Gone Through the Mill

Going “through the mill” is Western talk for “gaining experience, often the hard way.” May and June mean peak shearing season in my neck of the woods, and lots of driving. In five days, I set foot in San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Napa, Yolo, Solano, Contra Costa, and Alameda counties, and almost Lake and Colusa, too.

I am bone weary, too tired to think creatively or type much. I don’t say this to complain, but to show the reality of choosing this life, which involves many hours alone in the car, driving.

It sure is pretty, though. And it beats sitting at a desk by a long shot.

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Brooks, California

Here are some photos from the past week. I apologize for any blurriness: lanolin from my hands gets all over my phone.

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I have a convert! My friend, Beatrice, is also crazy enough to want to learn how to shear. This week, she did, and she loves it. Beatrice is wearing high shearer fashion: Salon Pas patches.


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I have become a connoisseur of good roadside stops with clean bathrooms, and the Solar Living Institute is one of the very best. I sat down at a picnic table for a little break. After a few minutes, I realized that, one year ago, I’d been sitting in the exact same spot, during the exact same week of May, utterly miserable and desperate to quit my tech job. And I did, just a few weeks later. This place felt so different this year, because I was in a different place. So I took a photo of it.


This photo makes the shearing floor look particularly idyllic, almost sedate. My hope is that the little lamb who napped beside the shearing floor will, one year from now, not be panicked by it and will feel calm for her first shearing.


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I know better. I know better than to get too sweet on livestock who are not pets. But this gal somehow found her way to my car while I was unpacking, wanting a bottle, and we were friends after that. A bummer lamb is a lovely break in the monotony of driving and shearing. She added some sweetness and light to a long day of hard work.


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Little dog seems to be having a bit of an identity crisis!


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Whit, the sheepdog, is so happy to have a little lamb to constantly watch over. The lamb is licking something on my boot while I eat lunch, and the dog is minding the lamb. I loved having these two black-and-white beauties underfoot, probably because I was sitting down.


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A Merino’s coat of many colors. Stunning!


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My best guy (on the left) and friends (from our sheep shearing co-op, www.welovesheep.com), at center. Shearing alone, hither and yon, gets really lonely. A meal with these dear hearts felt like such a big deal, and so welcome, that I had to grab a photo.



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