Monday, May 30, 2011

Sheep-shearing fun & farm-stay ideas


Just like last weekend, I spent this Sunday with my kids at North Vancouver's Maplewood Farm. It was the Sheep Festival today, and I have to say: it was fantastic.

We got there early, so there was lots of parking. The kids spent some time in the playground next to the parking lot until the gate opened at 10 am. By then, the farm was quite busy and we walked around looking at the donkeys and pigs, the birds and especially the rabbits.

My kids could have spent all day with the rabbits I think, getting covered in sawdust, feeding them various veggies, and petting them. The Maplewood Farm rabbits are extremely docile, and also very big. I kept wondering how one might look in a waistcoat, so obviously I've been watching Alice in Wonderland a few too many times lately with the kids!

Note to self: Next time, bring a big bag of something like dandelions, carrot tops or parsley, because that seemed to be what the rabbits really went for, more than carrots, lettuce and especially cucumber.

We also took some time to look at the very loud, unshorn sheep in the barn.

Shear fun
The sheep-shearing itself took place under a big tent, and the lady who did the honors handled a big, heavy sheep with no problem at all, electric shears in one hand, ewe in the other. That thick, heavy fleece just peeled off, until only a very un-woolly sheep remained. (My daughter was quite entertained by the idea that the sheep would eventually be nude...) The kids loved it, even though they were also a bit worried that the sheep was either sad, scared, or angry (they couldn't quite make up their minds).

We also got to see how a sheep's toe-nails are clipped, and found out that the clippings are considered a delicacy by dogs. Ewww! Or should that be "ewe"? The bad puns just keep coming to mind when you're watching the shearing of the sheep being: "shear fun", "sheeps of fun"...

Sheepdog in action.

Afterwards the kids picked up a small bag of cleaned, combed and dyed wool from one of the wool-craft tables set up at the farm. The wool was supposed to be used to make felt, but my children just wanted to bring that fluffy stuff home as is.

There were lots of wool-related activities all around the farm:
  • spinners and weavers demonstrating their craft
  • demonstrations of how wool is washed and carded
  • yarn being dyed with natural ingredients like onion skins, and un-natural ingredients like Kool-Aid
  • sheepdogs herding ducks and sheep
We had brought our own lunch, which we ate at the picnic tables while the horses had their lunch nearby (apple and hay for them; sandwiches, yogourt, crackers and cherry tomatoes for us). There was also a mobile concession stand on-site, manned by Metro Catering, and fresh-squeezed juice was available from the Juice Caboose.

It was a lot of fun, and I think we might make this an annual event to look forward to.

Farm-stays
Watching my kids get so excited by visiting Maplewood Farm and the animals there made me consider whether we should go on a farm-stay vacation with them soon. I think staying on a farm and getting to help out with the chores and the animals might be something they'd really enjoy.

Looking online for places that do these types of family vacations in British Columbia, I found several places in different parts of the province, but these three stood out to me:
  • Arrowvale Campground - This one is on Vancouver Island and sounds almost ideal for my family: we love to go camping, and here's a campground (and cottages) right next to a farm. I think this place, or something like it is on top of my farm-stay list.
  • Bold Point B&B Farmstay - A bit more upscale than camping, this farm is located on Quadra Island between Vancouver Island and the mainland. The photos look great, and it's close to the forest and the ocean.
  • Old Tower Farm - This organic farmstay is located in the Okanagan, in Keremeos. The pictures from the farm, especially of the starry sky, are awesome.

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