Roo The Day

I hurt my wrist and elbow at work Monday, so progress on Liam’s fleece has slowed to a near halt. Today I noticed Neo starting to chew his wool off, so since I couldn’t do any combing I decided to roo him instead. Because that’s not hard on the arms at all. Ahem, yes, not my smartest decision. I’m typing one-handed, if anyone’s interested.

I tried to get a good shot of Neo’s shaggy coat with the tufts sticking out, but all the pictures turned out like this.


“Move over, I want the crunchies!”

“YOU move over! They’re MY crunchies!”

Sheep. No manners at all.

Rooing a Soay is much better than shearing them, since Soay fleeces are so short they can’t afford the length lost by shearing. They also tend to be hairy/kempy, and when rooed the undercoat comes away and leaves most of the hair and kemp that would otherwise end up in the fleece. After I’m done pulling the undercoat away, I usually go back over with the shears annd clean up what’s left, just because I think that sparse outer coat makes them look mangy.


On the right side the wool has been plucked away, leaving most of the kemp and guard hair.

The loose coat must itch or something, because when it gets really loose the sheep will start pulling it out themselves with their teeth. I know it’s getting time to roo when I see clumps of wool stuck to their mouths. Unfortunately that means I lose most of the wool if I wait until the coat is completely loose, so I do usually end up shearing at least part of the fleece. The shearing part took four times as long as the rooing part, because Neo’s fleece was dense. Really dense. So dense I could hardly get the shears through the wool to cut it. I almost decided to give up and leave him with a poodle haircut until the rest of his fleece loosened, but I hacked my way through it in the end. I think between him and Liam my shears have just about had it.

In all, I ended up with two grocery bags of nice (for a Soay) rooed wool, and one grocery bag of not so nice sheared… stuff-that-grew-on-Neo. Everything from wool to hair to grass seeds. Lots and lots of grass seeds. Between that and the shorter length it’ll have to be processed separately from the rest of his fleece.

I also ended up with a very grumpy wether.


“Leave me alone, MeanShepherdPerson! I don’t want your stupid crunchies.”

On the other side of the field, Mira is doing very well moving in with the ewe flock. She still cries and comes running if she sees me, but otherwise she’s perfectly happy.

Nova is less happy, as Johnny insists on wandering off with Will, despite her (loud) yelling at him to come back. Soay are pretty quiet so I usually look outside if I hear baaing, but I’ve given up checking on them when I recognise Nova’s voice. She’s always just lost track of her wayward son again.


The ewe flock, with Mira in the middle. And Johnny hanging out with Will on the opposite side of the flock from Nova.


10 thoughts on “Roo The Day

  1. I read your blog over several times a week and I wanted to stop in and say that I really enjoy each and every one of your posts. I love how you share many pictures with us. Several times a week my kids ages 7, 9 and 11 love to read it too! The 1st grader is really catching on to reading with expression and I think your blog is helping. Thank you for adding sheep/dog fun and good reading to our lives. I need to bookmark the post with the video of the little sheep playing as the kids love to watch it every time they sit down to read your blog. I really enjoy keeping up with your life.

  2. Roo the day is right 🙂 Sorry about your wrist and elbow. UGH! I was very surprised to see all the kemp and hair left behind, kind of funny in a way. What was traditionally done with Soay fleeces? just looked up Soay in the Field Guide to Fleeces and basically you do what you can with it…keep an open mind she said, haha I have a rooed Shetland fleece from some years ago, didn’t call my name so will have to look at it again. As I recall it had long fleece and then short fine stuff that was closer to the body. So pleased Mira is chomping away out there in the field.

    • According to what I’ve read the residents of St Kilda used to just gather the shed wool off of bushes and things where the sheep scraped it off. Of course those sources also usually say they made their underwear from the Soay wool, which is about the worst possible thing I can think of to use a scratchy fleece for. I can’t imagine that’s actually true… unless that’s why they were always scowling in pictures. 😉

      • LOL, now that is a sight to think about !! It makes sense that they and most others at that time, gathered what they could by hand…so, consider yourself lucky with your dull shears. glad I’m far enough away you can;t toss them at me haha

      • My first time shearing was with electric shears so big I couldn’t wrap my hand around them. My second was with a pair of small kitchen scissors. I’m very grateful for my dull hand shears. 🙂

      • I recently got to play with and spin a sample of Soay in a Deb Robson workshop. (I thought of you and yours). The different fibers had already been separated for us and I just spun the undercoat. It was wonderfully soft. If I lived on a bare island with very little in the way of material resources, i could maybe see using it for next-to-skin items. After all, that far north, *something* has to go next to the skin… 😉

      • The undercoat is pretty nice if you can separate it from the outer coat. The two coats are almost exactly the same length though, so if their not pulled apart when the animal is rooted it’s pretty much impossible to separate the two.

  3. Dear Sarah,
    So that’s what kemp and guard hair look like! What with their deer-like look, their wildness, and their hairy weeol, it’s evident that Soay sheep reflect some of what very early sheep might have been like.

    Good to see Mira doing what sheep do best in the spring: keep their heads down and munch!

    Still, it must tug at your heart when she comes running over. Are you positive you don’t want an electric-cords-are-snacks indoor pet again?

    Very best,


    • Most sources agree that Soay are representative of what domestic sheep were like in the iron age, at least in northern Europe.
      Mira’s fine where she is; Watcher chews on power cords as well, and I’m quite satisfied with only having to keep one animal from frying his brain. 🙂

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