The sheep at Old Sturbridge Village will get their annual "haircuts" during Memorial Day Weekend May 29-31 as the village celebrates Wool Days.
Visitors can also meet the 14 new lambs born at OSV this season, as well as two piglets, a new calf and new team of baby oxen, who are in training to learn their names and the 40 voice and hand commands they will need to understand to help the farmers with heavy work around the farm.
In keeping with the wool days theme, visitors can also make a "wooly sheep" ornament using wool from the OSV sheep. Also highlighting the weekend is the return of the Old Sturbridge Village stagecoach and boat ride on the Quinebaug River, and old-fashioned base-ball games. For all times and details: 1-800-SEE-1830; www.osv.org.
When sheared, the OSV sheep each produce about five pounds of wool. They are a heritage breed descended from sheep brought by Spaniards to the U.S. Gulf coast in the 1500s and closely resemble the 19th century sheep breed commonly found on New England farms in the 1830s. Their fleece is soft, and the lanolin in the wool is great for the hands. In fact, shearing is one of the few tasks in the farmer's year which will actually improve the condition of his hands.
Sometimes sheep farmers in the early 1800s had to deal with the care of lambs rejected by their mothers. The alternative was to feed milk to the lamb by hand unless a foster mother could be found. A lamb raised by hand is called a "cosset lamb," and probably Mary's little lamb from the famous poem "whose fleece was white a snow." was tame because it was being raised by hand.
Old Sturbridge Village celebrates New England life in the 1830s and is one of the largest living history museums in the country. The museum is open daily 9:30 a.m. 5:00 p.m. seven days a week. OSV offers free parking and a free return visit within 10 days. Admission: $20; seniors $18; children 3-17, $7; children under 3, free. For information: www.osv.org or call 1-800-733-1830.
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