Family farm holidays in Cornwall magical for children, toddlers and babies.
Coombe Mill Blog
"Tales from the farmers wife" shares the funny and interesting happenings on our lovely holiday farm with Farmer Nick and our 6 children. A behind the scenes look on balancing family, farming, the holiday business and cooking for all.
Christmas Festive Fun at the Farm
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Whether you love it or hate it this week is all about Halloween. We have gone all out for our 2018 Halloween Fun Day this year in October half term. For the first time we have added pumpkin carving. Traditionally we have asked our guests to source and carve their own pumpkins to signal participation in our famous Trick or Treat evening. However this year we are including pumpkin carving in the afternoon crafts. Our first session was last Wednesday, but as half term stretches over 3 weeks this year we will be doing it all again on Halloween itself.
With no exciting pumpkin patches in Cornwall and the need for rather a lot of pumpkins Farmer Nick scoured the internet for good value pumpkins. Morrison’s came up trumps with a discount on bulk bringing us down to around 50 per pumpkin. We laid them out on our craft tables with a collection of knives, scoops and Theo’s great know how. We soon had a hive of activity taking place with little ones designing the funny faces and adults and older children carving.
Pumpkin carving activity table
Light up those Pumpkins
Later in the evening each cottage and lodge lit their pumpkins to guide the way for our organised Trick or Treat Procession. They shone beautifully in the night sky. Many of our younger guests had never experienced pumpkin carving and lighting before and were totally taken in by the magic of the evening.
Lit pumpkin for Trick or Treat
Nutritious Pumpkin Seed Snacks
Nothing is wasted here on the farm. We Have Sally and her 6 piglets who are only too happy to be the recipients of all the pumpkin scooping. However the pigs have to wait until I have saved the seeds. They are create dried out for crafting, or scattered on a baking tray with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and grilled for about 10 minutes till popping and browned. I took a tray out for the guests to snack on whilst carving. In our house I have a storage jar full to add them to snacks and meals for us.
Avocado, crispy bacon and melted cheese on toast with roasted pumpkin seeds & wedges.
If you fancy going Pumpkin crazy with us, we are already taking bookings for next October half term. There is also a ghost train, fancy dress feed run, Trick or treat, games and crafts for all. If you are staying this coming week you have plenty to look forward to.
Here at Coombe Mill we love to make the most of big occasions in the calendar. Halloween is one of those and each year we have a day dedicated to Halloween activities during the October half term. Traditionally half term and Halloween collided, however over time the two have become separated. Such was the popularity of our Halloween Fun day with guests we began running Halloween in half term, wherever that fell. For the first time this year the country is split for half term. Half the country had half term last week and the other this week. The answer was simple, 2 fun days! These are the highlights from the first, though I will be repeating the fun all over again this coming week on the 31st October so no one misses out.
Itinerary for the day
Forewarned is forearmed as the saying goes. When the guests arrive I hand them an itinerary for the Halloween Fun Day as part of their welcome talk. This way everyone who wants to join in can be fully prepared.
Fancy Dress Feed Run
The day begins with our daily feed run, all spooked up with a decorated trailer and fancy dress. We have a games room packed with fancy dress costumes so there is no need for anyone to splash out beforehand.
The fancy dress really sets the scene and the children love the look of the trailer drawing up at 9am. Each year I buy a few new things and add to the disguise. Even Farmer Nick had a new outfit which lasted the whole feed run. Usually he has abandoned whatever I have given him half way round!
Halloween Spooky farm eggs
Without question, the highlight of the morning for the children was running up to the egg box, peering inside to collect the morning eggs only to discover Cadbury crème eggs in spooky Halloween wrapping! We do this at Easter, but when I saw the Halloween eggs for sale I had to buy the lot for our Halloween fun day!
There is then a break till mid afternoon that allows the guests to go out for a couple of hours, often to get some lunch for everyone ahead of the sweeties of the afternoon. This gives me a chance to de-robe the trailer and kit out the train tunnel for the ghost train later and prepare the crafts.
In the past I have left guests to sort out their own pumpkins, this year I bought a load and invited the guests to come and join me for a session of pumpkin carving. With knives, spoons, a white board marker for designing we set to work. I had Theo as my ‘wing man’ to help anyone who needed it and the results were commendable. The children designed the pumpkin faces while the parents and older children carved them.
As the pumpkins finished the children moved to my craft table. Taking inspiration from the past few weeks of log crafts, we made Halloween logs. This time I added green food colouring to the glue paste for a slime landscape. To this the children added spider webs from card and wool, haunted houses from toilet rolls and monsters from painted rocks with googly eyes. I had a tub with left over bits and bobs that the children used to embellish their decoration.
Halloween Fun Day Games
No Halloween is complete without a few games. We were lucky to make the most of the lovely mild weather and set up Broom racing on the lawn. The children ran in teams to complete the broom races.
We then retreated into the games room for some traditional musical statues to Halloween Party music.
Time was running away and I wanted to give the guests a clear hour ahead of the evening activities to sort the children out with tea. We met again at 6.30 at Coombe Halt ready for the Ghost train. I’m not sure how many times the train ran round it’s track, but we were there the best part of half an hour. Our fearsome driver slowed down to go through the ghost tunnel which was full of spooky delights. I was careful to manage the balance between scary and fun as I didn’t want to frighten the younger ones. Apparently I may have made it too much fun as one little girl thought it was Christmas and asked if Santa was calling later, she was having so much fun!
Trick or Treat
There was only one event left. After a quick five minutes for everyone to have a comfort break and light their pumpkins, we met back at the train station. Some of the children had never been trick or treating before and listening to them chatting about how great it was made my heart melt. We took an organised procession from property to property. I had Theo at 6ft 3 as a natural leader with torch and camera capturing the magic of the evening. At 16, he is still a sweetie addict and finished the night with pockets bulging himself!
Halloween will go down as a really fun event with all our guests. I’m already looking forward to doing it all again this coming Wednesday, may be with a few changes depending on the age of the children. If you fancy joining us next year be sure to book for October half term.
Halloween Extravaganza with the Coombe Mill 2018 Fun Day
I have really been enjoying using nature with the children staying here this autumn. There are so many windfalls hitting the farm giving countless possibilities for learning made fun in our outdoor classroom. With a very young team signed up to join me I knew I had to make things fun and easy this week. Two year olds are very discerning and will vote with their feet if the learning goes over their heads. I remembered how popular dinosaur world creation was last winter but was concerned it would be too fiddly for this group. A little adaption based on my pile of leaves craft and I had a simple dinoscape ready to impress with a dinosaur hunt to finish it off.
Atlas of dinosaur adventures
We began with a little look at the lovely ‘Atlas of Dinosaur Adventures‘ book from Quarto Kids. It is huge with beautiful visuals for each continent. We focused on the Europe page which perfectly depicts all the children could see around them at Coombe Mill from trees and nature to rivers and rocks. Meandering through the landscape were the dinosaurs. Two of the boys were wearing a dinosaur top which was a great start. We talked about the landscape and how it must have looked rather like Coombe Mill back when the dinosaurs were alive.
Collecting Nature for a dinoscape
I didn’t want to keep the children sat still for too long so we headed straight on out in search of fallen leaves, acorns, petals and more to create their own dinoscapes. When the tubs were filled we ventured into the log store to choose a log each as the base to their dinosaur landscape.
Creating a dinoscape
Back at my craft table the children began to spread my flower and water paste on to their log and arrange all their collected nature on top. The dinoscapes came together perfectly as the paste is very forgiving allowing the children to pull things off and re-paste until they were happy.
They were so engrossed in creating their dinosaur landscape they almost forgot it needed a dinosaur on it. They all knew dinosaurs were extinct do I explained we would have to go digging for a buried dinosaur. After a couple of clues they raced off to the sand diggers in the sand pit and began to dig. Oh the excitement as a dinosaur came to life!
A little free play
The temptation to stay and play was too much, and we had no real time limit so we were all happy to let them run around and chase up and down the slide for a few minutes to wear themselves out.
Dinosaurs complete the dinoscape
Finally we reminded them of their dinosaurs and the dinoscapes waiting for them. They ran back to the craft table with dinosaurs in hand and with a little more paste fixed them into their chosen place.
I was so pleased; the activity suited these little ones perfectly with just the right amount of learning and fun.
Recreate a Dinoscape at home
This would be such a simple activity to recreate from a walk in the woods or the park.
What you’ll Need
Nature collected from a walk
A small toy dinosaur to hide (ours came in a pack of 6 for £1.99)
A small log
Flower mixed with water to form a stiff paste.
The opportunity to explore animal diets and habitats
Sometimes a book comes my way that inspires a whole range of activities for me here on the farm. A pile of Leaves from Phaidon.com is one such book. The concept is very simple, but then the best ones always are. Each page builds on the one before to form a pile of leaves. With the arrival of autumn this felt like the perfect time to be searching for fallen leaves and creating fun crafts with them too.
Reading a pile of Leaves
We began our activity session reading the lovely “A Pile of Leaves” book. It is all pictures apart from the leaf identification at the back so left me plenty of scope to talk with the children about autumn and the falling leaves.
A little preview of the book:
Under the old Oak Tree
Coombe Mill has an abundance of lovely old oak trees which are scattering their acorns all around. We took some collecting tubs and began searching for fallen acorns, shells and leaves to create our own autumn stone sculptures. The children found plenty on the floor of the car park and inside the fairy garden.
Leaf and Acorn Autumn Sculptures
Once back at the craft table I mixed a stiff flour and water paste for the children to use to stick their acorns and leaves into their chosen designs on beach pebbles. The beach pebbles I collected the previous week down at the secret beach with my own kids knowing I’d find a good use for them. It was sticky messy fun that inspired creativity without being complex. With a range of 1 – 3 year old’s, this was just what I needed.
Painting a pile of leaves
The children were thrilled with the results and despite their young age keen to do more. I broke out the paints and we painted leaves and printed them with overlapping edges to make a pile of leaves effect just like the book.
It was a beautiful September afternoon and the children had coped so well with all the crafts considering their age. It felt only right to practice a little rolling down the hill, tumbling a falling just like leaves from the trees being blown in the wind.
Meanwhile their crafts dried off in the sun
Outdoor classroom style learning like this is perfect for preschoolers. We had a lovely afternoon studying leaves and nature without anyone feeling pressure to do anything but have fun.
Recreate A pile of leaves sculpture and painting at home
This would be a fun and educational activity to recreate from a country walk.
What you’ll Need
Collected seasonal leaves and nature
Large flat pebble
flour and water paste
Paint and paper
Balance (not all things will stack or stick to the paste and pebble if they are too large or unbalanced)
The opportunity to discuss leaf types and changes with seasons
What do you do to entertain an eager group of children age 3 to 12 on a soggy Friday afternoon? I had struggled all week to come up with something and knew the forecast was at best mixed. I dug back in my mind for inspiration from birthday parties with my own children here on the farm over the years and decided the three things that were always most popular were water fights, DIY piñata making and treasure hunts. I ruled out the water fight with the different age ranges and thought on the other two. Finally I decided on the Piñata but with a twist, instead of using recycled materials as we had in the past, we would use nature. It all fell into place in my mind as I created an example nature piñata to show the children.
Setting the nature piñatas challenge
I split the group into two teams with a mix of ages, girls and boys. Each were given a sealed box with sweets inside and a long piece of string out of one end, a pair of scissors and a length of wool. I showed them the example nature piñata I had made and challenged them to go between the rain showers in search of nature to do the same or better. As an extra incentive to make them try their hardest to make them secure I told them they would swap piñatas at the end and have to try and crack open the other team’s work.
Collaboration and team work
It took a little while for the teams to begin to work effectively, but with a few tips and pointers they began to organise themselves. Some ran off gathering resources while others considered how best to secure them with the limited resources available. The more they worked together and listened to one another the better the progress. It became quite frantic and competitive as each watched the other team and I began to count down the time to stop building.
I hung the finished nature piñatas up from the games room veranda.
Then the children had to think how they were going to knock them down. A stick was the obvious nature choice and they dashed off in search of the biggest they could manage. Just to spice it up again I made them give their chosen stick to the opposite team to use, though we swapped half way to ensure no one had an unfair advantage.
Ready to play
Excitement was bubbling by this point but the children all lined up for the agreed 3 whacks each before moving to the back of the queue. This rule was essential so that no one was excitedly standing in whacking range!
The nature surrounding the boxes held fast for a good few minutes before the boxes were finally reached and hacked and the sweets came thumbing out. With a little reminder to share with their team mates the team leaders ensured everyone in the team had their share of sweets.
It turned into one of my most fun activity sessions and in the excitement of it all no one cared about the showers, though having the veranda to build under was certainly a help.
Recreate Nature Piñatas at Home
This would be a fun activity to recreate with a group of children for a play date or birthday party.
What you’ll Need
Nature collected from a walk keeping flexibility in mind to wrap.
A measured length of string at least a meter long
A box with wrapped sweets inside and a good length of string secured around it.
“Tales from the farmers wife” shares life on our lovely holiday farm with Farmer Nick and our 6 children. Step into our beautiful 30 acres and experience nature close up with farming and educational crafts in stunning North Cornwall. Family, fun and adventure start here.