Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Farm at Walnut Creek

As you have probably noticed from previous posts, we LOVE Rolling Ridge Animal Park. It's a place in Millersburg, owned by an Amish family, where you can take a wagon ride through their wooded property and come face to face with hundreds of animals who are just waiting to be hand fed.

A while back, a friend of mine put out a Facebook comment asking for feedback on Rolling Ridge and a few other animal parks. One of those was The Farm at Walnut Creek.  It is just a few miles from Rolling Ridge, in the same Amish country area of Ohio, but I had never heard of it.  I googled it, and from their website it appeared to be much the same as Rolling Ridge in terms of wildlife, but they also had a beautiful, working farm to tour. Aunt Sandy came for a visit this week and we decided to check it out to see how it compared.

Very picturesque.  This is the view of the farm from about the middle of the wagon ride.
We arrived a little later than we planned so we missed the 10:00 wagon, so we started our visit by walking around the front of the farm.  

We were immediately greeted, quite loudly, by the braying mammoth donkeys.
Fun fact of the day: sheep do not say baa.  At least not these sheep.
They made mooing sounds that I would have mistaken for cow
noises if they had not been standing right in front of me.

One of our next greeters was this beautiful bird.
We heard about free cookies in the kitchen, so we headed up the hill to the house.

A beautiful covered bridge passes over the pond.  They had a nice collection of geese, ducks, and swans.

We took off on the 11:00 wagon, and straight out of the gate, we were greeted by hungry tongues.

Sandy thought they were rather slobbery.

Ellie seemed to like feeding the deer best. Slightly less intimidating,
and she just dropped the feed on the ground for them.

And we were followed as we continued along the trail.

An elk named Randy.  He had a bloody nose.  Presumably from getting into
 a fight with one of the other elk boys over a girl.  He left a big trail
of snot across my back, then proceeded to eat most of a bucket of feed.

These short little cattle were just the right height for easy feeding. 

At one point in the tour, we saw an excavator near a huge mound of earth.  (This was probably Tommy's favorite sighting.) I assumed they were building a ridge to separate parts of the trail, but I was wrong.  The huge mound is actually the manure that they collect and then compost to feed their flower beds.  It thankfully was not at all stinky, because it served as a shelter for many of the animals.

We were not allowed to feed the zebras. Unlike the cattle breeds, they have both
upper and lower teeth, making feeding them a liability issue for the farm.
A very shaggy llama in need of a trim.
A big highlight of the wagon tour was feeding the giraffes.
They were kept in a separate enclosure from the other animals.

Majestic, but so large it was difficult to get a good picture of the whole animal!
After the wagon tour, we resumed our walking tour among the gardens and animals. 

Unlikely friends.  Peacock and tortoise.

The porcupine sort of stayed to himself.

Tommy and Ellie were offered a pony wagon ride by this young man.
They totally FREAKED OUT as it pulled away without mama.
Very, very short ride!

Very lovely landscaping throughout.
Lots of uses for that huge compost pile.
Tommy and Ellie spent quite a bit of time feeding this hungry little guy.

They had beautiful fishes in the pond. Guess they wanted to keep them that way.
Several attempted escapes by this young lady.
She is becoming quite independent.
Headed back up to the big house to sneak another cookie.
They loved these little rockers.  Ellie threw a huge temper tantrum when
she walked around the corner and another child dared to sit in her chair.

My judgement would be that the wagon ride at Rolling Ridge outperformed the one at Walnut Creek by a decent margin.  A wider variety of their animals, including the zebras, came up to the wagon to be fed.  They don't have giraffes, but Rolling Ridge's camel, Humphrey, could not be beat.  Their drivers actually went off course a few times to get you to the more reluctant animals.  And although we had perfect 70 degree weather for our late July trek through the woods at Walnut Creek, I would think I would prefer the shade of a covered wagon if the heat surpassed 80 or so.

But the overall beauty and setting of Walnut Creek came off the winner by a landslide in my book.  The farm was beautifully maintained, with incredibly lovely landscaping bordering the walk-around enclosures.  Although you couldn't feed their animals carrots, we had lots of leftover feed from the wagon ride to share with the other animals.  There was more to explore, and we had a great time doing it.  They are a complete working farm, so in addition to the animals, you can visit their blacksmith shop (we skipped this one, but heard the clanging of the metal), watch them milk the cows, or visit the farmhouse, where they'll give you a free cookie in the kitchen.  They have a lovely living room filled with comfy rockers if you want to sit a spell, and a quilting frame was set up so you could check out the small, even stitches of the Amish ladies. 

And they had nice clean bathrooms, with running water.  Definitely beat out the Port-o-lets at Rolling Ridge with that one!  I saw that Walnut Creek also has sleigh rides available.  I think I can guarantee that we will be taking one of those rides later this year.

What big excursion would be complete without ice cream?  We promised that we would stop for a treat on the way home, but the kids fell asleep before we found a good spot, so we just enjoyed the quiet drive home and then went to Yoder's Red Barn in Ashland.

We made a stop around the corner at the Tot Lot in Brookside Park.

Aunt Sandy tried unsuccessfully to get Ellie to crawl through the climbing tube.

Sandy and Tommy enjoying a tandem swing.

My beautiful Eliana.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Eat Your Vegetables to Grow Big and Strong

We have a little issue at our house about eating vegetables.  As in, my kiddos won't.
So we planted a little garden, thinking that if they helped grow some veggies, they might take an interest in eating them. They haven't.  Until today.

Yesterday, our daily inspection of our garden led to a surprise discovery.
While we had found only a few tiny zucchini before, suddenly
we had missed a growth spurt and we found two giant zucchini.

Although they had pooh-poohed my yummy fried zucchini the
night before, today's chocolate zucchini muffins hit the spot.

While Ellie napped, Tommy had helped me mix the batter and fill the muffin tins.

Then while we were watering tonight, Ellie and I found four more zucchinis
a bit more than ready for harvest.  The two smaller ones I will saute.
 But I see a few more chocolate muffins in our future with the two giant ones.
 (They are sitting on a 10" dinner plate for size reference.)

Speaking of things that grow quickly...

Tommy measured 3' 1.9" at his 3 year check-up last week.
That is a 9" increase since his 2 year measurements.
He has also gone from 22.8 lbs to 31.6 lbs.
A few days later at home, he appears to have grown another 3 inches.
Until you notice that he is wearing shoes and standing on tippy-toes.
Like father, like son.

Ellie measured 3' 1.25" at her check-up.
Her kitty chart agrees with this.
This was an increase of 9.5" for her.
Her weight increased from 21.8 lbs to 33 lbs!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Peaches for Breakfast

This picture may not look exciting, but it ushered in a whole new era at our house.

I woke this morning to discover Tommy and Ellie in the kitchen.
I woke up late this morning.  Very late.  As in, I rolled over and the clock said 8:56 and I said a bad word.  Tommy always wakes me by seven, usually before six. I listened to the nursery monitor and heard nothing, so I went downstairs. I realized later that it was turned off, from my alone time break the day before.  Most mornings, as soon as my feet creak the stairs, I hear a cheery "hello, Mama!" from Tommy's room, but he was silent.  He has been sick most of the week, so I thought maybe he had relapsed and was sleeping off a fever again.  Ha, ha, ha! Think again, Mama!

Ellie has figured out how to open the gates at the bedroom doors, so she had let herself and Tommy out of their comfy little prisons.  I had left the kitchen gate unlatched, so they had ambled on in and were in the process of getting themselves breakfast.  Among other things.  They had the whole contents of the silverware drawer out and had gotten out my miscellaneous kitchen stuff basket from a cabinet.  Tommy had found his Cars plate that I hate and had hidden and was treating it like a long lost friend. They had out the plastic lids bin, a roll of scotch tape (declared "sticky") and several bottles of children's medicine.  They had also pulled their cups of milk, blueberries, an orange, an apple, and a can a peaches from the refrigerator. 

I took a deep breath and reached for the camera.  I did not scream.  (And I'm rather happy about that, because it seems like lately I have been yelling an awful lot.)

I congratulated them on their cleverness in getting through the gates and asked who knew how to open them.  They were loyal to each other and neither one confessed or tattled.  Ellie gave away the secret several times later today when she locked Tommy alternately into and out of his room.

I shooed them out of the kitchen so I could put things away.  They were furious that I forced them out, as they were quite proud of their accomplishment, and also they were hungry and they had been so busy getting things out of cabinets that they hadn't yet gotten anything into themselves.

The can opener was laying abandoned on top of the peaches. This was what they wanted to eat, so I showed them that it had a pull-top ring.  Ellie said, "oh, okay, that's how it works."

Overall, I was happy that their breakfast choices were all fruits, rather than the open package of cookies or the chocolate cake that had been left on the table by their parents the night before.  I do wonder though why the heck I taught them how to open pull-top cans.


The train at Lodi Station

Like most 3 year old boys, Tommy is obsessed with all things train.  So we decided to take them for a ride on one.  We headed out to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, and intended to catch a ride at the Peninsula station at 11:30.  We left with time to spare, but then discovered that the exit our GPS was telling us to take was closed.  We skipped the exit, but our detour ate up the extra time we had allowed.  We had to park in the overflow lot, and heard the train whistle as we did so.  The train parking at the station actually blocked our access from the lot, so we missed our ride.  We did however get to stand and ooh and aah at the train all close up and noisy.  Unwilling to wait another 2 hours to catch the next train, we decided to do the next best thing.  We stopped at the Lodi Outlets on the way home and took a ride on their little choo-choo.

It worked for Tommy!

And Ellie too!


It's 85 degrees out today, but Tommy insisted on wearing his winter hat.
For several hours!  Goofy boy!