Did you and your kids read any books from our farm animal book review to get you excited for this farm animal nature unit? If not, be sure to look at our book review and bring a few home from the library.
What could be more perfect for an I Spy Friday about farm animals than to actually go to a farm?! I am fortunate to have a good friend, Michelle, who grew up on a farm in Northern Pennsylvania. Her parents still own the farm, and when she got married, her husband just loved helping out on the farm, that they became part owners alongside her parents. Eventually she and her husband will fully take over the farm, but until then they both work part time as . . . . accountants! (Surpirsed?!) They have two little boys as well, so life keeps them pretty busy.
Michelle has been kind enough to let me visit the farm on a number of occasions. The first time was probably 10 years ago. We were both single and kidless back then, and Michelle and I worked at the same accounting firm. She invited me up to her parents farm for the weekend as her parents were out of town and she had to go up and sheep sit. And no, I am not making that up! It was lambing season and someone needed to be on hand to make sure everything went ok. I tagged along to the farm with her, and sure enough, it was a good thing Michelle was there. One of the mother sheep was having difficulty in her labor. She was trying and trying to push out the baby lamb, but to no avail. Michelle kept an eye on the mom for awhile, and then decided that she needed some intervention. She placed the mother sheep against a wall, and instructed me to hold the mother sheep still by holding her against the wall. Once I had the mother still, Michelle proceeded to pull the baby lamb out of the mother. So I was able to be there at the moment the baby lamb was born and even hold the messy thing in my arms for a moment. Really cool. As it turns out, the mother was not a very large sheep, but her baby was quite a large lamb, and that is why she needed help. I was exultant that I had been a part of that experience and told all my co-workers about it Monday morning. (As a side note, I have always wanted to live on a farm. Ask my parents, I started saving for a farm with my allowance money when I was in elementary school! But practicality crept in and I live in the suburbs and have to satiate my farming desires with trips to Michelle’s farm.)
Although this trip to the farm was not quite as adventurous, it was still lots of fun. We started off going in the sheep building, boy those sheep can get loud. As soon as one of them starts bleating, they all join in! One mother had just had triplets which Michelle explained is very unusual, sheep usually only have one or two lambs. The triplets and their mom were kept separate from the rest of the sheep so that they could be given lots of extra good food to keep the moms milk up. Mom and triplets were all doing really well. This is one of the triplets.
In another separate pen was a mother of two, but even with only two, she was having trouble producing enough milk, so they were supplementing the lambs’ diets with some bottled formula. Funny story, we all got in this pen to watch Michelle bottle feed the lambs. Michelle’s son Conner is only 1 and she set him down on a bail of hay. She fed one of the lambs with the bottle and then set it down to go and get the other lamb. Well, Conner was quick, and he grabbed that lamb bottle and started drinking from it before anyone knew what he was up to. We both just started laughing! It was gross, but funny. I have so many friends that would have totally freaked out about their baby drinking from the same bottle as a baby lamb. I love that Michelle didn’t care one bit, and you know what, Conner is just fine! It would be impossible to be a farmer’s daughter and be a germaphobe. And yes my germaphobe friends, you know who you are, and see, everything is going to be ok! The following pictures captured the order of events:
I thought my kids would be really brave about being around the sheep and lambs, but they were actually pretty timid. I must say, the mother sheep are pretty big and they do move really quickly and startle easily. So none of my kids wanted to hold a lamb, but I did! Look how cute we are!
Instead of holding the lambs, my kids loved climbing on the bales of hay. That’s a good farm life activity too I guess. But I would like to continue to expose my kids to farm animals so that they become more comfortable. I want them to be comfortable with animals and dirt. The dirt part I think we have covered, but we’ll have to keep working at the animal part. Ella the guinea pig is a good first step.
After the sheep barn, Michelle got out her son Tyler’s John Deer kids riding tractor and all the kids loved riding down the road in the kid sized vehicle. Sullivan tried to drive one, and he was terrible! He kept steering it right into the hill. Then Tyler took over. Tyler and Sullivan are the same age, and Tyler just put the car into the fastest gear and went tearing down the driveway with Sullivan laughing next to him. That kid is an expert at only 3 years of age. He will be driving the real tractor by the time he’s 5 I’m guessing! Isn’t this a cute video of them?
Next we headed to the other part of their farm where the cows are. They raise angus beef cows, and let me tell you, their beef is good! Mike and I have started buying their beef instead of beef from the grocery store. Many of their cows graze freely on the farm and they don’t use hormones or antibiotics on their cattle. I like buying from a friend and knowing where my meat comes from. It’s one small step we are taking to improve our diet at home, and to be perfectly honest, their beef just simply tastes better. Now we just need to find a local chicken farmer and pig farmer and we’ll be all set. If you live in the Pittsburgh area or in northern Pennsylvania and would like to purchase some beef fresh from the farm, email me at email@example.com and I will send you their beef brochure.
A farm trip would not be the same without a ride on the big tractor.
Needless to say the kids were exhausted by the time we headed home and slept the entire way. There is nothing like fresh farm air to put kids to sleep. Everyone had a great time and we learned a lot too. Do you have a local farm near you that you like to visit? Do you live on a farm? Come back on Sunday when we try to learn a little more about farm animals.