Roaming Rotterdam writes about her recent experience on a farm near Rotterdam, after a spur-of-the-moment decision to check out a Lambs’ Day festival!
A couple of weeks ago my friend and I both found ourselves, co-incidentally, abandoned by our husbands for the weekend so she asked if I would be interested in going to Lammetjesdag Lambs’ Day. This is an event which is held annually on the border of my village, Berkel en Rodenrijs, and Rotterdam. In the many years that I have lived here I have never attended this event, so why not, it could be fun. Berkel’s roots were very much in farming but has, in recent years, turned away from farming and agriculture and has sold a lot of its land for development.
The day was damp and cold but, not to be deterred by the weather, we enthusiastically joined the surprisingly long queue and waited for the huifkar which was to transport us to the farm. A quick scan along the queue and it appeared that my friend and I were conspicuous by the absence of children which seemed to out-number adults by 3 to 1.
Our transport arrived! Those of us not lucky enough to bag a seat hung on for dear life as the wagon, pulled by a tractor, made its bumpy and slow progress through the narrow lanes to the farm. Luckily we were so tightly packed that it made falling over an impossibility.
We arrived in rural Berkel and suddenly Rotterdam city centre could have been a million miles away. Children escaped the clutches of their mothers and ran free happily jumping in the mud and generally having a good splash around in their wellies. !Wat leuk! Plenty of activities were on offer – sheep-shearing, sheep herding, pony rides and a bouncy castle, only in this case it was a bouncy cow.
Inside the huge greenhouses were stalls selling everything “woolly” from naturally died skeins of wool to items that can only be described as having the most tenuous connection with sheep and farming but all jolly good fun nonetheless. !Wat leuk!
Then we got our first glimpse of lambs. They were housed in a small pen; some jumping around full of the joys of ….. February, whilst others were huddled in a corner taking a nap. !Wat leuk! Guaranteed to melt even the hardest of hearts. I was fast approaching the point of no return to becoming vegetarian. From the chatter going on around me I learnt that these lambs were the offspring of mothers who had died in childbirth. !NIET leuk! Happy face soon changed to sad face I was looking at a pen full of orphans!
Our nose carried us forward to the sharp end of the business. I had never been up close and quite so personal to so many sheep in all my life, all of which were in various stages of motherhood. I was born and bred in London and the old saying is very true; “you can take the girl out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the girl”. Lambs are cute, sheep on the other hand are ………. weeeell. All I can say is that they are much larger than you imagine when you see them happily grazing in a distant field and I definitely wouldn’t describe them as “cute”. This one is fresh from the hairdressers.
Suddenly there was a flurry of excitement and it appeared that judging by the, suffice to say, “anatomy”, of one of the ewes, she was about to give birth. Our numbers swelled and I suddenly found myself being elbowed to the back of the crowd by excited spectators. If truth be known, I wasn’t too unhappy about this, and found myself witnessing “the happy event” over the shoulder and through the screen of someone else’s camera. Little “Larry the lamb” arrived in very short time with the assistance of farmer, Martin Oosthoek, who quickly started some kind of mouth to mouth resuscitation – OMG! – and it wasn’t long before little Larry was on his feet and tottering towards mum for some lunch. Unfortunately no biscuits with hagelslag (blue or white sugar sprinkes, traditionally served on biscuits and given to visitors on the birth of a new baby) were proudly handed round so I can’t say for sure whether it was a boy or girl. It was all very “James Herriot” like!
A mother and baby being chauffeured to a private stall for a little quality time together and, no doubt, an opportunity to bond. !Wat leuk!
I always thought that lambs were born in spring but it appears that these were being bred early, indoors, so that they could be put out to graze in the spring on the dikes and grassy areas in and around Rotterdam, making mowing unnecessary and also giving us something pleasant to look at as we travel around. I am not sure I will ever look at a sheep in quite the same way again though.
This was clearly a day to remember for the children and for many a rare glimpse into the real world of farm life. I shall remember it for all sorts of other reasons! My toes were turning into blocks of ice so it was well time for some shopping and a spot of lunch in the big city; perhaps nothing involving lamb!
Seriously though, I found the experience really interesting and I would thoroughly recommend taking your children along to a Lemmetjesdag next year. Well done to all the dedicated and hard-working farmers, whether it be arable or live-stock, who do a wonderful job!
Here are some facts taken from www.reference.com
“A female sheep is called a “ewe,” a docile creature of high intelligence. Female sheep weigh between 150 and 200 pounds, and reach sexual maturity around 6 months depending on the breed, the type of nutrition available and the season in which they were born.
In captivity, ewes breed at 18 months, are pregnant 145 to 155 days, and produce one to two litters of lambs a year. Sheep have wool coats that help maintain body heat even when wet. Wool is durable and widely used in carpets and clothing. Cosmetics and ointments contain the lanolin that is expelled from wool, and due to a fat content twice that of cow’s milk, sheep’s milk is used to make Roquefort cheese.”