Think of it: Christmas on the farm. Lambs, born yesterday, bleat tenderly to their woolly mothers. Hot cider on a Franklin stove chases the winter's chill. Spruce boughs, tied into wreaths and garlands, scent the air. The velvety poinsettias, in crimson or cream, ignite the greenhouse. And you're invited.
This weekend, Saturday and Sunday, the Hale family of Galloping Goose farm welcomes everyone for a country-fresh Christmas from noon to 5 p.m. Their tidy farm is at 4326 Maple Grove Road, 1 1/2 miles off Route 30.
"We have family get-togethers in winter to cut the greens, get freezing cold and come in to make wreaths," laughs Diane Hale. "This year we'll do it for whomever wants to come."
Mrs. Hale's poinsettias, glowing in red, green and white, line half of her greenhouse. The other half will be a warm indoor workshop for you to join in the fun of creating wreaths, swags or garlands from holly and evergreens, with pine cones and pods the family has collected.
The 14-member Helping Hands women's group from Manchester also will be in the warm greenhouse.
"They will bring goodies to eat and crafts they've made," said Mrs. Hale. "Oh, and a friend will bring her dough ornaments. And Linda Shipley will bring hundreds of dried flowers from Sunswept Meadows [a flower farm in Millers]."
"We'll have Christmas trees cut fresh," said Mrs. Hale.
Her boys, Jason, 17 and John, 15, are active in the Black Rock 4-H Club. John's white-faced Dorset and Jason's black-faced Suffolk sheep ramble the deep green valley that surrounds the Hale farm.
"Mom," said my 6-year-old, Adam, as we drove through fields to the farm, "sheep look like pillows with heads and feet."
Animals that the children can pet will include a pony, lambs and ewes, a pig and fancy chickens, such as the "silver-laced wine-dot" chicken that strutted by all fluffed out in exotic black polka dots. The family pets will entice children, too. There's the playful Jazz, a border collie; Scooter the Labrador, and King Wooz in feline stripes.
The Hales sell sheep products at the Baltimore Farmers' Market. Her husband, Edward, dabbles in raising bedding plants. Diane Hale was "raised right across the street from my grandfather's farm," she said. "He was Horace Smith of Greenmount, who was raised on a farm in Alesia, the Doc Riley farm."
Since 1972, she and Edward Hale have farmed at Galloping Goose.
"We breed to have lambs three times a year," she said. "We'll have 20 ewes lamb out [give birth] until the first of the year." As of Monday, five lambs had been born.
"They lamb out [outdoors]. This weather is nothing for sheep. She's got a wool jacket on," said Mrs. Hale, leading us into the warm barn.
Two white-faced Dorsets and their day-old lambs were chatting it up, sheep-style.
"Want to hold one?" Mrs. Hale asked.
So I held my first lamb. At one day old, it was the size of a large cat and could kick like an 18-month-old boy. Its legs were the size of my forearms.
"They've gotta grow into those legs," laughed Mrs. Hale.
During the Hales' Christmas weekend, several sheep will be sheared between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. It takes about 10 minutes to shear a sheep "if you're good," said Mrs. Hale.
Shearing is something the Hales do twice a year. That's because a lamb with full coat fills up 1 1/2 spaces in the limited barn area, said Mrs. Hale. For the mother sheep, there's a second reason.
"We like to let the ewes and lambs go out," said Mrs. Hale. "If they're sheared in November, they have a chance to grow enough wool back for January and February when it's really cold."
If a ewe has a full winter coat, Mrs. Hale explained, she'll stay out, but won't know her lamb is cold. The sheared ewe, with
the same depth of coat as her lamb, will hurry herself and the lamb back to the barn.
You can expect lots of interesting sheep products and stories at Galloping Goose Farm. There will be samples of wool, recipes for lamb and pelts useful for seat covers.
1% Information: Diane Hale 374-6596.
Another fine stop on the trail to a country Christmas will be the annual open house at Basignani Winery. It's the seventh year of holiday tours and tastings at this upscale winery just north of Butler.
From noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, you can sample newest releases of 1991 Cabernet and 1991 Lorenzino Reserve. Basignani Winery is at 15722 Falls Road, six-tenths of a mile north of the intersection of Black Rock and Falls roads.
& Information: 472-4718.
If you're an antique-train buff, visit the Manchester Historical Center on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The toy train exhibit intrigued a number of children last weekend, noted Councilwoman Charlotte Collett.
To interest parents, she has invited local artisans to display and sell fine art and craft articles during the train display, including jewelry, woodwork, needlework, paintings and Christmas greens.
The Historical Center is one floor below the Town Office at 3208 York St. Information: 239-3200.
The Women's Club of Hampstead will sponsor its annual Christmas Concert at St. Mark's Lutheran Church on Main Street, Hampstead, at 1 p.m. Monday.
This concert has welcomed Christmas to Hampstead for so many years that people have stopped counting them. State and regional officers of the Greater Federation of Women's Clubs are traditionally invited to the concert, along with senior citizens' clubs from North Carroll and Manchester.
The lively North Carroll High School Chorus, under the direction of Chuck O'Day, will present carols old and new. Later, the
students will mingle with the audience over cookies and punch from the kitchens of Women's Club members.