Friday, 18 June 2010

Sheep Shearing, School Visit & Baby Frogs, Nick Rebbeck, FACE


Yesterday the Farmer did the shearing. He and Elder Son brought the sheep in and set to. There were about 20 ewes to be shorn and were all dealt with by early afternoon.
When we had many more sheep and the boys were at school, I used be out there helping by rolling and packing the fleeces. I can't say I'm sorry not to be doing it any more. It is very hot dirty work and and when we used have help with the shearing itself it was hard work keeping up with packing away the fleeces as they came off two at a time. In those days they had to be rolled up in a very particular way and tied up with the neck wool twisted into a rope around the fleece. Nowadays they are just rolled up quite loosely and stuffed into the huge woolsacks that are supplied by the Wool Marketing Board.
Later on we will be given a date on which we have to take the woolsacks to a collection point, usually a neighbouring farm that is on the roadside, where they will loaded onto a lorry from the wool depot in Brecon and taken away to be graded and sorted. We only have 2 woolsacks to take but some farmers turn up with trailers loaded high with many bulging sacks. They are carefully stacked onto the lorries and well secured before they go to Brecon.

Today we had a visit by a primary school from Gorseinon, near Swansea. 37 children aged between 5 & 7, none of whom had any connection with farming and incredibly, according to their teacher many of them did not know what a farm was until they started learning about them in school.
The Farmer & I met them off their bus at the first field gate on our lane and took them down to the bottom pond where we were lucky enough to find numbers of tiny baby frogs, Such a fabulous opportunity for the children to see such things close to. They were fascinated. After the pond we took them to the river and the Farmer explained to them about the water running to the sea and that there were fish in the river even though we couldn't see any as they were hiding in the shadows of trees.
On the walk up to the yard, they were shown dung beetles in cow-pats...a subject that always goes down well being yucky & smelly and generally disgusting, and how holly trees have more prickles on their leaves nearer the bottom of the tree than they do at the top. I'm always amazed by how children find that so fascinating and take holly twigs away with them.
Once on the yard, a ewe that had been kept back from yesterdays shearing session specially was shorn and the progress of wool to pullover was demonstrated. Again the children watched in awe as these thing are shown to them.
After hand -washing they took their  picnic lunches up into one of the mown fields near the house and had a chance to just run and play about in complete freedom in a large open space.
The Farmer then took them up to see the cows before giving a short demonstration of  the basics of cheese making. They loved seeing how quickly the milk turned to curds after adding rennet. There was no time to go into further detail other than to show them a cheese that was maturing  & ripening which they were able to smell and they agreed it smelt nice which was encouraging.
We have a rigourous hand-washing regime with all the children who visit us and  they love having their wellies washed with the power-washer before getting back on their bus.

We thoroughly enjoy the days when school goups come to the farm. We were encouraged to start having school visits by a dear man, Nick Rebbeck who died sadly, a few weeks ago. Nick set up an organisation 'Learning on the Farm' which was to enable schoolchildren to visit real farms in Wales. He was passionate about children learning where their food comes from and how it is produced and had been an organic farmer himself for many years near Lampeter. He had a marvellous way with children and did valuable work in connecting schools & farms. He is greatly missed.
Getting children onto farms is facilitated by FACE (http://www.face-online.org.uk/), Farming & Countryside Education and has a lot of information for teachers who wish to take their classes to visit farms.

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