At Oak Glen

Martine Feeding the Goats the the Oak Tree Village Petting Farm

Martine Feeding the Goats at the Oak Tree Village Petting Farm

Although she had not been feeling well the last couple of days, Martine insisted that today was a good day to drive the hundred miles to Oak Glen in the foothills around Mount San Gorgonio, not far from Palm Springs. For me, the main attraction were the Honeycrisp apples from Snow-Line Orchard. For Martine, it was a chance to have some of the best apple pie (and accompanying American comfort food) on this planet, and a chance to spend time at the little petting zoo in Oak Tree Village, feeding the goats, pigs, llamas, alpacas, zebus, emus, and other exotic and no-to-exotic animals. Except for the three hours of solid freeway driving, it was a win/win situation all round.

At the petting zoo, Martine returns to her childhood. She feeds the animals, admonishes the goats from butting into each other, urging the animals to pick up the corn kernels she is feeding them from the ground (she is afraid of putting her hands to their mouths). When she ran out of corn, she picked up pieces from the ground that other people—mostly children—had dropped, and tossing them into the cages for the animals to eat.

When she does this, I fade into the background, find a bench in the shade, and watch her enjoy herself—all the while imagining what she must have been like as a child. Martine has had a miserable year: Ever since January, she has been bedeviled by a combination of roaming muscular back aches and a lack of sleep. It has been variously diagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, or one of several related ailments. Her doctor is not quite sure what it is, and none of the medications prescribed have done much but result in a regular orgy of bad drug reactions. She was unable to go to Iceland with me in June, and is afraid of going anywhere where she has to sleep in a soft bed. At home, with have an extra firm mattress and an extra firm sofa in the living room.

So I like to indulge Martine whenever possible, and Oak Glen is close to being a plenary indulgence.

At The Petting Zoo

Mother Goat With Baby

It has become a tradition for Martine and I to go every October to Oak Glen in San Bernardino County to buy fresh-picked apples, a pumpkin for Halloween, and (for Martine at least) to eat a giant piece of apple pie a la mode at Apple Annie’s Restaurant in Oak Tree Village. Also at Oak Tree Village is a petting zoo that Martine loves to visit.

I had hoped to find some Honey Crisp apples, but they’ve been sold out for a couple of weeks. I had to settle for some Pippins and Fujis from Snow-Line Orchard, my favorite purveyor of pomes.

For starters, I decided to rent a car. My 1994 Nissan Pathfinder needs some maintenance, and Oak Glen is a hundred miles east of where we live. I know it costs money, but the thought of getting into car trouble somewhere in the so-called “Inland Empire” makes it worthwhile. Eventually, I’ll have to get a new car, but I have too many irons in the fire right now to contemplate such a large expenditure.

In all, we spent an hour at the petting zoo, looking at (and feeding) goats, a donkey, Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs, roosters, chickens, a Jersey cow, alpacas, Barbary sheep, and aoudads. I enjoy seeing Martine enjoy herself this way, talking to the animals and trying to tell them where some dropped food is that they can eat. The animals have their own agenda, and are well enough fed without the corn we have to offer them; but watching Martine become a happy little girl before my eyes is a precious experience for me.

The momma and baby goat shown in the above picture were like royalty in the petting zoo. Everyone was trying to feed them, but neither of them were hungry. Nonetheless, they accepted the homage of the crowd. And the baby’s fur was so silky smooth.