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Catching up

Those of you looking for the First Day of School post, it's coming. But I'm about 3 behind. A lot can happen in just a few days. And it was a jam-packed weekend for this family.

Friday I had pumped up the bike tires and we'd discussed switching our usual Sunday morning family ride at the gardens to Saturday...since I was getting up early to watch the Chicago Triathlon on the lakefront. (That will be another post.) But when we woke up Saturday morning, Kelly wanted to do something different and spontaneous. Which is exactly what happened. And it was wonderful.

We ended up--who knows why--in Glenview at Wagner Farm. Which is one of the last (the only?) remaining farms in Cook County. It's run by the Glenview Park District and there is even a farmers market on Saturday mornings. So it was crowded and finding a place to park was a little difficult, but we decided to check that out first. Cole saw some blackberries he wanted and we ate them while walking around. The whole basket. They were some of the best blackberries I've ever tasted.

After the market, we crossed the road to the farm. Very impressive. It's free. It's kept in great condition. Just overall a great experience for the whole family. They have a visitors center with exhibits about how to use light to figure out which eggs are fertile. How and why farmers use silos. How rope and pulley can make lifting hay bales easier. The differences between straw and hay. An old general store. Some old tractors. There's space for birthday parties, a gift shop, ice cream parlor, milking demo area. Outside there is a community garden, a chicken coop with a rooster and several hens, and a barn. They have several cows. Several pigs. Draft horses pulling a wagon for rides. The kids loved it. They especially loved the chickens. The cows and pigs were right by the fences to get a good look and one cow was in the barn with kids coming and going throwing more hay its way. The only creature who seemed upset by the whole setup was the barn cat who was hiding in the straw.

Just now, I was trying to find more info about the heritage breed of chicken on the farm and came across this. It's from an animal rights group--they also have a Facebook page--with an entirely different outlook on farming and animal welfare than mine. It makes me a little sad, frankly. Not for the animals but for the group. Here was an amazing educational experience and beautiful day of my kids spending time on a farm learning about history and agriculture...and someone out there experiences such a wonderful thing in an entirely different way. Which is fine. I haven't read the whole rant nor do I intend to. As best I can tell, they're mad the animals don't live out their lives in bliss. They get sold at auction at the county fair. Shocking! Call me a moderate, but I believe in farming. Sorry, I just can't get all excited about cows being milked or turned into beef. Come talk to me about improving their living conditions before being a burger and you'll get my support. I'm trying to teach my kids about responsible uses of natural resources, the respect and responsibility that comes with care for living things, and respect for where our food comes from. And the people who do the farming. Call me old-fashioned.

Anyway, we spent several hours at the farm, but the day was far from over. Glenview was--conveniently--near one of our favorite Irish pubs in all of Chicago. Celtic Knot Public House in Evanston. Try the Guinness Beef Pasty! The curry fries kept the kids happy. And they were saintly for opening their doors 15 minutes early for us even though we had to wait until noon for the kitchen. My corned beef and swiss was superb and Kelly had lamb stew. It's good enough that we go out of our way to get there if we can.

Traffic was horrible on the way home so the kids got a nice nap in. Good thing, too...because, wait, there's more! Our condo building was hosting a patio party in the side yard at 5pm with two grills fired up, a spread of sides, lots of beer, the fire pit later in the evening. And some young kids who belonged to friends of a neighbor. Between the plastic golf clubs and the chips and dip, my kids were in heaven. Though we still enforced the 7pm bedtime. But, thankfully, both kids fell asleep instantly so Kelly and I could go back out to have some grownups chat at sunset. It was nice to see everybody though we wished some of the newcomers to the building had showed up to meet them. Cole and I had a talk all week about who "neighbors" are. And his idea of a party was only vague...he thought there would be presents at this one!

But you know it was a good time when the next day he told us "it was a good party." "There were lots of friends in my kitchen."

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