Monday, October 8, 2012

And on his farm he had a jumpy castle and a camel

Last week the Grape asked me where the farmer's market goes when it's not set up in Copley Square.

I told him the farmers pack up all the stuff they don't sell and go home to their farms.

He blinked at me, trying to process and failing.

I asked, "Where do you think the fruits and vegetables come from?"

"From the fruit and vegetable trucks," he said, with a sidelong glance implying he thought me somewhat limited.

On this gorgeous October Saturday, R. and I took the Grape on an outing to the nearest open-to-the-public farm we could find: a pick your own apple orchard whose website advertised farm animals as a side attraction.

We arrived to find a vast parking lot not unlike one you might encounter at an amusement park. "We're going to be parked in Dopey," R. said, as he navigated the rows, a reference to a far out corner of the lot in Disney World.

It turned out that everyone was parking in Dopey, because it cost an eye popping $14 a nose to set foot on the property. This struck me as crazy, perhaps because I grew up on a rural road where one could view all manner of livestock for free. And also because I've always assumed apples you pick yourself should be cheaper than ones harvested by others and trucked to the local grocer.

Seriously, though, I'm grudgingly okay with admission fees if charging them makes it feasible for the proprietor to keep substantial acreage so close to the city engaged in agriculture.

The cover charge included all manner of hayrides and other amusements for the Grape. It did not include the pony ride, a five dollar add-on featuring resigned but well-groomed shetlands spinning on a hot walker in an open sided shed.

He LOVED that unremarkable little pony ride. So much so that he asked if he could have a pony.

"What would you do with a pony?"

"Ride it to the aquarium," he said, with another withering look that clearly questioned my intelligence.

Because obviously an urban kid, who has no idea what ponies eat or where they sleep or how much space and maintenance they require, thinks such an arrangement would work out just fine. The pony could sleep next to Lila the Dog on its own memory foam pet bed.

The Grape had a blast on our fall farm outing, and I chalked the day up as a victory since he clearly learned that apples grow on trees rather than inside tractor trailers.

R. and I were pleased (and relieved) that he loved the actual apple picking part of the afternoon.

But he definitely went home with some wrong ideas about farms. The heifers, goats, geese, sheep and pigs on display looked more like someone's pets than anyone's livelihood. The featured critters were all incredibly cute examples of their respective species, and seemed ill suited for frank discussions regarding our place in the food chain.

The Grape also walked away with the impression that a farm is a sparkling clean and user friendly place (the trees were pruned in the espalier fashion to ensure easy access to abundant fruit for pint sized pickers). He also went home secure in the belief that farms feature jumpy castles, giant slides, lemonade stands, tractors dressed up like trains, and camels.

Yes, camels.

This last tidbit is especially problematic, since now that the Grape's version of Old MacDonald's farm will forevermore feature dromedaries, I need to figure out what noise the beasts emit. In my very limited experience, they do this unattractive thing between a bellow and a bray. And then they spit in your face for good measure.

Maybe I should just count myself lucky the Grape didn't come home begging for a camel of his own.

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