IN SHEEP CLOTHING: Harvey the Ram to Help Build Woolly Flock at Hunter’s Home | New
Hunter’s Home has added a tough new employee to its staff as the historic site transforms into an authentic and functional 19th century plantation.
The ram, Harvey, will have multiple jobs as Hunter’s Home will add working cattle to the farm. Once a year, it will be sheared so that its wool can be processed, and it will also help grow the flock of sheep that should arrive in the next month.
“Our goal is not to create a petting zoo where people can hang out and love animals,” said Dave Fowler, director of Hunter’s Home. “It’s cattle, but it gets a lot of attention through the fence. He has two jobs: to protect the herd and to advance the herd.
A merino ram, Harvey came from the Sauder Village Living History Museum and Farm in Archbold, Ohio. The 5 year old ram has lived in historic sites all of his life, so he’s used to seeing people, but still isn’t meant to be touched. When he arrived at Hunter’s Home last weekend, he didn’t pick up his new pen right away.
“It’s out, and usually you can get them to go anywhere with a bucket of food,” Fowler said. “Well, he didn’t, and he kind of got stuck in the clover grass and liked the clover a lot better than he liked what was in that bucket.” So we spent about two hours running around him eating clover before I finally made him follow me with a bucket of food.
Visitors will notice a new zigzag fence line on the property. Fowler has built a temporary pen for Harvey, but will be working on a pasture on the east side for when they get up to five sheep to join him. That didn’t stop Harvey from testing his perimeter.
“He can be aggressive,” Fowler said. “He’s tested every corner of that fence to see if there’s a place he can push it. So it works pretty well, but it will find a weak point sooner or later.
Sheep were among several animals the Murrell family kept on the farm. According to records, George Murrell sought compensation from the federal government for 125 Merino sheep after the Civil War, as the military likely took the herd away for food.
Harvey won’t have as many companions as the Murrell Merinos once did, but enough to return his breed to normalcy.
“It’s a shepherd animal, so it’s not natural for them to be alone,” Fowler said. “Now that the lambing is done and they will be harvesting the first harvest, there should be some sheep available. We are also going to have a guard dog to live with them. There is no leash law in Cherokee County, and basically we’re at the very end of it all. We lost a lot of cattle to the neighborhood dogs.
Harvey will likely work as a protector and stud for about four years. Eventually, his job will be finished, as the staff will not be able to permanently raise him with his own offspring. At this point, Fowler said, Hunter’s Home could look for another historic site where he could be of use, or perhaps he will spend his retirement in the field.
Fowler and the house staff will use Harvey and the other sheep to teach guests how cattle were cared for in the 19th century. However, they will likely receive better, more modern veterinary care. Harvey received a checkup before his arrival, so the goal is to keep him in shape and make sure he gets all the attention he needs.
“Sheep are kind of a funny animal,” Fowler said. “A horse or cow can get sick for a while and get well; sheep don’t. They just get sick and die. They have a few things that they recover from, but the saying goes that they are the only creature in the kingdom of God who is looking for the fastest way to die. Thus, they can find themselves in difficult situations.
After the sheep have been sheared, which is usually once a year, Hunter’s Home staff clean the wool, yarn or yarn it, and weave it into cloth now that the site has looms. An entire fiber arts program will be hands-on, and many products will be on sale in the gift shop as soon as it opens.
Visitors should be on the lookout for new programs being developed at Hunter’s Home. Fowler said they might even have workshops or events where guests can watch the sheep being grinded, as he plans to hand-trim them like the Murrells would.
“As we move forward, when we’re fully set up and ready to go, we’re going to be cultivating the same technique with the same equipment they used in the 1850s,” he said.
Check it out
Hunter’s Home offers guided tours for visitors at different times of the day. The hours are 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. From Tuesday to Saturday. You can call ahead to reserve a time for the tour. However, the site has booked tours at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. for walk-in visitors. Tours are also limited to five people at a time. For more information on Hunter’s Home, call 918-456-2751.