I've been trying my hand at something different. Goat shearing. Goat shearing? Angora goats, the ones that produce mohair, require shearing. I can shear a sheep, sort of, and goats are much smaller and lighter, how hard can it be?
Sheep are stoical, they take shearing quietly. Goats wail in a high pitched sack-cloth-and-ashes manner. If they had hands, they'd wring them. Goats also smell terrible. Then they have horns. Long curly horns which fit perfectly around your leg, immobilising you. Or straighter horns, just right for stabbing you in the throat. I have a lovely big scrape across my throat and a bruise under my chin - that was a nasty moment. I also have horn-shaped bruises all over my legs.
The fibre on a goat can be as much as a foot long. The fleece gets tangled and matted. On some goats the fibre growing on the legs is entwined with the fibre from the belly so the animal is effectively hobbled. Goats grow fibre in every nook and cranny of their bodies. When I turned my first goat over I didn't know where to start. I couldn't see where the goat was under all that hair and I was terrified of running into a skin fold.
Goats are notoriously difficult to shear. They are constructed differently from sheep. Imagine you have made a soft toy but you run out of stuffing - the toy is floppy and has lots of saggy bits. Goats are under stuffed. Their skins are too big for the contents, meaning they are a mass of wrinkles. Wrinkles are bad news in shearing, every wrinkle is a potential cut. To shear a goat without cutting it you have to hang on to all that loose skin, you can't afford to lose concentration. Goats are also much floppier than sheep, it's as though there are no bones in their bodies, they just sag through your legs like a smelly jelly.
Goats have much less grease in their fleece than sheep. The grease in a sheep's fleece helps to lubricate the shearing handpiece. When you're shearing goats, the handpiece tends to over heat, you have to keep stopping and putting on more oil. So, I've just got my goat under control, I'm holding the skin flat and I can see where to go, I'm about to push in the handpiece when I realise it is smoking and the goat has kicked the oil can out of reach. Now I have to hop backwards across my board with a goat jammed between my knees. By the time I have doused the handpiece in oil, the goat has got its breath back and is ready to horn me in the throat again. That's goats for you.