|(Steve Greenlee/Globe Staff)|
Barnyard facts and fun
Just south of Burlington, Vermont’s biggest city, lie the 1,400 gorgeous acres - sprawling fields, woods, and working farmland - of Shelburne Farms. The nonprofit environmental and agricultural education center attracts visitors of all ages, and one could easily spend a couple of days wandering the trails, taking in the stunning views, relaxing at the inn, and traipsing around the huge farm barn.
The farm barn is where the kids will want to go. You’re free to walk around and visit the animals, but the staff also runs programs all day long. On the afternoon we visited, we learned how to milk a goat, brush a cow, and identify the various types of barnyard animal poop (a big hit with the kids, of course). We spent some time with 2-day-old twin goats and a 4-day-old calf (which kept licking me). We watched workers make cheese, and we bought a delicious loaf of bread and giant molasses cookies in the farm bakery.
The day’s highlight was the chicken roundup. Chickens roam freely around the farm grounds, but in late afternoon the staff herds them back into the coops. The easiest way to gather hundreds of chickens, apparently, is to enlist the kids who are still in the barn area. The trick is to walk behind a chicken in the direction you want it go, and somehow it knows to follow (or lead).
Inevitably, one kid will figure out that the chickens don’t mind being picked up, and soon most of the children are carrying chickens in their arms. My 10-year-old boys, Liam (below) and Aidan, and 7-year-old daughter, Amelia, each tentatively picked up a hen, and then they were off. By the time they were done they had carried 15 or 20 chickens apiece.