Slide Ranch is an educational farm with sweeping ocean visdtas north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The views are breathtaking, the salty air invigorating and the goats polite. Being on GGNRA land, Slide Ranch is therefore open to the public all year long and you don’t neeed to wait for a family program to join the fun. I didn’t know that and signed for one of their family day which ended up as a great success.
Unlike Leslie Helakoski’s sheep Woolbur who doesn’t like to “shear his wool”, Slide Ranch’s goats and sheeps are very civilized. As soon as we got there by mid-morning, the girls joined a short line to milk a goat. How fun is that? Ask the preschoolers. “Eeeuw, it’s wetty,” I heard from my four-year old. Well kiddo, that’s farm life.
Fortunately she got the hang of it and got some good old milking done. It reminded me of my cow milking experience in New Zealand as a child, after which I got a beautifully blue milking certificate. My usually-bold two-year-old watched in disbelief whispering she was scared.
Own next station was a group circle in which we were given three basic instructions for the day:
– try something new
– eat something new
– get dirty
Obediently, we proceeded to the henhouse to … catch some hens! Yay for Cedric who has a knack for catching fowls under the wings and whispering them sweet words while waiting for little girls to pet their feathers.
Visiting the hen house and seeing all these happy chickens made me think of Kate DiCamillo’s upcoming picture book Louise The Adventures of a Chicken. These animals really have a sweet life: eat grain, run a bit, sleep, lay eggs, eat more grain. While our Louise (not the chicken) managed to hold two chickens in her arms, Iris played the shy toddler from afar.
By then, my girls’ stomachs were calling for food so we came back to the pasture and there, saw that a Slide Ranch teacher was showing how to card wool. “Want to make wool bracelets?” she called to my girls. In two seconds, they were sitting on a blanket on the grass, carding wool that we spinned by hand. The result was quite beautiful and earthy really.
They were both very proud of their wool bracelets and held on to them the whole day. After that activity, they were starving and feasted on their favorite picnic items: canned sardines in oil, bread, carrots, dried apricots and dates and an apple.
The best was yet to come as we headed back to the farmhouse to make some bread. Yes, all the children got to try their hand at adding cups of flour, mixing, kneading and shaping individual rolls of bread. That was pretty neat. Awaiting instructions, the children nicely got together round a table.
As one of the oldest read the recipe, the teacher got every one to pitch in. When the kneading was done the teacher called “Who wants to pick some fresh herbs from the garden to add to their bread?” A swarm of children ran to the herb garden, coming back with rosemary, thyme and even lavender.
The long baking wait started (40 minutes in the oven) and to keep ourselves busy, we visited the vegetable garden. I wish mine looked as nice. Swiss chard, onions, future zucchinis, red leaf lettuces, strawberries, raspberries, garlic, rhubarb were just some of the beautiful patches we came across.
The bread came out surprisingly nice and our girls literally devoured theirs. We almost didn’t get a tasting bite. This was the end of our day at Slide Ranch and a beautiful one. Did the girls enjoy it? Yesterday morning driving to school, I heard a little voce behind me: “Can we go to the farm today?”