The Short Version
I have always had a great love for animals. I have run my own farm since 2002 and over the years have built up a very robust shearing clientele. My approach to shearing is to be as kind, quiet, and efficient as possible. I’m a great believer in learning from those who are better and more experienced than me. Training courses I’ve attended:
- Maryland/Delaware Sheep shearing school (beginning and advanced)
- Private instruction by John Bradford
- Light Livestock alpaca shearing school (Matt Best)
- Ohio advanced alpaca shearing school (Matt Best)
- West Virginia alpaca shearing school (Matt Best)
- Virginia advanced alpaca shearing seminar (Jay Mariacher)
- South Dakota sheep shearing school
- Watertown, SD sheep shearing course by Michael Pora
- Pierre, SD sheep shearing course by Michael Pora
I’m very interested in natural animal handling, and have learned a great deal from Parelli training and reading Temple Grandin’s works.
My core client base is shearing sheep, alpacas, and llamas; I also shear Angora and Pygora goats. I clip cows (primarily for their health if they do not shed, not for show), horses, ponies and donkeys, and shed out (or clip, if requested) livestock guardian dogs. Occasionally I have the honor of shedding out or clipping a camel (I love camels).
The Longer Version
I’ve been involved in shearing since 2004 when I took my first class in Maryland. I’d bought my farm in Boyds, Maryland in 2002 and within a week had brought home two little lambs. Well, of course, the lambs turned into sheep and the sheep needed to be sheared. In 2003 the shearer who came to my farm happened to mention to me that he’d learned in shearing school. I’d never heard of such a thing. How dandy! So I found a school and signed up.
I went to learn how to shear my own sheep, as many people do (and, to be perfectly truthful, also to have a day off from a dreary office job). And, also as most people do, I found it difficult and daunting. But I bought myself a pair of shears and then went back and took another class. I wasn’t entirely happy with the way the sheep were being treated in the class, and I decided that I wanted to learn how to shear gently and without harm to the animal and that if I became good enough, I would offer this as a service to people.
In fact, a few folks started asking me to shear their sheep for them – oh my, I was green! But I persisted. One year I was lucky enough to get some hands-on learning from a Kiwi (New Zealand) shearer and began to see a bigger picture; I was truly at the bottom of the mountain. But I’m a stubborn type and it was all so interesting!
Up till now I’d only been learning how to shear sheep, but at the relentless encouragement from my friend Matt Best, I travelled to upstate New York to do the alpaca shearing school. And then went to another one in Ohio. And another one in West Virginia. (I like school. I also like travelling.)
I think a turning point for me was when I went to the sheep shearing course taught by the extension service in South Dakota in 2014 and learned all about footwork. No one had ever really talked about feet before. And knees. And holding the sheep with your legs such that you don’t need your arms at all. I knew shearing sheep was a kind of dance but had never figured out the steps. Lightbulbs went on all over the place.
Most recently I’ve taken two advanced seminars out in South Dakota taught by Australian shearer Michael Pora. Many of the other folks in the class shear more than 10,000 sheep in a year. I was very impressed by them. I’m reasonably certain I will never shear 10,000 in a year. But Michael was patient with this East Coast shearer who does smaller flocks, and I learned a great deal.
Part of being a good shearer, I think, is understanding the animals you are working with – and liking them. It’s important to know and interpret their body language, and to work with, not against them. Possibly because I am a woman and do not have the upper body strength that most men do, I’ve had to learn how to work with my brain and with physics – because I can’t use brute force. Typically my assistants are also women, and together we use methods that flow with the energy of the animal.
My background is not at all in shearing. I grew up in Rhode Island, daughter of an English professor and an actress. I studied foreign languages at Yale University, where I received my B.A., and Arabic Linguistics at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where I received my M.A. I spent a post grad year in Bonn, Germany on a Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst fellowship, and a year at the American University in Cairo, Egypt on a CASA scholarship, completing my coursework for my Master’s degree. I worked for some years at the Saudi Arabian Embassy, and then went back to school to learn computer programming. From there, I transitioned into web development (when that became a thing), and worked as a developer for many years. It was all quite fine, but I prefer to spend my time with animals.
I find shearing endlessly interesting and challenging. I enjoy being on the road and seeing the beautiful countryside. I enjoy meeting farmers and learning about their ways of doing things. I love working with the animals, and providing a service that helps them. At the end of every day, I know I’ve done something useful. My soul is at peace.
I select my assistants based on their abilities as well as their gentle attitude towards animals. My assistants will always put your animals’ welfare first. You may see a different helper depending on the date and location.
I shear for fiber, hobby, pet flocks, animal sanctuaries, educational and governmental institutions as well as production flocks. My clients include the The Maryland Zoo at Baltimore, Virginia Donkey Sanctuary, and Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary. I offer educational demonstrations upon request.
Flock sizes that I shear vary from 1 to 100. If you are in my travel area, I will come out even if you have only one or two animals.
I am happy to provide references to you from the happy animals (and their owners) for whom I’ve sheared.
If I do not serve your area, or am unavailable to help you, please check with the American Sheep Industry Association’s online shearers database.