By Roz Rogoff
Sheep Shearing DayUploaded: Apr 17, 2011
My brother-in-law, David, is a dog lover. So he and my sister Alice come out from San Francisco to see the Border Collies in action on the annual Sheep Shearing day at Forest Home Farm. In order to save money the City's Parks and Recreation Department dropped this family-oriented event from its schedule this year.
Well the San Ramon Historic Foundation came to the rescue and held the event on April 16th. The gates opened at 11 am and the parking lot was full when we arrived at 11:45. It was a beautiful day and the crowds were pouring in. I parked my Maverick Grabber on Tareyton and we walked over.
I saw Dall Barley, one of the SRHF volunteers, directing traffic in the parking lot. I said "Hi" and thanked him for taking my email order for advanced registration the day before. He said email was the only way the Historic Foundation could sell tickets over the internet, but he's hoping to add an online order form to the SRHF website soon.
We walked up to the fence where Border Collies were herding sheep and sheep were being shaved of their fluffy coats. A couple of docents with portable microphones narrated the action and there were portable bleachers to sit on. It was almost like a sporting event, but no prizes were awarded for best sheep, best dog, or best shearing.
David was disappointed there weren't more dog demonstrations, but one of the docents explained how and why the dogs do what they do. It has something to do with the breed's natural tendency to bring the sheep to the owner and then training the dogs how to move the sheep around without getting inside the pack and scattering them.
David and Alice were in England recently and asked about the black-faced sheep they saw there. The docent explained those are bred for meat. There are three kinds of sheep: those bred for wool, those bred for meat, and those that can be used for either. The Brits eat a lot of mutton, which we don't over here. I've never tried mutton (sheep meat), but I've heard it isn't good, or maybe that's just my bias against English cooking. My sister said the restaurants they tried over there were pretty good; so maybe English food has improved since I was there last which was 45 years ago.
I walked around to see what else was happening. There were a lot of events for children in the big barn, but there didn't seem to be as many activities or vendors as when the City held it. I bought a bag of Kettle Corn and came back to watch the sheep shearing. Alice and David took their turn around the farm, and returned with a black-faced sheep beanie baby as a gift for me from the Gift Shop.
David asked if the Gift Shop is always open. Now that the Farmers' Market is moving to Bishop Ranch, the Gift Shop schedule has been cut back to the Second Saturday of the month to coincide with tours of the David Glass House. The Glass House and Forest Home Farms are the two major projects of the SRHF.
The next big project for SRHF will be finding a location to move El Nido. El Nido is the name for the original Harlan family home which is the oldest structure still standing in San Ramon. The City Council voted to move El Nido from the property is it on, on San Ramon Valley Blvd., to an as yet undesignated place where it can be protected from further deterioration and eventually restored. The David Glass House and El Nido are the last remaining 19th Century buildings left in San Ramon.
The banner at the top of the San Ramon Historic Foundation's website describes the organization as "Dedicated to the preservation of San Ramon's early farms and homesteads." I've bashed the San Ramon Historic Foundation in my recent rants about protecting Mudd's old restaurant building, but even though Mudd's doesn't meet the description of an early farm, its proximity and relationship to Crow Canyon Gardens makes it a contemporary version of the homesteading spirit that the SRHF is dedicated to preserving. At least I'd like the SRHF to think of it that way and do something to keep the City from tearing it down.
The City invested over $1.5M in restoring the Glass House and will need at least that much to restore El Nido, but the Redevelopment Agency (AKA City Council) voted to spend up to $500K to tear down Mudd's so a private developer could build another restaurant on what is now City-owned property. Let's start preserving the 20th Century history now and not wait until most of that has disappeared too.