MURRAYVILLE — Workers wrestled the sheep outside the pen to a waiting electric razor wielded by Randy Pinson of Cartersville.
Planted on its hind parts, the animal then got its annual haircut, or shearing. With pounds of wool peeled off its skin, it then took off — with some gentle nudging by people — to roam with other, newly shaved sheep in the sun-filled yard beyond the red barn.
Such is the annual spring ritual at Wauka Valley Farm, 40 acres of rolling hills, pastures and dirt roads, in White County, off Post White Hill Road and nestled at the Hall and Lumpkin county lines.
The farm, set up in 1994, opened its doors this weekend to the public, a tradition that dates to when owner Lynn Johnson and family invited just friends to observe.
“Everybody would bring something to eat and we’d have this feast,” Johnson said Sunday afternoon. “And then, more people started coming and it got to where we couldn’t do that.”
These days, she promotes the event through word of mouth and her website, www.wauka.com, hoping to draw families.
“It’s important for the kids to see,” she said of the shearing. “It’s where their sweaters come from.”
Johnson sends the wool to a new mill in Clarkesville — instead of one in Michigan, where she used to ship to, saving a fair bit of money.
“We figured it was about $1 per pound and we were shearing close to 800 pounds at one time,” she said. “That’s a lot of wool.”
Johnson began the venture after her husband’s retirement from the airline industry, fulfilling a longtime dream.
“When he retired,” she said of her husband, Dan, and while smiling, “he went to work for me.”
The family started with 72 sheep, but that number has dropped sharply over the years, including eight “senior citizens” in the past year.
“You lose them over time to old age,” Johnson said. “... We had babies for years, but we stopped breeding seven years ago. I didn’t want to be doing this when I was 78 years old. There’s a lot of hard work involved.”
A few stalls in the barn serve as the “assisted living” center for the aging sheep, which have a life span of 11-12 years.
“It’s a different kind of existence when you raise animals,” Johnson said. “There’s joy, love, heartache and loss.”
Keith and Jenna Gray of Maysville and four of their five children, ages 7-17, enjoyed a day at the farm.
“It’s been fantastic,” said Jenna, who learned about the event through a knitting group in Gainesville.
Keith agreed. “It’s just so nice. You come out here and all you’re doing is hanging out and having a picnic in the country.”
“And the hospitality is just wonderful,” Jenna said. “We’ve had a lovely day under the trees.”