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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Every year when blackberry season comes round I can’t resist a little baking fun with the kids here. However I have made our yummy blackberry muffins so many times I was keen to try something new. My other easy to make recipe is biscuits and I figured a few blackberries squished in would add a new dimension to a classic recipe. To this we added a little fun pencil making and blackberry juice ink for some creative nature writing.
Before any of the activities could start we needed to go blackberry picking. I knew all the best places that had escaped Farmer Nick’s careful pruning this summer and we headed off with collecting punnets.
We washed the blackberries. Next the children helped to shape the dough into rounds and place them on baking trays before pressing blackberries into the dough balls.
Making blackberry biscuits
Our mix made 2 large trays which went into the oven to cook.
While the biscuits cooked, we put the rest of the blackberries through my old fashioned hand held cheese grater to create blackberry ink.
Sticky fingers were washed and the children ran off to find sticks they could turn into pencils in the fairy gardens.
Decorating pencils was great fun. We used coloured floristry ribbon and wool and then took them to Theo who whittled the ends with his penknife into a nib for writing. The smaller sticks fitted into a pencil sharpener which was even easier.
Blackberry writing on recipe cards
Then came the fun part; Everyone took a piece of card and stuck the biscuit recipe in the centre, before dipping the decorated pencil nibs in the blackberry ink to add writing and pictures. Some ribbon around the edge completed the cards and made a lovely keepsake and holder for the pencils.
The only thing left to do was to sit back and sample our blackberry biscuits.
Recreate Blackberry biscuits and stick pencil writing at home
This would be a fun and educational activity to recreate from a family blackberry picking walk.
What you’ll Need
Blackberries and a pencil shaped stick collected from a walk
Biscuit ingredients: Flour, butter, sugar
Something to squish the blackberries for ink (we used an old fashioned cheese grater)
Sharp knife or pencil sharpener for the stick.
Card to write on (we used a cereal box cut up)
Cooking health and safety and lessons
The opportunity to explore writing through the ages
I had one of those sun and showers afternoons where everyone was on site and looking for something to entertain the children. Suddenly sign up for my Activity Hour soared, but I had predicted this and was ready with a great activity that would work from little ones to teens. Creative nature boards in stick frames gave enough scope for everyone to make them as detailed and bespoke as they chose. The idea was to collect the things that reminded them of the nature around them at Coombe Mill, strung together in DIY frames decorated in their own personal styles and colours.
As we all gathered and I explained what we would be making the heavens opened. Undeterred we headed out in search of sticks to form our frames. The Fairy Gardens was a popular hunting ground as the canopy of trees kept us sheltered from the rain and there were plenty of fallen branches ideal for what we needed.
Stick Picture Frames
Back under the veranda of the games room we began to form frames from our sticks overlapped in a criss-cross design and tied up with wool. The older ones could do these themselves while the little ones needed help.
If help was needed forming the frames, it certainly didn’t extend to decorating them. From the very youngest there was a clear direction on colours and patterns for decorating the frames. It was a great way for everyone to add their own individuality to their frames.
The nature boards were cut from cereal boxes, with a whole punch on each side through which wool was thread and tied to the stick frames.
Finally there was a break in the rain and everyone dashed off in search of colourful memories of Coombe Mill to decorate their boards.
We used double sided tape for the children to fix their nature into position and felt tip pens for any writing.
I was thrilled with the results from all the children. It was a lovely use of a showery afternoon on the farm with some great keepsakes to take home.
Recreate a Nature Board in Stick Frame at Home
This would be a lovely activity to recreate from a day out in the countryside at any time of year.
What you’ll Need
Nature collected from a walk
String, tape and hole punch
Cardboard (we used cut up cereal boxes)
Colourful ribbon (optional)
The opportunity to discover nature in any one season
It has become a bit of a tradition to hold a grand nature raft race at Coombe Mill on the first week of August. There are always a few scared faces when I suggest what we will be doing for activity hour, however when parents are reassured that the children won’t actually be riding on their homemade rafts parental concerns disperse and everyone looks forward to the event.
Creating and Making Nature Rafts
This has to be one of the most eco friendly activities there is. The rules are very simple, everything that goes into building the raft must be found on the farm and belong in nature, so no finding a piece of bailer twine dropped by Farmer Nick to tie things up! Family groups soon formed on the grass with some puzzling over designs while others rushed off to find potential materials. This is one where I can sit back and watch the creativity come together. I am always impressed by the standards of the rafts, creativity used and team work among the groups.
When everyone had finished I managed to grab a group photo with everyone’s rafts before they were set free in the river.
Nature Raft Race Route
We have two bridges at Coombe Mill which make a perfect start and finish line for our races. However the drop from the starting bridge is quite steep and the first hurdle for our nature rafts. Everyone lined up and with no cheating released their rafts on cue.
The biggest problem this year has been the slow speed of the river thanks to the unusually dry summer. It took 15 minutes with a little helping hand from Guy and a couple of parents wading through the water for the rafts to make it to the finishing bridge. As always there is much running, cheering and searching from the children along the river bank as they all hope theirs will be the winning raft. Finally the first rafts came into view and crossed the line to a waiting audience.
Everyone had put so much effort into their rafts I had some certificates on hand covering much more than just the winning raft so everyone was rewarded for something.
Even Guy and Clio hung around for a little river fun after the race ended pulling floating branches from the river.
Despite the slow running river the nature raft race remains one of the most popular activities here. It is not dissimilar to Pooh sticks, just on a giant scale, and that has been going strong for generations!
We had watched our lovely alpaca Caramel be sheared at the start of the week. This is a once a year event and a bonus for our holiday guests if it falls on their stay. Colin our shearer has come to expect an audience at Coombe Mill and now talks everyone through what will happen and encourages the kids to come forward and watch. We finish with 2 big bags of alpaca fleece for Kay our local crafter. However I like to hold a little back for activity hour here. By the end of the week the kids had almost forgotten alpaca shearing at the start. But it soon came flooding back as I introduced our alpaca craft for the afternoon with the real fleece.
Alpaca craft formed in stages
I had a full house with 15 signed up to join us in making little alpaca. That left me with a few hours to work out how best to make them. I finished up with two designs split by age, a simple flat design for the under 3’s and a 3D Alpaca for the 3 and over. The first job was to search the fairy gardens for sticks to make legs.
These were poked into a toilet roll, a peg added for a neck and an egg box section tied on for the head.
The children were inpatient to move to the next step of sticking on the fleece but it took a while with so many to get everyone’s alpaca constructed. Finally we were ready and moved over to the grass where one by one I sprayed each with glue and the children stuck on the wool to transform their model into an alpaca.
An interactive alpaca quiz
When everyone had completed their alpaca we set them on one side to let the glue dry and the children gathered on the grass for a little fun quiz. I had researched some fun facts and made up some rubbish ones, the kids had to jump left or right depending on which answer they thought was correct. It was a great way to get a little learning in and I’ll use this idea again. We explored alpaca history, habitat and sociology finishing with what they like to eat.
Creating alpaca homes
Armed with their new knowledge the kids were ready to make a home for their alpaca with all their favourite things to eat.
The children were deservedly proud of their finished alpaca in their homes, though I felt sorry for the parents trying to pack them safely into card to go home the next day!
Elmer the Elephant Alpaca
With creative minds still running I left the children colouring alpaca that reminded me of Elmer the Elephant!
I think I may have created the most knowledgeable 2 – 8 year olds on alpaca in the country! The best part was that they loved every minute and never knew they were learning at all.
Activity hour fell on the most beautiful day and I had wondered it all the families staying might just have headed to the beach forgetting to come back and join me. I needn’t have worried; there was a steady gathering of little ones eager to discover pond life with me.
As everyone gathered I explained all the things we were going to do, beginning with a little frog explanation. Our farm path had been overrun with froglets that had fascinated the children, and so exploring the frog life cycle seemed a good starting point.
Next we had a look in our ‘where animals live’ book for photos of animals and creatures we might see around the pond.
With pond life identification sheets, fishing nets and magnifying glasses we headed over to the top lake on the farm. There is a little slipway there with easy access to the lake and the children cast their nets in to see what they could find.
I had a large tub prefiled with lake water at the ready and we added any catches to this from our nets. From the safety of the slipway the children could peer into the tub and study the pond life inside. We could see water boatmen and smaller creatures darting across the tub.
Damselflies were all around us with their vivid blue bodies hovering over the water and sunning themselves on leaves and rocks.
When everyone had tired of seeing the activity on the water we began to fill our collecting trays with nature around the lake. Only foxgloves were off limits as they are poisonous to eat and little ones have a habit of putting fingers in their mouths. These were the prettiest flowers around the pond but we found plenty more things to fill our tubs.
Back over the river I taped a giant piece of plain wallpaper to the path and asked the children to re create the lake and it’s surrounding using the paints and the nature they had collected. Even though the ages went from under 2 to 7 everyone joined in and creativity flowed.
I was so delighted with the finished result I tried for a team photo before hanging it in our games room.
It was certainly a creative way to explore pond life and a perfect introduction for the children.
“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.