It was another typical Wednesday morning. The kids were putting together puzzles; I was cleaning up after breakfast and thinking about what to do with them for the day. I’m not an activity-oriented guy and I honestly struggle coming up with fun new things for us to do. We have a regular routine that usually involves going to the City Market, museum, library, local play centre and the playground near my mother’s place in Rothesay. And my parents are away this month, which has left me with a large block of time to fill!
Fortunately I was listening to Q while cleaning up, and Jian Ghomeshi was chatting with David Suzuki about the 30×30 challenge, a month-long campaign to get Canadians to spend at least 30 minutes a day in nature for 30 days. We were eight days late getting started, but I thought, “Here’s something that will shake us out of our routine and get us outdoors more.” I also decided to take on an additional challenge: I would try to take us somewhere different every day.
For the past week I’d been promising to take the kids to Brunswick Nurseries. It sells trees and shrubs, and also has a small petting farm and walking trail. I worked there for a summer in my early 20s, and like to occasionally take the kids there to visit the animals. There’s a pond with ducks and geese, and an outdoor corral with goats, lambs, chickens and pigs.
In which a goat rams a cow and a bunny battles a weasel
I still have great memories from my time working there 20 years ago. It’s about half an hour outside the city with a commanding view of the Kennebecasis River. I used to ride my motorcycle along the winding, riverside roads and then spend my day watering and selling trees and shrubs, and tending to the animals.
Back then, parents also brought their children to see the animals, and I always found their visits a welcome distraction from the day-to-day business of the nursery.
One day, some children came to tell me that a cow had gotten her head stuck in between the wooden slats of a fence, and that a goat was ramming her in an effort to set her free. I managed to pry the cow loose, while the goat nibbled on my shirt. On another day, some kids came running to tell me that a weasel had captured a baby bunny, and was trying to pull him underground through a hole he’d dug into the rabbit cage. To the cheers of gathered children, I won the battle with the weasel and a still-frightened bunny spent the day perched on my shoulder while I served customers.
The children were mostly respectful of the animals, but they did sometimes overstep their bounds. Once I was talking with a woman about our bedding plants, and her son ran by chasing a pack of screeching geese. A few minutes later, the boy ran by again; he was now crying because the geese were chasing him.
Ella had a number of run-ins herself on our visit there. She got a little close to the chicken coop, and they tried to snatch her cookie. Then she crouched down next to the goat pen, and one nipped at her finger when she got too close. It was lucky for her that a fence separated them in each case.
The situation lacked a sense of poetic justice, though. My kids interact with them like animals in a zoo, protected by the barriers that separate them. Twenty years ago, the little boy and the geese had to settle their differences out in the open – school-yard,er…barn-yard-style.