I loved visiting my grandparents’ 5-acre farm during the summers of my childhood. My grandfather kept a menagerie of animals in his big red barn, including a cow that tried to eat my little brother’s straw-colored hair. My cousins, brother and I played outside all day with the horses, donkeys, ponies, dogs, and scores of barn cats. A flock of geese living on a minuscule pond used to honk at my brother and chase him around the fields. Oddly enough, I don’t think the farm was his favorite place.
On Sundays, Giddy Up Ranch hosts a mini farm in the parking lot of the Brentwood Country Mart, featuring a petting zoo and pony rides. The family-owned-and-operated ranch brings animals to events and parties from their stock of over 100 farm animals and exotics.
We tried to set Zora on a tiny pony that was just her size, but, no, only the biggest pony would suit her. I worried that she might become frightened with all the bouncing and swaying several feet off the ground, but she had a huge smile on her face the entire time. Dash and Zora looked so adorable as they bounced along in their saddles, clutching the horns for dear life, although they were securely strapped in. The ponies were escorted around the parking lot, which was so much more fun than trotting in a circle at the Sunday Farmers’ Market on Main Street. The line was also a lot shorter!
Dash and Zora love the small petting zoo, which seems to have different animals depending upon the day. A parent can accompany small children to “supervise” and pet all the little fluffies. We pet a duck, chicken, sheep, rabbit, and llama. Dash enjoyed feeding the animals a cup of hay and carrots, which also required a game of keep away with the very aggressive goat. Two baby goats wrestled around the enclosure, enchanting the kids, and me too — I admit it. Marie Girouard, owner of the Giddy Up Ranch said, “Lots of baby animals are being born right now and will be coming to the Country Mart.” Girouard also said she may bring the zebra and other exotic animals, which would thrill Zora to no end.
When the kids had their fill of real animals, we headed inside the Country Mart for the coin-op plastic animals inside one of the courtyards. They never seem to tire of riding the lion carousel round and round until we run out of quarters. Next up, we entered the adjacent courtyard for lunch. We chose from Mexican food, fried eats, and Barney’s Burgers. Patrons eat outside on picnic tables or around the enclosed outdoor fireplace, so we didn’t have to worry that the kids might be too noisy or run around too much. Variations in weather usually aren’t a problem. Umbrellas cover the tables from the sun, the fire heats up a chilly afternoon, and the courtyard is fairly shielded from the wind.
We opted for Barney’s Burgers because their kids’ meals come with corn on the cob instead of fries and we can choose juice instead of soda. While waiting for our food (lunchtime can be crowded) we visited Diesel Bookstore, which has a tiny children’s nook. When our meal of a burger for Rob, salad for me, and hot dogs for the kids was ready, everyone was happy. Pigeons immediately scarfed up any food dropped from the table, and then had to run from Zora who wanted to hug the birdies.
After lunch, Dash and Zora begged to visit Toy Crazy, which has so many toys crammed into their shop you almost have to walk sideways through the aisle. We always find something wonderful for Hanukkah or a birthday or when grandpa and grandma come, or whatever event to which we can try to delay their gratification. We distracted them from their toy-less devastation with a delicious chocolate dessert from Edelweiss Chocolates. We skipped the other stores, which are boutiques and not very suitable for kids. Unbelievable, but we managed to occupy Dash and Zora until nap-time!
The Brentwood Country Mart is located at 225 26th St. (near San Vicente). The animals are there from 9 a.m. — 2 p.m. on Sunday. Pony rides $5, petting zoo $3, food to feed the animals $1. www.brentwoodcountrymart.com. The Web site for the Giddy Up Ranch is www.giddyupponies.com.
Are you lucky, lively and brave? You must have been born during the year of the Tiger. Chinese New Year started on Sunday. Traditionally celebrated for two weeks, most events will be happening this weekend.
• Golden Dragon Parade, Chinatown. Saturday, Feb. 20 at 1 p.m. The parade begins at the intersection of Cesar Chavez and Broadway, www.lagoldendragonparade.com.
• New Year Family Festival at the Huntington Library. Saturday. Feb. 20 from 10:30 a.m. — 4:30 p.m. Some highlights include lion dancers, brush-painting, calligraphy, and floral arranging demonstrations, shadow puppet theater, string and bamboo orchestra, and children’s book readings and signings, www.huntington.org.
• Chinese Lunar New Year Festival, Broadway and Cesar Chavez, Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 20 — Feb. 21, from 10 a.m. — 5 p.m.
Find a calendar with local events, helpful links, and more adventures of Addison, Zora, and Dash at smatoz.blogspot.com.