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Field Trip: The Lambs Down Park Festival

Every year we get the question:  “Can we get a lamb? Or a goat? Or a pony?  Or a pig? Or a cow?” 

I would like to say yes.  My husband is a bit more realistic and says no, so it never happens.  Chickens, dogs, bees, and ducks are enough for our family. But when an opportunity arises to learn more about these larger animals, we jump at it.

That’s why we attended the Lambs Down Park Festival on Saturday.

Although we’d seen sheep shearing on films, the real thing is much more fascinating.  It was amazing how the shearer can keep the sheep under control, how carefully he snips over and around muscles and bones, and how the wool just peels off.  Of course we all know that a sheep looks different when it is shorn, but actually seeing the process in real life is a bit startling.

We’ve always been interested in sheep dogs, but now that we have a border collie, we were really excited to see sheep dogs in action.  As they work, they crouch low and their tails hang low, and that is exactly how our border collie stalks his friend, our other dog.    We experienced first-hand how incredibly intelligent a sheep dog must be to do his job.  There were also a lot of other dogs on leashes, just visiting.  Miss 14 and Miss 12, both dog lovers, really enjoyed them too.  

Of course, the petting zoo was a real attraction.  A huge turkey towered over a tiny kid, no bigger than a cat.  The pig dozed in the wood chips, miniature goats were everywhere, and there were ducks, geese, and sheep.  But Miss 9 was most interested in the miniature donkey, and it was most interested in her.  

Then, at the edge of the grounds, we spied a gorgeous jet-black Frisian horse.  Its tail could have been the inspiration for the My Little Pony toys.  In fact, the person in charge told us that Frisians are becoming more and more popular simply because they are so beautiful and have such amazing tails.  My husband’s ancestors, farmers in Friesland, must have worked with such animals.   

For the first time ever, we got to peek into the Canadian Co-operative Wool Grower’s building that grades and markets almost 3 million pounds of Canadian wool each year.  As a former Canadian Pacific Railway roundhouse and machine shop, it is simply enormous.  What surprised me is that it smells fresh and clean despite the humid climate and the huge bales of wool. 

In pens along the wall different breeds of sheep, each with an informative sign, were waiting to be shorn. There are so many different sheep breeds, some used for wool, some for meat, and even some for milk.  If we ever get one, it will be a Suffolk, most likely, since they lamb well and are good for meat.  But, remember, we’re not getting sheep.

We do, however, garden and talking to a local garlic grower was very educational.  I’ve never succeeded in growing good garlic, but now I know what garlic should look like at this stage; there should be curly things called scapes growing on the tops.  Not so in our garden, but there’s always hope for next year.

Besides all this, some talented individuals were playing pan-flute, some were singing, and there was delicious food.  Or at least it looked delicious, and my family enjoyed it: beef on a bun, lamb, sausage dogs, garlic samples.  Having celiac disease, I contented myself with a bottle of cold water donated by a local church and the snack I’d had before leaving home.

Visiting The Lambs Down Park Festival was a perfect home learning outing for kids and adults alike.  We all focussed on what we were interested in; we all learned what we were ready to learn.  And as a bonus, on the way home we came across a unique installation of solar panels that had my husband, a solar enthusiast, exclaiming with excitement.

–For more resources for non-farmers about farming, see my posts Learning about the Fascinating World of Farming and Farm Books for the Ordinary Person.  

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2 Comments

  1. JoannaTopazT says:

    A friend of mine shared this video about sheep herding recently. I think your family would enjoy it. (note: I don’t know what the audio says; I watched it with the sound off)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeuL5IGimCQ

    Glad you got to see a good sheep shearer in action; on our family trip last year to the Kansas City Zoo, the shearer they had in the “Australian sheep station” was not doing a good job, and several of the sheep had bloody nicks on them.

  2. JoAnn says:

    Sounds like fun. 🙂

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