We took the kids to the zoo today. Southwick's Zoo, which used to be known as Southwick's Wild Animal Farm.
My kids sometimes still refer to it as "Southquick's."
Whatever you call it, it's around an hour from our house and we generally go about once a year.
We'd promised the kids this trip as something to look forward to after all the intense work upstairs lately and our self-imposed polyurethane-induced exile. So this morning, after a quick run to the farmers' market so I could get my goat milk and more rhubarb and honey sticks for the kids…and a few plants for the gardens (flower, not vegetable), we headed north.
The weather was kind of crazy today – overcast, then a tease of sun, then back to gray and ominous. I was hoping we'd have overcast at the zoo. It's much more comfortable than baking in the sun. And that's pretty much what happened. We wandered around looking at most of the animals, the kids and me taking pictures, in kind of humid but otherwise comfortable sun-free weather. Rain began to fall toward the end, when we were in the Petting Zoo, which is made up mostly of an assortment of goats, a few funky looking sheep, a couple turkeys, a limping rooster (today, anyway) and, in their own little pen, a beautiful pair of Jersey calves.
Look at that sweet face, will you?
Anyway, back to the weather…the rain fell harder as we race-walked through the parking area to our car and sped away to get something to eat.
I have favorite moments, favorite photos, favorite exhibits, all of which are different each time we go. The Deer Forest, where you can feed corn kernels to the deer and wander around with them, is always a kind of otherworldly experience, at least for me.
I guess I'm still a kid enough to think "Hey! We're hanging out with deer! With no fence between us and them!"
I also love the tigers. Last year the two (one white, one orange) were just little cubs. This year they're bigger, maybe teenagers, at least size-wise. They're big, but they haven't filled out yet.
This year they were both snoozing, so I didn't really get much of a picture of either one.
Although I did want to climb on in and scratch this guy's chin.
He reminded me of Scratchy a little. I mean, come on. Just look at that adorable little face.
The chimps? Eh. They don't do much for me. And they were too busy discussing their shrinking pensions to care about anything going on around them.
The rhinos…well, the kids were looking forward to the rhinos. Not because the rhinos are particularly exciting. They don't move much, at least not when we're around, and today they were both sound asleep.
Look at that. They must have had a really busy morning. Right before we arrived.
But anyway, the kids looked at the rhinos, and Alex took a picture or two, but mostly my children scanned the whole rhino habitat for piles of rhino poop.
Yes. That's right. Rhino poop.
The first year we went to Southwick's, which was maybe three years ago, there was a great big fresh steaming pile of rhino poop in the dirt, and Alex was so thrilled about it that I took a carefully composed photograph of it. And there's a print of it up on the wall in the bedroom, too. (In the former bedroom…the room the kids WERE sharing but once we get all our stuff moved back upstairs, it will be Bill's and my room. And all the pictures, including the rhino poop picture, will be removed from the walls and distributed between Alex and Julia. They'll probably fight over the rhino poop shot.
And today? Alas, no poop to be found. Plenty of stench, but no piles. Ah well. Win some, lose some.
Back to favorites…
Today, I think my second favorite thing was not even an exhibit – it was all the zillion chipmunks that scurry about.
They're just so cute.
Oh, and speaking of cute, there was also this adorable baby:
He likes his hay.
I wanted him to look over, but he was just too busy.
Alex was also eager to take a look at the alligator. Or crocodile. I always forget. Hang on, let me check…okay, it'a an alligator.
Most of the time, he's pretty boring, frankly. He just hangs out there, right up against the inner fence (there are two, an outer and an inner, separated by at least three feet of space. And usually he's asleep. Or faking it really well.
But not today.
His beady little too-close-together-so-you-know-he's-up-to-no-good eyes were open and he was angled toward the fence…kind of hoping, I imagine, that a little kid might topple from its parent's shoulders and land on the OTHER side of the inner fence.
He moved his head and Julia jumped back. She didn't like him at all.
We left the area, and as we crossed paths with people heading toward the 'gator, Alex gleefully announced to all and sundry that "The alligator's getting ready to ATTACK!"
Security escorted us off the premises shortly afterward.
Anyway, I've been saving my favorite part for last. The petting zoo.
We paid fifty cents for kernels of corn for Alex and Julia to feed to all the goats.
And there were a LOT of goats. Different kinds, different sizes. Plenty of babies.
If Julia could have smuggled the lot of them out under her shirt, she would have.
As it was, we had to remind her of the rules…
One of which was "Do Not Pick Up the Animals!"
Julia, put the goat down.
So she did her best to recruit followers.
And when that didn't work, she tried to work on her herding technique.
You. Hey, you!
Yeah, I'm talking to you.
Wait! Come back here!
Well, that didn't work, so she switched tactics.
Okay guys, you can have all the corn you want, but ONLY if you come with me. So line up in an orderly fashion.
Hey, I said an ORDERLY line.
Oh, okay. You can have some corn.
I think Alex would have helped with the smuggling.
At least, he might have.
Had it not been for…the hoof.
See that mama goat?
She was hungry. And persistent.
And no matter where Alex went…
Or how many other goats (and sheep) he tried to feed,
She kept going back for more. Several times (I didn't catch any of this with the camera, unfortunately) she was practically climbing up Alex, trying to get the food, and at some point – just once – one of her sharp little front hooves hit him in a rather, um, delicate little area. Alex was not amused.
He abandoned the goats and focused attention on the turkeys instead.
Julia looked at one of the turkeys for a minute, and then headed back to her goats.
(And may I just pause a moment here and say that I have leg envy? Look at my child's calves, will you? Those sculpted little gams? Why? Why? She doesn't work out. She doesn't think about nutrition. She just has this perfect little strong body and yes, I'm small and petty, and I don't know where she got such great muscle definition because she sure as hell didn't inherit that from me.)
Sorry. Momentary lapse.
Anyway, there she goes, striding in her purposeful little manner AWAY from the turkeys.
She swings her hair out off her shoulders and keeps going…
Until she gets to this one.
She's the goat whisperer.
Wait! Don't go yet!
I'll just grab this little handle here…
(She didn't really.)
Come here, my little baby.
I will hug him
and squeeze him
and name him George.