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Local Writers at the San Mateo County Fair

My Award Winning Short Story on the Wall

Yes go to the fair for sunshine, double stacked corn dogs, a block of curly fries melded into the shape of a fry basket, pig races and carnival rides but also consider stopping in at the Literary Stage. Yeah, the San Mateo County Fair held a mini writing conference sandwiched between the fine art and quilt displays inside the main exhibition hall the third week of June.

I was especially excited to visit the Literary Stage this year because I knew I had won two Honorable Mentions for my writing. Out of roughly two hundred submissions I made it to the acknowledgement level. Every piece of writing submitted to the fair was on display hanging on the walls of the literary area. While I was searching for my name I encountered a pleasant surprise. I found that the third piece I had submitted also won Honorable Mention!

Two of my pieces that won have been featured on this blog. Little Free Library, is a post about micro neighborhood book lending and A Decade of Imitation Fruit is a guest post on the topic of the literary journal I have been producing for the past ten years. A new short story based on a comedy sketch that I wrote, The Birthday Committee was also featured at the fair.

Winning stories, essays and poetry are put into an annual anthology Carry the Light: Stories, Poems, and Essays from the San Mateo County Fair. The publisher of the fair’s anthology, Sand Hill Review Press, works closely with local authors many of whom are also members of the California Writers Club San Francisco Peninsula chapter. CWC helps organize the Literary Stage and performs judging duties for writing entries. The anthology, publisher and CWC are great resources for writers in San Mateo County and beyond.

Darlene Frank’s Workshop, Photo by Eva Barrows

The Literary Stage hosts a variety of events for writers to learn about the craft of writing, authors to read their writing to an audience and an opportunity for readers to buy books from local writers. This year I caught my CWC friend Darlene Frank’s workshop on “Creating Your Most Powerful Writing.” For about an hour and a half Darlene outlined how writers can identify and execute writing with a clear purpose. It was fun to hear a fellow writer share their process and to take the time to think about my own writing in a supportive environment.

After listening to writers that I’ve come to know through CWC read from their award winning work at the Literary Stage author’s panel I am inspired to continue submitting my work to the fair. I hope to move up a notch next year and take home one of the big fluffy ribbons!

Dig-in: Historical Tourism for Foodies, Five San Francisco Ocean Beach Restaurants

San Francisco, established in the late 1700s bleeds history through its architecture. Fight your way west through traffic and tourist crowds to arrive at Ocean Beach, a 3.5 mile sand dune bordered beach. You’ll find some raging history and fine San Francisco cuisine at the following restaurants at Ocean Beach.

Sutro’s and The Bistro at the Cliff House

The Cliff House is perched above the Pacific Ocean at the end of Ocean Beach. Sutro’s one of two restaurants inside the Cliff House is a modern addition to the famous establishment. The walls and ceiling are all windows to best view the crushing waves and piercing rock formations just below.

The Bistro restaurant is located in the recently refurbished 1909 Cliff House. Hints of the past lash out in historical photographs, antique furniture and decoration. The Cliff House looks young and polished now but has gone through several reincarnations and originally opened in 1863.

There may be a wait for a table at the Cliff House restaurants. If it’s just a bite to eat and a drink you want, walk up to the bar and lounge at either restaurant and put your order in.

Louis’

A short sprint up the hill from the Cliff House, Louis’ restaurant is a surviving 1937 family owned diner. The interior is classic with party booths, tables and bar seating. American comfort food is on the menu: cup of chili, burgers and monster sized milkshakes with refill tin on the side. Louis’ looks out to the ocean and to an only in San Francisco sight – Sutro Baths.

A good portion of the cement floor plan remains of the Sutro Baths, a Victorian era swimming pool complex, are laid out in the valley below Louis’. Watch people explore the mysterious urban archeological find while tossing back a bowl of clam chowder. Bring cash with you for the meal because old school Louis’ doesn’t take cards.

Beach and Park Chalet

Another two-for restaurant duo is located down the hill from the Cliff House, at the foot of Golden Gate Park and across the street from the expansive Ocean Beach. The building these two restaurants occupy opened in 1925. During the Great Depression artist, Lucien Labaudt covered the reception area in a floor to ceiling mural depicting life in San Francisco.

Park Chalet Coastal Beer Garden is just that. Specialty brews, indoor or outdoor relaxed seating and Golden Gate Park location make this restaurant special. Experience garden and park views from inside Park Chalet as the walls and ceiling are windowed. Beware, once the sun goes down the San Francisco fog can make both indoors and outdoors chilly. Bring a warm coat to the Park Chalet.

Beach Chalet is located on the second floor of the historical building overlooking the Pacific. The restaurant has an intimate and cozy atmosphere. Watch cargo ships cruise into the mouth of the Bay while beach goers surround raging bonfires across the street from the restaurant. If the Beach Chalet is for you, put your reservations in early, it’s the smart thing to do.

MidPen Media Center Guest Post, Palo Alto, CA

A few months ago I learned how to use a studio camera at MidPen Media Center in Palo Alto. Read about my experience learning how to use studio equipment with the end result of creating a live cable access show. The show my class created is called “Healthy Living” and a link to watch it online is posted at the end of my article. My camera work focused on the show’s guest. Moving the camera out of the way for the hula hoop scene was a fun challenge!

Eva operating studio camera

Deer Hollow Farm at Rancho San Antonio, Cupertino CA

Our mission to photograph the perfect hen brought my husband and I to Deer Hollow Farm in the foothills of Mountain View and Cupertino. After a quick Google Maps consult I found that the farm was only a half hour drive from home and in a park setting that I hadn’t explored yet. A perfect combo for a sunny day outside!

Open Field, Photo by Eva Barrows

The drive into Rancho San Antonio County Park passed several parking lots near the main road already full of cars. Continuing on we parked at the main lot near the bathrooms and trailhead. I stared at the trail system map and became puzzled at not spotting the location of the farm. My husband spoke with a jogger who confirmed that the farm was a mile into the park.

Lizard on Bark, Photo by John Barrows

From my previous light research on the area (I knew there were chickens…somewhere…) I didn’t realize we’d have to walk a mile in and out to visit them! The farm was closing within the hour so we put some speed on our walk.

Prairie Dog, Photo by John Barrows

Soon we walked by a large open field with tall grass. Hawks soared over the expanse with no treetops in their way. A prairie dog popped up in the middle of the field becoming the subject in one of my husband’s many photographs. The open land was the former site of St Joseph’s College which suffered Loma Prieta earthquake damage and was torn down. Abandoned tennis courts overgrown with weeds remain.

Forest walk, Photo by Eva Barrows

The path snakes back into the woods to follow a healthy stream trickling with water from recent rains. Eucalyptus trees shade the path and scent the breeze with their medicinal musk. The leaves of overhead trees swim in the wind current creating swooshing and cracking sounds.

Grant Brothers Cabin, Photo by Eva Barrows

As we walked around a bend in the forested path several small white wood paneled buildings greet us. We had made it to the farm! The Grant Brothers 1853 cabin is preserved and furnished with period items to show what early farm life was like.

With only about a half hour left before the farm closed for the day I spent a few minutes listening to the goats having a “baaa”-off where they all sounded tough and tried to outdo the other. I took a sound recording of them but forgot to take their picture!

Hen with Squirrel, Photo by John Barrows

The chickens are located inside the farm gate and behind the large white maintenance barn. At least thirty hens and a few roosters run around the yard and mostly hang out at the fence where they hope visitors will feed them. The entire group of birds ran inside the hen house thinking they’d get fed but it was a false alarm. So the chickens all ran back out together as a flock.

Huge Bunny! Photo by Eva Barrows

The hen’s next door neighbors are bunnies with one especially large furry brown bunny hopping around!

Large Pig, Photo by John Barrows

Across the farm yard there’s a pig shed with two gigantic tan pigs. The pigs ate at their troughs and from the farmers hand.

Picnic Area, Photo by John Barrows

Deer Hollow Farms is a great destination to enjoy the outdoors and be entertained by wild and farm animals. We came to the right place to accomplish our chicken photographing mission!

Scenic Nature Spots are a Must Do When Visiting Ottawa for the 150th Celebrations

Join me in welcoming guest blogger Katherine Forster as she shows us around her home in Ottawa, Canada! – Eva

Ottawa-Outaouais River Multi Use Paths, Photo by Viliam Glazduri
Ottawa-Outaouais River Multi Use Paths, Photo by Viliam Glazduri

For us Canadians, it feels like the advertising is everywhere. Canada is celebrating 150 years since the signing of the confederation. Our country is sending out an invitation world-wide, extending its hospitality to anyone who wants to visit. There will be special events and activities in most major cities and support for various cultural, scientific, artistic, historic projects that promise to showcase the diversity of this vast land. Canada 150 is a big year for us!

I live in Ottawa and here in the capital of the country, we are finding that the hype is huge. And with this being the last year that the Centre Block of Parliament Hill will be open for up to a decade (a major renovation is planned to start after this special year) and our Canada Day festivities promising to be the biggest in years, there is no doubt that many will flock to visit our lovely city. Ottawa offers so much in terms of history and cultural experiences and now with the extra celebrations, it will be hard to choose among so many things to do and see.

Hog’s Back Falls Winter Scene, Photo by Viliam Glazduri
Hog’s Back Falls Winter Scene, Photo by Viliam Glazduri

My suggestion for those who want to plan a trip to Ottawa this year, is to add a couple of nature stops to your itinerary. Canada is blessed with incredible scenery and that includes the nation’s capital – some of which is not to be missed! And adding a few nature stops to a weekend of sightseeing is a great way to break up hours of indoor museum visits, walking around busy downtown corridors and the crush of crowded line ups. Here are some suggestions:

Hog’s Back Falls Close Up, Photo by Viliam Glazduri
Hog’s Back Falls Close Up, Photo by Viliam Glazduri

Hog’s Back Falls and Rideau Falls – Visitors can walk along paths beside Hog’s Back Falls and see it from different angles (located in Vincent Massey Park by Mooney’s Bay) whereas Rideau Falls can be appreciated from above (on Green Island) or from one of the boat tours that brings visitors to the bottom of the falls as it empties into the Ottawa-Outaouais River.

Rideau Falls, Photo by Viliam Glazduri
Rideau Falls, Photo by Viliam Glazduri

Dominion Arboretum – while a popular tourist spot, the Arboretum is worth braving the crowds on the weekend to appreciate the huge old oaks that can be found along Prince of Wales Drive, a smaller, “wilder” garden, appropriately named Fletcher Wildlife Garden and the ornamental gardens that have perennials blooming for the full summer season.

Dominion Arboretum Winter Reflection, Photo by Viliam Glazduri
Dominion Arboretum Winter Reflection, Photo by Viliam Glazduri

Ottawa-Outaouais River – This large river that designates the border between Ontario and Quebec boasts winding multi-use paths on both sides, which provides scenic views of both city skylines and also some fantastic sunsets. Don’t be discouraged if there are some clouds at twilight as they can reflect and augment the colourful end of day show.

Ottawa-Outaouais River Sunset, Photo by Viliam Glazduri
Ottawa-Outaouais River Sunset, Photo by Viliam Glazduri

South March Highlands – Canada’s Capital is situated in the transition zone between the southern Mixedwood Plains and the Boreal Shield and this becomes very apparent when you visit the South March Highlands. Exposed bedrock, provincially significant wetland and old growth forest provide the conditions for a richly biodiverse area and the opportunity to experience the Canadian shield topography.

Mer Bleue Bog, Photo by Viliam Glazduri
Mer Bleue Bog, Photo by Viliam Glazduri

Mer Bleue – this 7,700 year old bog in the Greenbelt showcases a northern boreal landscape which is a unique habitat for Southern Ontario. It has many regionally rare and significant plants and provides a 1.2 kilometer boardwalk that lets nature lovers experience this habitat in an immersive way in all seasons.

So come on up to visit this great Canadian city this year and take in the festivities, see some sights and enjoy the iconic Canadian nature experience at the same time!

Golden River Silhouette, Photo by Viliam Glazduri
Golden River Silhouette, Photo by Viliam Glazduri

blog-profile-pic-smallGuest Blogger Katherine Forster works in the burgeoning field of urban ecology as an entrepreneur through her business Wild. Here. She lives with her partner Viliam Glazduri, photographer extraordinaire, who shares her passion for nature, and their indoor cat Max in an older central neighborhood of Ottawa close to many natural features including a swimming pond, a small marsh and other green spaces that they can explore.
Wild. Here. provides resources, tools and stories to help those living in cities connect with nature in their neighbourhood. The newest resource is an online social media initiative called 52 Weeks of Nearby Nature.

Noelani’s Bar and Grill Creates Escape to Hawaii, San Carlos, CA

Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, Photo by Eva Barrows
Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, Photo by Eva Barrows

I take a few cautious sips from the hurricane glass filled with Mai Tai. Warned about the strength of the drink from a disclaimer on the menu enforcing a three Mai Tai max per person. I try to take it slow. Guzzling a drink with three different kinds of rum is never a good idea.

It’s Friday evening after work, my weary husband takes his time looking over the Hawaiian fusion items on Noelani’s Bar and Grill menu. He’s concerned about not ordering enough food and points to the words “plate lunch.”

“It says lunch, does that mean it’s a small portion?”

“You know what a plate lunch is,” I say. “Pick a main course and add a scoop of rice and the mac/potato salad to it.”

Skeptical, he continues to look over the menu. Eventually he picks salmon from the dinner specials and I go with my taste buds and order a kalua pork quesadilla.

I can tell he’s not completely happy with where we’re sitting. He makes the universal “I’m cold sign” crossing his arms over his chest and tucking his chin in. He asks the staff to turn the outdoor heating lamps on and that helps everyone outside warm up.

The live Hawaiian music starts and I’m disappointed that I can’t hear it too well outside. I stand up to go inside the restaurant real quick to listen. The two sips of Mai Tai already coursing through my body.

A male guitar player/singer and a female backup singer un-obstructively serenade the sports bar atmosphere. After a few minutes enjoying the warm vocals, I go back to our outdoor table. I relay the fact that there are a few open tables inside the restaurant.

My husband speaks with the hostess and we’re re-seated inside, only a table away from the live music. Our experience of the place gets better. I’m warm enough to take my jacket off and I absently sip some more Mai Tai.

The musicians play a Hawaiianized version of Orlean’s “Still the One.” I mouth the words to my husband across the table and he smiles knowing how I hate it when he mouths lyrics at me. I grab his hand over the table and do over the top googly eyes at him, something else that makes me uncomfortable when he does it. We’re doing all the cutesy dating things and make the people at the next table squirm in their seats.

The Mai Tai is only a quarter gone and I’m feeling distanced from the hustle of the dining room. I feel like it’s just me, my husband and the musicians. I don’t even know what game is on or if anyone’s staring at us. I put my hand up to the side of my face as if to block the musician’s view.

“Do you think he can see us?” I shout over the table. The musician looks straight ahead when he performs, he’d have to be looking at us from the corner of his eye.

Suddenly a two foot long quesadilla appears in front of me. My husband gingerly picks through his serving of fish. I can tell he doesn’t think it’s enough food. I offer to share my mac/potato salad and he digs in. I shove greasy cheesy flour tortilla in my mouth and I taste the tender smoky flavorful kalua pork.

I shout again to my husband, “This is my new favorite restaurant!”

He laughs, “You know what happens to your favorite restaurants.”

“Oh no! I didn’t mean that!” I say feeling my eyes widen wishing I could take that sentiment back. All of my favorite restaurants close.

I continue stuffing my face, sipping Mai Tai and bopping my head to the music. My husband and I have gotten into the habit of listening to Hawaiian during dinner when we’re at home.

There’s one song that goes “pineapple, mango, pineapple, mango.” My husband wants to request it but I stop him thinking that’s not sophisticated enough to request.

Our meal nearly gone, the waitress comes over and asks if we want to see the desert menu. I wave the “bring it on” hand gesture at her.

I order malasadas for us, mini doughnuts without a hole served warm and rolled in sugar. We also got a scoop of pineapple-coconut ice cream that we eat in tandem with the malasadas. We eat it all and agree it’s a heavenly combo. I slurp down the last of the Mai Tai.

The escapist evening was ending. I walk past the musicians and the guy stops me. He said something to me I can’t understand and hands me his business card. I take it and thank him.

“He did see me dancing in my chair!” I exclaim to my husband as we walk out to the street.

What restaurant provides an escape for you?

Google Maps Point Hungry Travelers in the Right Direction

I stood on tiptoes peering out through the shutter-covered unusually high-placed hotel room window to see what eating establishments existed across the busy and dark Ventura Boulevard of Studio City, CA. My husband’s Fitbit had declared long ago that we’d put in ten thousand steps by midday and we had many more steps to go on our site seeing day.

Art by Eva and John Barrows
Art by Eva and John Barrows

Squinting through the window at the place straight across the street from us I tried to figure out if it was a viable option for dinner. I had a feeling that the place was fancy because the restaurant name was in script lettering and climbing ivy was all over the front of the building.

I took my smart phone out of my purse and brought up Google Maps. I dove into the map and found that I was looking at Bistro Garden, “Continental eatery for upscale dining” with three dollar signs next to it. Yes, that would be an expensive place to eat at.

My husband suddenly hovered next to me to see what I was up to. My head bowed over the phone, “There’s supposed to be a Five Guys over there,” I said continuing to look over Maps.

He glanced out the window and said, “Yeah its right there.” I shifted slightly to the right and there it was! Red block lettering indicating a very affordable burger joint that we’d had the pleasure of experiencing in our own neighborhood.

I was a little embarrassed at my restaurant hunt method. Usually we’d walk around a new place, peer in windows and read over menus. I told my hubby that I just wanted to find a decent place for us to have dinner. I wanted to know what was out there…without having to go out there.

Taking a virtual walk down the street with Google Maps, I found it! Four doors down and on the same side of the street as our hotel was Hyperion Public, “Rustic-chic American gastropub & lounge” with only two dollar signs. That is where we’d go for our night on the town. We grabbed our coats and walked briskly down the street.

Becoming temporary inhabitants of the candlelit and fireplace warmed dining room, we finally relaxed. When the food came, there wasn’t enough light to see the details of it so we had to rely solely on our taste buds to report back.

Despite my husband’s blatant tourist “Oceanside” blaring sweatshirt, the Los Angeles swanky diners and waitstaff couldn’t judge us as outsiders because there wasn’t enough light to make out what his shirt said. I knew we had succeeded in posing as Angelenos when our waiter asked if we’d like to take our leftovers home.

Google Maps was a quick way to get familiar with an unfamiliar neighborhood. Maps helped us make an informed decision to the always pressing question, “Where are we going to eat?”

Seal Point Park Rehab, San Mateo, CA: Guest Post at Wild. Here.

Catch my writing this week on the Canada based Wild. Here. blog that discovers nature in urban areas. I explored Seal Point Park on the San Mateo, CA shoreline and found that the park has an unexpected history. Come enjoy a beautiful California spring day with me at this intersection of urban life and nature.

Wind Tuba Sculpture, Photo by Eva Barrows
Wind Tuba Sculpture, Photo by Eva Barrows

Reasons to Return: Mesa Lane Steps, Santa Barbara CA

Whenever guest blogger Yvette Keller’s dog isn’t walking her on the beach, she writes, reads, and narrates audiobooks. As the owner of Mesa Steps Consulting, she designs training content from her home office and recording studio located in Santa Barbara, CA. This is the life she has always wanted, and she feels extremely fortunate to have arrived there. So fortunate that she regularly wonders, “How did that happen?”

 

Pacific Ocean and Santa Cruz Island from The Mesa Steps - Photo by Yvette Keller
Pacific Ocean and Santa Cruz Island from The Mesa Steps – Photo by Yvette Keller

It is an old saying that change is the only constant. Recently, it seems to me like the rate of change has swerved away from the natural flow of time like a Tesla powered by a flux capacitor. When political and social upheaval comes my way, I venture out to not-too-distant neighborhoods, parks, and historical sites. They rejuvenate me and I’m reminded that I control my internal stability and my personal awareness of time.

Olieo Dog on Mesa Steps Beach - Photo by Yvette Keller
Olieo Dog on Mesa Steps Beach – Photo by Yvette Keller

One of my favorite places to go is my local beach. I visit it over and over again to survey the eternal serenity of the Pacific. It is calming to know that though it is changing (and not all for the better) the ocean isn’t going anywhere.

However, thanks to wind, sand, and waves, the beach is never the same twice–a perfect reason to return. Beaches change dramatically from season to season and year to year. I believe my visits help me become more accepting, more comfortable with any constantly shifting landscape.

Can you spot the away team in this alien vista? Photo by Yvette Keller
Can you spot the away team in this alien vista? Photo by Yvette Keller

This is an image of the same stretch of beach. The California Current is constantly moving particles along, from North to South. Sometimes there is sand. Other times, not so much. Winter storms can often take our sand south to L.A. or San Diego. That’s the best time to go tidepooling and beachcombing for treasures.

Beach glass, agates, and shells, oh my! - Photo by Yvette Keller
Beach glass, agates, and shells, oh my! – Photo by Yvette Keller

Because there is always something to see, bright summery afternoons or silent, misty mornings are equally good for skipping down 247 steps to arrive at the secluded paradise of Mesa Lane Beach.

Yvette and Olieo at the Top - Photo by Mark Bessey
Yvette and Olieo at the Top – Photo by Mark Bessey

The trick is getting back up again. Cardio anyone? Built in 1982 to provide pedestrians with safe beach access, Mesa Lane Steps might be the narrowest and most vertical “park” in Santa Barbara. A friend of mine once told me that I could easily train for the Bright Angel Trail at The Grand Canyon by walking up and down the steps a few times every day.

Upper Stairs - Photo by Yvette Keller
Upper Stairs – Photo by Yvette Keller

Getting down is easy, but leaving Mesa Lane Beach requires a level of athleticism that typically excludes families and tourists. Locals (including students from the nearby Santa Barbara City College) and surfers tend to be the only ones brave enough to face the many wooden, metal and concrete steps it takes to get home at the end of the day.

new_stairs_mark_bessey
Yvette at the Bottom – Photo by Mark Bessey

Less regularly, the infrastructure that provides beach access also changes. In 2012, the old steps at the bottom had become so badly damaged by high tides and surf that they were replaced. In the image above, I’m standing in front of the new metal steps. The beautiful picture below, by my friend and artist David J. Diamant, shows the original stairs at sunset.

Old Wooden Stairs at Sunset - Photo by David Diamant
Old Wooden Stairs at Sunset – Photo by David Diamant

Olieo dog loves running on the beach more than any other activity.

Dog in the Fog - Photo by Yvette Keller
Dog in the Fog – Photo by Yvette Keller

Getting outdoors and being with my family, on the beach, no matter what else in the world changes, is one of my favorite ways to stay healthy and happy, inside and out. Do you have a favorite beach you escape to?

Sunset Playtime - Photo by Yvette Keller
Sunset Playtime – Photo by Yvette Keller

 

Enjoy Spring at Ardenwood Historic Farm: Fremont, CA

Train Station, Photo by John Barrows
Train Station, Photo by John Barrows

Ardenwood is a historic East Bay farm that’s got crops, animals and wood barns. It was established in the mid-1800s in the Fremont area and is now part of the East Bay Regional Park District. I’ve been to the farm several times and it offers a different experience every time I go. Once I went to Ardenwood with my Girl Scout troop for an Alice in Wonderland tea, another time I toured Ardenwood with my groom-to-be as a possible wedding location and another time to take part in a Renaissance Faire. This past Saturday my husband and I happened to be in Fremont and stopped by Ardenwood to enjoy the beautiful spring day – clear blue sky no sweater required.

The parking lot for visitors is nestled between vegetable field and cow pasture with the road into Ardenwood passing through the organic crop fields. The produce grown on the land is sold at local farmers markets. In the fall, Perry Family Pumpkin Patch fills the fields with pumpkins and spooky decor for Halloween fun.

Free Range Chicken, Photo by John Barrows
Free Range Chicken, Photo by John Barrows

The entrance fee to explore Ardenwood varies depending on the season and there are additional fees for park attractions such as the railroad and historic farm house tour. Check the park district website for current fees. The 1.5 mile railroad with historic wooden rail cars will re-open to take visitors around the farm, along with tours of the Patterson House in April.

Sheep, Photo by John Barrows
Sheep, Photo by John Barrows

Farm activities take place throughout the day to keep up with all the work that needs to be completed. Special demonstrations happen on the weekend such as animal appreciation like “Meet the Chickens” where visitors learn all about chickens. Victorian crafts like embroidery and felting with sheep wool taken from sheep on the farm are also available to visitors. Saturday, March 18 would be a fun day to stop by the farm to watch Ardenwood’s sheep get their spring haircut on Sheep Shearing Day!

Baby Lambs, Photo by John Barrows
Baby Lambs, Photo by John Barrows

Animals are all around at Ardenwood. Cows greet visitors from their pasture near the entrance. They’re expert at hanging out and relaxing in the shade. The rustle of free range chickens hunting inside an overgrown bush can be heard as the birds scratch at fallen leaves to uncover yummy bugs to eat. While other chickens roam through garden boxes and under wheelbarrows. A few turkeys and peacocks squawk throughout the farm contributing to the farm ambience. Sheep with matted hair wait for the upcoming shearing day as they graze through new grass. A few baby lambs learning how to walk hobble in their newborn pen. Newly hatched chicks huddle together in spacious chicken hutches.

Just Hatched! Photo by John Barrows
Just Hatched! Photo by John Barrows

Ardenwood teaches kids about animals and farming through games and interactive displays. A game mounted to the barn door has a spinning arrow that lands on a picture of an animal that children are tasked to identify on the farm. Another activity that caught my attention is a large wood cutout of a 3D cow with attached udders children can “milk.” Water sprays into a milk pail when the teats are tugged on. Another interactive activity was simply using an antique water pump. Kids and adults use their biceps to bring water up out of the ground. A few dads faced off against each other to show their young how water pumping was done.

Patterson House, Photo by John Barrows
Patterson House, Photo by John Barrows

The nucleus of the Ardenwood estate is the Patterson House built in 1857. The home is referred to as a farmhouse but I’d call it a mansion. It was closed for tours at the end of last year, Christmas decorations still adorn it, but will reopen in April. Visitors can enjoy the large veranda and sit in the shade of the house soaking up the serene park and garden setting. Ornate Victorian woodwork details decorate the exterior of the building along with varied rooflines and interesting architecture. A separate cook house and outhouse accompany the main home.

Ardenwood offers both serene settings and activities to get visitors involved with the workings of a farm. History buffs, animal lovers and recreation seekers won’t be disappointed with a visit to Ardenwood.