Sheep Calls and Sap Pails – Bridging the Urban Rural Divide

Published April 27, 2017 18:25

"How long would it take for me to hatch this egg?”

Members of the Winnipeg Boys and Girls Club visited Clearwater during Spring Break to learn a little bit about life in the country. The young people are part of a sponsored program called Rogers Raising the Grade, which aimed at increasing academic skills and connecting youth with mentors, tutors and friends.

McKenna, Keegan, Tammi, Bailey, Taylor, and MacKenzie, along with their group leaders Maria Dueck, Christine Ryckman, and Hafiz, spent two days and nights at the Harvest Moon Learning Centre, through a grant made possible by the Cooperators IMPACT! Fund. The students, age 14-16, participated in different activities during the day, such as calculating the food miles of all the ingredients, while making a batch of cookies, planting seeds in the greenhouse, making recycled paper with wildflower seeds, and exploring the people involved in a food system. All the activities were connected to understanding where food comes from.

Natalie James, the Harvest Moon Society Coordinator, arranged a tour of a local small farm, which was given by Colin McInnes and myself, who raise livestock near Clearwater.

Thankfully, enough rubber boots were made available, thanks in part to Northfolk Ranch Supply, so that the students could fully engage in what was a bit of a muddy tour.

Most of the young people, aged 14-16, had never visited a farm before and were excited at the chance to get up close to some of the animals. The group met the cattle, sheep, miniature donkeys, turkeys, ducks, geese, chicken, dogs and cats who are raised outdoors on the farm. The sheep were a big hit with their funny collective voice. One student filmed them baa-ing with her phone, and the sheep responded with enthusiasm to their own call every time she played the video.

The group also learned the important difference between a cow, bull, heifer and steer – guarding them against making a city slicker mistake when discussing cattle in the country.

Maple tapping had just begun the week prior, so they got to collect the pails of sap and pour them into the big boiler to boil down into syrup. Best of all, they got to taste some of the syrup from the previous year.

“It’s too sweet,” remarked Bailey, who was then teased by her friends for earlier that day asking them to “load me up” a dessert plate at the Clearwater Junction Restaurant buffet. She proceeded to eat a piece of pie, a butter tart, a cookie, a marshmallow square and a piece of chocolate cake and then continued to pull out cookies she had stashed in her pocket the rest of the day.

MacKenzie, once of the students, volunteered to help collect chicken eggs from the next. We looked at the differences in colour, size, weight, and speckling between chicken, duck and turkey eggs which started a whole conversation among the group about how eggs are hatched.

Could I hatch one of the eggs in my fridge?
How long does an egg take to hatch?
What happens if there is no rooster around?
I’m gonna keep this turkey egg warm, hatch him out, and call him Rupert!

There were plenty of laughs to be had around the warm fire, before the group returned back to the Harvest Moon Learning Centre.

But their time in the country must have had an impact on the urban young people. Natalie reported that by supper time on Wednesday, the group was passionately discussing where their food comes from – a conversation that may not have happened without the efforts of organizations like the Boys and Girls Club and the Harvest Moon Society to bridge the gap between urban and rural.

Oh, and how long does it take to hatch an egg? 21 days for a chicken, 28 days for a duck, and around 30 days for a turkey – but you’d have to keep it in your armpit.

- Katie McInnes, The Sentinel Courier

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