Monday, September 21, 2009

When Is a Pony Ride Not a Pony Ride?

Saturday I had my day all planned out: cleaning, ironing, a basketball game, exercising, washing cars but then I got an invitation and all that work stuff was thrown out the window (including, incidentally, writing a post for Monday).

Anchorage sits on an arrow of land pointing west into Cook Inlet. If you drive along the inlet and head north you'll arrive at the towns of Wasilla and Palmer (Wasilla of course being the home of our most famous moose-shooting-Carhart-wearing-snowmachining politician, Miss Sarah Palin and her media-lovin' family). That whole area to the north of Anchorage once you get across the bridge is called the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, or Mat-Su for short and it's one of the fastest growing areas of the state. Growing in population that is, the land itself is pretty much staying the same size as it's been for quite a while now. Just in case I wasn't clear on that point.

Because the valley is slightly inland it sees more extreme temperatures than we get in Anchorage, the land is prime for farming and the summers see daylight all day long which is why they can grow those giant cabbages like you see here at my good friend Kim's place. The winner this year was the new world's record at something like 125 pounds. Talk about your kimchi.

Anyway, up in Palmer there is a farm where you can pick your own produce and on Saturday they had a harvest celebration. I was told by an unnamed source (and I quote) that it was free to get in, with "hay rides, pony rides, food and animals" though in retrospect I do admit that's rather ambiguous. But no matter because it was a gorgeous fall day (we've had the greatest weather I can remember this year) and I decided right there that chores could wait, a drive north sounded fun and dang it, there were ponies!

Lillian was thrilled at the prospect, David was fine with it too but my 13 year-old son not so much. In fact I think our discussion went something along the lines of:

"We're going up to this farm do you want to come with us?"

"No--I was going to hang out with John and Creighton and work on our forts."

"Well if we're going to be gone all afternoon you're not going to be roaming the neighborhood with a hatchet, you're going to have to stick around the house instead."

"Can I play video games?"


"So basically I can't go play with my friends, I can't play video games, but I can stay inside and read quietly?"

"Yup. Pretty much."

"I'll go."

"Oh I'm so glad you wanted to come!"

Did someone claim that teenagers weren't fun? Ha!

Grace was working so it was just the rest of us (four happy faces, one not so much) and we caravaned with extended family to see this amazing day of fun and frolicking which was only becoming more epic by the moment as our visions of the fun awaiting us grew.

We arrived and parked the car then headed through the crowd into the area where the band was playing and picked out a line. I say picked out a line because there were lines of people everywhere--lines for the dart-throw, lines for the face-painting, lines for the bowling game, lines for the hockey game, lines for the food.

The first thing we did was ask where to get a "Fast Pass" but apparently that system hasn't yet arrived in the Mat-Su valley. So we waited. And waited. And waited some more. All with a teenage son who was very excited to be standing in line with his younger siblings for a chance to catapult a rubber chicken into a basket. He was slouching so low so as to deflect any potential attention that might be aimed his way that his chest was pretty much scraping his belt-buckle.

Anyway, while I sound as if I'm complaining it actually was rather fun. The weather made you feel grateful to be outside and free of chores, the younger two kids were thrilled for their chance to subdue a vicious wild hen at the petting pen and I felt so relaxed and warm and free that if someone had offered me a few acres of farm land of my own, some overalls and a chance to haul manure I would have taken it right there, hang it all.

Plus it was really fun to watch all those city folks walking around in their head-to-toe REI gear and pushing $500 strollers through that aforesaid manure. I found it engagingly ironic. You could see the panic in their eyes when mothers went to exit the petting pen and were told that no, there was not any Purell on hand and that therefore the goat their child just caressed was going to have to remain with them, lingering on the palms, until they could get back to the safety of the city.

As Andrew obvserved, "It's hard to understand how humanity has survived alongside goats for so many thousands of years without the benefit of Purell."

The bad news? No pony rides but the good news? There were hay rides. Another 30 minutes in line and you too could enjoy being towed around behind a tractor and see where kale and kohlrabi originate. And while I'm joking around here, I did enjoy it very much. It was just so beautiful to be outside and to see the mountains in the distance against the fields of farmland with the fall colors adding sparks to the scene. Once I finally got there you could have pulled me around on the hay ride for an hour and I would have been quite content. And I wouldn't even need any Purell.

And the funny part? After we'd left for home my sister told us that apparently when we'd arrived, following the crowd, we'd walked into the event through the wrong place and had missed the admissions booth. We'd completely, accidentally scammed them out of the $15/family entrance fee.

I felt pretty bad about it, not having intended to be such a law-breaker but then at the same time I was rather grateful I hadn't known about it all beforehand because it really wasn't worth $15. I would have felt completely stupid after an hour of driving to tell everyone, "Oops! A fee--sorry, can't afford it. We're going home." Though I suppose Spencer would have been okay with turning around and heading home, that was kind of his suggestion from the beginning.

But as it was it was a beautiful day and we had a fun time being outside and being together and enjoying the amazing place we live. And at least it wasn't as bad as that time we were all in Hawaii and I talked everyone into a train ride that ended up being the lamest thing any of us had ever seen--that was embarrassing. at least I can say that catapulting chickens was a lot more fun than that.

So what if there were no pony rides? I'll take kohlrabi over ponies any day of the week.

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branda50 said...

I love your stories..'roaming the neighborhood with a hatchet'..haha

a Tonggu Momma said...

Hey! Are you saying that you'd be laughing at me? Oh, wait... no... our stroller isn't $500. Thank goodness then.

Mel said...

I hope you paid your $15.


Danielle a.k.a Yellie said...

The views there look absolutely gorgeous. I never cease to be amazed at the gorgeous landscape God has created. I'm so glad you and your family had such a great day out together. We'll be heading to a cider mill and apple orchard within the next couple weeks and it is something I look forward to every year. Yay for the quickly approaching arrival of Fall!

JENNIFER said...

Skeptical teenagers, entrance fees, high expectations that sometimes do not get met, but amazing scenery....sounds like my life too :)

Heart2Heart said...


At least you got the chance to get out and enjoy a typical fall day doing fall day kinda stuff! I wouldn't have paid the $15.00 fee either.

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

Mirien said...

Loved your Dad's comment. And those tactics for "encouraging" your teenagers to join you? I know them well.

Suburban Correspondent said...

Sometimes it's just good to get out, isn't it?

Stephanie Frieze said...

A friend turned me onto your blog and I love reading about your life in Alaska. I am going to add a link to your site on mine, The View From My Broom. We live in Gig Harbor, WA with my daughter who has Down's, my teacher son, and my daughter-in-law who home schools our five-year-old grandson. I look forward to regularly reading your posts!

Lori said...

Ooo, you got in trouble with your dad!

The mountains are beautiful!

Motherhood for Dummies said...

Yea sorry... I could have sworn it said 'Pony Rides' on their website... it was probably my own excitement with the idea of a pony ride.... I don't care that I am 26... I still love ponies :)

We are glad that you came and sorry we apparently snuggled you in!

Carinne said...

I guess everyone was there. We were there too. We must have missed you. We got there right when it started and left by about 2pm because Kendall wanted to catch the BYU game. We ended up getting stuck in traffic on the way back and didnt' get home until nearly 4pm and BYU got killed - should have just stayed and played outside more. It was a fun day though.

J at said...

I'll admit that I would have been sad about the pony, but that looks like a fun day in a gorgeous environment, so much better than your first set of plans. Yay to fun, boo to chores!

Karen Olson said...

Sounds like a great day.

It's fair season here in New England, and my favorite thing isn't pony rides but PIG RACES! There's nothing like a good pig race on a sunny, crisp fall afternoon.

The Natural Horse Vet said...

Warming read,Thank you..

Anonymous said...

Thats hilarious! I'm from WA and I just can't believe there isn't anywhere to pick pumpkins here. I'm missing it terribly and knowing that my child won't have this memory bugs me. Going to Bells and getting one inside isn't the same.

So today when I read about this place in the paper, I was totally bummed that we missed it. Nice to have the review for the future. Their website says they are open for a while yet. :-)

emily said...

That's okay about accidentally scamming clearly weren't the only ones. Being a small, family-run farm, and this being the first year we've ever gotten anyhwere NEAR this number of people out to our event, I would love to hear any constructive criticism you could offer from an Anchorage-ite perspective to help us make it even better in the future.

Scribbit said...

I thought it was actually pretty good. Of course here weather makes all the difference. Line control is hard when you have no idea how many people to expect and with such a great day you probably got more than you bargained for.

The youngest children in the group loved it. Even my 11 year old had a lot of fun. The pre-teens and teens were there because we insisted on being together :)

You know I was joking about the Fast Pass, thing, right? :)

Scribbit said...

And again, sorry for the mistake on the entry fee thing, we felt pretty bad about it. Next time we'll know. We had several friends who went and thought the whole pick-your-produce thing was great.

Anonymous said...

The Fall Festival is a fantastic event, put on by a couple of really great, hardworking families for the benefit of the community. It is such an amazing thing they do, I would think especially for those who live in anchorage, to have a chance to come out and enjoy a day at a farm. I think $15 for an entire family is a bargain. I hope your review didn't discourage people from coming next year, because most people had a fantastic time.