Email Old MacDonald's Farm website

Archive for October, 2011

Ewe know it makes sense.

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

As he continues his trip around his farm, Old Macdonald wants to tell you about his sheep now. Everyone knows that sheep provide both clothing and food, not by popping down Tesco’s to collect stuff for you, but from their wool and their meat (though this latter information he keeps from his own flock to avoid upsetting them!) However there is much sheepish information about which you may not be aware.

Sheep were domesticated 10,000 years ago in Central Asia, but it wasn’t until 3,500 B.C. that man learned to spin wool. Sheep helped to make the spread of civilization possible. Sheep production was well-established during Biblical times. There are many references to sheep in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament.

Sheep production is man’s oldest organized industry. Wool was the first commodity of sufficient value to warrant international trade. So the sheep can tell our goats that they have a longer history!

In the 1400′s, Queen Isabella of Spain used money derived from the wool industry to finance Columbus and other conquistadors’ voyages. In 1493 on his second voyage to the New World, Columbus took sheep with him as a “walking food supply.” He left some sheep in Cuba and Santo Domingo. In 1519, Cortez began his exploration of Mexico and the Western United States. He took with him sheep that were offspring of Columbus’ sheep. These sheep are believed to be the descendents of what are now called “Churros.” The Navajo Churro is the oldest breed of sheep in the U.S. Despite efforts by the U.S. government to eradicate the breed, Navajo Churros are still raised by Navajo indians. The Gulf Coast (or Florida) Native is another breed of sheep believed to be directly descended from sheep brought to the New World by Spanish and French explorers.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, England tried to discourage the wool industry in the American colonies. Nonetheless, colonists quickly smuggled sheep into the States and developed a wool industry. By 1664, there were 10,000 sheep in the colonies and the General Court of Massachusetts passed a law requiring youth to learn to spin and weave. Imagine that, knitting as a GCSE subject!

By 1698, America was exporting wool goods. England became outraged and outlawed wool trade, making it punishible by cutting off a person’s right hand. The restrictions on sheep raising and wool manufacturing, along with the Stamp Act, led to the American Revolutionary War. Thus, spinning and weaving were considered patriotic acts. Even after the war, England enacted a law forbidding the export of sheep. George Washington raised sheep on his Mt. Vernon estate. Thomas Jefferson kept sheep at Monticello. Presidents Washington and Jefferson were both inaugurated in suits made of American wool. James Madison’s inaugural jacket was woven from wool of sheep raised in his home in Virginia. President Woodrow Wilson grazed sheep on the White House lawn.

Sheep raising has played a role in several historical conflicts such as the “Highland Clearance,” American range wars, and the English “enclosing of the commons.” The Highland Clearances consisted of the replacement of an almost feudal system of land tenure in Scotland with the rearing of sheep. Thousands of people were forced to leave their homes.

In the U.S. range wars, violent conflicts erupted between cattle ranchers and sheep herders as both competed for land to graze their livestock. Britain’s close of the commons was similar to the Highland clearance; open fields were enclosed into individually-owned fields for sheep farming, displacing many subsistance farmers.

So when you look at Old Macdonald’s lovely and peaceful flock, just think what trouble their ancestors caused in Scotland and in America! Wool I never.

Stride the corridors of flower

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

All of you who have visited our Educational Farm Park, and both of you who read this website, will be aware of the importance that Old Macdonald places on conservation and on bio diversity (the circle of life if you prefer). You will also be aware, because you are clearly interested in these matters, the importance in conservation of corridors for wildlife as well as nature reserves. So Old Mac, having nothing better to do and having counted all his cash last night, read the Government’s major report on these things and wanted to share it with you.

Take for instance the Tiger. Not only do Tigers need reserves in which to live and be protected but above all they need to be able to roam, looking for new lady tigers perhaps, and if they just rely on one reserve with no means to travel they will be unhappy and the breed will not continue. Now in India, Nepal and other countries they are creating protected corridors between reserves in which these magnificent animals can travel to fulfill their natural lifestyle.

Now you may think this is just “over there” a long way away, but nature corridors are just as important in this country to maintain the wide and diverse wildlife living here, and your garden should be a very important part of that! Bees, insects, spiders and other small creatures need to be able to travel around from place to place to maintain their lifestyles and to allow wild birds to hunt them and also to spread seeds around to keep up the balance of nature. So it is not just somewhere else, it is here and in your own home!

What you can do to help is to make sure that when you are planting your garden, window box or flower pots, you use native British plants, and also look to sow wildflower seeds, bee friendly seeds are ideal, and also to allow some areas of grass to grow wild as when you look at long grass you do not want to think of scruffy gardens but recognise that within these areas bugs, worms and other creepies find their home and they are just as important to the balance of nature as anything else.

So we do not want you to open your garden gate on the off-chance that a tiger might be strolling past on a night on the tiles, but do look to be nature friendly in your gardening. Cut out insecticides, use natural methods to control pests, and be friendly to bees!

That is Old Macdonald for you, helping save the world all the time, now you can help him.