Part 4: Sheep Shearing and preperation of wool

I have already mentioned sheep shearing however I have never mentioned preparation process to it. I will try to explain this like I remember it hope it will be worth reading.

The sheep were sheared twice a year, and it had to be done on time because if we were late, the weather could spoil the process. Back then, there was no Google to search for weather forecasts, and TV was also not available in every region of Georgia. (I feel 200 years old now…) Therefore, to check the weather, an elder—’sky reader’ would be a fitting name for such a person—would examine the sky and deliver their verdict on whether there would be rain or not. I would say that these elders had a 100% success rate.

so, the woman who had this elder at home would stand near her village fence and shout to her neighbors: ‘Nunukaaa!! Lolaaa!! girls!!! tomorrow is the day!’ that meant that the following day, all the sheep in the village would be taken to the river for a bath before shearing.
Early in the morning, men, women, and children would take their sheep to the river. Each housekeeper had their own favorite sheep, which received extra care, more food, and better attention. Sometimes, they even had their own sleeping place. My neighbor had three sheep: one as white as a cloud, the second as black as the night, and the third brown like a curly puddle dog
Sheep flock was always attended by huge Georgian shepherd dogs (sometimes they call them Caucasian shepherd) and horsemen.

We have only one river and waterfall in our countryside. The entrance is very narrow, filled with bushes and rocks, and perhaps only one person can pass through comfortably.
Honestly, as a clumsy kid, I always had trouble entering this valley. I remember as a child when the sheep were entering the valley; it was a brilliant sight. Sadly, we had no cameras back then to capture it, but the white sheep, the river, and the actual river looked very elegant.

Traditional wooden yarn spinning spindle used for creating yarn by hand.

To a child’s eyes, it was unbelievable. Even almost 45 years later, I still feel the same emotions when I remember it. At the end of the valley, there is a waterfall where we usually swim. Even now, my kids and I have all learned how to swim there. But on the day of sheep shearing, it had a different atmosphere. I remember the sheep were initially afraid of the water, but the men and women of the village would wash them carefully to prevent any harm to their hearts or damage to their wool.
It was a very cheerful atmosphere, with everybody helping each other. When the sheep realized that the cold water in the hot summer was a welcome relief, they stood in the water with foam on their hair.
It’s quite sad that we no longer practice these traditions today. In the past, we humans used to cut down a lot of wood, especially in Georgia during the 1990s when wood was the primary source of heat. Unfortunately, this led to wolves entering our villages as we inadvertently destroyed their natural habitats, and they began to steal our sheep.
These days, I’ve tried many times to gift two sheep to someone in the hope of reviving the tradition in my village. However, it seems that everyone is concerned about the presence of wolves. I hold onto the hope that by planting more trees, we can eventually restore the woods and strike a balance.

After washing the sheep, they would spend one day in an open field to dry, and the next day, they would begin the wool-cutting process. There were sheep of various colors: white, black, brown, gray, and who could forget the favorite sheep of my neighbors? They received special treatment too. These prized sheep would be washed with warm water in the garden. It’s worth noting that at the time, there was no water system or hot water in homes, as the USSR was engaged in an arms race with the West, and citizens were living in rather challenging conditions. Despite these hardships, this is how I remember the process of preparing wool for spinning.
Years later, when I first attempted to clean wool, I realized how limited the methods were in those days. Today, we have numerous tools and modern techniques for washing wool effectively. However, I’m not suggesting that the process I described should be replicated today. There are far better and more humane ways to accomplish this for both humans and animals. Nonetheless, this is how we did it 50 years ago in the Upper Imereti region of Georgia.

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What a wonderful read and such a great insight into a totally different way of life which far removed from where I live in Australia.
Thank you for sharing 😊


I enjoyed reading this post. Thank you for sharing your memories.


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