Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hesketh Farm Redux

We finally went back to Hesketh Farm Park after our last attempt to go when it was closed. Jacob's class went on a trip there; Lucy and I were lucky enough to tag along.

The lovely group of pre-scholars

The day began slowly. We spotted a turtle near the playground and he was the first animal we checked out.

No, you touch it first!

We went inside the barn where one of the teachers settled accounts with the farmer while the other children tried out the indoor playground, including this little climber.

Lucy gets in on the action quickly.

Pretty soon, we were checking out lots of different animals. First up was the guinea pigs, who had a nice little home in the middle of some hay bales. Jacob sat down to hold one. Once in Jacob's lap, Jacob laughed and said, "He's tickling me, he's ticklish!"

Maybe his name is "Giggles"?

Jacob had me put the camera in my pocket so the tickling could end. I held the little guy for a while and then passed him on to another classmate. Meanwhile, Lucy was feeding some lambs.

"Hay is for horses...oh wait, it's for me too!"

We had a little time before the formal tour started, so Jacob ran off to the indoor maze while Lucy tried her hand at a big, big puzzle.

Jacob is the needle among the haystacks

I think someone else was taking the same picture and Lucy was looking at her

Just before the formal tour started, both the children went to work brushing some of the piglets.

The pigs were napping, so the children came gently tapping

The regular tour started and the first thing we got to do was feed the chickens, followed by collecting some eggs from the hen house.

Getting some seed to throw to the chickens

Uh-oh! One chicken flew in just as Jacob threw in!

Lucy was more cautious about throwing

Lucy was also cautious with picking up the eggs

We then went inside with one of the eggs. The lady from the farm asked what we thought was inside. Some guessed a chick; others a yolk. No one guessed chocolate, which answer I think she was secretly hoping for. She opened the egg and explained about the different parts inside. Then she asked us to be quiet. The sound of chirping filled the air! But from where? She pulled a five-gallon bucket from under the table and showed us some of the baby chicks. Jacob was not interesting in holding them but he did watch intently.

Latest additions to the farm

Classmates carefully cradling chicks

Our next activity was making milk for the calves. We carefully measured out some powdered milk into a bowl on a scale. Each child put one spoonful in. Then the powder was put in a bucket of hot water, mixed, and poured into bottles for feeding. The children worked in pairs to fill the bottles.

The pink milk brigade!

Carefully pouring!

Pour Jacob did not have a partner!

We then went to the calves' stalls to feed them. I was only able to capture Jacob's exploits with my camera. Lucy went off somewhere else to feed.

Feeding the calf

Getting him to finish the bottle

Next on our agenda was the tractor ride. Jacob was happy for that. He was getting tired of standing and walking around. The way out to the tractor took us perilously close to the playground but the children managed to avoid being sucked into that fun. The area by the tractor was a bit muddy. Too bad I forgot to bring our wellies! We didn't get too muddy though. Soon we were on the tractor and ready to see the fields of sheep.

The tractor

Ready to ride!

Lucy sees some sheep and lambs

On the ride, the farmer explained one of the mysteries that has been confounding us about the sheep around here. They always have some sort of spray paint on them. What could the meaning be? He said that when a ewe has lambs, the lambs are marked with the same colors as their mother so that the farmers can keep them straight. Also, neighboring farmers don't use the same colors so they know their sheep from their neighbor's sheep.

Another interesting tidbit was the explanation for which breeds were kept on the farm. The farmer said that the breed really depends on where the farm is located. If the land is at the bottom of a valley, less hardy and hale sheep are raised there. Further up hills and mountains, more rugged sheep are raised since they can stand the difference in climate (wind and chill being the big factors).

He also talked a lot about birthing the lambs--how it's done, what to do when things don't come out in the right order, how soon they leave the barn where they're born and get to enjoy the fine Yorkshire weather. In the interest of keeping this a family-friendly blog, I will only relay the final answer. Typically, the newborn lamb is let out in two days unless there is some complication with the newborn or the weather is really severe. The lambs are typically born in the springtime. He said there was only 40 or so ewes left to give birth out of the "just shy of 11 hundred" sheep on the farm.

We had some very spectacular views of the Yorkshire Dales.

Sheep on the Dales

This lamb seems to be confused about where the milk comes out

More Dales

Back by the farm buildings, we visited the duck pond and the very gentle, very large horse named Queenie. Jacob petted her nose but Lucy was very reluctant to go near such a large animal.

No ducks in sight, alas!

Queenie was a favorite among many of the girls

Then we had lunch back inside the barn. After we ate (or as we adults finished eating) the children played on the inside play equipment, which includes some pedal-powered tractors and a sand box in addition to the climber and the hay maze. Jacob came and asked if he could play outside. The teacher said yes. The conventional wisdom was that it would be very difficult to gather the children back together for more touring. That was fine. We all had a wonderful experience visiting the farm with Jacob's class.

Farewell pose #1

Farewell pose #2

Here's a video about the farm from a professional company:

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