Lincoln pushes reading with farm theme

Published 1:01 am Thursday, April 10, 2003

By By JOHN EBY / Dowagiac Daily News
There were so many animals roaming around Lincoln Early Childhood Center Wednesday morning it looked as much like a zoo and a three-ring circus as a "farm."
A boy offered to sit on duck eggs if it would help keep them warm enough to hatch.
Media aide Vickie Herter organized "Reading Down on the Farm" as a March Reading Month promotion.
Students knew a nursery rhyme for almost any critter they confronted, from "Bah Bah Black Sheep" to "Old Mother Hubbard" going to the cupboard to fetch her dog a bone.
She also better bring a snack back for the rabbits and chickens.
Herter with gusto led a chorus of, "Miss Conner, ride your horse, read, read, read, read, read!"
She and her husband contributed 12-day-old pigs. "In about another six months these little pigs are going to weigh 250 pounds and be ready to go to market" as pork, ham, bacon and sausage.
Jim Mesko, who demonstrated sheep shearing, was accompanied by his daughter, Jill Hershberger; his grandson, Andrew; and his granddaughter, Arminda, named for his mother, the Cass County Fair's first grand marshal in 1981.
Meskos have 70 to 75 sheep which can produce wool for clothing and meat. Their LaMancha goat can hear, but doesn't appear to have ears.
Mesko, at the first ring outside, showed how protective the mother was of two lambs born April 4. Even as she ate her corn breakfast, she kept a wary eye on them. When he removed her babies out to pet, she nearly vaulted out of the pen.
In the second ring, Zana Smallen displayed J.T., a 2-year-old miniature donkey, and Thunder, a 3-year-old miniature horse.
Mother donkeys are jennies. Dads are jacks. In Italy, where his grandfather came from, donkeys are ridden, pull carts or work in fields.
Mother horses are mares. Dads are stallions.
She has five little horses. J.T. and two others tour schools, hospitals and nursing homes, their feet wrapped so they don't slip and slide on the floors. "We take them right in people's rooms who are sick" and the unusual visitors "make them happy."
The horses have been to Dowagiac Nursing Home and Cass County Medical Care Facility. They debuted in the Dowagiac Christmas parade of Dec. 7, 2001.
J.T. weighed 15 pounds at birth, Thunder 25.
Donkeys are not just stubborn, "They're very smart and very careful. They're never going to put themselves in a place they can't get out of. They're not going to get in trouble. They're much smarter than horses. They're just our lazy pets. This is all they do is eat. They eat hay, corn in the winter and grass in the summertime."
Of the two tiny horses back at the barn, one pulls a cart and the other is saddle-trained that her granddaughter rides. Apples and carrots are treats. When they get tired they can make their legs stiff and doze standing up, children learned.
Milton Preston brought the dairy calf in the third ring. "This is a heifer, a girl calf. In one week it will be two months old. We keep them for replacements. About 22 months from now, she'll be big enough to have a calf of her own and we'll start milking her. We sell milk on the farm and try to milk 25 to 30 cows. Older cows that have calves are called cows and then the bull is the dad of all the calves. The little boy calves are steers and we use them for meat. This is still on the bottle for another week and a half. It eats feed similar to the sheep and they eat hay and grass. We farm about 200 acres with a lot of hay, corn and soybeans. We use sawdust for bedding. They get awfully dusty. We don't name our cattle. When they get older we give them a number and that's how we keep track of them."
He distributed dairy information to teachers to incorporate into their instructional plans.
Malins brought in pygmy goats, a border collie and ducks to add to the menagerie.