The Royal Family

On Tuesday, Fern and I did something on my bucket list.

Look closely.

We went to Ardenwood Historic Farm

Why hello there.

Which also happens to be an over-wintering spot for the Monarch Butterfly.

You know about Monarchs, yes? That they migrate south AND north, from Canada to Mexico? That they…

Wait. Let’s stop right there. That’s enough wonderment to ponder. Take that in. These little beings, with the fragile-ist of wings, fly 1381.29 miles…TWICE A YEAR. I mean, I shoveled and wheelbarrowed compost for two hours yesterday, and my legs were noodles by the end of it. Can you imagine flying all that way? It’s already remarkable that birds do it (that link is one of my favorites, by the way), but it blows my mind that a butterfly…that poster child for whimsy, can do it.

I was hoping for this:


or this:


or this:


but instead it was more like this:

A female, a little worse for the journey.

A male, with some battle scars.

The same male. (Here’s how I can tell the sexes).

Looking up.

Which was still enough for an ecstatic experience. While Fern collected sticks, I stood with my neck craned back, watching the monarchs swirl above me. It seemed their dance mimicked that of the heavens, and just like after a good night of star gazing, I remembered my own dance, my place in the cosmos.

And then Fern really had to pee, so we set off in search of a bathroom.

(For more enlightening Monarch facts and to find out how they communicate, breathe and why they fly like a drunk pilot, go here.)

Ardenwood Farms, located smack between two major freeways and in the midst of Fremont, is still operated as the 1850s version of itself. The grounds are blissfully quiet and I would move here in a heartbeat.





George Patterson originally came to California to strike it rich in the gold rush, but instead hit literal pay dirt with his farm. Like all true Miner 49ers, he still managed to screw over the indigenous inhabitants.


Funny enough, the farm now stands as the only reminder of this fertile valley. And I’m so thankful to East Bay Parks, because our experience at Ardenwood was, hands down, the best preservation park experience that we’ve had.

First off, it’s obvious that the animals are happy and treated very well. We especially fell in love with the chickens (surprise, surprise) and Fern kept wanting to go back to the hen house. We spent an easy hour just hanging out with the birds.


Awesome shirt = gift from Nicole.


We arrived at the hen house just as one bird was sounding off about laying an egg. We hung out long enough to watch this one take her seat and then do the same. Fern held the warm egg with gentle wonderment.




Since they were so friendly, it was obvious the hens had been hand raised. This little biddy befriended us and followed us about. I was able to reach down and pick her up, a warm feathery snuggle that I am still reminiscing on.


We actually did spend some time on the rest of the grounds.

Guess what?



I really fell in love with this gal.

Sara, I followed the turkeys around just for you. The sweet little noises they make under their breath just slay me.

Where you find chicken feed, you will always find ground squirrels.

Someone else followed us about too…







There were pregnant ewes…


And bunnies too…


Fern and I were enraptured with the water tower…




And even more so with THE HOUSE…





And its gardens and gazebos…


And hidden peacocks…

We counted at least four peacocks and no pea hens?

I need animals, y’all. We are re-rooting ourselves in San Francisco because moving, in this price market, has become an impossibility. I could almost do it with nary a regret, except I am a much fuller version, a better version, of myself when I have contact with animals, both domestic and wild. My soul is nourished by crickets and spring peepers, and my heart is softened and satisfied by the grasp of chicken feet around my fingers. I find more delight in my own animal body when it is in the company of earth brethren.

In the meantime, we will be going back to Ardenwood as often as possible. Every Tuesday they have “toddler time” for 1-4 year olds from 11:00-11:30. This week it was “Goats”. Next week it’s…

“Chickens”! Ba bok!

Love to all.


14 thoughts on “The Royal Family

  1. …chicken butt 😉

    How cool, I had no idea this place even existed! The gal you fell in love with, one of our hens could be her twin. She’s a Light Brahma but from the sound of it, not as cuddly as your gal.

    Wishing you all the possible best with the rerooting… sigh. Any luck on the new housemate front?

    1. Yes, we actually have found two new amazing housemates…and they are a big part of what makes staying here (for now?) feel good.

      Let’s take the girls to Ardenwood! xoxo

  2. That fills me with gladness and contentment….your last paragraph; finding a way to have peace in SF by being around the animal ones. Being your better self after hanging with these friends. I feel the same way about seawater. i never considered that until just now. I think you should come visit here one day, decide if you like the place and then maybe stay. We have farm rentals just over the hill from us, like 8 minutes away. Congrats on the renters. AND FERN IS FREAKING CUTE MAN!

  3. Oh, that water tower and house! Gorgeous. We love our chickens. They each have their own fun personalities (I even love our pain-in-the-butt rooster, Lucifer). I do miss having the turkeys. I would call to them and they would follow me around the yard. We’re looking forward to adding to our flock this spring. I’m so glad you and fern found a flock of friends 🙂

  4. so beautiful and wow, what a house!!! I understand how you feel, I too require animal companions. I truly connect with their spirit and feel closest to the goddess/nature when tending their needs or enjoying their company. Peacocks are so amazing, maybe the pea hens were hiding? xo m

  5. oh thank you for the pictures of the Monarchs! So…. you must read Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver – it is all about the migration of the monarch with a great novel storyline! Really , find time to read it – it will be well worth it!

  6. Mary, I just finished Flight Behavior, and have it in my bag of bits for you, so don’t buy it! 😉 First novel I’ve read that pushes the climate change story into collective imagination in a feel-able way without offering superficial solutions. And. I love the photo of the monarchs in the sky. So breathtaking. Love, A

  7. oh, mary! we had something in common on our bucket lists. i went and saw the monarchs somewhere around pacific grove back when i lived in cali, and it was wonderful. glad you and fern got to see them!!!

  8. agh!! that looks like so much fun! i wonder if i can convince my family to make a stop next time i’m visiting them in northern california!

    the monarch butterfly was my grandmother’s favorite butterfly. after she passed away, we kept seeing them everywhere. this could be a really special and lovely way to honor her memory, thank you for sharing!

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