Nearby is a monastery.  Rather than go on and on about what an interesting and spiritual place this is, you can read about it here Mount Saviour Monastery.  I will say that regardless of where you come from, denomination, race, etc., the chapel is a wonderful place to sit and pray.  And the surrounding area with the sheep is very restful.  The photo is of a 14th century statue in the crypt.

While visiting last week, I saw a sign announcing the day they would be shearing their sheep.  So early on Saturday I drove to a friend’s house who is fortunate enough to live about a mile from the monastery and we walked uphill to the barn. 

 You know you’ve entered the Monastery grounds when you see a large crucifix on the side of the road, looks old and what you’d expect to find. I forgot to take a photo of it.  But, I did take a photo of what I saw next, part of an electric fence.  Not a very interesting photo, but it struck me that it was such a modern contrast to the old wood hand crafted crucifix and an example of the modern monastic life, some things done as they always have been, but others things done in a modern way.

 A view of the barn uphill in the distance, you can barely see a part of one of the Casas on the left. The Casas are where guests stay.

 A little bit closer …

Approaching the barn we could see lots of cars parked around it and people walking in and out of the barn and over to the chapel and gift shop.

 Inside the barn… Watching this gentleman working, it was easy to see he had a lot of experience with sheep. He worked very quickly, carefully, handling the sheep firmly but kindly so as not to injure them or cause them much stress.  A young woman was also shearing and while not quite as quick and neat as the man, she was pretty darn good.  Note:  I don’t know what most people envision when they think of a Monk.  When working with sheep, here they wear a type of coverall.  I noticed Bro. Bruno and Bro. Pierre wearing them and so I’m guessing that the man in coveralls in the photo below is a monk.

 

 There was a man standing near me taking lots of photos, smiling as he did.  By the way he was talking to the monks I could tell he knew them well.  Curious, I struck up a conversation with him and found out that the two teen girls in the photo are his daughters.  They travel from D.C.  every year for shearing weekend and other retreats.  The girls help every year and this year they were ‘throwing the sheep’, which basically means flipping them over onto their backs and sliding them over to the shearer to save him some work.  Behind the girls you can see more sheep waiting to be shorn, hundreds were done that day.  The sheep was herded into the barn the day before (the monks ride 4 wheelers ) avoiding a thunderstorm and wet sheep.  A lot of people come to help herding and shearing and so it goes very quickly.  

 A very large, shorn fleece on the skirting table.  All but a ewe named Poodle and a lamb, are white.  Poodle and the lamb are black.  While normally they send all the fleeces off to be processed and spun into yarn, batting and such, when I asked they were pleased to sell me a fleece or two for a workshop.   I picked out a large white fleece and asked for Poodle’s fleece to be set aside for me in case I missed her being shorn while taking a lunch break.

  Sure enough I missed Poodle being shorn. For some reason I thought Poodle was a ram and would be done last, but Poodle is a ewe.. duh…. And she was too far when I came back to get a close up shot of her. This was taken with the zoom feature on the camera and you still can barely see her.  She is the lone black sheep in the center of the photo.  What you don’t see in the photo is a glider  in the sky from the nearby national glider museum, a post for another day.

 

After the sheep are shorn, they are checked very carefully for any cuts or signs of illness and such.  They are then released and immediately go out to look for their lambs which have been waiting, impatiently and very noisily for their moms.   Here are a few waiting and behind them a Ewe is nursing her lambs.  We watched as she was released and ran right over to her lambs which looked to us, exactly like many of the other lambs.  While she knew exactly which lambs were hers, the lambs at first were not sure this was mom.

The matriarch of the sheep, an older ewe was creating quite a fuss.  Very upset that some of her flock was still in the barn, she would come in from the pasture and complain very loudly.  Every time she did so, all the lambs waiting for their moms would run to her and follow her also complaining, making for a lot of noise.  Eventually she would leave, still baa-ing loudly, calling the sheep to follow her.   I tried to take a photo of her, but she was pretty upset and moving faster than  I was.

 Here are the fleeces I brought back home with me.  The white is actually much larger than the dark fleece. When I unrolled the fleeces I could see that although Poodle looks black when shorn, her fleece is varying shades of gray.. very pretty.  The spinners that meet at my house regularly will be helping me skirt the fleeces a bit more, wash and process these fleeces so that they can experience the entire process from start to finish. 

Close up of fleeces…

   

Before coming home I stopped in the gift shop to pay for the fleeces… big mistake… I came home with a dvd about the monastery that received 3 Emmy award nominations and I came home with this painting.  An artist comes and paints scenes of everyday life here and donates them to the monastery.   This one I’ve named ‘The Good Shepherd’.  It is Brother Pierre, who is in charge of the sheep, in a winter scene, Poodle being the dark sheep.  Bro. Pierre is a small, slim but strong older man who physically reminds me a lot of my Dad. I saw this painting last week and when I saw it again this week, I knew it had to come home with me.  Not a traditional sheep scene, but I like it very much.  There is a little glare in the photo but you get an idea of the painting.

  

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