This past fall my youngest child, Ben, entered kindergarten. A bittersweet time. From the time my daughter, Abigail, was a toddler and Ben was just an infant, we have embarked on daily adventures together. We have loved them; they are part of who we are as a family. When Abby started school a couple of years ago, Ben and I continued our adventures—visiting farms, parks, nature trails, and playgrounds. Kindergarten, I thought, would naturally phase out our adventures. Turns out, I was very wrong. We have been extremely fortunate and have found a group of parents and children that are exceptionally curious and excited about trying new things, and we’ve formed our very own Adventure Club of sorts. Every Wednesday at noon we head somewhere different.
Sometimes it’s just the playground, other times it’s a hike or a bike ride. The children love it, talk about it, and look forward to it all week. Keeping a curious crew of 5-year-olds excited isn’t always easy, so I’m constantly on the hunt for new adventures. Recently, that hunt led us to Winslow Farm Animal Sanctuary.
Winslow Farm, located in Norton, is a non-profit animal sanctuary dedicated to the rescue and care of abandoned and mistreated animals. It is funded by donations and farm admission and staffed by volunteers. Created by Debra White, the seed for Winslow Farm was planted twenty years ago on a 1.25 acre plot of land once owned by her grandmother. Debra had just built her home and began rescuing feral cats. For 3 years Debra worked with the MSPCA, placing 600 feral cats into adoptive homes. Over time, her interest in creating a sanctuary grew as did her operation and many, many animals were rescued—ducks, chickens, rabbits, and turkeys (saved at antique auctions!) Debra expanded one acre at a time by acquiring the land that surrounded the property, barns and shelters were erected along the way. Today, the sanctuary sits on 17 acres and is home to a large variety of animals—ducks, chickens, cats, dogs, goats, horses, pigs, rabbits, emus—you name it, we saw it and the children loved every second of it.
When our group—4 kids and 4 moms—walked through the gates, it was like stepping into a woodland daydream. Animals roam freely, smoke wafts from the fire pit and perfumes the air, and the branches hang low creating a surprisingly quiet and serene setting. Now, quiet is not what I’d call our group of children. Animated, curious, and ready to take on the world is a more accurate description. But, somehow when they walked into the Sanctuary they could sense that their usual full-steam-ahead demeanor wasn’t appropriate. The kids made fast friends with the many kitties that greeted us, and this feline welcome wagon tagged along for the rest of our visit.
As we moved on we encountered a play area of hand-crafted seesaws and tire swings, seemingly constructed from lumber collected on the property. The playground was perfectly situated to visit with a massive and beautiful Winslow resident, Napoleon the pig, who made numerous appearances while the children teetered and played. He’d come by, give a sniff and say hi, saunter away and eventually return again. Wow, what an animal!
Continuing on, we were accompanied by Freedom, the resident Jack Russell Terrier. Freedom led us past the llamas, peacocks, bunnies, goats, horses, and even a 40-year-old duck. The animals, many free-roaming, were calm and unbothered by our presence. The kids freely moved about the animals as if they’d lived with the creatures their entire lives and that struck me as truly amazing. Their conversations were beautiful, heartbreaking, and heart bolstering. “Where do you think he came from?” “He seems very happy here.” “I’m so happy this kitty loves his belly rubbed.” What a life lesson.
The visit inspired our Wednesday Adventure Club to coordinate a collection of goods to be used to care for the animals. Kids and parents worked together to create a flyer that details both the Sanctuary’s needs (cat food, dog food, carrots, and apples), as well as why we want to help (“It’s a really nice home for the kitties and Freedom”). Flyers have been distributed to classmates, friends, and neighbors. The children created a collection box and the Wednesday Adventure Club made its second trip to Winslow Farm Animal Sanctuary—this time, the children gave something back.
Winslow Farm Animal Sanctuary “exists to provide love and care to the many animals without a home, or for those that have been abused and/or neglected by their previous owners. A sanctuary where animals can learn to trust humans once again.” Winslow Farm is a place where animals heal and where people grow. Children make connections through their life experiences. When provided the opportunity to explore and immerse themselves in nature, they begin to see—all on their own—how everything works together. The
jigsaw puzzle becomes a bit more complete each time another piece falls into place. They need to see and do to understand. And I truly believe, as adults, we need to do the same. Experiencing adventures with your children can be life changing. So do it! Get out there and do something different, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable because that’s where the fun is to be had!
Winslow Farm Animal Sanctuary
37 Eddy Street
Norton, MA 02766
Jessica Bradley is a stay at home mom of 2 animal-loving kiddos. She is always on the lookout for local explorations for the Wednesday Adventure Club. Jessica can also be found hosting local cooking show What’s Cooking in Lakeville.