As we drove to the farm I felt nothing but anticipation. It felt like I was back in Vermont driving through mountains on nothing but backroads. When we pulled in I immediately noticed the chickens, goat, and the remains of wilted sunflowers. The farm was quaint and you could tell they were almost all volunteer run. After signing my life away on the dust covered paper I grabbed a pair of gloves and was eager to begin working.
Due to our group size we were split into two groups; one was picking beans closer to the animals and my group was closer to the road. Our whole group immediately jumped in and started working. After picking some smaller beans towards the top I began to notice that the longer, perfectly green beans were more towards the center of the plant, shielded from the hot summer sun that has seemed to have stuck around into the beginnings of the fall season. My friend had reached to pull a perfect bean when she jumped back, a grasshopper had staked his claim on the bean and was not backing down. We tried to try and push him off but from our childhood memories of “A Bugs Life” we decided to let him have it. After seemingly all the beans had been picked we wondered onto our next adventure.
Milkweed. It was very strange to just see a plot of milkweed growing in a farm but since this is a certified organic farm they do not use any pesticides or herbicides which means “weeds” are welcome. Weeds are simply an undesirable plant, but what might be undesirable to some is the lifeline of a small bug. Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed and the butterflies use it to lay their eggs and continue the life cycle. Most farmers kill out all the milkweed simply because they do not want it to interfere with the crops they are growing, not realizing how that might affect the Monarch population. I learned a lot from being at the farm that day but I felt like I was still missing a lot of information on the small farm in Fairhill.
Since our class period at the farm was only about an hour and fifteen minutes I decided to attend the Sheep Shearing Day. The last time I had seen a sheep being shared was when I was in Australia in fifth grade so clearly quite long ago. When my boyfriend and I arrived to the farm we had just missed the tour so I decided to give him a little tour of what we did in class on Thursday. After the little tour I gave we walked through the cedar chips, passed the chicken coop, towards the loud “BAH’s”, up to a fenced in enclosure. Thirteen Gotland sheep were patiently awaiting the removal of their thick wool.
The shearer had arrived and honestly I was shocked. She was quite small. They told us we’d be shocked when we saw her and I definitely was but let me tell you, she went right in there, grabbed the first sheep by the bottom jaw (since they only have teeth on the bottom she uses their lips to cover the so they can’t bite), and wrestled her over onto the mat and began the process. She uses the Bowen Method which means, you start on the stomach and work your way around, hopefully resulting in a solid coat of wool on the ground. This solid piece depends on the type of wool you are working with also. Some that have more lanolin which holds the wool together during the shearing process however requires more work after the sheep is sheared. Overall, the was a great experience and I think Scott Russell Sanders said it best; “This farm was not just so many acres of dirt, easily exchanged for an equal amount elsewhere; it was a particular place, intimately known, worked on, dreamed over, cherished.”