"Ramshackle" is a kind word for The Farm, a petting zoo and pony ride attraction at 8101 Tampa Ave in Reseda, CA. "Decrepit," "filthy," "unpredictable," and "unsupervised" are more accurate terms.
But that's why I love this crazy, anachronistic compound populated with dozens of goats, chickens, ostriches, emus, cattle, llamas, ponies, and other farm animals, most of them freely mingling with the human visitors.
When my kids ask me to take them to Chuck E. Cheese's, I would rather set myself on fire and roll in broken bottles to quench the flames. But The Farm, just minutes from our house, offers genuine and surprising experiences every time we visit it. For instance, the last time we went, the ostrich made a grab for my camera, scaring the bejesus out of me. If you are foolish enough to walk into The Farm holding anything resembling food, large goats will jump on you. They knocked my kid down to get the cup she was holding.
If you ever visit the San Fernando Valley, you owe it to yourself to visit The Farm. Link to Flickr set
I used to go to Cleveland High School, right down the street (graduated in '00, so not even that long ago), and I remember the Farm. Sometimes for it being pretty smelly and the cause of dumb jokes when we went to Ma's Chinese Food, sometimes for being the alleged site of smokeouts and makeouts and other high-school appropriate outings. But in particular, I remember in either my junior or senior year when we were warned about a possible outbreak of 'viral cow pneumonia' and held inside for a bit and told not to go near it, to keep an eye out for unusual coughs or anything, yadda yadda yadda.
Eventually, the story that got back to us was that a *rival petting zoo* in the SFV had called in the complaint to local authorities as a way to try to drive down business, and that inspections showed the animals were fine.
I guess it's old-school valley drama -- the weirdo semi-agricultural vein, as opposed to the Hummer + Jamba Juice or Canoga-Park-Strip-Club kinds.