Fun at the county fair

#515 in a series of true experiences in real estate
July 2006, Hills Newspapers

We went to the county fair, the Alameda fair, this year. We like county fairs. Last year we stayed in Monterey at just the right time to attend their fair. Each has its points.

Monterey had a petting zoo with all sorts of animals, even a baby camel. Anet could not get enough of the little animals. She bought many paper cones of food to feed them and she stayed inside the enclosure blissfully petting and chirping to them for such a long time that I retired to a seat outside to pass the time reading the local newspaper.

At Alameda this year we went on a guided tour of the animals. It was absolutely fascinating. We visited pigs, chickens, rabbits, cows and goats. Our enthusiastic guide told us all sorts of things we’d never heard before.

Rabbits with long ears (also goats and some other animals) originated in warm climates where that ear length was needed to aid with keeping them cool. Some rabbits have hardly any ears at all; only tiny peaks. Those rabbits are from colder places.

Cows and sheep sleep only about 8 minutes a day. The shape and placement of their eyes allow them to see all around them. They keep their eyes open for predators.

In addition to meat, animals provide us with an astonishing number of by-products including camel hair for brushes (hairs from cow’s ears, not camel’s) and replacement heart valves for humans (from pigs).

We saw a sow who had given birth to 8 little piglets a few days before. We arrived at her enclosure just as she was about to feed them. She roughed up the wood shavings on the floor with her hoof, turned, scraped some more. When she was satisfied she lay down and made a grunting noise to call her babies.

Here’s the amazing part. She allows her piglets to feed once an hour for 24 hours a day. But only for 30 seconds each time does her milk flow. When those little pigs hear their mother call, they toddle over, find their place and suck fast.

Barn Tours is the organization that provided our free tour. They do this all over the country at fairs; their idea being to encourage understanding and support of farms and ranches, agriculture in general. Our guide, an attractive and lively woman who grew up on a cattle ranch in Hollister, California now raises cattle on a ranch in northern Texas.

She told us that on her ranch they have a dog to watch over their herd but that many ranches these days use donkeys or llamas because both these animals are devoted “watch dogs” but can go a long time without water.

We had hoped that there would be some 4-H horse activities to see. A few years ago we chanced on 4-H girls barrel racing in an arena at the fair but haven’t seen them since. This year we went early, before the main gates were open, intending to find someone in the know. After a good deal of walking and asking, we did talk to a 4-H member who told us that the annual horse show is separate from the fair and it is held earlier in the year. We’ll hope to attend next spring.

We always enjoy the commercial building where salad slicing machines and extra-absorbing sponges are hawked. In past years we have succumbed to carpet cleaner and car wax that it turned out were no great shakes. But we’ve also bought all-purpose cleaner that is excellent and we love our Rada stainless steel knives.

This year we stopped for the first time at a booth selling garden shears. A pile of twigs of different thicknesses was supplied for testing the pruners and lopping shears. Anet was especially interested, probably because she loves tools.

What’s different about these tools, called Florian tools, is that they are ratcheted. That is, pressure is applied one small step at a time with the built-in ratchets. You don’t have to have any strength at all. You place the blades around a limb and squeeze 3 or 4 or 5 times (depending on thickness) and almost magically, the cut is made; a cut that is always clean and smooth.

We saw and we believed. We bought hand “snoppers” as I’ve always called the smaller pruners, also longer handled shears and a pruning saw. When we got home we went directly to an orange tree in the garden, one that I’ve been meaning to cut back for a long time.

The tools worked so well, so easily, that I think we’ll be ordering more for gifts on-line. And we might try the Marin County Fair this week. We’ve never been to that one.

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