Not to far from my in-home studio is a piece of heaven called the Friendly Farm. Farmer Bruce Fox and his family care for the animals who are lucky enough to be residents in a sprawling country setting. For me, as an illustrator, any visit to the farm is an opportunity to gather information for the books I am honored to be assigned.
Open from late May until Labor day and then on weekends until mid September the farm hosts a variety of loveable animals. This is the perfect spot on a summer day to photograph or sketch the many friendly creatures. No matter how many art books, nature catalogs, google searches, one may have there is still nothing like the real thing.
At the end of a slightly up hill trail is a welcome bench. This is the perfect spot to sit and sketch the piglets and their huge mama. The close observation of ears, hooves and noses is something I wanted to study in particular. Now I have to figure out if I can turn a piggy into a boar.
Researching animals online or in the library is never quite the same as being face to face with pigs, goats, geese, horses, chickens, sheep and a scattering of happy children and adults.
If you forget to by a bag of feed at the entrance, you can find a quarter machine near the hungry geese. I bribed them with a bit of corn to get some needed photos.
Along the pathways one can find chickens....all kinds, colors and sizes.
If you have a bag of feed in your hand, the goats will obligingly follow your all along their fence. The more industrious ones will find a way through the wire mesh and try to grab your bag of feed.
Sheep...same thing here, except that we are allowed to walk among the sheep. They seem to be less forward than the goats.
A beautiful horse was just getting some fresh hay along with two friends. These animals are fenced off while visitors are at the farm, but they are still close enough to sketch and photograph.
There under the canopy I spied a bull. I was not too keen on getting very close, however.
Farmer Fox's four sons help out with the feeding, the clean ups and the general care; Mr. Fox himself is always on hand with a smile, a wave and time to chat a bit.
I was in for a treat when one of his son's came to feed the llama. The llama posed so patiently I am sure he is used to having his picture taken time and time again.
As an illustrator for children's picture books and beyond, I find outings like this not only worth the time and mileage ( in this case not far at all) but necessary for the soul. Getting out of the studio is important for writers and illustrators . The change of scenery, the human and non human contact is refreshing.
Farmer Fox took a bit of time to pose for one last photo and we chatted about the fire that took place one winter not too long ago. Because the farm is right off Route 101 in Dublin, NH many people saw the fire and reported it right away. The damage was fixed and the farm is a good as new. If you are looking for something bright and beautiful, something warm and friendly, something inviting and inspiring, the Friendly Farm has it all.
Bruce Fox is also a teacher and has recently retired. I have a feeling after seeing him interacting with the people and the animals that he is going to wonder how he ever had time to go to work. His smile says it all! You are invited to visit and you will certainly find a friendly welcome. I am sure I will need to use him in an upcoming picture book.
If you live in the Dublin, Keene, Peterborough, Nashua, Jaffrey, Rindge, NH area be sure to visit. Bring a camera, a kid or two, or just your notebook. The farm will draw you in and bring you back time after time.