A trip to the farm: Barbara D. shares a snapshot of Ottawa’s Sheep Shearing Festival

Barbara D. is a public servant by day but nurtures her love of writing through social media. She blogs at Tales of Life with a Girl on the Go and Losing it in Ottawa and offers shorter thoughts as @OttMomGo.

The Canada Agriculture Museum is the first museum that I took my daughter to for her own enjoyment. Even as a toddler, she loved to see the slow moving cows and fluffy sheep. I wonder if she thought her first books had come to life? We’ve visited many, many times over the last six years and each season kicks off with the Sheep Shearing Festival on Victoria Day Weekend.

We started our visit this year by watching the handlers and dogs from the Ottawa Valley Border Collie Club in an agility demonstration. We were all impressed with the dogs as they completed the “obstacle course.” At the end of the demonstration, the handlers answered questions and we were able to pet the dogs, too.

The sheep shearing demonstrations, of course, are the highlight of the event. We arrived to see a collection of already-sheared sheep – all looking embarrassed, it seemed, to be in public in their underclothes – and a few sheep who were waiting their turn. The latter group looked awfully hot and were probably glad to have their turn with the man with the shears.

The shearer started by trimming the sheep’s nails – and who doesn’t like a manicure? – before administering a vaccine. Next, he showed us the hand shears that were used a long time ago. Luckily enough for the shearer’s hand and the sheep herself, the shearing was done with an electric clipper.

In what was a combination of wrestling match and hair cut, the shearer removed the fluffy wool from the sheep in about five minutes. Amazingly, he was able to get the wool off her whole body in a single piece. For the record, sheep are dirty creatures. The wool had all manner of dirt, straw and other things in it. My daughter also declared it to be stinky.

The museum had set up a room where visitors were able to card pre-washed wool to get in cleaner and ready for spinning. The guide told us about the process and then passed us along to their colleagues who explained felting and let the kids try their hand at felted bracelets.

With two knitters in the our group, we made sure to visit the barn where the Ottawa Knitting Guild had set up displays alongside the Ottawa Valley Weavers’ and Spinners’ Guild. It’s good to learn about the people in our community who are maintaining these traditional skills. My daughter made a sheep’s face using hearts at a craft table. A paper craft seems to be a mandatory element of any outing for her.

Of course, we visited the small and large animals barns before we could leave The Farm (as we call it in our family). The 11 year-old we had with us had never heard a cow mooing in real life and found Goodie, the bull, to be an impressive sight.

If you visited the Sheep Shearing Festival this year, don’t forgot to submit your photo or video by May 31st for a chance to win a membership to the Agriculture Museum/Science and Technology Museum/Aviation and Space Museum and four tickets to the Tally Ho wagon ride. Contest details are available on the museum’s website!