Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sheep get rid of their winter coats at Philipsburg Manor

It's spring. We are shedding our winter coats, and so are the animals.

The annual shearing of the sheep takes place this weekend, April 18-19, at Philipsburg Manor's Sheep-to-Shawl festival. And it will be done the old fashioned way -- by hand -- the way the 18th century residents of his historic working farm would have done it.

There are 19 newborn lambs to see, as well, including a rare set of triplets born on the farm this spring. They are beyond cute, and the kids will love watching them play like happy puppies. This is a record number of newborns for Philipsburg Manor and its proud poppa, the ram named, “Lucky,” who is truly living up to his name.

Other new additions to the farm this year include Maebell the milk cow’s new heifer calf, Marigold. The site’s four-year-old working oxen, Josh and Jake, will also be part of the day’s events.

“Spring at Philipsburg Manor is a really special time, and this event really gives visitors the full flavor of what we do here,” said Thom Thacker, site director of Philipsburg Manor. Tours and programs reflect the daily lives of the 23 enslaved individuals known to have lived and labored there, including slaves. Philipsburg Manor is the country’s only fully staffed living history museum to focus on the history of northern slavery. The farm includes a working water-powered gristmill and a 'new world' Dutch barn.

Philipsburg Manor’s farmers will be shearing the sheep in the barnyard by hand while costumed interpreters continuously demonstrate wool dyeing, spinning, and weaving, and lead special hands-on activities for children. You can watch the entire process of making woolen cloth and participate several of the steps in the process after the sheep are sheared. That includes picking and carding the wool, spinning and dyeing the yarn, and weaving it into cloth.

Interpreters, wearing costume of the 18th century, also demonstrate the labor-intensive process of making linen from the flax plant. And, popular storyteller Jonathan Kruk will be on hand to share his tales.

The Sheep-to-Shawl is held rain or shine. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $6 for children ages 5-17. Members of Historic Hudson Valley and children under 5 attend for free. Tickets can be purchased online. Philipsburg Manor is at 381 North Broadway (Route 9) in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., two miles north of the Tappan Zee Bridge.

This is a great year to learn about what life was like for the original Dutch settlers of the Hudson Valley. After all, this is the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's discovery of a particular river and river valley. You know the name. Hudson River, Hudson Valley.

More about the Quadracentennial events -- that's the dictionary word for 400th anniversary -- in upcoming postings.
photo courtesy Historic Hudson Valley

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