On the scheduled day we wake up at 5 am to get up early with the sheep. It was chilly morning and it had even rained the night before, which made us uneasy: the wool cannot be wet during the shearing process. Fortunately it wasn't.
Arriving at the place, we found Mr Carlos waiting for us with a serene smile and wide-awake eyes accustomed to the first rays of sunlight that he has witnessed since he was a boy. He would bless the flock with rosemary smoke, crosses and prayers to all the patron saints. And so it was. Once the prayer was over and at the first sign of scissors, he started to sing a series of songs, focusing on the different aspects of shearing and thanking the patron saints for the year’s wool and the health of the flocks.
The sheep were all together and serene. It seems that they guessed
the relief that the shearing would bring them... because, after all, spring had already begun to warm the lowlands of the mountain.
Shearing is done in order of age. The sheep are organized from the oldest to the youngest and the work begins. The first cut is made on the loin, then from the head to the tail, always contouring the animal's body. The tip of the tail is left unshorn to shepherds' pet sheep. For affection and distinction.
Once the shearing is finished, the “manajeiro” or shearer calls the sheep one by one and at the end, with a torn gesture, draws a cross on the flock. Then, while he is purifying himself with mallow or clover water, the other shepherds proceed to tag the sheep and at the end hang the bells around the neck of each one of them.
Meanwhile, in a hurried but precise way, the shepherds are arranging the wool. The vein coming from the different parts of the sheep's body is separated, forming white, black or brown wool (the sarrubeco). It is ready to be washed to remove dirt and other impurities that may be more than half its weight, and to extract excess animal fat. It is time to divide it into to be sold, without the shepherds having previously reserved some for themselves in an amount considered necessary for the family.
They, the sheep, have a calm expression showing the relief that the removal of the wool brings them. Free, fresh and happy.
This is an ancestral process in Serra da Estrela that has changed little to this day.
Region where the tradition of pastoralism is evident in the first records of history, and which time has transformed into a sustainable lifestyle, an art form and an industry. The land of wool and snow which we seek to elevate, value and promote that lifestyle that balances with the nature that abounds in the mountains we call home, to bring the art of wool and knowledge of the communities that weave it even further than the horizons allow us to see from up here.