Don’t judge me it could happen to you

Posted on March 8th, 2015 - Anya


This post is somewhat different for me, it is not about our lovely holiday farm, my traditional outdoor adventures with the kids or my latest creations to feed them all from the kitchen, this is the post I was never meant to write.

Nick and I have always given our children a measured independence and freedom beyond their friends and in return we expect a level of respect for this scope. However my parenting style came crashing down around me a few weeks ago with Theo and I was not at all sure I would share it here. On reflection with a few weeks to think about the implications I decided that our experience may help others to be aware, so here goes:

We have always been very open with our children, discussed all manner of topics at length engaging in some great debates and have allowed them alcohol underage at home with us. The triplets at age 10 will often ask for a sip of my evening glass of wine or Dad’s beer and providing they ask politely we let them. The older boys at 14 and 16 are allowed a beer at the weekend or a special occasion with us and I have always considered that a little exposure and not making drinking taboo was a good thing. We are well known for throwing a party and I am fine with my older boys having a drink at these as I’ve always wanted them to develop a sensible approach to drink under my watchful eye. It has never been an issue, until now!


The Only Photo of Theo


I have shared Nick’s amazing 50th birthday celebrations here, I marvelled at how the kids and adults all united on the dance floor, however we were missing one in all the photos. My screenager had disgraced himself; on reflection I think he felt caught between the teens that were having a wonderful time and happily dancing after a glass of fizz and the triplets who he felt were too young for him. He hadn’t been looking forward to the party and his answer unbeknownst to us was to pinch the Prosecco being offered on the way in. He confided in me after that he was feeling great after two and starting to enjoy the evening, so drank three more, all on an empty stomach. None of us were aware of this as it happened so quickly while we were welcoming all our friends and family; however soon Theo was clearly not feeling fine, and very ill. Nick and I took it in turns to look after him, walking the ghostly white boy that was our son up and down the road to try and sober him up but to no avail as once back inside he fell fast asleep on a friend, also a doctor *sigh*.


Drunk Monkey

He woke the following morning blissfully unaware of the trouble he had caused with a clear head after being ill and starving hungry. In a way I wish he had suffered a hangover to remind him what a rubbish idea drinking too much was! Has he learned a lesson? I hope so; he certainly hasn’t been keen to try anything since and says he won’t drink like that again. I know he is way too young at just coming up 13 to have had this experience but I also know he is going to face many parties in years to come where he is encouraged to drink to excess; I won’t be there for him then, no Mum and Dad to clear up after him, walk him down the lane and sit with him till his bed beckons. On balance I’d rather he made his mistakes with us than at a party just with friends his age. My eldest has told me enough tales of his friends lying in fields after too much to drink at all night parties, he is 16 and never been one of them, the odd drink at home growing up has made him respect alcohol and the same for his 14 year old brother, they both have a beer or two and stop. It didn’t work the same way for Theo, but at least his Dad and I were there for him, I hope he will mature and learn before he finds himself at a party where there is drink on offer and friends egging him on.  

There is no right answer on this one, perhaps we were irresponsible not to have seen what Theo was doing, of course I’d rather he hadn’t shown himself up and put a dampener on his Dad’s big night, but at the end of the day parenting is about learning and we have all learned from this one. I won’t be changing my views about alcohol in the home as it is not fair on my other children who have proved to be sensible, but have reinforced how to be responsible with an occasional drink and will be keeping a closer watch on a party night until trust is restored with Theo.

If you have any experience of teens and alcohol I’d love to hear about how you handled it.

A bit of an ‘enlightening’ magic moment for me this week! 

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The Screenager

Posted on February 22nd, 2015 - Anya

Concerns for my teen boy.

Move over pop stars and actors, there is a new craze hitting our teen generation. As a parent I restrict time spent in front of screens, instead preferring to promote healthy outdoor fun. Whether it is helping us with the farm chores or playing out in our 30 acres, I have a real belief in the benefits of fresh air and exercise. My Country Kids linky which runs each week could have you believe my kids never get to slob out indoors. However the truth is I have one almost teen who if I let him could spend all day in front of a screen with his pet rat perfecting his next video, learning from the YouTube masters and watching so called experts play games and pass on tips.


Screenager and his rat at work on their You Tube channel


I had been worried with everything I read about teenagers spending too much time in their rooms as to what he was watching on YouTube and how this might be affecting his development at this vulnerable age. He has been deep in the pre-teen grumpy hormonal boy stage and the first of my children to combine this with a love of modern technology. I was regretting the PC he had saved up for in his room a few years earlier.

I continued to restrict time spent in his room, to force him into helping outside at weekends and felt I wasn’t really making any progress as he only resented my actions. The only time he would chat to me and sound like the animated boy I knew and loved was if I showed interest in his pet rat or what he was watching or doing on his PC.

To my relief whenever I entered his room the things he was watching all seemed in the realms of normality. Games looked more violent than I might like but there want nothing sinister. We talked about the sorts of things I was keen he kept away from and he reassured me I had nothing to worry about.

Slowly he began to ask me about how I edited photos and videos for my blog, we shared ideas and he told me he had started his own You Tube Channel. He was happy for me to subscribe so I took this as a good sign in regards to the content.  

For Christmas he wanted a hand held video, nothing fancy, just something he could shoot his own movie clips on and edit on his PC. This has proved a great move as he takes his fantasy computer world and combines it with acting sketches around the house and garden with his video recorder and is actually benefitting from some good old outdoor fun time in the process. His younger brothers are happy to enter into his world of make believe and form part of his recordings and I couldn’t be happier than to see them all playing together. Back in his bedroom he sets to work editing.

His videos are now beating mine for number of views and people he doesn’t really know at school are approaching him to find out how he does them. Right now he sees himself as the next big thing in You tubing, I have no idea how he creates the effects, but I have to confess they are quite clever. Whether he makes it or not in this strange new world, I am delighted the silence is broken, we are chatting and compromising on his time spent on his PC and I feel he is becoming part of our family unit again happily sharing his movie discoveries with us all.   

If you fancy a look this is his latest creation below.  It is far from perfect but has some interesting effects towards the end. We have talked about carrying on with ICT and perhaps taking Graphic Design at school when he chooses his GCSE options next year. 



If you have any tips on handling a screenager, managing time online with family communication and understanding their gaming world I’d love to hear about it.


Farmer Nick Celebrates 50 in Uniform

Posted on February 8th, 2015 - Anya

At Coombe Mill we are known for throwing a good party, whether it is one of our special events with our holiday guests or a personal party for family and friends, the invites go out and everyone knows they are in for a good night. Last year for Nick we did a Greek theme here at Coombe Mill, converting our kitchen into a perfect Greek Taverna for the night. I knew that was going to be hard to top but with Nick turning 50 it had to be the best yet.

The timing was perfect being the week before half term while we were still closed. All our friends and family from far and wide were able to come and stay the weekend which was perfect for them and a great test run at heating and turning on all the cottages and scandinavian lodges for us. The fun began as we welcomed people into our house throughout Friday evening with a case of champagne and a pot of curry, the worries of M5 traffic, work and school soon melting away.  

By Saturday evening everyone was ready to party all dressed up in their own interpretations of the theme “uniforms”.


Farmer Nick's 50th birthday party Invites

We were taking over the local pub and hired a bus to take us there. No one had even had a drink at this stage yet you can already from the photo that it was going to be a good night ahead.


On the bus to St Mabyn Inn leaving Coombe Mill Car Park

Much credit for the evening goes to the owners of the St Mabyn Inn who helped us plan the night and were ready and waiting with Prosecco on arrival. I must say a candy tray was much more useful than my pom poms for holding a glass of fizz!


Candy Tray & Uniforms at Farmer Nick's 50th birthday party

During the course of the evening the photos progress from reserved to wild as we made our way through a delicious 3 course buffet and ample wine.


Drinks and food at St Mabyn Inn for Nick's 50th Birthday party


I excelled myself with my best cake ever, a carrot cake as requested by Nick but decorated with inspiration from our children who insisted on it being a Top Gear cake. I turned it into a 50 year special edition, with a times laps chocolate board and Photos from key life stages along the road. I was only too happy to show it off with speeches and cake cutting and leading a chorus of Happy Birthday.


 Farmer Nick's 50th Birthday Cake

Nick couldn’t have been happier with all the people who mattered most around him and a tremendous atmosphere in the room. He even managed the odd dance under duress!


Farmer Nick Dancing at his 50th birthday Party at St Mabyn


Boogying on down till the clock struck midnight and our bus returned was no hardship for the rest of us.


 Dancing the night away at Farmer Nick's 50th birthday Party


However perhaps the highlight of the evening for me was watching how all my usually socially shy teens linked up with friends they don’t see from one year to the next as if it were yesterday and were happy in the limelight, giving it large on the dance floor with us oldies and really enjoying themselves. The generational gap melted for a few hours, we were not parents and children but all friends enjoying a great night out. There was always someone picking up my camera and clicking away and the children for once were having too much fun to complain, instead enjoying the chance to join in with a silly pose.


Having a laugh through the generations at Nick's 50th party

Organising these events I so often say never again, yet when it all comes together on the night I remember why I love these big gatherings. The teen crowd carried on their party back at Coombe Mill in the Hot Tub at Tree Roots Cottage until 3am. It was only once I knew mine were all safely back indoors at our house that I finally locked the front door and drifted off to sleep.   


I only hope we are all able to make the next big milestone together, though I may have to grow up and ditch the cheer leader get up by then!

Eat Your Greens

Posted on January 18th, 2015 - Anya

 Eat your greens Chocolate Cake

How many times were you told to “finish your greens” as a child? For me it was most meals. I try not to be as dictatorial over food as my parents were with me, taking the more modern approach of encouraging my children to try a little of everything at each meal but not stressing over the things they really dislike, usually anything green. As my children have grown up they have come to tolerate and then enjoy more and more of the traditionally hated-by-kids’ foods. However they are not perfect and some will eat more than others. Cooking a roast in my house rarely involves any leftovers although I can guarantee what there is will be the green veggies I over optimistically produced.

Leftover greens

Waste is something I dislike, usually the left over greens go in into tomorrow’s shepherd’s pie or chilli in minced size pieces, and the outer leaves in the preparation stages we save to feed the farm pigs. However I had an inkling of an idea I wanted to try and wondered if I could be more creative and hide our leftover greens in a cake, after all carrot cake is always a success and I’ve used pulses before now. I figured a chocolate cake would be the best to hide both the colour and the flavour of the unwelcome 200g broccoli, leek, pea and green bean combination. I tossed the idea onto Facebook and then felt inspired to take the challenge promising to blog the results, only if it worked!   Eat your greens chocolate cake ingredients


 There is not much left after the first day so I call that a success. 


Rich chocolate cake


I actually videoed myself making the cake, it is really quick, in fact just three minutes from the start of the video to popping the cakes in the oven. I’d love you to take a look, this is my first go at video cooking, or vlogging of any sort come to that and I think I might try it again, it is easier than stopping to take a photo at every step of the way and a great way to make me tidy my kitchen before I begin!

Vlogging Chocolate Cake with hidden greens!


How do you get on with greens and kids? Do you end up disguising them to get a variety going or just stick to the one or two you know they tolerate. Do you make them try them or just accept it is an acquired taste that comes with age?

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Remembrance Sunday Then and Now

Posted on November 9th, 2014 - Anya


Today has been a really busy day, I spent the day, making 100 lamb burgers and thought my food processor was going to expire all in aid of our annual bonfire party. In between we had fireworks to set up, a bonfire to finish building, tables and chairs to put out, a gazebo that kept collapsing and the good British weather that kept erupting into torrential downpours followed by clear blue sky again. This balanced between our regular timetable of the morning tractor ride to feed the animals and the afternoon train ride for the guests. Yet still I remembered it was Remembrance Sunday and Guy and Jed needed to be at Parade half an hour away from Coombe Mill. 


Remembrance Sunday Parade 2014


Seeking out clean uniforms and scrubbing up school shoes that had clearly been across the farm I pardoned myself from the feed run drove them in. The sun shone and I stayed for the brief service by the Memorial and watched them march down to church before driving home and swapping with Nick to collect them again. It wasn’t easy, the boys weren’t keen on attending and it would have been so much more convenient to just let it go this year with all we had on at Coombe Mill. However Nick and I both agreed they should go as their brother’s before had always done. They joined the scouting movement to be a part of the camps, the games and all the fun and in return we believe they should give their time on St Georges Day and Remembrance Sunday to support the leaders and the movement.

It would appear I am in a minority with this view. Out of a full troop of 20 odd 10 – 14 year olds, most of whom live walking distance, only four plus my boys appeared for Parade. Of course some will be sick and some away but that many?    



There has been so much in the media this year about remembrance and world wars. Watching television the significance of the day is as big as ever and the ceramic poppy field at Tower Bridge quite spectacular , yet to my children’s generation I wonder if there is a disconnect between what they see and their own lives? If it wasn’t for parade I wouldn’t have had the 2 minutes silence with my boys and I dare say my older children at home were busy bonfire building through it. When I was young the country came to a stand still and cars would pull over on the roads. I always stood in the lounge with my parents watching the TV and my Mum would weep at coverage from the BBC live from the Cenotaph in London and listen all morning on the radio (or wireless as it was then).

Have times moved on? Is Remembrance Sunday losing its sense of reality to a generation where many are untouched by war or are we just absorbing this sobering day in a different and more personal way now that doesn’t involve attending community gatherings or abiding by a given two minute silence?  

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