SunSpecial: The Barber of Shee-ville   Leave a comment

Upon the start of summer, we can look forward to balmy days of sunshine gentled by a calm breeze; picnics under a shady tree; relaxing by the pool, lake or on the beach; and hours and hours of daylight to enjoy all these things, and more. But for tens of thousands of recent college graduates, the carefree days of summer are set aside and the search for a job begins (“sure I’m working. looking for a job is a job itself!”). Those liberal arts degrees that seemed like such a good idea four (or more) years ago might not now look so promising. So what to do with your dance degree? Your fine arts accomplishments? The research on Renaissance Refinements? Why not become a sheep shearer?

In case you didn’t know, the majority of wool – that material usually reserved for expensive sweaters and high-end business suits – is the hair of the average domestic sheep (Ovis aries). (Wool can also come from other animals, such as the Alpaca (Vicugna pacos); Rabbit (family Leporidae); Musk Ox (Ovibos moschatus) and of course the Llama (Lama glama ) which is also fun to say – but none of those are closely related to sheep, which only complicates the issue). And just like our hair keeps growing and growing, so does the sheeps’ – so much so that if the wool isn’t sheared – cut off – it becomes matted, uneven, and could even hide parasites and lead to sheep health problems. But not everyone with a pair of scissors can shear a sheep – it takes skill; patience; the proper demeanor and personality; and up to a week of formal education and hands-on practice before anyone can take on the occupation of shearer to the sheep.

And, surprisingly, quite the occupation it is, too. Shearers can earn from $50 to $100 per hour; work with animals; decide when and where you want to work, traveling as close – or as far – as you’d like. There’s currently more sheep that need shearing than there are skilled shearers, and in some areas the skill is so much in demand special schools have been established and are open to anyone with the interest, personality, ability to pay a reasonable tuition and who move really, really fast; not while shearing, but just to enroll. In California, where there is a particular shortage of shearers, the University of California Hopland Research Center shearing program typically fills to capacity within hours of announcement.

“When the day spa was advertised as 'Shear Delight', this isn't what I had in mind.”

“When the day spa was advertised as ‘Shear Delight’, this isn’t what I had in mind.”

While a physical job not for the faint-hearted (working with sharp clippers, electrical cords and animals that would rather be left alone), many shearers and shearing students say there’s more art to the work than expected, comparing it to a dance between the shearer and the sheep where every movement has a purpose and a rhythm is created between shearer and shear-ee. So maybe that dance and fine arts degree might be helpful, after all. Renaissance history is still questionable.

Generations ago, once someone had fulfilled their university requirements, it was said they had ‘earned their sheepskin’, which made little sense as every essay, thesis, dissertation, diploma and degree has been printed on paper for hundreds of years. Now we know what that saying really meant.

Michonne Says: I’ve seen those fuzzy-whites when they have a lot of fur, and later when the men take the fur. I don’t think the fuzzies like it much because they always look embarrassed that their pretty fur is gone. It always grows back, but I don’t think they know that. It’s hard to feel good about yourself when you have short fur and everyone’s looking at you.

Posted June 5, 2016 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SunSpecial

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