FOR 18 years, Darryl Sheridan has been teaching kindergarten children about the many and varied animals that are part of his mobile animal farm.
It was explaining the characteristics that identified his rainbow lorikeet, Polly, as a parrot to one inquisitive child that inspired his first published children’s book.
What was it about Polly that differentiated her from, say, one of the cows? Or from Lamington, the sheep?
By exploring what Polly wanted to be when she grew up, Mr Sheridan found a way of helping children learn about some of the animals they’d encounter on his farm.
In doing so, he also conveyed the importance of self-awareness and self-appreciation.
“Why would I want to be anything but me?” the lorikeet exclaims at the conclusion of her adventure.
The self-published picture book is just the start for the Kyneton-based farmer, who has penned five children’s stories.
When Polly grows up is the first to be made available to the public.
Two hundred of the 1000 books printed in the first run were sold within the first 10 days.
One of Mr Sheridan’s stories explores the topic of resilience, set during a particularly challenging year at the farm.
In it, he outlines problems: the drought, for instance, and a lack of feed.
But he’s careful to contrast the dilemmas with solutions, such as buying feed.
“They’re nice little hidden messages,” Mr Sheridan said.
Polly and the other animals search for their lost ‘sparkle’ in one book, set at the Royal Melbourne Show.
Mr Sheridan said he and his team loved the show.
They are also fond of the Bendigo Easter Festival, where the mobile animal farm has been a feature for the past 17 years.
“People absolutely loved it,” Mr Sheridan said of the petting zoo at this year’s festival.
“The weather was great.”
He brought 252 animals with him to the festival, but encountered difficulty accommodating them because the showgrounds were home to street rods and vintage cars during the Easter long weekend.
“There were 30 people that offered us somewhere to keep the animals,” Mr Sheridan said.
“We eventually found a property on five acres with sheds not very far away from the showgrounds.”
He said people could find out more about his books and the mobile animal farm from the website.