Or, how the BFLs made it to the US

Another Road to Nova Scotia

Originally published in The Shepherd, February 1997, Volume 42, Number 2, pages 20-21.
By Letty Klein and Kelly Ward

(Two driven -or is it driving? – women)

Friday, 16 August 1996, at 6:20 a.m., our trip began from Kalamazoo, Michigan with destination Nova Scotia for a flock of Bluefaced Leicester sheep. Two seasoned travelers, veteran Romney breeder Kelly Ward and I, an avid Karakul breeder, were off again in Kelly’s Dodge pickup truck pulling an unusually empty 16-foot stock trailer. With the necessary USDA Import Permit in hand we headed for Canada. As customary we kept a travel journal, nicknamed the ‘Ewe-Hauls’.

We were through customs and into Canada at Port Huron, Michigan by nine a.m. Quickly we learned the advantage of using Canadian currency for small purchases, and a major credit card for larger purchases as the exchange rate was automatic. Traffic was heavy on the Trans-Canada Highway 401 all the way into Montreal. This 12-hour leg of the journey was complicated by a heavy thunderstorm, but we were rewarded with a beautiful double rainbow. Momentarily one rainbow looked like it ended in the middle of the road right in front of us… truly beautiful, like a sign from God that all is right, clean and beautiful with the world. Just on the other side of Montreal we stopped at St. Hyacinthe for the night. It felt good to walk the couple of blocks from our hotel to a brasserie for dinner. We dined royally on saut?ed shrimp and rice, accompanied by perfectly cooked broccoli, carrots, and rutabaga, plus mashed potatoes and a Caesar salad. All this for about $8 U.S. dollars.

On the road the next day by 5:00 a.m., it was an easy drive on a beautiful morning along the St. Lawrence River, north and east toward Riviere du Loup. The quaint city of Quebec was visible in the morning sun along the hillside. The huge old bridges towered above the river. Then turning almost due south toward Edmundston on two-lane Highway 185 we left Quebec Providence, with its French-speaking people, and crossed into New Brunswick. Now in the Atlantic Time Zone and headed for Woodstock along the St. John River, we mused that we had not seen a single sheep the entire trip. The two-lane Trans-Canada Highway 2, which straddles the border between New Brunswick and Maine, was very hilly with beautiful vistas. Woodstock-Houlton was where we were to cross the border into the U.S. with the sheep on the return trip. As we had an appointment with the USDA Veterinarian and a Broker Tuesday, we began paying close attention to the driving times from now on. Almost five hours later we found ourselves crossing into Nova Scotia through the great flat tidal basin, the Tantramar Marsh. With the fog-laden wind blowing fiercely, we found the Welcome Center in Amherst. They cheerfully found us one of the last rooms in the entire area available for the night and gave us maps and pamphlets of Nova Scotia’s north shore.

We drove the 30 some miles out to David Firth’s farm to let him know we had arrived. After unhooking the trailer, we took a walk out in the pasture to see the unforgettable view: the Northumberland Strait, Prince Edward Island beyond, and of course the hundreds of beautiful ewes with their lambs grazing the lush green grass. The three huge Great Pyrenees guardian dogs were wary but tolerant of us. The female was due to have pups very soon. Hunger and approaching darkness drove us back to Amherst where we found a little cafe with good garlic scallops and a glass of wine.

The next day was our day of leisure, a time to explore the north coast. We got on the road early, looking for a place to have breakfast and coffee. The place we wanted in Tidnish didn’t open till 10 a.m. so we continued down the coast. We stopped at the popular Amherst Shore Country Inn in Lorneville in hopes of finding a place to stay closer to the Firth Farm. Gracious hostess Donna Laceby reserved a room for us in the house which included a fresh salmon dinner that evening. Close to North Port we came upon the tiny ‘Cranberry Cafe and Bakery’. Finally, breakfast of garden omelets, fresh croissants and coffee. This newly built log cottage was in the middle of 107 acres of rolling grassland dotted with patches of trees. Right outside the door was a perfect and ample vegetable garden. Next stop was historic Pugwash, ‘the home of the thinkers’. Unfortunately we had just missed the lobster season. The Seagull Pewter’s Factory Store became our favorite place to shop, while the Canadian Sterling Craft Shop was fun to explore. After driving through the quaint town of Wallace, we came to Malagash, home of the Jost Winery. We joined the first tour of the day and learned that the headaches some people get from drinking red wine are due to a substance found in the skin of the grape. Their famous, expensive and extremely sweet Matina Ice Wine is made from lightly pressed frozen grapes, just one drop of sugary nectar is extracted from each grape.

After lunch in Tatamagouche, and a visit to the Artisan’s Cooperative, we stopped at the Fraser Cultural Center where the Anna Swan Archives are housed. The giantess, born in 1846, grew to 7′ 4″ and married Captain Martin Bates, the ‘Kentucky Giant’. Believe us when we say ‘her bloomers were a sight to see’. Our journey continued past the town of River John where we turned around and headed back to the Inn to get cleaned up and rest before dinner.

Monday morning, after a breakfast fit for lumberjacks (pancakes stuffed full of fresh peaches and blueberries with fresh pork sausages), Donna agreed to put us up for another night. So we were ready to spend the day sorting sheep with David Firth, a retired physicist. His flocks of over 300 consisted of several purebred Bluefaced Leicesters, while the rest were commercial type sheep. We began by sorting through the adult rams and found one large fellow that met our criteria. Then the lambs were separated from the ewes, and the ewe lambs separated from the ram lambs. We selected two correct ram lambs with nice fleeces, one with a beautiful dark blue face and the other very long loined.

Rosemary Firth, a school teacher, fed us pea soup, fresh bread, and white cheddar cheese for lunch. By now Lisa Rodenfels (Somerset, OH) and the veterinary inspector Dr. A. MacAulay (Animal Health Division of Agriculture Canadian) had arrived. The ewes were evaluated, rejecting any with defects that might inhibit border inspection. All the necessary paperwork, including the Official Export Certificate, was filled out, signed and sealed. Exhausted, we peeked at the two newborn pups with their mother in the corner of the shed and headed for the Inn. We had just enough time to shower and dress for dinner. The curried scallops were fantastic, as was the sight of the fast approaching storm across the straits.

We started loading sheep the next morning at 5:45 a.m. The temperature was a chilly 34 degrees Farenheit. All the lambs were first up onto the second deck of the trailer, then all the ewes and the adult ram were loaded below. One old ewe, ‘Grandma Firth’, went into the back of the pickup with three of the tiniest ewe lambs. Finally we were off with our precious but heavy cargo. The time went quickly and found us through customs without a hitch by noon.

We made the mistake of trying to stop at L.L.Bean’s in Freeport, Maine. The streets were packed with people and vehicles, which made maneuvering our big truck and trailer full of sheep a real nightmare. We quickly decided to get back on the highway and place an order through the catalog when we got home. Traffic was heavy until we finally stopped around 11:00 p.m. at a truck-stop motel just outside Albany, New York. If you ever see one of us in person, be sure to ask about the tacky room we had with one wall entirely of mirrors!

We were on the road again very early Wednesday morning, 21 August, I-90 all the way through Buffalo to Erie, Pennsylvania, where we turned south on I-79 to Pittsburgh. On I-70 we headed west to Somerset, Ohio where we dropped off Lisa’s sheep. With a much lighter load we headed for Columbus, but a traffic jam sent us cross-country to I-75. We were home by midnight, at last…3000 miles in arrears or is it ‘on our rears’?

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