Hello again all of you out in internet-land! We’re well on our way to another great season. Everything is open again outside at Conner Prairie, babies are hopping around in the Animal Encounters Barn, and our oxen have made a few trips around Prairietown already. This week the Ag Staff has been gearing up for our annual Sheep to Blanket event
, where we take our guests through the whole process of shearing, washing, carding, spinning, dyeing, and weaving…you know, sheep…to blanket!
Anyways, there are many folks involved in this event, from the ladies of the Loom House who do the spinning, dyeing, and weaving, some of the people you meet in Prairietown who will be washing wool 1836-style, and us, the Ag Staff. We get to start the process with; you guessed it, the sheep. It’s in the Animal Encounters Barn where all the shearing takes place. Over the course of three days we’ll be giving twenty or so sheep their annual haircut.
Did you know that sheep only get one haircut per year? Well, if you think about it; if we let them have that thick wool coat in the summertime, they wouldn’t be able to take the heat! And if we sheared them once in the spring and again in the fall they wouldn’t be able to grow their coat back thick enough in time to withstand the cold winter.
So the saying goes that you shear your sheep “after last frost and before first fly.” You want it to be warm enough that they won’t freeze once you cut off all their wool, but you want them to be able to grow a little bit back so they don’t get sun burned or bitten up by bugs in the summer. Right around this time in April is usually just about right.
Some of the other things you might be able to check out this weekend are sheepdog demonstrations at the Animal Encounters Barn or take a tram-ride out to Conner Prairie’s Textiles Studio (even I have never seen it! It sounds a little bit like a far-away land where all our beautiful blankets and clothes come from.). So come visit us Ag Staffers in the Barn this weekend, hopefully you’ll recognize us, we’ll be the ones with the shears covered in wool.
Welcome to this lovely, early spring! I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed the warm breezes, greening of the grass, and the budding plant life. But then I remember that Conner Prairie is about to start its April presentation of Follow the North Star
, our award-winning Underground Railroad simulation, and I wonder how long the pleasant weather will stick around. This is Indiana after all!
With the warmer temperatures comes spring fever, an annual affliction of teachers and schoolchildren everywhere. As some of you may know, I “moonlight” as a secondary English teacher, and I’m finding it increasingly difficult to keep my students on task when they would rather stare out the window at the budding trees. I thought I could capture their attention by reading a piece of African American literature written prior to the Civil War, so imagine my surprise when my high school students knew little or nothing about that time in American history!
Stunned, I asked the U.S. History teacher next door to me why they were so uninformed, and he told me it had been removed from the eleventh grade curriculum. In an effort to concentrate on Indiana Standards and test scores, a most critical time in our nation’s history has been eliminated!
I am very sad for the children who will graduate from high school ignorant of the hardships of slavery. As we say about our Follow the North Star program, “man’s humanity to man” was an attempt to right so many of those wrongs. I am glad that Conner Prairie has such a fine program to offer the community, and I hope that both students and adults who participate in it (either in the daytime or nighttime program) will take advantage of this great opportunity to supplement their state-mandated units of study.
Education in this state is under fire. However, education can be found outside a classroom or textbook, and Conner Prairie’s Follow the North Star is a great way to fill the gaps left by the myopic focus on test scores. Spread the word to family and friends that our children’s education can be enhanced by this hands-on approach to learning, and their knowledge of history will only benefit from the experience.