Archive for Sunday, February 24, 2002

Students get firsthand look at professional sheepshearing

February 24, 2002


It's worth watching, but they wouldn't want to make a career of it.

At least that seemed to be the consensus of some of the Santa Maria School students who watched and even assisted with the shearing of more than 20 sheep Saturday at Pinwheel Farm, 1480 N. 1700 Road.

"I like horses more than I like sheep," said Joan Shopen, 15.

"I think it's cool," Jackie Heim, 13, said, but she had no plans to raise her own sheep. "I just like to watch."

Santa Maria School is affiliated with the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. The school is based primarily in Eudora, where grade school students attend. Junior and senior high school students attend classes at 1840 Learnard Ave.

About 10 students visited Natalya Lowther's North Lawrence farm Saturday. It was their first opportunity to watch two professional sheepshearers at work.

Once sheared, the wool was bundled in a bag for Jackie and Joan to weigh, then stacked on a large shelf in the sheep shed. The bags usually weighed from 5 to 8 pounds, they said.

Lowther, 43, has been raising sheep for the past six years. Her flock includes nearly purebred Lincoln Longwools and crosses of Finn, Romney, Suffolk, California Variegated Mutant, and Dorset breeds.

The sheep are sheared of their wool at least once a year in February. Professional sheep shearers are brought in for the job, and Lowther assists them. She invites school children to come and watch.

"There really hasn't been any publicity," Lowther said. "It's pretty much been by word of mouth."

The wool, or fleece, from Lowther's sheep is used to make yarn that is sold to handspinners and crafts-makers. She sells some products at the Farmers Market and at area craft shows, such as the wool from Lincoln Longwool sheep, which produce a yarn with a long, wavy crimp and silken luster.

"I learned to knit when I was 5 years old, but I never had any money for yarn, so now I'm raising my own sheep," Lowther said with a laugh.

Lowther also sells her sheep to be butchered for meat.

Lowther's farm has allowed students at Santa Maria to get some actual experience at doing farm work, teacher Peggy Shopen said.

The students spend one day a week doing chores such as cutting wood and feeding chickens and sheep.

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