My hair was laced with the scent of wood smoke and puppies, my face was slightly sun-kissed and my muscles were tired. Really tired. And when I finally called it a day, I got the best night’s sleep I’d had in weeks. Yes, Thursday was a good day. My favorite kind of day.
The kids have been on spring break from school, so we’ve enjoyed a lot of down time. We’ve slept in, baked a little, sewed a little and vegetated a lot. But it’s my break, too – from the early-morning, before-school hustle, soccer carpools and from supervising the kids’ homework, so I managed, somehow, to corner my children into watching a few re-runs of “The Waltons” with me (which I grew up watching every week). But our best day, by far, was spent outside in the sun.
We spent a couple of hours walking the dogs and cuddling the kitties at the humane society, but first we headed to the farm – Kline Creek farm.
We began visiting the Kline Creek Farm in West Chicago shortly after we moved to Illinois when Noah was 7 and Holly was 4, and our first spring break day trip to the farm happened a few months later.
I recall that Noah’s second-grade class had just read “Flat Stanley,” a children’s book about a boy flattened by a bulletin board when it falls on him while he is asleep.
The book and its sequels depict the myriad ways he makes do in his altered state and detail his various adventures, and Noah and his classmates were charged with the same task over break, that of chronicling their adventures with their very own Flat Stanleys.
We had a ball taking pictures of him – at our table when we went out to eat, on top of the “big rock” during a hike at the Morton Arboretum, and yes, perched on a split rail fence at the Kline Creek Farm as Stanley posed beside a very patient cow. I remember the laughter as we imagined Flat Stanley narrowly avoiding being eaten. I wonder where that picture is, now?
Simpler times – food for the soul – is what I yearn for when we head to the farm, and I’m not the only one, apparently.
“Every time I walk down that road I feel my blood-pressure drop,” said Roger Griffith, a volunteer interpreter at the farm.
I get that. I feel it, too.
We’ve crossed paths with Roger a few times over the years, and always learn something new from our conversations. This time it was the cooing of Sandhill Cranes that stopped him mid-sentence as he scanned the treetops hoping for a glimpse of the elusive creatures.
“They’re a sure sign of Spring,” he said, as we followed his gaze.
We’d had no idea, before, that this sound meant that cranes were nearby.
All kinds of animals are nearby, including foxes, he said, and proceeded to tell us about a mother fox whose comings and goings he observed for three years.
I can’t recall how we got onto the subject of this particular fox, as she wasn’t at the farm. She had a den in the woods near Roger’s neighborhood, but he related her story, nonetheless.
He recalled her fierce devotion to her young, and how, for three years in a row, she birthed new litters and tirelessly provided for them.
So tirelessly, in fact, that she grew skinnier by the year, so that finally, when she brazenly trotted down the middle of his street during a busy garage sale carrying a bunny for her babes, he and his neighbors commented that they hoped she’d keep this one for herself. Roger wasn’t sure what ever became of her, but I could tell he had his hunches.
“She couldn’t take care of them if she didn’t feed herself first,” he said.
Ah, good tip. Thanks, Roger.
• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. Contact her at email@example.com.