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"... an old crab took the opportunity of saying to her daughter, 'Ah, my dear! Let this be a lesson to you never to lose your temper!' 'Hold your tongue, Ma!' said the young crab, a little snappishly. 'You're enough to try the patience of an oyster!'"

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Kid with pig
Photograph by Rory McNamara

Best Place to Hang with the Piggies
Stop by anytime at Leone Farm, and you'll be able to see--and most likely pet--plenty of piglets. There's always a new litter. Plus you can walk around the farm where the adult pigs roam under the oaks, roll in the mud, flirt, and cavort. And don't be surprised if they come running up to you expecting a pet or a scratch behind the ears. They're accustomed to that kind of treatment from Steve Leone and his assistant, Al Mathers. I've even seen Mathers carry piglets in her arms and absentmindedly kiss them as one would a puppy. When my son wistfully said how he wanted to take a piglet home, Leone gently explained that most of the animals are headed for the kitchen table, not the backyard. Even the many pigs bought as 4-H projects ultimately end up as pork chops. "But until that time, it's your job to take the very best care of your pigs as you possibly can." Obviously, the folks at Leone Farm take this advice to heart. for a nominal charge, Leone also takes piglets to schools and gives educational talks. A $3 donation is requested for a tour of the farm. 4301 Gravenstein Hwy. N., Sebastopol. 707.823.6097. --M.W.

Photograph by Rory McNamara

Best Place for a Pointed Lesson in Life
For several years now, the Sonoma Fencing Academy--tucked in beside old warehouses and pool halls along Petaluma's Water Street--has been teaching children (and the occasional adult) the fine art of sword fighting. Run by the dashing Errol Flynn-ish master fencer Michael Pacheco, the popular school is the go-to spot for anyone wishing to learn the difference between a parry and a thrust. 239 Water St., Petaluma. 707.763.8290.--D.T.

Best Reason to Spend a Healthy Portion of College Tuition Savings on Just Six Days
My own mother's cheery definition of childhood summers? Being trapped in a house with a woman who hates you. This must be why the Goddess created camp, and she did a bang-up job with the Pt. Reyes Nature Science Camp. Based at the Clem Miller Environmental Education Center near Limantour Beach, this camp causes hundreds of otherwise sane and respectable adults to haunt the mailbox each January in anticipation of an application that must be filled out and paid for on the day it arrives in order to ensure little Oona or Gabriel's happy childhood come August. Staffed by biology and botany students who go by "Jim" and "Nancy" during the school year and "Raven" and "Moonflower" during the summer, this celebration of dread-locked collegiate youth and their genuine pleasure in revealing the unique ecosystems of the Pt. Reyes National Seashore to kids ages seven to 17 makes the biggest expenditure most bottom-line parents can afford each year worthwhile. Far, far better that part of a childhood summer be spent trapped in a cabin with a Wolf who adores you. 415.663.1224 or www.ptreyes.org. --G.G.

Best Place for Kids to Learn About the Food Chain
At Mike's at the Yard in Petaluma, enterprising parents and field-trip organizers can attend the stock auctions in the adjoining auction yard, watch a butcher buy a steer from Farmer Jack--or watch Farmer Jack sell a stud bull to Farmer Joe--and then go down the stairs and inside the restaurant for a really, really good hamburger. You can't miss Mike's at the Yard, which spun off the Cotati's popular Mike's at the Crossroads: The wall is painted with the enormous words "Petaluma Livestock Auction Yard" and the parking lot will probably be half filled with large animal trailers. Can anyone say "Moooo"? 84 Corona Road, Petaluma. 707.769.1082.--D.T.

Best Other Best Place for Kids to Learn About the Food Chain
At the Cazanoma Lodge in remote Cazadero, families can enjoy fine German-American food at the sprawling, rustic, cabinlike restaurant, and if the kids choose to order the trout, they will be asked to escort the waiter outside, down the steps to the trout pond, where said children (or anyone else) can pick up a net and scoop up the fish of their choice. Fifteen minutes later, that same fish will be brought to the table, cooked to perfection. Excellent after watching your video of The Incredible Mr. Limpet.
1000 Kidd Creek Road, Cazadero. 707.632.5255.--D.T.

Best Place for Kids and Parents to Talk Funny, Dress Weird and Eat Bizarre Food
For about five years now, there's been a gaping hole in the cultural soul of the North Bay, a hole about the size of the sprawling golf course at Black Point in Novato where the Renaissance Pleasure Faire once took Place. That, of course, was back when the Place was covered in trees and inhabited by colorful folks with funny accents, instead of being carpeted in short, green grass and peopled with rich guys in funny pants. So we were gladdened to hear that the Ren Faire was returning to Marin in the reincarnated form of the Heart of the forest Renaissance Faire. Last year's inaugural event, held at the delightfully treed Stafford Lake Park, was a bit on the small side compared to the original, but as envisioned by Marin's As You Like It Productions (the people responsible for the original, and the ones who still produce the Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco), it's more than passable. It'll surely grow. Though few in number, the cast of costumed actors is as frisky, clever, creative, and naughty as ever, with a special knack for embarrassing parents in front of their kids (or husbands in front of wives, for that matter). We wish them well, with a mighty Huzzah! The second annual Heart of the forest Faire is scheduled to run from July 12-Aug. 10. For further information, check www.forestfaire.com. --D.T.

Best Place for Kids to Get in Touch with Their Inner, Peaceful Warrior
My son is taking judo lessons at the Redwood Coast Judo Club for pretty much the same reasons I'm taking yoga classes elsewhere. They're both physical disciplines that are more about centering, spirituality, and character than exercising or sport. Judo is a martial art and a great form of self-defense, yet the emphasis is always on building the confidence, self-discipline, and respect you need in order to avoid a fight. interestingly, although judo is not particularly well-known in the United States, it is the most popular sport in the world besides soccer. And according to the American College of Sports Medicine, it is the safest sport for children under 13. What else could a mom ask for? 3401 Cleveland Ave. #7, Santa Rosa, 707.528.4910.--M.W.

Best Kid-Friendly Culture Trap
You can imagine the pure pleasure the boys elicited that early winter weekend which saw both the new Harry Potter and Star Trek films open, when it was announced that we our very selves were indeed going to hemorrhage layers of cash by going to the movies. You can imagine their subsequent sorrow when, before arriving at Rialto Cinemas, said film was revealed to be Bowling for Columbine, because it was "good for them." Two utterly silent adolescents shared the car with me as we drove to a documentary film about guns in America, enlivened only slightly by the promise of buttered popcorn and sodas. While they ultimately enjoyed the film, I wouldn't have known how much had I not cleverly engineered a walk around Spring Lake immediately afterward. Trapped for a brisk two-mile loop around this man-made lake, there was nothing that they could do but talk. Thus I learned how they actually felt about America's long-held trickery with loaded firearms. Thus I finally gained the name of a certain girl who also has French class second hour. Thus I gleaned that macaroni and cheese remains a high ideal of gourmet fare. Guaranteed "quality" time plus a chance to work off all that carbo-bribery. Rialto Cinemas Lakeside, 551 Summerfield Road, Santa Rosa, 707.539.9771; Spring Lake Park, 5390 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa, 707. 565.2267. --G.G.

Best Place to Hold Your Breath Under Water
At Morton's Warm Springs Park, the pools are truly warm, heated by the 92-degree waters channeled in from the numerous hot springs that have existed there for, oh, probably jillions of years. Founded as a resort in the 1940s, the Place is now a popular recreation spot for families and amphibians from around the North Bay. It's open daily from May to September, and the good people at Morton's offer season passes for frequent visitors. 1651 Warm Springs Road, Kenwood. 707.833.5511.--D.T.

Best Place to Get a Hook in Your Thumb While Teaching Your Kid How to Fish
Once there was a little trout,
who had a mighty, fishy pout.
Said he, "I am not very fond,
of swimming in this quiet pond
Where nothing bothers me but flies,
and fishes never get surprised.
If I could wish on a magic charm,
I'd be whisked to Hagemann Trout Farm.
That's the Place, near Bodega Bay,
where fishers come to play and play.
There I'd be stocked in a pond so full
of fish, it's like a miracle.
Nestled on a ranch of numerous acres,
attended by excellent fish caretakers,
with poles and bait and all one could wish,
waiting for people to show up and fish.
'You catch 'em, we clean 'em,' that's their line.
Oh, if I swam there, my life would be fine.
'Cause when you're a fish it's a really big blast,
knowing every moment could be your last."

Hagemann Ranch Trout Farm is open from April to November, Saturday and Sunday, 9am-5pm. 707.876.3217 or www.sonic.net/~bruceh/.--D.T.

Best Place for Kids to Pretend They Are Pirates
OK, there are probably better Places to pretend you're a pirate--at a resort in the Caribbean, for instance. But on Spyglass Hill, out on the huge, damp, grassy field of the San Rafael Lagoon, a battered spyglass, hammered by time and vandals, still stands overlooking the lagoon, the Marin Civic Center, and the Veteran's Memorial Theater. A perfect spot for playing capture the flag, the hill is reinforced with a circular concrete dais and semicircular bench, as spattered with seagull droppings as the blue and chrome spyglass is devoid of its lens. Just remote enough to feel slightly dangerous and, shall we say, piratical, its a perfect spot to imagine defending one's shipmates against an attack by British soldiers.--D.T.

Best Place to Stop for Directions--and Maybe a Piece of Pie--on Your Way to or from the Coast with Your Kids
Due to the location of Mom's Apple Pie--between downtown Sebastopol and the Pacific Ocean--the popular pie baking mecca has developed another specialty on the side: giving out friendly directions to lost motorists. Not surprisingly, Mom's has distributed a large number of pies--and coffee and the occasional fresh sandwich--along with all those pointed fingers and succinct instructions as to where the ocean is in relation to the land. We have no doubt that some people pretend to be lost just
to have an excuse for another piece of pie. 4550 Gravenstein Hwy. N., Sebastopol. 707.823.8330.--D.T.

Best Place to Let Your Kids Yell at Goats
Talk about your worst nightmare: The bad guy is running toward you, but you're paralyzed, unable to run away, just waiting for your demise. Take pity on the poor fainting goats. Myotonic goats are so called because, due to a genetic disorder, their muscles lock up when they are startled, so they fall over. in the past, a myotonic goat would be Placed in a herd of sheep. When a wolf came around, the goat would startle and fall, providing a quick, easy meal while the more valuable sheep had a chance to run away. (The term "fainting" is misleading, however, because they don't actually lose consciousness. Ah, poor guys.) Thankfully, the pet goats at the Old Faithful Geyser in Calistoga don't have to put up with wolves. But they do have to deal with kids screaming "Boo! Boo! Boo!" all day long, trying to get them to fall. Seems like a small price to pay though. 1299 Tubbs Lane, Calistoga. 707.942.6463.--M.W.

Best Place for Kids to Learn to Distinguish One Knot from Another
The Compass Rose is a big boat, once used by the Navy as a torpedo chaser, that now serves as the playground and classroom for Petaluma's Sea Scouts. A division of the Boy Scouts of America, the Sea Scouts include female sailors--Petaluma's current crop of scouts is predominantly female at the moment--who patrol the rivers and deltas and coastlines of the Bay Area while spouting nautical phraseology and having a great time on the waves and in the waters. The Compass Rose is docked at the Petaluma Marina, where passersby often pause to wonder what it is. What it is, is cool.--D.T.

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From the March 20-26, 2003 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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