Shelford, Victoria, Australia
It sounds like its raining heavily on tin roof when some hundred of Warrambeens 16.000 merino sheep run together with their tiny feet over the old wooden planks inside the conserved shearing shed from the 1860s. This beautiful farm, located on rocky, rare and pristine grassland west of Melbourne, is owned and run by Trish and Ian Taylor, together with their sons and ninth-generation sheep farmers, James and George. James´ wife Georgina, their two children Lachlan and Florence, as well as staff members Andrew and Tamara, and a total of 23 dogs complete the busy daily life at this large multigenerational merino farm.
Ian’s family originally comes from Tasmania and the fabled property Kenilworth, where in 1835 Ian’s forefather David Taylor bought half of the wool pioneer Eliza Furlonge´s flock of the pure Saxon-merino that she had brought with her from Germany. In Australia, Trish Taylor’s family purchased Warrambeen in 1902. In 1989 Trish and Ian had already been married 17 years and were moving the family from Kenilworth in Tasmania to Warrambeen in Australia, bringing with them their 3500 exclusive descendants of Saxon-sheep. Their merinos were now reversing the historical trip over the Bass Strait, the same trip their ancestors conveyed 160 years earlier.
The Taylors are proud owners and protectors of a very special shearing shed. The wooden shed, probably built by Scottish stone workers, is made of bluestone, Baltic pine and local eucalyptus, designed from the layout of a sailing ship, just built upside down. There are only three woolsheds like this in Victoria. In here, during shearing, around 1300 sheep will be shawn daily. Sometimes the kids like to ride the sheep like little ponies and jump around in the sheared wool. “The sheep themselves needs to stay warm during cold and wet winters, so our sheep make really soft, really fine, and really strong wool”, James says, himself having to deal with constant plains winds and bushfires in summer.
He recalls that 20 years ago his family was not as proactive as they are today. They have a precautionary emergency plan called “40/40.” James says if the winds hit more than 40 kilometers per second - or the celsius reaches the 40-mark – they will get the flocks into safe areas.
Australia has some of the driest land in the world, harsh and especially though, “but so are the sheep”, Ian says. The Taylor-family could easily be labeled that as well. Since the Australian topsoil might be just three inches thick, and not thirteen times as much as it can be found around Europe, “we, the farmers, need to be clever and innovative”, Ian says, before he secures that his family believes in a tradition in where “each generation should pass on to the next, a better environmental and production outcome, than the last.”