Bonnie called this morning and invited us all (JJ was here too) to walk with her at the farmstead. After about two hours -- who knew it would take so much longer with three kids instead of just two? -- of getting ready, fixing and eating lunch, and generally just trying to get everyone put together enough to go out, we finally piled into the van and off we went!
The farmstead is a free (run on donations), really fun, very beautifully designed place to take your kiddos. When I was young, it was very simple, with pens of farm animals around a long, meandering trail, and a big barn in the center with a ladder inside and a tall slide coming out of the "silo" on one end.
Well, the humble little farmstead has morphed over the years into this wonderfully designed paved trail with many interesting stops along the way. The first thing that greets you is a waterfall with a pool at the bottom that many people have thrown pennies into, no doubt making a wish as they threw it in. Beside the waterfall are miniature wooden benches with wrought iron backs and arms that have pictures of playing children wrought into the iron. Very whimsical and fun. All along the trail are bricks with writing on them. Anyone can buy a brick for a certain donation amount and have their name carved into the brick, but what many people have done is to donate a brick "In Loving Memory" of a child they lost who loved the farmstead, or a parent who took the "donator" to the farmstead when they were a child, who has since passed away. I'm sitting here getting all teary-eyed just thinking about it.
Anyway, there are so many things to do and see at the farmstead! Feeding the goats has to be one of my favorite things; they stretch their necks out under logs worn smooth by so many little hands touching them over the years. The bigger goats always get more food, but I always tried to find the goat who was hanging back and was getting pushed away from the fence by the big bullies. I saved my quarter's worth of food pellets for the downtrodden, overlooked goats.
Then there are the peacocks. Well, one peafowl and one peacock. I didn't realize that the females weren't called peacocks until last year when I actually read the information board in front of their huge 2-story birdcage. OH! Yeah. Now I get it.
I could go on and on about all of the animals there, but I'll just say that if it's found on a farm, there's probably one at the farmstead. With the possible exception of emus or ostriches. The attractions that have been added since I was a child are a huge playground with a massive play structure in the middle surrounded by those metal animals you can sit on and bounce back and forth on. There is a smooth, slanted concrete slab off ot the side with water running down where you can take off your shoes and let the trickling water cool off your bare feet. In the summer, parents will bring their children in swimming suits and let them frolic in the water to their hearts' content.
There are also a couple of small log cabins with holes for windows and doors that you will often see small girls "playing house" in. And a big sand pit with those metal digger things that all of the boys love. Yeah, the boys usually have sand in their crocs when we leave the play area.
There is a cow barn with bathrooms, water fountains at kid height (no straining your back trying to hold your child while they take a drink!), and a mooovie theatre that plays a short movie narrated by Rosie the Cow about the history of how cows and milk have become so important to the American way of life over the years. When you go all of the way into the barn, you are greeted by small pens with calves in them, brawling for their mothers, and there are a myriad of things to divert little children's attention in there.... A snack bar where ice cream and other dairy (and non-dairy too!) snacks are sold, and two life-sized fake "milking cows" where the kids can hook up the udder to the milking machine, or milk by hand. There is even a big pen at the far end of the barn where one of the "nursing mommy" cows gets to feed her baby on schedule, and there is a sign posted telling you when the next feeding is so that all of us "city kids" will actually get to see a calf eating a meal at least once in our lives.
There is an Indian Encampment, where there is a huge air-conditioned (SO realistic and true-to-life) teepee filled with furs, deer antlers, and many Indian artifacts. It's really neat, but the kids aren't too thrilled with it because they can't touch anything in there.
There is a "mining" place where you can pay $5 for a bag of rocks and dirt with some "jewels" mixed in and throw it all in a pan with some holes in it and sift through all of the junk so that you can uncover your treasure.
In the middle of the farmstead is a horse barn, and they have recently begun having hay-rack rides with big, gorgeous horses pulling a huge wagon piled with hay. It costs about $3 per rider, so we have only done it once, but it was worth it! Those horses are so beautiful!
There is a nature trail that we have walked through once, but it's not too small-unrestrained-child friendly, so we haven't done that again. They have big cages with bobcats, an eagle, some hawks, a couple of owls, and some other creatures. We always seem to see them right at feeding time, and let's just say that it has caused my stomach to turn over more than once. I kind of avoid that area now.
Let's see, there's a fishing pond where you can buy a rod and bait and go fish to your heart's content. Across from the pond is a "tractor racetrack" with lots of brightly colored heavy little tractors that you pedal like a bike. They are meant for small children, but they are so heavy and cumbersome that it is hard for the little ones to steer, much less pedal around the track. Nevertheless, the boys were heartbroken when we had to leave the tractors behind today.
There are marvelous gardens with trails all around them that are filled with all sorts of flowers, vegetables, bushes, plants, and herbs. They are tended by a group of volunteers, and they are just beautiful! There is even a "butterfly garden" that always has lots of butterflies fluttering around it.
Close to the gardens there is a big pen with groundhogs in it. They have lots of ground to dig their homes into, and some days they are all underground and you'll only occasionally see a couple of noses peek out of the holes. On hot summer days, though, they are often seen lying on their stomachs or lounging on their backs on top of the dirt. They must know they are safe there.
There is a deep pond with HUGE fish in it, mostly goldfish-looking types. They are quite aggressive, and follow you around because they think you'll give them food. If you do throw food for them, they thrash around and fight for it and almost jump out of the water to get it. It's quite amusing!
Well, I think I have pretty much covered everything at the farmstead. We had fun there today and last Thursday, and we'll probably be going back again next week. I don't know, though. Bonnie might just want to go by herself if she wants to get any REAL walking done. It's mostly startSTOP.........staSTOP...........start......stop when the kids go.
It is just so much fun creating memories for them at a place I enjoyed when I was small too. It may just become a tradition to go hang out at the farmstead! In the fall they have a pumpkin patch, too, which will be lots of fun.
Okay, I'm tired now. I should write these things in the morning, but the details wouldn't be so vivid in my head and I think overnight I might forget stuff. :)