It’s no secret I love animals. My high school college tours often turned into zoo tours, as my mom and I would see the campus and then go see the local zoo. So naturally, when I came to Raleigh, I tried to look up the nearest zoo. Apparently there is no Raleigh zoo. But who needs that when you have Farmer Mary?
In my quest to find a zoo, I stumbled upon a small farm in Wake Forest. From what I saw on the website, I imagined a quaint little barn surrounded by some pastures with bunnies and lambs where we might feed some animals and afterwards have a nice picnic. It stated that Farmer Mary was the owner and that she would be happy for anyone to visit her farm, as long as she was texted ahead of time. Some of the other fellows wanted to accompany me, so I texted Farmer Mary and told her we wanted to come. Despite her rather brief responses (two one-word texts which made me slightly nervous), one Saturday afternoon, Alison, Emily, Alex, Katherine (a friend visiting from out of town), and I drove up to Wake Forest, cautiously optimistic. The best word I can use to describe the scene we arrived at is ratchet: a wooden fence surrounded a kind of barnyard containing various pens and furniture/debris. At the back was an old house – evidently Farmer Mary’s abode, and the other two sides of the “yard” furthest from the street were pastures/enclosures for the larger animals. To top it all off, there were a variety of animals freely roaming about.
We entered through a gate and were greeted by Farmer Mary herself, dressed in overalls with long grey hair. We’d brought snacks for the animals, and she led us over to a station to chop up some of the fruits and vegetables and divvy up the food into buckets for each of us. She had a no-nonsense attitude and didn’t hesitate to immediately tell us the story of how she’d come to be the proprietor of such an establishment. (We found her to be a brilliant businesswoman: not only does she charge admission, but people bring food to feed her animals, and unwanted animals are often dropped off at her doorstep.) She then proceeded to show us around the farm. One of the first animals we encountered was a very pregnant goat on a leash. Farmer Mary opened the pen, asked, “Who wants a goat?” and thrust it into the first willing hand. She also handed us a lamb that was just a few weeks old, much to the dismay of the mother, which followed us around bleating while we tried to hide from her. There were emus (which we fed out of our hands – a somewhat terrifying experience), donkeys, chickens, pigs, peacocks, turkeys, dogs, cats, and guinea pigs (and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were others). But by far the best part was when I found myself with six tiny bunnies in my lap. I don’t know what happened after that because I got off the tour and held them for a while as they fell asleep on top of each other. If that’s not a great day then I don’t know what is.