September 25, 2023

A Spring Afternoon: Run, Sheep, Run

Rehoboth Ramblings


What could be more spring-like than watching little lambs on a beautiful afternoon (somewhat rare this April)? We recently enjoyed the sheep-shearing event at Gore Place historic farm in Waltham. While the shearing itself, held under a tent, was a bit too crowded, the little lambs on the farm were as cute as could be, and the sheepdog demonstration with mature sheep (and a couple of goats) worth seeing. What patience the human shepherd must have, getting these well-trained border collies to maneuver as skillfully as pieces on a chessboard.

This small flock of big and shaggy sheep had not been shorn yet and had that sort of hot and long-suffering “oh not this again!” look to them. I guess they are incapable of thinking “Say, as long as that guy with the whistle is standing here, these annoying dogs probably aren’t going to hurt us”. The owner of these sheep, visiting from his farm in New Hampshire, made it clear that border collies need to work as herders; they do not make good pets. But they are terrific herders after being trained and also great at playing Frisbee for a little well-earned recreation.

When visiting any of the historic farms in New England, I always wonder what the original owners long ago would think of their farms today. Would they marvel at today’s visitors paying $20 to watch sheep being sheared and oxen pulling a cart? It is rather amazing that there is still a well-preserved 50-acre working farm right in the middle of a congested Boston suburb.

Although I have no desire to live in the past, as if that were possible, it’s always worthwhile and thought-provoking to see how our ancestors lived. There is an interesting series of British TV programs featuring the freelance historian Ruth Goodman. She and her partners in historical re-enactment totally immerse themselves in the life and times of farmers in various time periods, whether the Tudor, Victorian or Edwardian era.

Life certainly wasn’t easy in olden times and most of us couldn’t stand the hardships involved even in pretending to live then. The series Wartime Farm is particularly gripping and   educational for Americans who might not fully realize just how difficult it was living in Britain during World War II. These lively programs are available to stream on free sites such as IMDb and YouTube, if you don’t mind the occasional commercials. I have been pleasantly surprised to see how many interesting TV programs that I can watch on YouTube for free in comparison to how few shows that I like on the streaming platforms that I am paying for.

How can there be so many bad movies out there and why should I pay a fee when I can’t find anything I like? I should just join the hordes of people leaving Netflix. I already left once but returned to watch “The Crown”. And when I do find something to watch why is on yet another service that I don’t subscribe to? I’ve heard streaming described as “the new cable” and that about sums it up. Well, this is a problem our ancestors didn’t have. I guess we’re all “spoiled for choice” as they say in Britain. It is ironic that those of us who grew up with three television channels should be so picky now. But enough of this subject.

Another fun event in April was a charming exhibit of fairy houses, those little doll-house structures made of twigs, pine cones, lichen and other woodsy items to be displayed in gardens. This was at the Botanical Center at Roger Williams Park in Providence. I hadn’t been to the botanical gardens there in years and was delighted to see how it’s grown (and to see large palm trees and various types of cactus without getting on a plane to fly far away).

Also new to me was the rose garden maze behind the greenhouses. It was too early for roses to be in bloom, but that’s something to look forward to in June. If you missed the Asian Lantern Spectacular at the zoo last year, you can see it this summer, from now through July 4 in the evenings. Roger Williams Park is a real local treasure, with beautiful gardens and attractions for all ages.


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