It was a blustery day. As we drove east toward Issaquah on I-90, large dark clouds loomed ahead on the horizon. I wondered if I had packed correctly for a outdoor playdate. I could hear my daughters discussing what activities they wanted to do and what animals they wanted to see, and shouts of glee were expressed as we entered the parking area of Fox Hollow Family Farm and Equestrian Center.
The farm is set on an 11-acre estate along Issaquah Creek. A beautiful, 1920s Georgian-style farmhouse overlooks the grounds. My daughters, ages 2 and 5, were awed by its beauty. They listened intently as I read the welcome sign "Be gentle with our animals." We were immediately greeted by the farm dog and several roaming turkeys upon opening the gate. We were delighted by how friendly the turkeys were, and the girls got their first opportunity to gently pet their soft, supple feathers.
The first drop-in playdate for preschool-aged kids was offered last month, and is now a regular program at Fox Hollow Farm. Autumn Rindell, the owner, expressed how special it was for her as a child to grow up surrounded by nature and the cycle of life. Rindell's love of ranching and the joy of sharing that experience is what inspired her to open their farm to the public four years ago.
Rindell greeted my family with a welcome smile. Her arms were full of fire wood, and a large bowl of giant marshmallows rested next to the fire pit. The girls immediately expressed interest, but luckily Rindell offered to show us the barn and introduce us to some of the animals so we could wait until after lunch before indulging in treats.
As we neared the barn, we could hear the sounds of mother hens and sheep tending their young. A little spotted pink pig ran out the barn door as we entered, and Rindell laughed when she saw him, mentioning he was one of her favorites. The six-stall barn is home to sheep, bunnies, chickens, horses, rescued ponies and cats. Many of them had babies or were due very soon. The girls loved petting the bunnies, but the pony ride was by far the favorite activity, at least until they discovered the electric ride-on cars. If it hadn't been for the looming rain, and hungry tummies, we might still be there.
While we walked around the grounds looking for a spot for lunch, Rindell offered to show us the baby goats and the hayloft. Celtic music played over the speakers in the background and, seeing the hayloft, the girls quickly forgot their hunger. Even a giant bouncy house and two rope swings could not keep them away from the resident orange tabby named Pillow. The girls snuggled up quietly with him in the hay and watched the other preschoolers swinging and bouncing.
As hunger set in, we found a nice table in the hayloft to enjoy a picnic lunch. Pillow found a seat next to us and made himself comfortable enjoying lots of hugs in between bites of sandwich. No concessions were available today, but a full concession stand opens in May and runs through the summer months. The vegetable gardens and gardening activities also open later on in the spring, when kids get the chance to feed the animals fresh veggies, participate in a bit of farming and take some organic foods home with them from the u-pick area.
On our way out we roasted giant marshmallows and talked about some of the things we didn't get to do on this visit. Next time we will take a ride on their train, pick some veggies from the garden and meet some of the new animals that have been rescued and brought to the farm. Rindell and her family have created a very special place for good old-fashioned fun.
Some tips if you go: bring cash or a check; they don't accept credit cards. The farm is located on the west side of Issaquah-Hobart Road and indicated by a small white ground sign. We passed it the first time, so keep your eyes open. It's best to get there early, as parking is limited at the farm. Overflow parking is available down the road at the old Hayes Nursery. Bring a picnic lunch and wear sensible shoes for walking outdoors.
IF YOU GO
Where: 12031 Issaquah-Hobart Road, Issaquah.
When: Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Cost: $8 per person; free for children 12 months and younger (cash or check only).
Contact: 425-996-0575, http://foxhollowfamilyfarm.com.
Isabel Sanden is a Seattle-area French instructor, incorporating music and language skills for preschool-age children, and a mother of three adventurous children ages 2,5 and 7.