A 4H Lamb Joins the Family
Washington, the lamb, rode home from the Hopkinton Fair 4-H auction in the back seat of my farm truck. Seen here with Katie, the girl who raised him, he is a handsome and friendly addition to the educational barn at Miles Smith Farm.
Once again, this year, I signed up to bid in NH 4-H Livestock Show & Auction at the 2022 Hopkinton Fair, where fourteen 4H club members presented goats, sheep, pigs, and steers they had spent a year raising and tending. Hours before the auction started, a judge evaluated each animal, and each bidder was given a program listing the animal's breed and weight.
The 4-H's mission is to help young people develop life skills, including raising livestock, to help them become productive adults. It's a great program.
Successful bidders could take their animal home or have it processed for meat. Butcher Rick Lemay was on hand to transport the animals to Lemay and Sons Beef Packing House in Goffstown for processing.
It must be hard for the 4-Hers to auction off their beloved animals. But most of them are accustomed to supplying their family and others with fresh meat. The annual auctions give the bidding public a chance to reward their hard work and support humane livestock practices while putting delicious meat in the freezer.
Last year I bid on a goat named Hops and had every intention of processing him. Instead, I caved to his magnetic personality and donated him to the Learning Networks Foundation, which is the nonprofit aspect of Miles Smith Farm. Hops now has a permanent home with goats Trixy and Dixy, donkey Eleanor, sheep Abby, and mini-pig Tazzy in the Foundation's learning barn.
This year, I decided to find a lamb friend for Abby. Twelve-year-old 4-Her Katie Smith was standing with her Clun Forest wether (a wether is a neutered male lamb) named Wash, short for Washington. Katie told me the breed comes from the Clun Forest in Shropshire, England. These sheep are hardy, adaptable, and good foragers. And if Wash is any example, they are friendly. But that may be due to Katie's training. When I asked Katie which she'd prefer, working with livestock or playing extracurricular sports, she thought a minute, then said, "I'd rather work with my sheep." My kind of girl! I invited her to work for me when she is a little older.
When I reached into his stall, Wash nuzzled my hand. With black legs and face, handsome and friendly Wash was the perfect lamb for the Foundation's petting zoo. I decided, whatever the price, I would take him home with me.
Have you ever placed a bid at an auction? It can be confusing. In 2021 I was bidding on Hops when auctioneer Dan Chute stopped the action, looked me in the eye, and said, "If you bid against yourself again, next time I'll take it." So this year, I was so careful that I missed the final bid, and another buyer was declared the winner. I knew I'd lost but would not give up the fight for Wash. After explaining my error to Dan, including a bit of begging, the winning buyer let the bidding resume, and my $3.70-per-pound bid won.
A Lamb With Good Taste
Despite my clumsy bidding techniques, I had my prize lamb. Katie led Wash through the fairgrounds and helped load him into my crew-cab pickup truck. Although he had been quiet until then, as soon as Katie was out of sight, Wash baahed and baahed. He protested most of the way home until Pete Seeger's song "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" played on the radio, soothing him. Just what I wanted, a lamb with good taste.
Wash had left quite a mess to clean up, so while he settled into his new home, my good-natured husband, Bruce, helped me hose and scrub down the rear seat mat.
It felt good to be part of an auction that encourages 4H youth to devote their time to raising fine livestock. I'm also thankful for the other bidders who value the 4H mission, especially the nice bidder who let me win Wash.