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.
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Faced with one of the seasons wet autumn days and a very young group of eager little helpers, I had had to have a quick rethink about my planned autumn leaf activities. Soggy leaves were just not doing it in my mind so I moved the theme to pig crafts. Our growing piglets are a delight to all our visitors and as one of their favourite foods is windfall acorns, I thought I could work on the idea of a nutritious snack for Sally the pig and her piglets and something fun and delicious for the children.
With tiny tots a story is often a good way to get things started. I chose a couple of very simple farm animal books to bring back all they had learned on a week at the farm. Gradually shyness melted away and interest grew.
I had the craft table indoors out of the rain and wind and handed out my piglet templates. The children set to work painting their pigs. There was no requirement to stay within the lines as we were going to leave them to try and cut out the pieces later on.
From painting pictures to decorating cup cakes with pig faces the theme moved on at quite a pace.
I had been tipped off about a special birthday and made a little cup cake pre-decorated with candles to accompany a birthday cake from the parents. Candles, a cake and everyone singing can be overwhelming when you are just 2, but the birthday girl and her new friends took it all in their stride.
A nutritious acorn snack
Finally the rain was easing enough for us to brave the outdoors and help digest the birthday cake. I handed out collecting cups and with raincoats and wellies we began hunting for acorns as a treat for Sally the pig. They were falling all over the car park and it didn’t take my eagle eyed tots long to start finding them.
A long walk for little legs
Collecting things is a great way to distract little legs who were rather hoping Farmer Nick would come by with his tractor to give them a lift.
Finally we made it to the pig sty with brimming cups of acorns and tipped them in for Sally and her piglets to enjoy.
What about those Piggy Paintings
We came back the shorter route over the footbridge to see how our piggy paintings were drying. Some were still tacky but they were dry enough to be cut and stapled together to make keepsake pigs for the children.
Everyone left with their pig crafts, pig face cakes and a tummy full of birthday cake. It was a busy afternoon for my eager 2 year olds. Many didn’t even manage the 6pm train I’d worn them out so much!
After a lovely activity hour studying the weather a few weeks ago I was determined to return to the theme as I still had plenty of ideas I knew our older children would enjoy. It turned out to be a good decision for two key reasons: We had a wide spread of ages and I knew my windsocks would work for everyone and the weather itself moved from threatening cloud formations to sunshine during the afternoon so we had plenty to see.
Measuring wind with windsocks
Last time we studied the weather we made rain gauges, this time I wanted to try windsocks made to my own patented design. We began by decorating a sheet of paper to wrap around an old plastic drink bottle.
Next the children chose colours of floristry ribbon to make the floaty tail for the wind to catch. We fixed these through the end of the bottle by punching holes with a hole punch. Doing the same at the top allowed us to add string to hang them up.
The little ones took great delight in racing up and down with their windsocks gathering wind in their wake while the older ones perfected their designs.
There were so many children our hour was almost up by the time everyone had finished their windsock, but they were so keen to carry on we just went with the flow. Splitting into two groups Amber led the successful weather experiments from a few weeks ago but made it more challenging for the older ones by encouraging them to say how the props could make each weather condition.
Meanwhile I took another group to make cloud study journals. I had the 4 basic cloud types printed in a chart and the children used this to make booklets to record the cloud formation each day for a week.
We sat down and looked up to the sky to see today’s cloud pattern. From nimbus earlier we now had cumulus and status cloud. Heading back to the table the children entered their first days cloud pattern to their journals.
The non scientific weather forecast
Will it be sun, rain wind or snow, you’ll have to play the game: I helped the children fold paper into a little game I remember doing myself as a child. I think we used to use them for fortune telling and silly statements, but I thought they would make fun weather predictors. The children added colours to spell out in the first layer and numbers to count on the second before writing in 8 weather conditions you could pick as tomorrow’s forecast. Lots of fun and arguably as accurate as the BBC!
By the time the evening train came round the windsocks were still flying high. Letting them catch the wind from the train was a lovely idea totally inspired by the children.
I wonder if any of them will go onto be weather forecasters when they grow up. It was top of my list as a child.
We have had lots of fun this summer with raft races on the river. I wanted to keep the river focus for the group of older children we had staying as they had spent so much time body boarding from one end of Coombe Mill to the other during the week. I knew to keep their interest in activity hour we needed a river game, but I was also mindful of some little ones who would be joining us too. From learning about bones, to making our own stickman, dressing him or her and then sending them off on a zip wire adventure we had a wonderful afternoon of creativity and fun that met the expectations of all ages.
From bones to sticks
We began guessing the animals in my book of Bones which got everyone thinking about structure for stick man.
Then after a quick look at my demonstration stick man the children set off to find sticks and nature to build their own.
With the help of some string, and sections of one of my kids old toy story duvet cover, stick men were created and clothed.
A harness for Stickman
Once the stick men were completed the children set about colouring and fixing toilet roll harnesses ready for the stick man adventure down the river zip wire.
Bring on the zip wire adventure
when everyone had finished we set off for the river hoping our idea would work. To my delight our plan came together perfectly. The kids fed their stickmen one by one on to the zip wire while Amber and I held each end. The drop from the top of the bridge to the river edge was just enough to give stick man an exciting ride.
Each Stickman was cheered and had two rides. How tight the string was pulled and how heavy the sticks were affected the speed of each passenger.
From zip wire ride to river race for Stickman
We managed not to lose any in the water but I think the older kids were lightly disappointed at how slick the operation was. As they had wetsuits and body boards they were desperate to use I suggested we raced the stickmen bridge to bridge for the final game. The older ones would following them down in the water and rescue them at the end while the little ones could throw them off the bridge and race to the finish line along the river bank.
It was a perfect way to end the afternoon giving all the children the thrill they wanted. We left them all playing in the river. Only Guy complained at the wet bottoms on the train at 6pm where they had only just come out of the river to the train still in their wetsuits.
I love working with nature and when blackberry season comes around I can’t resist popping on my creative cap for activity hour. Every year we end up baking with blackberries, whether to make crumble, ice cream or cakes. This year a friend had given me a bag of windfall apples from the garden, so I decided on blackberry and apple muffins, with tie dye experimentation to follow.
Foraging for blackberries
We began by handing out blackberry collecting trays for blackberry picking. We didn’t have to go too far and had more than enough from the hedgerows around the cottage gardens.
Preparing Blackberry and Apple Muffins
Back at the craft table we washed hands and blackberries and began peeling our cooking apple.
It took quite a time to get all the ingredients measured and mixed with my team of 14 eager helpers. We managed and with spoons and mixture in all directions enough landed in the muffin cases to go into the oven.
It would appear my own kids are not the only ones to love baking for the fight over the mixing bowl after. Spoons and sticky fingers delved in to ensure none of the mix was wasted.
Tie dye with blackberry juice
While our muffins cooked we cleared the table, washed sticky fingers and set up for a little creative tie dye fun. I had been blackberry picking in the morning and blended my foraged finds into a rich mixture and had a little test go to ensure it worked.
Happy that this was a runner with the children I brought my mixture to the table along with enough pieces of cloth for everyone to have a go. We used some of my supply of loom bands to make the ties and everyone crested their own designs wrapping the bands around the fabric.
Dipping the cloth in the blackberry dye was messy fun. I had a sheet of kitchen roll on hand to dry each one, before peeling off the loom bands to reveal the tie die cloth.
I was thrilled with the results everyone achieved. Time was marching on, but they all wanted to mount their cloth, as I had done, on coloured paper and card to show it off to its best.
Those muffins were delicious.
In any case the extra time gave my muffins a chance to cook and cool sufficiently for everyone to take one home – or eat it there and then.
There were only 3 muffins spare to bring back to my house so I had to make a fresh batch for my own kids. As for the blackberry dye mix, I couldn’t throw away all that goodness, instead I boiled the remaining juices to make sure it was hygienic and turned it into ice cream.
I do like foraging in autumn, maybe we will go hunting for elderflower or mushrooms next.
We have been experiencing a summer of sunshine and showers here in Cornwall. I thought we might take advantage of the changes in the weather and try our hand at some weather studies. It turned into a good beach day and many of the older children stayed out till late, but I had two eager younger visitors keen to learn and play for activity hour.
Bring the weather alive challenge
We began with a series of weather experiments which was just right for the children. They were full of curiosity and intrigue by all the things we had laid out and couldn’t wait to get started. At each station they had an activity to do and a weather type to guess. I think the rain and clouds were their favourites which they repeated over and over just for the fun of it. The tornado was a new concept to them but seeing the water swish in the bottle they soon understood how it could happen.
Making it rain through plastic cups with holes
Simulating wind blowing into a windmill
Spotting the rainbow reflected through the water in a glass
Spotting the rainbow reflected through the bubbles
Feeling fluffy clouds from alpaca fleece
Watching bubble clouds
Creating a sun shadow with a torch and a sheet
Simulating a tornado with water swished at speed in a bottle
A DIY Rain Gauge for the farm
After working their way through all our interactive weather studies we set about making rain gauges together, taking inspiration from a post linked to my #Trash2Treasure linky from Charlie Moos. We used some colourful duck tape colours over the top of our cut plastic bottles so there were no sharp edges to hurt little fingers and used felt tip on pieces of paper to make the measurement guide which we taped to the side of the bottle.
Delighted with the finished results they decided they wanted to leave them in the fairy garden and pop back to check on them there each day as rain was in the forecast for the following day.
Creative hand painting
Back at the craft table we had a messy painting activity to show rain. By painting their hands grey and adding spots of blue down their fingers they created some beautiful printed rain pictures to keep.
Fair Weather Games
With a ready paddling pool of now bubbly water from our rain and bubble cloud experiments the children were able to wash off all the paint ready to end our afternoon with some fair weather games.
I already have an idea forming to expand my weather studies activity when we have a group of older children looking at weather forecasting, cloud formation and making a weather diary for the week.
“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.