May 6, 2012

Four Legs Good

It's nice when a fairly selfish desire turns out to produce quite a happy day for many people.

Video by animal and heavy metal lover Andrew Saltmarsh.
You can read his take on the day here.

I received so many thank-yous from people today, that you'd think I'd have done something impressive. But all I did was book a baby animal farm... so I could play with baby animals for a few hours. As we set up the enclosure this morning, and I sat on the grass with goats clamouring over me, I called out to The Wah, entreating him to come in and play.

"Someone has to take charge out here. You've already lost all cognitive function."

And he was right. They had me at "Here are the piglets."

You complete me.
I think it was the enthusiasm with which others embraced the idea of the Baby Animal Farm that made it something truly impressive. By the time the petting zoo officially opened at 10:30 Saturday morning, there was already a decent gathering of 15 or so. That swelled over the following hour; at its peak, I reckon around 100 people were milling around Hardgrave Park, enjoying the picture perfect autumn sunshine, the sausages and cupcakes, and of course, the calm and happy animals.

It was lovely to welcome the RSPCA Qld community outreach volunteers on site as well, selling fundraising merch and raising awareness about their excellent Adopt-a-Pet program.  This was enhanced in no small way by the addition of two beautiful Irish Wolfhound puppies, both up for adoption.

I'd say I knew or recognised perhaps half of all the people who attended; a testament, I think, to the power of a charming idea and social media. It wasn't so much a case of the Horse Whisperer, as the Hey-There's-Two-Shetland-Ponies Shouterer.

But whether I knew them or not, it was the surprising sweetness of a communal affair that proved the most satisfying. A whole lot of people just chilling out and having a nice time doing something a little different. Something that just happened to turn the cuteness right up to 11.

Which one of these creatures is not acting the goat?
The money aspect was icing on the cake. You might remember from my original post that I spent the $700 required to hire the petting zoo, hoping to recoup costs through a "Choose Your Own" donation strategy. With general donation entries, plus $2 a pop Shetland pony rides and $1 cups of feed - I wound up making $400 profit. All of that will go to charity; I'm planning $200 each to RSPCA Qld and Best Friends Rescue.

I'm starting to get reports about just how generous some people were, and it's enough to make one come over all heart-bursty. I am very, very grateful to you all.

I mentioned above how the real success of the day was its true community feel, and that was due to recruiting eager local small businesses, non-profits, charities and volunteers.

I can highly recommend Brisbane Pony Parties if anyone else in South-East Queensland is looking to hold their own animal farm. Sandra was professional, helpful, fun and incredibly generous with her animals. You could tell the critters are well looked after, and their behaviour was delightful. I dubbed one of the piglets "Hyper Piggie" due to his exuberance in the paddock, and the only roughness I saw were a few sly kicks aimed at him by Missy the month-old calf.

A bunch of dedicated Brisbane Arts Theatre members ran the tasty sausage sizzle. There are some great productions on at the theatre at moment: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, as well as Pinocchio for children. Coming up in June is the hugely popular comedy musical Avenue Q. The BAT gets no government or corporate support, so when you buy a ticket and see a show there, you truly are supporting a community organisation that gives creative people space to perform and develop skills.

RSPCA Qld has been great to me during this whole adventure; and again, I would urge anyone looking to get a pet to consider adoption. Thanks to their community outreach volunteers for sharing their time - and their puppies! - with us.

Greg and Dan - aka science podcasters from Smart Enough to Know Better - came up early with me to help set up, and along with the delightful Simm and Sarah, did the bulk of the collections work. A number of others took turns holding the fort so others could play/leave. Thanks to you all.

Kate Rohde rose to my challenge to bake cupcakes for the event admirably. Kate's developing her own small boutique cake business, and her delicious wares quickly sold out. Congratulations, Kate.

Thanks must go to my electrician, who's been waiting on the $700 I owe him for installing new lights for a few weeks now. Turns out I found another use for it; and I didn't feel too bad because you know you messed me around a bit (that's a whole other post right there). The good news is, I recouped the cash! So you'll get your pound of flesh next week, freshly laundered through the goodwill of punters and goodwool of animals.

Most importantly, I'd like to thank EVERYONE who took some time out and came along, and who were so brilliant in spreading the word. Your enthusiasm and kindness means a whimsically foolish idea I had turned out to bring more smiles to my face than I could have imagined; and even better, a bit of extra dosh for animal welfare groups, a very good cause indeed. 

Finally, it would be remiss of me to not credit that person who mistakenly sent me that email with quotes for a baby animal farm. That one action set in motion a chain of somewhat fantastical decisions that resulted in today's amazing experience. Most unwanted emails are spam... this one actually proved to be real ham.


  1. Sounds like it was awesome fun! Wish I could have been there. Congratulations to you and your friends, on a succesful community event, and kudos for the funds raised.

  2. Great post Natalie - it made me smile, laugh and gain an insight into your wackiness. Congratulations on turning a crazy idea into a fun community day that raised much needed $'s for local charities. My wife Genevieve (@SpunFairyFloss) absolutely LURVES baby piggies, baby hippos, baby elephants - oh BABY EVERYTHING! If you decide to do another event please give us a yell as we would love to spin some natural fairy floss at it.

  3. It was a great day, and I'm so happy it went so well. Rose was nearly super-sonic in delight at the animals.

  4. You rock Nat. You truly do xx