Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sheep to Shawl

Friday, Mom and I took the kids on a field trip to a historical homestead (the only one!) in our city.  They offered an event called "sheep to shawl" to present a glimpse into what life was like for a sheep farmer in our area in the early 1900's.

So, in we went!  

In light of my recent obsession over dog training, it was really fun to see a local chapter of herding dogs come and "perform" for us.  The Border Collie, I learned, herds animals by making eye contact and using stares, while the Australian Shepherd uses its body to physically move the animals.  

A single dog on a working farm can be in charge of a herd of up to a thousand animals!

The relationship between these dogs and their masters was amazing.  I really enjoyed visiting with some of the owners and picking their brains about dog training.

You know, in case I want my Doodle to herd my sheep.  :-)  Or children. 

The little goats were so cute.  They just ambled around.  Love how this little one winked at me. ;-)

I'd own a Border Collie in a blink if I lived on land.  They need to be busy all the time, but I think they are the Einsteins of the dog world.

(No offense to the doodles.)

Then we went off to practice some herding of our own.  Max had it down.

Emma caught on quick, but had her own, much more efficient method for "roping".

I told Emma to admire the "horses".  She patted my side and said, "Mommy, they are also called donkeys."  The guy next to me snorted and asked if I was from the city.

I was really bummed to not have a snappy come back.

This farmstead was built in the late 1800's by a wealthy business man.  His daughter, "Miss Ammie", inherited the property and began raising sheep as livestock when she was in her 60's.  That was a man's world at that time, so she developed quite a reputation.  This house is certainly not representative of a typical "farmhouse" of the day.

The sheep raised on this property were of the Hampshire breed.  They are large(!) animals with gentle attitudes and kind faces.  

A woman pretending to be "Miss Ammie" spoke with the kids about life on her farm.  I was distracted by Emma and not paying good attention at the beginning of her speech (and had not done the math in my head to match up the dates) so I thought she actually WAS Ammie.  I went up to her after the presentation. She seemed a tad put out that I thought she was a 100 year old woman.  Strike two today.

Oh well.  I am apparently not cut out for farm life.  ;-)
I'm from the city.

Lindsey, this one is for you!

Emma was hoping for a Chocolate cow.

We visited the one room school house on the property...

....and of course, the chicken coop.  As much as I've squawked about wanting my own coop, on this particular day, with a very sick dog waiting for me at home and a puppy who still doesn't sleep through the night, I stood look at someone else's chickens and thanked my lucky stars that I wasn't in charge of them.  

For once, I was glad to be from the city.

Okay, step one is the haircut.

And it is a mighty labor.  This man works as hard as any mother trying to talk her teenage son into a trim.  I felt physical relief for this poor animal after an entire garbage sack of wool had been removed from his back.  His new spring "do" looked better suited to southern temps.

After sheep are shorn, their fleece has to be skirted.  That means, all the grass and "stuff" has to be hand picked out of the wool.  The wool has tons of lanolin in it, giving it a very sleek and greasy feel.

This all came from one animal!  The kids had a very short attention span for this job, naturally!

Next there were stations on washing and dying.  (No pictures.)

This station, of course, tugged at my heartstrings. I have missed my calling.

I should be living in the east, like this sweet woman, raising angora rabbits and sheep, training my homeschooled children to card and then spin the luxurious hand worked fibers.  I too would sit at my wheel wearing hand fashioned aprons and pumping the treadle on my spinning wheel.  Then I would gather my skeins of hand woven yarns into wonderfully hand woven baskets and wander to market to sell them.

But alas, I am from the city.

I raise a doodle and buy my yarn from Joann's with a 40% off coupon.

A wonderful day at the farm for a handful of grateful city folk.

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