My girls love reading their Old MacDonald book and pointing out all of the animals. So when I heard about Time on the Land at Dreamcatcher Nature Assisted Therapy Ranch in Ardrossan, I knew we had to go! As soon as I asked my girls if they wanted to visit a farm and see and feed horses and chickens, they ran for their book and pointed to the animals. This was an excellent sign that we were going to have a great afternoon.
We put on our snowsuits and boots, jumped in the van, and headed East of the city to the ranch. Getting to Dreamcatcher Ranch is a quick, easy drive on the Yellowhead. It’s conveniently located just 2 km off the Yellowhead making it so simple to escape the city for some farm fun.
We were welcomed by the super friendly greeter (and I assume smiling, but you know, masks…) Lynn. She showed us around the ranch and explained where we were and were not permitted to go. First, we stopped by the chicken coop. Lynn handed us a bag of chicken feed and my girls went to town throwing feed to the chickens and watching them gobble it up. Since my littles are just 2.5 years old, we took this opportunity to work on their colours a bit, identifying white, black, and brown chickens. They also touched the chickens’ feathers to feel how soft and fluffy they are. We all had a good laugh when Bobbles the rabbit came hopping out of the chicken coop. He lives among the chickens which I imagine is a bit like being the Cadbury Easter Bunny…maybe he even lays chocolate eggs? I forgot to ask!
Next, we hiked up and over a small hill to a large fenced field of horses. The horses at this field were eating their meal toward the back of the fenced area, so we only lingered there for a few minutes before moving on. Lynn led us over to a smaller fenced enclosure where Romeo, a beautiful white horse, was hanging out waiting for treats. We had a couple of small bags filled with hay cube treats for Romeo. Lynn told me that all the horses have an opportunity to come in to this smaller enclosure to greet visitors and get treats, but usually Romeo pushes his way to the front because he loves the treat so much! Romeo might be a large, impressive horse, but when he took the treats from our hand, he was as gentle as can be. My girls could not get enough of this and my husband and I even got in on the fun feeding Romeo. We were able to pet him some, too, when he wasn’t busy trying to get treats from us!
Next we stopped over to check out the goats and sheep. Lynn informed me that in the summertime it’s even more fun to engage with the goats because they roam throughout the field and visitors can stand along the fence and feed them handfuls of grass — their favourite treat! In the wintertime, though, they stick closer to the barn and the hay cubes that we fed the horse are not appropriate for the goats’ digestive systems. Later on I caught a sheep standing on a teeter-totter swaying back and forth. There are several climbing structures set up for the goats and sheep, and I imagine visitors often catch these farm animals having a bit of fun.
Our last stop was at the mini horses to visit with Gravy and Teddy. If I thought Romeo was soft, Gravy and Teddy were even softer! They were adorable, but my 2.5 year olds had enough of the animals at this point and were ready to try out the tobogganing hill! That’s right, Dreamcatcher Ranch even has a tobogganing hill! At first glance it didn’t seem all that large, but once the girls started going down it, I realized it was quite the impressive (and fast!) hill. It was nice that there were a handful of toboggans provided for us since we hadn’t packed ours for the adventure.
Before I knew it, our hour was over and it was time to pack up for our short drive home. If you’re thinking that your family might enjoy a bit more time on the land, you may want to book 2 slots back-to-back. For warmer days, there are a few picnic tables and some nice chairs that you can hang out in and have a snack (bring your own, the ranch does not currently have any concessions). On the 40 acre property you’ll also find some lovely trails that you can explore. I’m looking forward to going back when it’s warmer and the ground isn’t covered with snow to really take in the beauty of the land.
At the end of our visit, I spoke briefly with Founder and Registered Psychologist, Eileen Bona who started Dreamcatcher Nature Assisted Therapy Ranch with her husband Dale. Eileen, along with a team of licensed therapists, have been providing mental health services for years, but with the onset of Covid-19, they realized they had a unique opportunity to open the ranch up to more people. Time on the Land began in Spring 2020 as a way for people to safely escape the stressors of life and literally enjoy some time on the land. It’s been such a hit that Eileen says they plan to keep the Time on the Land program going indefinitely and maybe even add other public events later (goat yoga, anyone?!). In fact, Dreamcatcher Ranch has just launched their Rejuvenation Program for First Responders and Front Line Workers as a way to give back to the community. Qualifying individuals and their families can contact the ranch to schedule a time to visit for free (see the website for more information).
Head on over to the Dreamcatcher Ranch website to schedule your family’s Time on the Land. Be sure to dress warmly for the winter months in clothes that you don’t mind getting a little dirty — you are on a farm, after all. While we haven’t been there in the springtime yet, I imagine it’s pretty muddy, so be sure to wear boots. Also, even though all activities are outdoors, it’s still preferred that you wear a mask when at the farm.
Dreamcatcher Ranch Time on the Land Visits:
Time: Scheduled 1 hour visit
Cost: $27.54/family (Eventbrite Tickets)
Where: Dreamcatcher Nature Assisted Therapy
Address: 53044 Range Road 213, Ardrossan (map)
*Note: Our family received free admission to Time on the Land in exchange for this article. Dreamcatcher Ranch did not review this article before publishing, and all opinions are my own.