There is a hotly contested quilt contest, classes for root vegetables, art work, photography, knitting, jams, pickles, cookies, cakes, bread, grain and hay. It is a reminder of a once flourishing rural culture, a true celebration of the skills and community that was once needed to survive. It does not have a midway, there is not a cheap plastic giveaway in sight, no loud music nor flashing fluorescent lights.
In Nova Scotia much of that work was done by the humble ox. For those who don't know, an ox is usually a steer, but cows and bulls can be used, in this part of the country they are usually a cross breed involving Hereford and red or grey Durham. Oxen of one type or another have been used as "beasts of burden" for over 6000 years, and have been helping farmers, loggers and transporters in Nova Scotia since the first team was brought here in 1610.
Usually a team is around two years of age before they can do any serious work as they must have the maturity and discipline to work together for long periods. Ox teams are not hooked to any reins or harness; instead their drover or teamster walks in front of the team and the team follows responding to voice commands or specific motions of the whip which the drover carries.
By the time a team reaches full maturity at approximately 4 years of age
they are a formidable animal in both size and capacity to work, and are only then referred to as "oxen".
Personally, the most striking thing about these beautiful animals is their docile nature. As someone who grew up handling horses I am always struck by the usually calm and agreeable nature of these animals. I have spoken to people who work with oxen and they assure me that the teams have their days when this is not the case, but for the majority of the time they are agreeable to work with.
For me, this is always most striking when I see the small children of the drovers casually walking around with a massive pair of mature oxen following at their heels. Animals weighing well over a ton following a fifty pound child who, when looking for someone or something, will bend over to look between the legs of their charges as it will be several years yet before they have a hope of seeing over the animals.
Yeah, try that with a team of horses!
I hope everyone had a good week while I was tending to the 4H beasties, We had a good year and Reiley has qualified for the 4H provincial show, being held in Truro next month. We will be taking both Ivan and Pepper and the paper towel rack Reiley made for woodworking.
Pro-Show, as it is called is always an amazing experience. 4H families from Yarmouth to Sydney descend on the host town in trucks and trailers and minivans containing everything from beautifully decorated cakes to draft horses! Reiley has qualified to show in beef and goats both showmanship and conformation classes. He will also be competing in the judging competition for both those categories.
These projects are the culmination of years of work for most kids and I have to say these are great kids. Inside the ring competition is fierce, outside the ring you will find laughter, hugs and the loan of equipment and tools to help each other out. Competition starts early Friday afternoon and winds up Sunday afternoon. In between there are hours of styling and primping of livestock, barns open at 5:30 am, heated tug of war rivalries, a fashion show and auctions for market lamb, turkey and steer projects. Yes, animals that the kids have spent all year, or two years in the case of market steers, raising will not make the trip home. Fortunatly Ivan will be comming home this year; next year only a large box of kleenex will make the drive home with us.
It's a crazy weekend with long days and no sleep and the kids wouldn't have it any other way!
I'll be back tomorrow with a How-To-Tuesday post, not sure what the topic will be but I'm hoping to get out of the kitchen! Have a great day everyone!