Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Barn Owl

There is a very special new place that opened up near my house. It's a shop, a nature center with little critters (bearded dragons, a turtle, African pygmy hedgehogs), and a birding center. They have all kinds of fun things for little kids and big kids alike and they do nature outings and classes. It's called The Barn Owl.

I may or may not (or definitely do) have an owl obsession. It started as a little lucky charm three years ago and has pretty much snowballed from there to the point where there are about 15 owls hiding in my living room and countless others sprinkled throughout our house. I am on my second owl purse (which started this whole thing) and I now own not one but three owl shirts. I am bordering on crazy old lady territory with the owl thing. I do not enjoy birds in general (especially the swarming, swooping, dive-bombing type), but owls are different. They are unusual, interesting, pretty, and smart. Unfortunately owls have vomited all over everything lately and the market is saturated with all things owls, but I still can't help but love them.

So, when we were thumbing through the completely-useless-to-us town recreation catalog for the summer, full of summer camps and gymnastics lessons and toddler swimming lessons (and then at the other end lots of lovely senior citizen activities), there was a whole page dedicated to the offerings that The Barn Owl has. See here (you may have to zoom as it is teensy):

Look at all that! Workshops on hummingbirds, frogs, bats, praying mantises (mantisi? manti?), introductions to their resident animals, owl pellet workshops... just a beautiful slew of activities. For children. It would be really, really weird if we showed up to these without a child in tow, even if it was to preview what we will be able to do in a few years if all finally goes well. This page really made me smile at the fun things that are out there that are right up our alley to educate kids on amazing nature.

So, after discovering this world of wonder, we set out to find the Barn Owl. We had never ever seen it before, but it said it was on an extension of the road that our street is off of, so we were beyond curious. Maybe it was in a wormhole or something. It turns out it's hidden behind a 7-11 and the sign is pretty small. But it is SO worth popping in. We went in and met the shopowners, a couple who were very enthusiastic and happy to see people in on a dreary Saturday. It was AWESOME. The animals were set up in terreriums that were kid-height and had extra tunnel viewing spaces down below. There were paintings and garden doodads and picture books and jewelry and science kits galore. We were really excited and also a little weird, I guess, because I felt we had to fess up that we don't have kids, and that we just thought it was a neat place that we and others we know would enjoy. That felt a little awkward, but we got over it. We wanted to let them know that we had found them through the rec catalog and also how excited we were that something like this exists in the days of 8 billion Verizon stores in one town and kids whose idea of playing is sitting zombielike in front of a screen, big or small, totally not truly interacting with anything of any real value. (I am not opinionated on this at all, and yes I know I don't have children yet, but I really think that the outdoors needs to trump a screen of any kind, and even exploring something educational with pixels has way less value than a walk in the woods...) We wanted them to know that we appreciated them and that we wanted to help get the word out.

And so, after purchasing two very cute owl paintings that look not at all like adorable nursery decorations, we left and immediately posted about it on Facebook. I am a little obsessed with trying
to get people to visit this place who have actual and not fictional children. I want it to succeed and thrive. I want them to prove that this kind of business can succeed and that there is a need for connecting kids back to nature and feeding that curiosity. And, completely and totally selfishly, I want them to still be in business in a few years when we can bring our little ones to see the hedgehogs and marvel at how tiny a baby praying mantis is. (They come in ketchup cups and it's like a whole terrarium for them!)

So, if you happen to live in the Rochester area, please check out The Barn Owl. It is a special place. Please help enjoy it today so that we can enjoy it in a sum of tomorrows and not as the weirdos who come in asking about all their programs for kids but, um, have no kids.


  1. What a magical place! Glad you found this treasure!

    1. Thanks, Em! It really is special. It's how I learned the sound I thought was a demon monkey stalking me from the ravine behind my house is actually a screech owl. Good to know! :)