Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Little Volunteers on the Prairie Farm

We started volunteering at the local Petting Zoo a couple of weeks ago, ostensibly so that Max can finish up his Purple Star in Cubs, but also (ever so stealthily) so that he can get the experience of doing something for someone else for no obvious reimbursement. This is a trait I have long admired when reading the Little House series to my kids: the Ingalls family works very hard at getting along and getting along well, even when they don't feel like it. Even when they almost starve to death during a horrifically cold winter they keep it together socially. (this book has taken root in my brain, hasn't it)

The idea first came about when we were visiting the Zoo a while back. We love animals, and this place has a lot of them. Even better, most of them are of the pygmy variety, so the twins don't feel intimidated. We were first drawn into the guinea pig room, partly because we have our own guinea pig (named Henry) and partly because they had little baby guinea pigs the twins were desperate to see up close. We stood there gazing at the sheer size of the enclosure, and at all the happy little pigs (well, okay, maybe I AM projecting a bit), and we were all struck by the same thought: Henry's cage was nothing like this. I think Max and I might even have shared a look of mild shame. Afterwards we went home and mollified our guilty consciences: Max scrubbed out his cage, I trimmed Henry's nails and the twins took turns brushing his long hairy coat.

Then, a few weeks ago Max was trying to find ways to to work through the Community Service section, and it occurred to me that this would be a natural way to work through it AND have some fun, although Max's response ("What? We shovel poo for free? Yuck.") wasn't quite what I had hoped for. Luckily the twins are still in the excitable stages of their lives, and they were delighted with the idea, so, studiously avoiding Max's glower, I signed us up. Fortunately Max has warmed to the idea and he actually enjoys cleaning out the cages. Wonders will never cease.

There are an inordinate number of peacocks here, and they wander freely about like cats, although they are a good deal more ungainly. They hop onto fences, hop off, raise their tails periodically in that fabulous fan, and follow us around the place, hoping for dropped food pellets. I find it hard not to stare at them, because they are such an arresting colour, and, well, because of those tails. Those tails. They launch a thousand ships for me every time.

Here are some baby pygmy goats we saw today. Cute, eh? Two days old! They frisked about on unsteady legs while we cleaned out their stall, and their incredibly sociable mother nuzzled Dominic's pockets for snacks, butting him gently when none were proffered.

FDPG was so thrilled with them that she momentarily forgot about going to groom the pony and the donkey.

(You can click on any of these shots for a close-up)

Sorry, but I have to give you another peacock shot. I love these birds. These birds have it all for me: colour, weird personality, an ever weirder call (I put their call up there with the loon for Calls One Never Forgets), and the sort of mildly aloof nature that makes me fall head over heels in love with them. Be glad I'm only inflicting 2 shots on you, because I took 20.


Rebecca said...

Oooo, is the petting zoo open to the public yet?

Love those baby goats. Adorable!!!

Heather said...

But do you get to bring home the poo for your garden? That is what I really want to know.

Ruby in Montreal said...


Thanks for stopping by the Freehold. And really, thank you for the spring-y photos! The only good thing about this snow is that it's rather bright outside...

Those peacocks are amazing! Our local petting zoo has a pair, but the last time we went to see them the poor cock's tail was in a horrible state! I don't know if he was molting or sick or what, but he looked absolutely dishevelled :(

Hope the volunteering continues to go well!

sheila said...

Well, after several visits and stall-cleans, I don't know if I'd want the poo, Heather. It's awfully entangled with those shavings. Not that I mind the shavings, but there ARE a lot of them.

I'm still captivated by the peacocks, Ruby. There are about 30 of them, and they hang around like rather spoiled cats, hopping into the cages to pinch the food from the other animals. I can't stop taking pictures of them!

Rebecca, you MUST visit! All the baby goats are being born and they are SO cute and soft and friendly.


Great to see the kids mucking in, so to speak. I grew up on a farm, the best childhood anyone can have is to be around animals. I love peacocks, I have always been fascinated by their feathers, and that blue is amazing. I used to run home from school to watch Little House on the Prairie when I was small, and I read the books, and I always used to cry! x