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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For our final week of Easter Holiday activities I decided on a giant Den Building mission and a campfire bringing the children back to basics with some wild garlic cooking. It was an ambitious undertaking with a large group, however with so many older children so keen to take part it felt like the right activity.
It’s all in the preparation
As always with my activity sessions, preparation is everything. Farmer Nick had been talking about moving the Den building zone for some time and this prompted the activity. The old zone had been standing for many years and the branches were becoming so dry and brittle they were beginning to snap. Since we were talking about re stocking with new trees and branches we also agreed on a new location which I knew would be popular with the children.
The Bug hotel next to the fairy garden was a bit of a white elephant. The bugs never inhabited, preferring instead the giant toadstool seats of the fairy garden to hide under. Nick took it all down and spent a morning anchoring supports for a new Den building area in its place. He then chopped a load of branches and placed them all outside ready for me to use with the children. Felix, who was home from university, set up a lovely stone fire pit and seating for me and I prepared some cheesy bread mix. It all looked so natural I was delighted.
Excited den building kids
The children all came home from their days out super excited by the den building task ahead. Everyone had been eyeing up the growing mound of branches and couldn’t wait to see where they were going to take them. One by one the children dragged the branches to Felix at the Den building zone who took them from the children and agreed with them where each would go.
In no time at all the den was forming and Felix was struggling to keep pace with the arriving branches
We were racing against the rain too and keen to get a good canopy over our den. It all worked a treat and easily housed all the children.
Felix explained to the children how to start a good campfire with dry wood and firelighters. He showed the purpose of the stone surround and let them help develop the fire once it was lit.
There is nothing quite like a campfire to excite children and they all crowded round adding firewood.
Cooking with wild garlic
Wild garlic is one of my favourite foraged herbs in spring and we have plenty on the farm. The children collected and chopped the wild garlic, then mixed it into a chunk of cheesy bread dough. Finally they wrapped it round a stick.
By the time the kids had prepared their garlic bread onto the sticks the fire was ready to cook on. The smell was wonderful and I wish I had a chance to toast one for myself!
I love how the children were drawn back into the den to enjoy their garlic bread.
A pack of marshmallows finished off the session. After all who can resist toasting one of these on a campfire?
It was such a busy afternoon but one the kids all adored. Each took home some happy memories of fun on the farm with Farmer Nick and wild den building and campfire cooking with me.
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
Clio told me back in February, as we wandered around the lake, that the bright yellow flowers on our gorse bush were edible. I’ve been thinking about how to use them ever since. Then I saw a lovely post from Annette at Four Acorns who used them to make ice cream and I knew I had to try something. Ice cream sounded delicious but would take too long to set on an afternoon with the children here so I decided to bake wild gorse flower cakes with them instead. I tested a batch out on my own children first, and then happy that they were going to be popular with the holiday guests, I formed our afternoon activities around this idea.
We began with a walk over to the lakes where I knew there were a few bushes for us to raid. It was May and the flowers were nearly over. It was tricky to pick the flowers without getting prickled so the older children and grownups were in charge while the younger ones played on the lakeside play equipment.
Back at the craft table with hands and gorse flowers washed the children helped me add all the ingredients into a big mixing bowl.
We divided the mixture into little cake tins and placed them in the oven.
While the cakes were cooking, the children created a little recipe cards. These had the cooking instructions and a few pressed gorse flowers.
I think they could have been colouring away for hours if they hadn’t spotted me bringing out the trays of perfectly risen wild gorse flower cakes. I placed a plate of cooled cakes on the picnic rug and colouring pens went down as everyone tasted their baking.
I think its fair today they went down a treat. Foraging for edible flowers is a great way to encourage children on a country walk. Remember to take a container to bring your flowers home. Here is the recipe if you fancy giving it a go.
Recipe for Wild Gorse Flower Cakes
All the fun of our foraging and baking afternoon on video
In early May the farm is teaming with wild garlic. Big green leaves, white bulb roots and pretty white flowers. I was keen to run an activity hour that would take us out on a nature appreciation tour searching for garlic and making something with it. Last year we made some delicious cheese and wild garlic scones, this year I thought we’d try my super easy pasta sauce. Since I knew it was very quick and easy to make I had a couple of extra jobs on the farm for us to do with the animals, and then nature obliged with a few more so that we totally overran our time, but no one was clock watching and tummies had been filled.
We began with a little sensory game. The children each sniffed a little wild garlic, rosemary and mint and tried to say what they reminded them of. Some of the things were so funny with the likes of strawberries and honey, but I was really impressed with the little girl who said roast potatoes on smelling the rosemary. I checked with her Mum and like me she adds rosemary to roasties!
Nature Appreciation through making Wild Garlic Pasta Sauce
Having seen and smelt wild garlic we watched my little video on how to make wild garlic pasta sauce.
Then we set off onto the farm to look for some wild garlic while Clio cooked a pan of pasta for us.
On our return we saved a little garlic to add to our recipe cards which were laminated for the children to take home then washed hands and garlic before setting to work on our sauce. The children helped me carefully chop the wild garlic including the leaves, flowers and bulbs and place them in the food mixer. Then we added olive oil and seasoning, replaced the lid and whizzed it all up.
Clio brought us out the steaming pasta and we put some into bowls with the sauce and grated cheese for the children to try. Despite the parents reservations on whether they would taste it, every child gave it a go and most really enjoyed it. Curiosity had the better of the parents and they all tried some too!
Nature appreciation with animals.
When everyone had finished their pasta we had a few farm jobs to do.
Our first job was to release an emperor moth. I had found her sunbathing on our doorstep just before activity hour and she was sure to be trodden on merging into the paving stones so I brought her along for the children to see. Carefully we freed her onto the grass next to a bush.
Our remaining jobs needed a walk back to the farm. Lambo needed her bottle, I had carrots ready as edible toys for the rabbits and Farmer Nick had made a sign we needed to put up to protect the nesting wild duck sitting on her eggs. We headed off over the fields with everything we needed and stopped first to add the sign and show the children the duck. She was pretty well camouflaged and we only found her in the first place when farmer Nick nearly mowed her down cutting the lawns!
Over the bridge and a hungry lamb was waiting for us.
Finally we took our sliced carrots into the bunnies and hung them from their toy. Grabbing their treat keeps the bunnies entertained and full up!
No wonder the time ran away, there is so much to do on the farm at this time of year and it’s lovely to have the children wanting to help. You might have thought they would be worn out after all their nature appreciation and chores, but there was still time for a play in the ford on the way back. It just goes to show that nature’s playground is pretty cool too!
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.
“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.