Wool Gathering | Backyard Industry


WE ARE AT MY FRIEND CATHE CAPEL’S PLACE IN
SIDNEY, ILLINOIS. IT IS CALLED SEVEN SISTERS FARM.
IT IS LOCATED JUST ABOUT 20 MINUTES OUTSIDE OUR HOME BASE OF URBANA-CHAMPAIGN, ILLINOIS.
THINGS ARE FINALLY STARTING TO PERK UP AFTER A LONG AND DISGUSTINGLY COLD AND DARK WINTER.
AND HERE ON SEVEN SISTERS FARM, THERE ARE SEVERAL RITUALS THAT NEED TO BE PERFORMED
EARLY IN THE SPRING TO GET THE SEASON GOING. TODAY, I AM PARTICIPATING IN ONE OF THOSE
RITUALS. ARE YOU LADIES READY?
I AM LISA BRALTS, AND THIS IS “BACKYARD INDUSTRY.” >>>I AM CATHE CAPEL.
AND THIS IS SEVEN SISTERS FARM. IT IS A FARMSTEAD THAT WAS FOUNDED PROBABLY
IN 1850. IT WAS DEEDED TO THE WEST FAMILY BY THE RAILROAD.
THE WEST FAMILY OWNED THE FARM — THIS PORTION OF THE FARM UNTIL I BOUGHT IT IN 2008.
THE HOUSE WAS BUILT IN 1890 — BETWEEN 1893 AND 1895 WITH BRICKS FROM A BRICKYARD THAT
THE WEST FAMILY RAN THAT WAS JUST NORTH OF THE HOUSE.
THEY WERE FARMERS, BUT THEY ALSO CLEARED LAND AND WERE CONTRACTORS.
I THINK THERE ARE A FEW BUILDINGS IN SOME OF THE SMALLER VILLAGES AROUND THAT THEY BUILT
AT ONE TIME. TODAY WE ARE SHEARING MY SHEEP.
I RAISE A RARE BREED. IT IS ORIGINALLY A BRITISH BREED.
IT’S–THEY HAVE LONG LUSTROUS, COARSE WOOL, AND I HAVE A NICE MARKET WITH HAND SPINNERS
FOR THEM. I JUST — I REALLY LOVE SHEEP.
I AM REALLY ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT THEM, AND, YOU KNOW, I WANT PEOPLE WHO ARE CONSIDERING
SHEEP TO BE COMFORTABLE WITH THEM AND BE COMFORTABLE WITH WOOLED SHEEP.
WOOL SHEEP HAVE A BETTER FLAVOR IN THE MEAT, AND FIBER IS IMPORTANT.
IT IS — YOU KNOW, IT IS ANOTHER MARKETING NICHE.
BUT THE NICHE IS OUT THERE. THERE ARE A LOT OF HAND-SPINNERS WHO ARE MORE
THAN WILLING TO BUY FLEECES THAT HAVE BEEN WELL CARED FOR.
MOST OF THE PEOPLE HERE HAVE SHEEP OR ARE INTERESTED IN GETTING SHEEP AND JUST WANTED
TO KNOW MORE ABOUT SHEARING. IN MY AVERAGE DAILY LIFE, I HAVE A LOT OF
CONNECTIONS WITH PEOPLE THAT ARE INTERESTED IN SHEEP AND SHEARING AND LOCAL FOODS.
AND I E-MAILED A GROUP OF PEOPLE THAT I THOUGHT MIGHT BE INTERESTED OR PEOPLE THAT HAVE TOLD
ME IN THE PAST THAT, YOU KNOW, SOMETIME WHEN YOU ARE SHEARING, GIVE ME A CALL.
I’D LOVE TO HELP. SO I GATHERED A GROUP TOGETHER, AND FIRST
I FED EVERYONE LUNCH BECAUSE IT IS APPROPRIATE WHEN YOU ASK PEOPLE TO COME WORK FOR FREE,
THAT YOU FEED THEM. JUST A REALLY NICE MEAL GOES WITH TRADITIONALLY GOES WITH DOING CHORES
AT A FARM. AND IT IS JUST EVERYBODY RESPONDED, AND I
THINK WE HAVE A GREAT DAY. HAROLD IS A LEGEND IN ILLINOIS I THINK.
HE HAS — HE HAS BEEN — HE HAS SHEARED SHEEP, WELL, I WOULD BE — I WOULD BE MISSPEAKING
IF I GUESSED HIS AGE, BUT HE IS RETIRED FROM SHEARING NOW, AND HIS SON SHEERS.
BUT AT ONE TIME, HE SHEARED MOST OF THE SHEEP IN ILLINOIS.
>>THIS EQUIPMENT YOU ARE LOOKING AT HERE KIND OF THOSE THE PROGRESSION OF SHEARING AS WE
GO BACK THROUGH THE AGES. THIS IS HAND SHEARS THAT SERVED A PURPOSE
FOR MANY YEARS FOR SHEARING. I OFTEN THOUGHT HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHAKE
HANDS WITH SOMEBODY WHO DOES THAT ALL DAY LONG.
THE HAND CRANKER CAME ALONG AFTER THE HAND SHEARS. THESE WERE IN USE IN LATE 1800’S,
EARLY 1900’S. YOU KNOW, THIS WAS REAL FUN AND GAMES.
THIS WAS A TWO-PERSON OPERATION. ONE PERSON OUT HERE HAD TO TURN THE CRANK
WHILE THE OTHER ONE DID THE SHEARING. ACTUALLY WE NEED PREFERABLY NEED A SPEED AT
LEAST LIKE THAT. CAN YOU IMAGINE SHEARING ALL DAY LONG, HAVING
TO TURN THE CRANK? PEOPLE COMPLAIN ABOUT WORKING TOO HARD NOW,
BUT WOULD BE NOTHING COMPARED TO THIS. THEN, AS WE GO ALONG AND ELECTRICITY CAME
INTO THE RURAL AREAS, WE HAD OTHER TYPES OF EQUIPMENT THAT CAME ON THE MARKET.
THIS IS WHAT IS CALLED A SHEAR MASTER. THIS IS ONE OF THE FIRST TYPES OF SHEAR MASTERS
THAT WAS MADE FOR SHEARING FOR USING THE ELECTRICAL POWER.
ACTUALLY, I SHEARED MY FIRST SHEEP WITH ONE JUST LIKE THIS WHEN I WAS A SOPHOMORE IN HIGH
SCHOOL BACK IN ABOUT 1949, ’48, ’49, WHATEVER IT WAS.
SHEEP SHEARING IS ONE THING THAT HAS NEVER BEEN AUTOMATED. WE CAME UP WITH DIFFERENT
TYPES OF EQUIPMENT, BUT IT IS STILL PLAIN OLD HARD HAND PHYSICAL LABOR THAT IT TAKES
TO SHEAR SHEEP. IF YOU ARE A SHEEPSHEARER, THAT’S GOOD, BECAUSE
IT IS WHAT YOU CALL JOB SECURITY. THERE IS PLENTY OF WORK FOR ANYONE WHO WANTS
TO SHEAR. AND RIGHT NOW, SHEEPSHEARERS ARE A RARE COMMODITY.
>>>MY INTEREST IN FARMING IS THAT I REALLY BELIEVE IN LOCAL FOOD.
I WASN’T RAISED ON A FARM, BUT THROUGH COLLEGE, I CAME TO KNOW MORE ABOUT INDUSTRIAL FOOD
VERSUS LOCAL FOOD. I REALLY BELIEVE IN IT, AND I AM REALLY INTERESTED
IN ONE DAY HAVING MY OWN FARM. WHAT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN FOOD AND LIVING?
FEW THINGS, YOU KNOW. AND SO TO BE ABLE TO HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH
WHERE MY FOOD COMES FROM IS REALLY ATTRACTIVE TO ME.
FIBER IS PART OF THE ANIMAL. KNOWING WHERE THAT COMES FROM, THE WHOLE PROCESS
OF WHAT GOES INTO THAT IS REALLY INTERESTING.>>WERE YOU SCARED?
>>YES, I WAS TOTALLY NERVOUS BECAUSE I DIDN’T WANT TO NICK OR CUT THE ANIMAL.
>>I HAVE SHOWN ABOUT 900,000.>>900,000.
>>OVER A 50 YEAR PERIOD.>>ALMOST A MILLION SHEEP.
>>YEAH, A HUNDRED THOUSAND SHORT. BUT THAT’S THE WAY IT IS ALWAYS GOING TO BE.
>>RIGHT. HIGH FIVE.
HIGH FIVE. GOOD JOB. ALL RIGHT.>>OKAY.

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