Monday, May 17, 2010

Sheep Shearing Day

I don't particularly care for sheep. I love to eat lamb and I like the idea of using the wool to make warm articles of clothing (although I cannot knit). But the rank just above chickens and rabbits on my preffered animal scale. They are a bunch nervous Nellys. You can't pet them because they'll bolt. Plus, they make such pathetic noises. Imagine what noise Barry White would make as a sheep, not sexy baritone like but hungover and smoked too much cigarettes like. But I will admit, they look like little fluffy clouds in the orchard where they have been happily lazing about the past two weeks. I always want to go and take a nap on them (they would make an excellent pillow.) That is, until they were stripped of their coat last Saturday.

Sheep shearing day started off with sheep chasing day. Part of the entertainment included watching a few people, myself included, running around trying to coral ten sheep into the holding area in the barn. Leave one tiny gap and the sheep will run right through it. Ken, the Glynwood farm director, changed the game plan and organized ten of us into a circle. We slowly walked towards the sheep, stopping when they started in the direction that we wanted them to go. If you close in on them too fast or run towards them they panic and bolt. It took a few minutes but finally we got the sheep into the pen. Ken and Mary, a former intern, took care of the hard part, shearing the sheep. There is a certain technique involved in getting them into the position so you can shear them. Ken explained "You have to put just the right amount of pressure to get the sheep to stop struggling so you can shear them, too light and they think they have a chance to get away. Too much and you wind up getting exhausted and loosening your grip on them, and they run away." After one sheep was sheared a little girl watching exclaimed, "the sheep is naked!"

Aside from watching the sheep spectacle, children of all ages could join in a range of activities led by Lise, assistant gardener, Dayna and Nicole, both garden interns. In one area sheep wool was spread out on the ground and kids were shown how to spin wool. Some made bracelets or a necklaces for themselves while others just enjoyed touching the wool and rolling around in it. Had I been allowed, I would have done the latter. The butter making was a real crowd-pleaser. The recipe is surprisingly simple: Fill a glass jar a 1/4 of the way with heavy whipping cream, put the lid on and shake for 10 minutes. When the mixture starts to turn yellowish, pour off the liquid (buttermilk, which can be used in pancakes) and the leftover is butter.

For the garden fans, Nicole and I led two tours of the greenhouse and garden. The visitors entered the greenhouse and were greeted by a sea of green plants. The benches housed over 20 varieties of tomatoes, including many heirlooms varieties measuring a foot tall, four varieties of eggplants, and 8 varieties of hot and sweet peppers. In the garden we pointed out the early signs of life, the various shades and shapes of green, from the beets, lettuce, spinach, scallions, radishes, carrots, turnips, and peas. I loved sharing all the information about the garden and hearing people say, "how did you learn all of this?" Hard to believe I learned it all on the job, and it's only been three months.

At one point I gave my friend a backstage tour of the barn and wound up giving unofficial tours 20 moms, dads, and kids of the bottle babies and piggies. A man walked into the barn with his Australian sheep dog and was walking right up to the pigs with it. I would have told him off (or rather, politely told him to leave his dog outside) but I was too distracted with everyone in the barn. It was a good thing I didn't say anything, it turns out that guy was Actor Paul Bettany, Actress Jennifer Connelley's husband.

When the event was over a bunch of the G-wood crew hopped in our cars and drove to Germantown for a hippy party extraordinaire at Fog and Thistle farm. We set up tents in their fields and danced to our hearts content in their barn.

Work hard on the farm and party hard on the farm..another lesson in my agricultural education.

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