We go to the Ag Show every year, but this year looking at the photos what struck me most was the distillation of NZ culture. Not every aspect, mind you, but a couple strands of character than run deep in the fabric of society, such as sheep and sheep dogs. This could be a scene from the movie Babe. Sheep dogs may be super high energy, but in these trials they are amazingly disciplined, intense, and controlled. They stalk, they skulk, on occasion they sprint, but they are the model of controlled focus.
More Sheep! This time the race is to shave off their wool rather than move them through an obstacle course. It’s a two-part race, starting with the obvious bit of the sheering where the guys handle the sheep as if they were stuffed animals. Under expert hands they look docile (probably just hopeless), but once I saw a not-so-expert give it a go, and the sheep wasn’t so cooperative then. The second part is the wool handling–cleaning off the dingleberries (look that one up on google), separating the rest into grades, and bundling it all up to be baled. In the race we watched the shearers were neck-and-neck, and it was the speed of the wool handlers that separated the teams.
Lambs and sheep. The sheep maternity ward houses 50 ewes bred to give birth within the 3 day window of the show. The commentary from the women watching was all clucks of sympathy for the mama sheep, squirming embarrassment that she had to lamb in such a public arena, and pleas to help her as she strained to get the lamb out. I must admit I felt the same way.
Kids are allowed to touch animals here. Maybe I’m so impressed by this because the little county where we lived last (Tioga, NY) had a ridiculous rule about all animals being double-fenced to prevent contact with the public. These poor chicks were spending the first few days of their lives being passed from grubby little hand to grimy little fist, with perhaps a quick plunge to the floor in between. Milo admired the fluff ball for about 20 seconds, then abruptly opened his hands and dropped it on the floor. He was done with it. He’s not long on sympathy, that one.
Doesn’t this horse and rider belong in Mary Poppins? For some reason horse fashion has gotten stuck in the early 1900s (correct me if I’m wrong, history buffs). There was even a class for side-saddle women riders, with their heavy full woolen skirts, and their faces tied up in black suet bags (must have been fly nets) underneath their brimmed hats.
Big tractors. That, at least, feels like home. Except that the owners of these expensive jobbers in NZ let kids climb up and stroke their big powerful wheels unattended. There must not be as many lawyers per capita here.