Dear Diary – What happened to the play boat?

Posted on July 22nd, 2011 -

A quiet day on the farm until drama unfolds, quick call the fire brigade, we have an arson attack in the play area!

something has really fueled those flames!
Hang on a minute……where is Farmer Nick? I have been subtley mentioning for weeks that the play boat needs some sanding down and repainting. A suspicious farmer’s wife might suspect a spot of sabotage going on here! 

Who snuck in with those safety fences?
OK so sanding and repainting is no longer an option for this boat. Instead I can see 1 digger, 2 farmers and a very big hole left to fill, but what with? I just knew something was bubbling under when he spontaneously brought the washing in for me!

He is after something!

Digging to Australia?

It turns out he has been back on eBay and bought a very substantial children’s outdoor play wobble board. Well I’m sure it had a more professional name when sold by the manufacturer, but play wobble board or bouncy board is the most accurate description I can manage. To his credit it is in excellent condition and looks sturdy enough to last for years.
“Come on boys, hurry up and see if we can finish this job before I collect the kids from school”. (I am becoming quietly excited about this now and keen to share in the action!)
Wow with springs like this even Dad’s can have a go!
It’s taking shape and we’re on to the back filling, just 15 minutes before the children come home “put your backs into it then”…….. I’m more than occupied of cause enjoying the sunshine, holding the camera and offering morale support!

A bit more filling this side Ted!

And we are ready! A quick test by me before school run.


It’s clearly going to be a winner all round this summer. Excited children all came to give it a go…….
All in a days work here on the farm. I know there are more plans bubbling so keep watching and following to see which one lands next……Nick have you caught those wallabies yet? 

Mummy Tips for Potty training – Dry in a week

Posted on July 12th, 2011 -

There is so much advise these days on potty training your toddler it is hard to know what to follow. It’s a bit like maths, there are several possible ways to work out a sum and still reach the correct answer, just some methods are quicker than others! The reality is that by one means or another we have all come through potty training and learnt toilet etiquette.
So why am I blogging on the subject? Simply to share my experience with my own 6 children. Every one of them is different in personality, intelligence, confidence and just about every trait you can think of, yet they have all been potty trained the same way and all been dry in a week. If I am honest, my method is not really mine at all, it is that which was thrust upon me by my confident 1st nanny. After around 10 years as a professional nanny and me as a know nothing new Mum returning to work, I figured I was best to just go along with her recommendation, as like most things, she knew what she was doing and it worked. Long after we moved away from Surrey and our family grew, I still stuck by her tried and tested method so here it is (Thanks Anna, your secrets shared!)
Golden rules
·         Be consistent
·         Once you start there is no going back
·         use incentives like chocolate buttons (usually never done by me)
·         Be patient and clear but don’t make the process an issue
·         Pick a week when you are at home with a clear diary for at least the first couple of days
·         Buy a basic alarm timer and some real toddler pants featuring your child’s favourite characters
·         Your child needs to want to move on to potty training and you need to be committed to making it work for them.
When to Start?
 Typically most are ready between 18 months and 3 years, but don’t panic, I do know of exceptions at either end! My children were all ready to be trained at around their 2nd birthday, this is not important, what is important is that you pick up on their cue as to when they are ready and able to learn. Try too early and you will both be disappointed, leave it too late and lazy behaviour sets in.
Training cue’s
 Have a potty in the bathroom before you start, from around 16 months and encourage them to try for a wee before their bath, no pressure, don’t force the idea or make it a big deal, just encourage the motion, praise them for sitting there when they do.  If 30% or more of the time they can produce the wee then they are probably ready to learn. Other interest in the toilet habits, wanting to see you go or trying to pull off their nappy all the time are other good indicators. I’m sure there are more, you will know your own child best.


Theo is dry big bro here & the triplets nearing potty training as
they play together in our toddler play area


Ready to go, clear the diary and follow my step by step guide:
Day 1
1.       Explain the whole process to your child so they know what to expect
2.       Big boy/girl pants go on in the morning and nappies are out!
3.       Set the timer every 5 minutes. When it rings stop what you are doing and sit them on the potty. Try for just a short wee, no need to wait more than say 15 seconds, if they think there is nothing there that’s fine. Repeat for the first hour, any successes reward with a chocolate button or other motivating treat…..they soon get the hang of this game! Keep their fluids up so they can achieve their goal.
4.       Increase the intervals during the first day to around every half hour max – toddlers after a drink will often struggle to go longer. Keep them occupied during the day but not so engrossed they don’t want to stop what they are doing for the potty!
Day 2
Continue as for day 1, carry the potty with you if you move around the house or to the garden so it is at hand when the alarm goes.
Day 3 and 4
 Take away the alarm and start the perpetual “do you need a wee?” comment. Keep the reward bit up if you need to but most will be so proud of their achievements and big girl / boy dry pants they won’t need the reward, just constant reminding and praise.
Day 5 /6
Go out, visit  LOCAL friend or the park, just remember to keep asking and ensure it is somewhere where you can whip out the potty. If a toddler replies “yes” to the “do you need a wee?” question it means now not in 5 minutes when I find the toilet! 


Our Guy at the beach!


So what about night time?
Give them their last drink around an hour before bed time from the first day of training. In my case it was 6pm milk, 7pm bed. Ask them to do a ‘last wee’ before bed, then invest in trainer pants for bed time, we called them night night pants. They had no other use as we never used them in the day. Allowing an hour for the drink to go through before bed helps night time success. The brain is learning day time control and it will automatically work at night time too.  I found 1 pair of night pants would often last a few days before an accident so you should be well on your way to dry nights all at the same time. Dry nights does take longer, since once the brain can control the night it then has to learn to wake the child when he/she can’t last the whole period and this tends to be the harder bit, much easier when you are already awake! However they will soon be encouraged by some dry nights and I found within a couple of months I could do away with the night pants.


A good nights sleep from 2 caring, sharing brothers!


I am not saying my system is perfect, or that you won’t have any accidents, but if you are dedicated to following through with the timer and asking endlessly if they need a wee you will minimise accidents and boost your child’s confidence till they remember to go for themselves.
It really is just a week of intensive training then just gentle reminders as often as you feel necessary. The important thing is to decide to do it and just go for it and not turn back to nappies. If you do feel you are trying before they are ready and it’s just not working, then go back to nappies, take the pressure off you both and try again in a couple of months time or when you think there are some willingness signs from your child. I did have this with my triplets, after ambitiously trying to do them all together I had to concede defeat let one wait a few more months before he was ready.
Good luck and I hope to have been of some help. I would love to welcome you and your toddlers on holiday with us at Coombe Mill Farm pre, post or during potty training. We specialise in holidays for young children, have potties and trainer seats to borrow and real cloth nappies free to try too. All our properties have stair gates built in and are designed with little ones in mind. They will adore our daily tractor rides to help feed the animals, potties welcome aboard!


 I hope to meet  you soon! 

note: A big thanks to Mummy Central who allowed me to guest blog this on their site first:

On the Farm – Wallabies free to good home?

Posted on July 5th, 2011 -

My husband does have some ‘off the wall’ ideas about our farm, or is it now a zoo? We have just separated the deer from the alpaca, well we had to really since the poor new born fawn was attempting to feed from the nosey male alpaca who had scared away mum!

Just born and looking for mum

Anyway, with mission accomplished here, a friend then planted the idea of wallabies in Farmer Nick’s head! This led to him contacting our friendly neighbour who has a few (doesn’t every neighbour keep wallabies?) and was offered them for free, or that was the line I was spun!

A cute addition to Coombe Mill?

………….. surely there is a catch or two!

Turns out the ‘catch’ is in the catching! We may only be trying to move them by a couple of fields, but these lovely animals can’t half jump and are not exactly tame! Nick is busy scheming of the men, the equipment and the time to catch and move these wallabies while I am worrying about the cost of said operation. Watch out if you are coming to stay on any future wallaby catching day, I think it will be all volunteers accepted!

Supposing for a minute these wallabies can be caught and brought to Coombe Mill, where will they go? I think the deer have had enough with the alpacas so who is to share with the wallabies? Farmer Nick has a plan! Apparently the answer to my question is in with the ducks and chickens. However they need 6ft secure fencing and farmer Nick and Ted’s DIY electrified chicken fencing is someway short of the mark! An afternoon surfing the web for wallaby fencing suppliers (funnily enough not found in abundance!) finally resulted in an estimated cost of £2000 for the pukka thing….not quite such free wallabies after all but Nick is still sure they will be popular with our guests and I tend to agree!

Watch out chickens and ducks, you may have company soon!
What do you think? Would you like to see Wallabies added to the farm here at Coombe Mill? Do please post your thoughts and comments for us before we commit to this latest plan.

What’s cooking – fisherman’s delight

Posted on June 25th, 2011 -

A classic fish pie which can be found in so many recipe books. Mine is totally made up and as with all my recipes, freezes easily and is very simple.

We have a great mobile fishmonger who comes round. If you are staying with us at Coombe Mill he comes on a Thursday, just let me know in advance if you would like to order from him. His prices are fair and the fish fresh, local and excellent. I buy a huge mixed bag of ‘pie mix’ and it is always a treat to see what I have. There is always salmon, white and smoked fish but sometimes I am lucky with some tuna, monk or sward fish too.

Fisherman’s Delight

Ingredients :

Mixed fish, whole milk, butter, plain flour, potatoes, seasoning (I just use low salt and black pepper)

  1. Place the fish in a large pan, add the milk and steam till just cooked
  2. Remove fish, flake into casserole dish removing bones
  3. Add four, milk and seasoning to the milk and stir into a smooth sauce
  4. Poor milk over the casserole
  5. Boil and mash the potatoes with butter, milk and seasoning
  6. Add to the casserole. 
  7. Heat and serve


My portions are a good size, I  kept a 4 portion back for dinner which fed my 6 children. Admittedly they did have room for today’s cake: cherry and vanilla afterwards!

Fisherman’s delight a winner with
children and nutritious too!

What’s cooking? My best secrets shared!

Posted on June 21st, 2011 -

When I reach for the cooking pots the sun is sure to shine! Despite the dismal forecast today, I am once again es conched in the kitchen while the rest of Cornwall is on the beach! Never mind, Surf Club this evening for the children so I will be there too! In the mean time I have been meaning to share some of my cooking secrets, so while they are fresh in my mind and my meals are cooling for the freezer here goes:

Top Tips
1. Never be afraid to experiment, if it sounds a tasty combination or a logical short cut it probably is!

2. Always cook casseroles longer at a lower temperature than it says in any recipe – makes all meat more melt in the mouth

3. Use a large pot, the meat may look lost in a pot at the start but by the time your veg and marinade have all gone in you will be surprised how it all fills up!

4. When cooking for children make the veg pieces small, I often blend into the gravy / sauce or chop into mince size pieces where they are mistaken for meat. My children hate mushrooms and onions, but actually eat them all the time!

5. 1 pot does all! I can’t be doing with the fry this and set aside type recipes. In my experience if you start any casserole by browning the meat, then toss in and mix the flour before adding stock / liquids and chopped veg it will all turn out just fine!

My 2 recipes today are:
Pork in honey Casserole and Gammon in Cider. They are both recipes I have developed over time and they freeze really well.

Pork in honey
Shoulder or leg of pork chopped into chunks
Sauce: Chicken stock, Soy sauce, white wine, balsamic vinegar, honey, brown sugar 
Veg to suit, I have used roughly chopped carrots, mushrooms, onions and potatoes
Method : Just follow my tip 2 and 5 above. That simple!

As the puff pastry is really quick to cook I cook it separately to the casserole and add it on at the end. I usually cheat on this one and use ready to roll but if I run short it is actually very quick and easy to make.

Gammon in Cider
Hock or Gammon joint chopped into large chunks
Sauce: Good cider, tinned chopped tomatoes, paprika
Veg to suit, I have used onions, mushrooms, carrots and garlic
Follow my golden tips 2 and 5 but with gammon I do boil lightly for 10 mins first and drain so as not to make the finished dish too salty
I top this one with creamy mashed potato which goes really well with the sauce

If you are staying with us please help yourself to these meals from the freezer and leave us a note in the book as usual.  Enjoy!

I would love any feedback if you have tried my meals of if you want any more information on them. I haven’t added quantities as I never measure anything and just judge it all based on my meat quantities but do give them a go. They are all simple to make and tasty!