Often, when I tell people in Los Angeles that I’m working on a novel set on a ostrich farm, they ask me if I have been to visit the ostriches up in Santa Barbara. Well, up until yesterday, I hadn’t.
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I had been wanting to go for a while and yesterday, it occurred to Daniel and me, that it was a rare free day – nothing on the calendar at all. So we decided, on a whim, to take the whole family on the fairly long drive up to Solvang, California to visit Ostrichland USA
ostrich farm in Oro Grande, out in the Mojave. It’s is a working ostrich farm, where birds are raised for meat and eggs.
Ostrichland is a totally different type of place. It is much more a tourist attraction. Their birds live long happy lives roaming free across an enormous, verdant piece of land. For a few bucks you can feed them, up close and personal (see the video below), if they feel like coming to the fence for a snack. There was a line of people waiting to shell out money to spend a little time with the birds. It is so much a roadside attraction that Ostrichland doesn’t even slaughter its birds. In fact, I noticed in the gift shop that the ostrich jerky they sell comes from the OK Corral.
In terms of research, I drove away from the experience really glad that I had started (all those years ago) by visiting the OK Corral. Ostrichland is great (and if you get a chance, you should absolutely stop by for a visit and feed the birds), but I want to tell a more gritty story, one that is just better suited to the harsh desert farm.
Still, as I wrap up what is likely the last (or next to last) draft of the book, it’s nice to know that I’ve dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s in the research department. Nobody can accuse me of not having done my homework.
It occurred to me recently that I haven’t really shared much of my research for this novel that I’m working so hard on, and that is a crazy shame, because ostriches are awesome.
The place I learned most everything I know about ostriches was at the OK Corral Ostrich Farm. The proprietor, Doug Osborne, was super gracious. He walked me all around the farm, and told me about the birds, the business, and the farm. He really seemed to care about each and every one of those long-legged beasts. He also had chickens, and emu, and and three roosters, including one that was more aggressive than any dog I’ve ever come across – it chased me back into my car when I first arrived. I had to sit there like an idiot waiting for Doug to come rescue me.
A few months later, I took him to lunch and he let me pick his brain for all kinds of details. The OK Corral has been a remarkable resource to me over the past five years.
So I thought I’d share a segment from the show “Dirty Jobs,” in the episode that they spend a day on the farm with Doug. It’s great, and I feel like it gives a real sense of how intimidating the birds can be.