Lots of shearing, spinning and weaving went on Saturday during the annual Sheep Shearing Day at the Peter Wentz Farmstead in Worcester Township. Weaver Bill Leinbach of Myerstown was working by hand on an 18th century loom. He says he got it during his college days.
“I bought a used loom from some Quaker people, and I was buying and selling stuff at the time when I was going to college, and I wanted to see how this thing worked before I got rid of it, and that’s what got me started, and I guess the bug bit me. Later on I found out that the Leinbachs were weavers in Germany, and I suppose it was in my genes.”
He says he’s been weaving for 35 years, and he plans to slow down a little bit, but he will never quit.
“My joints would lock up. Ha, ha, ha. Weavers live for a long time, you know. The last weaver that I knew was over 80 years old when he died. It’s good for the heart. All that throwing the shuttle back and forth keeps you young.”
Leinbach says it’s good exercise. Farm Manager Jim Nichols, who did some of the shearing, says it’s a lot like getting a haircut.
“The only difference is most people, when you sit them down, you don’t pick them up and drop them on your feet first. We pick the sheep up and we set her down on our feet, and that helps her to hold still, and then either using the hand shears or the electric shears we cut all the wool off, trying to get it about half an inch away from the body as we’re doing that.”
He says he likes helping kids experience something they would not see without Sheep Shearing Day.
“It gives them a look a little deeper into the world. So much of what we have now comes ready-made and pre-packaged and we are often distant from the process or where things come from, so I take comfort in providing the experience to kids that they can carry with them and have a better understanding of how things are made and where they come from.”
Nichols says he only shears the sheep they have at the Peter Wentz Farmstead, and he has no desire to do it professionally for other farmers. He says it’s a back-breaking job, and he has plenty of other work to do.