Herefords, Belgians, and Udders

It’s hard work hauling hay to the Herefords. Our Belgians, Bill and Bob, bed in the barn. Uncle pulls up and down on the udder to get milk.

IMG_0592These are phrases from Cameron’s Prairie Alphabet book, one his Grandma let him take home after Christmas since he seemed so enamoured with it. Today, those phrases came in quite handy.

“Cameron? What does H say? That’s right! Remember your book, where it says it’s hard work hauling …” he finished it for me. Hay to the Herefords. “Cameron, see there? Those are Herefords!” OOOOOOHHH! The light of comprehension was visible.

Today’s Adventure took us to Maplewood Farm in North Vancouver. They’re having a sheep festival tomorrow, but we had plans already. So we packed up and bussed over there today. I was pretty surprised, given how far away the north shore can seem, that it was relatively easy to get there. Admission for both of us was less than ten bucks, and everyone we came across was cheerful, interested, and tuned right in to Cameron.

IMG_0591The farm is fairly small, and while it is a ‘working farm’, it is more like a small farm animal zoo than what I think of when I think of farm. But that’s okay. The size of it meant that we could do a quick survey of what there was to see, then settle down to really visit with the animals at each pen. They have two areas where you can get right in and interact with the animals – rabbits and goats – but what struck me was that there weren’t signs everywhere saying not to touch the animals. There were prominent signs at each pen that reminded you that all animals may bite, to not feed the animals, and to wash your hands. But if Prince the Belgian happened to be up at the door to his stall, you could say hello with a nice pat.

So we settled into an easy pace, led by Cameron. He was enthralled by the softness of bunny ears, and amazed by the display of a peacock. I only needed to remind him once to not chase the free-range chickens, then he became an expert at sidling up next to them, carefully halting when they startled. He learned that not all chickens look alike. He got to touch the tight curls of two lambs, and quietly peeked into the pen of two newborn silky goats with their mom. He climbed a pile of large rocks with a half dozen goats. Last time he met some sheep their deep BBAAAAAA startled him, but this time he knew what to expect. Same goes for the cow moos, that sound nothing like ‘moo’.

IMG_0615They didn’t just have Herefords. The highlight of the afternoon was the Jersey cow. While on most dairy farms the cows are milked morning and evening, at this farm they add a mid-day milking so the kids can see. Farmer Courtney, whom we had already met as she fed the pigs earlier, recognized Cameron and got him to help her ring the triangle to summon everyone for this event. Then off to the barn we went! Courtney didn’t just milk, she gave an engaging and informative talk as she did so, involving all age levels. Cameron was rapt as he watched milk stream down into the bucket. I don’t blame him – most of his favourite foods come from that stuff. Afterward we got to see the bucket full of creamy, frothy milk. I sure wish we had been allowed to taste. Milk fresh from the cow is quite different than the stuff we get in plastic jugs.

Oh, and I mentioned hand washing signs. Since I ranted about the hand washing stations at the Children’s Festival, I should say something here. Fantastic set-up, exactly what should be done where kids are the target audience. They were accessible for adults and kids, with taps right close to the front so even the smallest kids could reach. There was plenty of soap close by too. Scattered throughout the farm were hand sanitizing stations as well.

Tonight as we settled down to read stories, I was happy to see that the Prairie Alphabet was one of the selection. Cameron helps me on many of the letters, but for the three he saw today at the farm there was added enthusiasm and certainty. He now knows just how huge Belgians are. He understands what a Hereford looks like. And he’s seen someone pull up and down on an udder to get milk.



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