We heard there was treasure to be found at Elioak’s Farm, a local attraction not far from us in Ellicott City. So, we (my husband and I with our two kids) headed there last Saturday for some afternoon fun.
There was a petting zoo, a maze of evergreen trees, fun whimsical statues along a hayride trail, and acres of open land. After the congestion of our ever-growing, little city, it was a pleasure to be out in the open country. It reminded me so much of where I grew up on the Eastern Shore.
The kids loved the farm animals. They were sweet and friendly, including a pony, two horses, cows, pigs, goats, chickens, bunnies, ducks and an emu. My son’s favorite was the emu. He named it Furry (even though it has feathers) and gave me strict instructions to take photos, frame them, and put them up in his room before the day was out. He would like to visit Furry the emu again soon, and stay friends…
Despite the pleasures of the open fields and friendly animals, one of the best parts of our visit was yet to come. A treasure hunt. It was actually a traveling attraction called, Mobile Mining Experience. You could buy a bucket of ore (dirt) and scoop the dirt into a seine (or sieve?), put the seine in a trail of rushing water and wait for treasures to appear. My daughter chose a bucket with gemstones while my son chose one with sharks’ teeth. In the fist small scoop, my son found 4 sharks teeth. You may not know how exciting this is for a 5 year old boy, but trust me when I tell you it was a moment to remember. By the end of our mining experience, my children were loaded with bags of gemstones, sharks teeth and tiny, million-year-old fossils to boot!
But, even with our new treasures, there was more fun to be had. While there, we were all given raffle tickets for prizes. We stood in a group of about 20 other ”miners” waiting for the raffle numbers to be called. My husband and I waited with anticipation as the chances of winning something were pretty good considering the small size of the group. All the kids in the group were stoically quiet, staring at the large gemstones, geodes (million-year-old rocks with crystals inside) and the grand prize, a large polished squid fossil. I saw my son eying it while he stood beside me quietly. I kept thinking how awesome it would be for my kids to not only have their newly found treasures, but prizes that they had won for themselves. Icing on the cake for our family fun day.
My daughter was the first to win, garnering a beautiful cluster of amethysts. She grinned from ear to ear. Then we watched as the man from Mobile Mining Experience doled out the next 10 or so prizes to almost every kid in the group. I was thinking how great it was that the prizes were spread out amongst the kids. They all looked so happy. But I kept looking down at my son, wondering if he would be upset if he didn’t win something. Finally, there was one prize left, the grand whopper of them all, the squid fossil. I stared at the raffle tickets in my husband’s hand and held my breath.
And then I heard the numbers. After a nudge from me and a ”hey you won”, my 5 year old proudly walked up to receive the heavy fossil. For the rest of the day he hugged his new treasure and kept saying in wonder, “I can’t believe I won.”
My husband and I could not have been happier. We took the booty home, spread everything out on the kitchen table and researched every piece. The petting zoo had been a big hit, and the Mining Experience was unbelievable. It may sound odd, but I know this one little visit to a petting farm on a Saturday afternoon will be something my family will always remember.