By RACHAL PINKERTON
MOSES LAKE — Dale Nyberg and his wife Brandi Jo came to Moses Lake the first week of April with the intent to learn how to shear sheep.
“My wife and I intend to keep sheep,” said Nyberg, a resident of Fairbanks, Alaska. “We would like to know how to (shear sheep) ourselves.”
The Washington State Shearing School, put on by Washington State University and the Washington State Sheep Producers, was recommended to the couple by friends who previously attended the school. The couple had been researching what it would take to start their own farm.
“We want to move back to my family’s farm and start a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) operation,” Nyberg said. “There aren’t many CSAs, but they are getting more popular. We are choosing to go somewhere there aren’t any. We are trying to encourage that life style.”
Brandi Jo has attended a farm school and has worked on a farm with a CSA.
“We are over-preparing,” said Nyberg. “We’ve gotten a lot of good guidance. It is really encouraging.”
In addition to the CSA, the Nyberg’s want to keep sheep.
“I have been knitting for 12 or 13 years or more,” said Brandi Jo. “A year and a half ago, I took a yarn-spinning class. I fell in love with spinning. I also took a dyeing class. Now I only want to knit with my own yarn.”
When Nyberg arrived at the Washington State Shearing School, he was completely new to shearing sheep.
“I didn’t know anything about it whatsoever,” Nyberg said. “I haven’t handled sheep in years. I’m an absolute novice.”
The Washington State Shearing School is a five-day school that teaches 16 beginners the fundamentals of shearing and gives them lots of hands-on experience.
“I normally bring in 550 to 700 sheep,” said Sara Smith, an animal sciences extension regional specialist for the WSU Grant-Adams Extension.
In addition to learning how to shear sheep, students are also taught additional things such as animal nutrition, how to handle the animals without scaring them, how to package wool and how to shear alpacas and llamas.
“I guess I’ve learned enough to know what I don’t know,” said Nyberg after four days in the school. “I’m working on my technique and making them cleaner. I’m not doing any second cuts. I’m worn out. It kind of gets easier. My muscles are sore and all, but my body is getting used to it. We have a friend in Fairbanks who shears sheep. Hopefully we can keep it fresh.”
The Nyberg’s are the only ones who traveled a distance to attend the Washington State Shearing School. Christina Rivera and her husband came from Port Angeles.
“We waited a couple of years to get in,” said Rivera. “We have small sheep on our small farm. We have younger daughters who enjoy wool working. There is a need for shearers. It is hard to find shearers.”
The Washington State Shearing School is longer than most shearing schools.
“A lot of schools are three days,” Rivera said. “We know all this stuff. We know enough to be dangerous. That’s where experience comes in. To be sent out (after three days) is not a great thing. Why I have people to help, I’m asking questions. Each station has a teacher. They stop you, move your hand. It is completely invaluable.”
Rachal Pinkerton may be reached via email at email@example.com.