Lammscapes uses straw to bring dinosaurs to life

By NICHOLAS DETTMANN - Daily News

Oct. 25, 2017

Two chickens take shelter under one of the straw dinosaurs in the children's area Tuesday morning at Lammscapes in the town of Jackson. The nine dinosaurs made of mostly straw barrels took about two weeks to construct.
John Ehlke/Daily News

JACKSON — When Laurie Lamm McGraw sees the eyes of the visiting children light up and they scream, “That’s a triceratops,” that means the mission was accomplished.

Wait — a triceratops in Washington County? Through the end of the month, yes. There is also a T-Rex, a brachiosaurus, a stegosaurus and five other dinosaurs.

Lammscapes, 2708 Sherman Road, looking for innovative ways to engage students with learning in the outdoors, built nine dinosaur statues — all out of strawbales. McGraw, the executive vice president at Lammscapes, said each dinosaur weighs a couple hundred pounds, some more than 1,000 pounds.

The stegosaurus is about 30 feet long and the T-Rex is about 12 feet tall.

The dinosaurs went up in late September and remain up through the end of the month. They are part of Lammscapes’ monthly Pumpkins in the Pines program.

“It’s very educational,” McGraw said. “We talk about why the trees change colors, how we’re harvesting, getting ready for winter. We gear toward the younger kids. We get a lot of preschool and kindergarten, first and second grade.”

During a visit, the kids will learn about the harvest season and crops in the field, while going on a hay ride. The students are also given a tree identification sheet.

“It makes it a little more fun to learn,” McGraw said, adding, “You don’t see straw-bale dinosaurs every day.”

It is the fourth year of using a theme for the harvest season tours on the property.

“We were looking to do something different that other pumpkin farms and placed weren’t doing, but using the natural element of straws and tree and what we have with the fall to make with things the kids can play on,” McGraw said. “But in a fun theme all the kids can understand.”

The first year was trains and were built out of strawbales. That was the theme because there is also a train exhibit inside the retail shop.

The staff assembled a train — all out of straw — about four or five cars long and it was a hit.

Bethlehem Lutheran School of Germantown student Colin Zausch, 4, of Menomonee Falls grabs his bag near the stegosaurus made of straw as his father, Jake, follows.
John Ehlke/Daily News

The next two years the themes were farm and circus.

Quickly, a tradition was born.

“People are now wondering, ‘What are you going to do next?’” McGraw said with a smile. “It’s something different.”

She added, “It’s kind of evolved.”

Lammscapes has an artist on staff — Nancy Schoettel. She has worked at Lammscapes for nearly two decades and makes most of the merchandise available.

For the dinosaurs, she designed them and made them out of her imagination. It takes a few weeks to build them.

They are held up with rods and “lots of rope,” McGraw said.

“They’re holding up pretty well with the weather we’ve had,” she added.

When the kids arrive, McGraw is amazed at what the students already know.

“They know the names of these things,” she said. “They name them sometimes too. It’s just funny because all kids recognize dinosaurs.”

In a way, this tactic is a way to have kids learn and may not know it. But, the adults, including McGraw and the staff at Lammscapes, see the children absorbing all the information they’re being told not only about the dinosaurs but nature and farming.

It’s a neat sight.

“To see things through the eyes of a child, takes on a whole different look because they’re so excited and they’re learning,” McGraw said.

She added, “They’re the next generation of gardeners. People are losing that because maybe they don’t have a garden or they live in the city and aren’t seeing the farms, the tractors.”

As for next year, McGraw said the staff is still figuring out what theme to go with.

“We’ve got to top dinosaurs,” she added with a smile. “We’ll be brainstorming this winter.”