Most summers we try to take a short trip somewhere as a family, or at the very least have an epic staycation where we set up the tent and camp out on the prairie. This year, for whatever reason, one week melted into another and before we knew it, school started and the five of us hadn’t travelled anywhere together. Over Thanksgiving, we knew it was now or never, and we embarked on our family summer vacation.
We already knew it was a little peculiar to take a “summer” holiday in October, but the weirdness was only compounded when it started to snow for almost the entire duration of our trip. While the snow left me checking the road reports and dutifully marking several outdoor activities off my carefully planned itinerary, the kids were completely unfazed as they twirled around, trying to catch the fat flakes of snow on their tongues. (Hey, this wasn’t my first family vacation rodeo, I was prepared with winter coats and toques).
One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to a zoo. The timing really couldn’t have been better, as the heavy snow not only made the zoo animals perky and engaging, it kept scores of potential visitors away. As a rule, farmers of all ages don’t like crowds, so a nearly empty zoo that was ours to explore was perfect! We walked and discovered and walked and ate snacks, and when that was done, we walked some more. We watched the penguins munch on fish and revel in the snow and we saw the majestic tigers and snow leopards gracefully meander through their spaces. The cougars and the bears were a hit, and I couldn’t help but laugh as we viewed the flamingoes chilling out (literally) in the fresh snow alongside the mallard ducks that came and went.
My husband and I would point out interesting things here and there to the kids but they made observations of their own. As farm kids, they have a pretty good idea of how the Animal Kingdom works from a biological standpoint, and they had lots of good questions. They noted the giraffes eating hay from their elevated hay bags and the tiny Asian pigs obtain water from a spigot. The kids noticed several enclosures that featured stock water bowls, excitedly saying “they have the same waterbowls as we do!” We walked near an elaborate set of corrals and chutes set up for handling larger animals. I suspect the zoo was trying to conceal this infrastructure, or at the very least not draw attention to it, but there our kids were, peering through the bushes, commenting on the height and function of the animal handling system. The omnipresent electric fencing throughout the zoo also caught their attention. Electric fence wires, insulators, and the fencers themselves were discussed at length and one pointed out that a particular fencer wasn’t holding a charge. I guess he’s spent a few days checking fencers back at our ranch, this wasn’t his first rodeo, either.
The entire trip was good. We stayed in hotels, enjoyed water sliding, ate lots of good food, visited with friends and family, and there was plenty of hot coffee consumed by mom and dad. And, although we already knew this, we were reminded that you can take the kids off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the kids.