Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hancock Shaker Village

The week before last my family and I went to Hancock Shaker Village to see the baby animals. The village itself is an amazing place. There's so much to see that you can barely skim the surface in a couple of hours. At the entrance there's a small museum with personal effects and objects that were made by the Shakers. They have handmade chairs, spinning wheels, baskets, and more chairs. These things really show their desire to create functional, well-designed items. Everything they made has a beautiful simplicity.

Once inside you can go on a scheduled tour or just wander around, exploring at your own pace. There are people in many of the buildings to help explain what you're looking at, and often they're dressed in period clothes. For the most part they were quite enthusiastic and knowledgeable. In one building there was a carpenter using the tools of the 1800s — or earlier. In another building were samples of hand-dyed wool; everything was labeled with the name of the dye used to produce each of the vibrant colors. The buildings themselves are surprisingly vibrant.

The most interesting building to me is the round barn, and here is where the baby animals were on display.

Inside they had a sheep-shearing exhibition and a 4-H table with rabbits. Around the perimeter were pens with sheep and goats and their babies. You could climb right into the pens and pet the animals; one of the lambs kept trying to nibble on my wife's rubber boots. It was too dark to get a good photo, but my favorite was a very friendly Babydoll Southdown sheep — it was like a giant miniature poodle. Off to the side of the round barn is another barn, this one rectangular, and there was a bit more light in there. There was a pen with a couple of pigs and a whole lot of piglets.

It was feeding time, so they were in a state of constant motion. Next to them was a sheep and her lamb.

Outside there was a turkey in a cage who was making a drumming noise and fanning his tail feathers, and running around the buildings was a flock of chickens and a rooster. They climbed onto some farming equipment and let us get close.

The rooster, however, always kept a wary eye on us. In a nearby building there were baby chicks and ducklings. The Village also had activities for children and a spinning demonstration. On the way out we met up with an ox by the fence.

It was nice to see the baby animals in the spring (in the winter at Hancock Shaker Village, we went on a sleigh ride and got to cut up blocks of ice at the reservoir). It was a great way to spend the afternoon, and we'll definitely be back.

Mars Vilaubi, Photo Editor at Storey Publishing

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