just an excuse to show off some highly skittish lambs and their protective mothers), the dry, dry prickly land palpable underfoot.

Much alcohol and enormous lunch in the shade at the back of the house attended by thousands of the most tenacious flies ever. (These are tough bush flies mate, none of this sissy City 'just-brush-them-away' rubbish here. No, you have to forcefully manhandle them right off your beef).

Followed by some shearing up in the shed.

Oh, the shed, the magic, magic light of the
Shearing Shed which imparted its' magical glow to every under-exposed, ill-composed photo I could snap.

Built around the turn of last century, it's a gem of pragmatic, vernacular architecture.
Corrugated iron, raw sapling posts and gates, smoothed down to a golden satin patina by ninety years of lanolin-coated shearers' hands.

Incidentally, none of the wool that was shorn that afternoon passed the strength test, which speaks volumes about the kind of stress the sheep are under at the moment. If you're interested in adopting a sheep (it is coming up to xmas, like you need reminding), you can read more about it here.

The final humiliation of the day for Scout who had been hanging out with Lucy, Ravi and Kodie the sheepdogs all day (actually 6 month old puppy Kodie is not shaping up to be that good a sheepdog, but that's another post), was having to be physically lifted into the back of the ute by Farmer Daniel. She is indeed a "soft paw dog".
A city dog.

This is more Scout's speed when it comes to bush bashing.

A room with a view of it.
Preferably from the comfort of a soft cushion.
In some nice shade.
With snacks provided.

Poor Scout. It's tough I tell ya, mate.

As many photos of the Uamby/Mudgee experience as you can handle here. I only took, oh, about 150. I did edit them down, really I did.


Blogger kgirlknits said...

did you manage to pluck a tuft of Bob's fleece?

and by the way, Happy Birthday!

19 October 2007 at 6:51 pm  
Blogger shula said...

Mate, my dog gets like that after a visit to the hairdressers....

Tell Scout not to be embarrassed.

19 October 2007 at 7:03 pm  
Blogger Rose Red said...

As a former country girl it is heartbreaking to see the land so dry and read about the lower quality fleeces. But thanks for the cheering story of Scout's experiences!!
And happy birthday!!

19 October 2007 at 7:08 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

all the best people must have birthday's in october, i think! happy one to you (mine next w'end).
and you have made me hanker for a bit of country! (NOT country & western, mind.) that shearing shed... making me homesick!

19 October 2007 at 9:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh, and whenever we take our dogs to the country... well, um, i think you posted about abnoxious pongs last time. we usually end up with dogs covered in fresh, green.. muck. best way to put it really. the freshest cowpat available. yerk. i think you got off lightly with scout!

19 October 2007 at 9:34 pm  
Blogger Loraine said...

love that light too and happy birthday :)

19 October 2007 at 11:32 pm  
Blogger Ashley said...

Birthday! Sly thing, sneaking it in like that. Many happy returns.

Poor stressed sheep, and poor Farmer Daniel. I can only imagine what a shearing's worth of useless fleeces will do or his livelihood. Don't those sheep know he's got kelpies to feed? I wonder if there's sheep Prozac.

And poor little tenderfoot Scout. It's rough keeping up with your country cousins.

20 October 2007 at 12:33 am  
Blogger Christy said...

That's so interesting; I relaly knew so little about the life being shown in the fleece

23 October 2007 at 7:02 am  
Blogger Madge said...

Happy birthday to ewe
Happy birthday to ewe
Happy birthday, dear Carson
Happy birthday to ewe

And many m-o-r-e!

23 October 2007 at 8:54 am  
Blogger Heather Moore said...

Thanks for the fantastic tour - brought back heaps of memories of my time in Australia! I remember those pesky heavy flies of yours. I'd never seen anything like it! I like my flies skittish, me!

23 October 2007 at 4:17 pm  
Blogger MWM said...

behind as usual....
Happy birthday:)
Looks like it was an interesting trip. the photo of the shed interior is amazing -it looks japanese.

24 October 2007 at 2:10 am  

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