|A few lambs|
|One of the goats|
The animals range from hilariously loud and needy (one sheep literally would push her head through the fence every time I got near until I would pet her) to tiny and adorable (the lambs, which were as young as a couple of weeks old, are almost as cute as a puppy, though not nearly so cuddly. I believe the current numbers are around 26 sheep (including this year's lambs), several dozen chickens, with a few dozen more chicks growing under the heat lamp, both egg layers and broilers, untold thousands of bees, and even two goats.
|Chicks under the heat lamp...adorable little future food!|
|One of the rams grazing in his paddock|
The sheep are generally very friendly, albeit somewhat skittish in some cases, but there are a few that are attention hogs. This was a great opportunity for kids to come out and see the animals, and even hold one of the more outgoing lambs. Visitors ranged from locals who came by to check out the farm to one from out of town who came by because he is interested in seeing where his food comes from. There were numerous children, which is always nice to see, since few kids these days get to experience this kind of thing; I was lucky enough to grow up across the street from a small farm, but I never really appreciated that fact until recently. Hopefully children being exposed to farms like this will at least give them an appreciation that their food is not simply what they see in the grocery store.
Sweetfern Farm is located at 292 Pleasantdale Rd, Rutland, MA. Check them out on Facebook for some more pictures and information!
I also visited Sassawanna Alpacas, aka Sassawanna Rabbitry, a small family owned, part time operation that includes raising and shearing alpacas, as well as making yarn from their wool, and also raising rabbits. The owners are extremely friendly and clearly passionate about their hilariously adorable charges, which are distinctly reminiscent of Dr. Seuss illustrations. I've been a big fan of
|Newly weaned alpaca|
The farm sells yarn they make from these incredibly vocal animals, some of it pure, some a blend with sheep's wool, and some blended with sheeps wool and angora from their rabbits (which are adorably fluffy. Since my mom knits, I picked her up a couple skeins of it, and it is incredibly soft stuff.
|Fluffy angora rabbit|
I also learned some new things about alpacas from the owner, including that they, like sheep (also did not know this, but Kate, the owner of Sweetfern Farm, told me) do not have two rows of teeth, instead just having a bottom row, and a hard palate on top. They also hum pretty regularly, which is not necessarily a sign of stress, but is simply a reflex of theirs. They also breed pretty infrequently, with a gestational period lasting a full year, and rarely have more than one cria. They are also only shorn (at least at this farm) only once a year, and I must admit, a freshly shorn alpaca is pretty damned funny looking, with their super puffy legs and face.
Sassawanna Alpacas is located at 14 Sassawanna Rd, Rutland, MA.
The last farm I went to was Overlook Farm, technically the Learning Center at Overlook Farm, which at one time raised animals to be distributed by Heifer International, but currently operates to sell locally and act as a teaching resource, where groups that range from elementary school to adults can come learn how the farm works and operates, as well as get a glimpse of life in the various countries that Heifer International operates within.
When I visited, they were hosting a group of about 50 students, I believe middle schoolers, from Philadelphia, PA, who may have been seeing a farm like this for the first time. It was great to see how many of them (more than half) seemed really interested in what was going on.When you pull into the farm, up a long driveway, you immediately see a pen full of sheep on one side of the parking lot, and some gorgeous views to the other, beyond the main buildings.
|Small garden behind the main building|
explain a little about how Heifer International operates there, and about the country or region itself.
|Signs explain each|
Guatemala and the Tibetan region of China were also represented, with goats in Guatemala and large, shaggy oxen for Tibet. The structures at each were also intended to be representative of how people actually live in the
countries, including a rough stone hut and a yak hair tent that instantly reminded me of the steppe people of the Mongol period of domination.
The farm also features a gift shop, where you can purchase trinkets, promotional items, and some frozen meats from the lambs raised on the farm. The two farm employees I met were both extremely friendly, and clearly passionate about what they have going on there. Overlook Farm is located at 214 Wachusett Rd, Rutland, MA.
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