Farm Camp

“What do we do at farm camp?”  says my first little camper this past Monday.  And so, the questions ran down the whole line of little campers.  “Yeah, what do we do?”  “When do we get to play on the horses, the wagon and the giant tractor tires?”  “When do we feed the animals?”  “When can we get sugar cookies?”  “When do we eat lunch?” 

Hee hee, these kids already have it figured out.  They’ve been here before and they already know many of the things we do with kids on our farm.  They’re excited because they feel at ease here.  They’ve been here many times with preschools and kindergarten.  With their families too.  I’m happy for this because that means they must like it here.  Turns out, many of them love it here.  My job should be easy this week.

Oh Amy.  Really?  You should know better.  Having been a schoolteacher at one time.  Being a mother now.  How old am I?  Easy?  Ha!

Monday morning.  Along with the flood of questions came an almost flood of rain to match.  Scrap the garden planting and raspberry picking.  Scrap the free-time to play on those giant tires, wooden tractor and horse swings.  Scrap the leisurely stroll through the farm fields to go on a nature walk and fill our wonder jars with treasures.

Dig out the board games.  Okay, Hi Ho Cherrio-sounds “farmy.”  How about the buzzy busy bee game?  We can work in how important bees are on the farm. Oh, here’s a chicken and egg game! Thank goodness I’m a pack rat and haven’t discarded these games even though my own children haven’t played them in a couple of years.   So now we have appropriate”fillers” to keep everyone busy…for about 10 minutes anyway.

Okay, we can still paint the flower pots and we can even plant them under the security of the big tent.  We can plant sunflower seeds in recycled mini yogurt containers that I’ve been saving for a few months.  We can read about the life cycle of a sunflower.  We can transplant tomato plants.

And now the kids have ideas…water the sunflower seed pots with the rain dripping off the edge of the tent, wash their hands in the drips too, play “farmer says” and giggle hysterically while they run around oinking like piglets.    And now, the rain has stopped!

Time to check out those animals.  We feed, pet, and talk to all the animals.  None are neglected.  All are admired and the kids want to do more.  Endless energy.  And luckily, it’s contagious!

Now to the wooden tractor, horse swings and giant tires.  Games are played.  Turns are taken.  Audrey (my fabulous camp helper) and I can actually take a few minutes to get a drink of water and chat a bit.  Until someone needs to go to the bathroom-and that one person turns into four.  Here we go.

A perfect day at farm camp?  Everyone went home smiling and everyone came back the next day.  That’s close enough for me.

On to Tuesday.  Still a bit cool, no rain.  Great weather for farm camp and it’s sheep shearing day!

Sheep are caught and controlled.  “How many of you have ever gotten a haircut?”  All hands shoot in the sky.  “Does it hurt when you get a haircut?”  I realize this is a dangerous question as soon as it’s finished coming out of my mouth.  Everyone shakes their heads ‘no’ and I am feeling better.  “That’s what it’s like for the sheep. So don’t worry about them if they are making noises and carrying on.  They’re just a little nervous.”  I’m preparing the kids, hoping that the sheep won’t be carrying on, that we won’t traumatize anyone because remember, these kids love it here!  I don’t want to mess that up.

First response as we’re watching?  “Giggle, giggle-ew, that is so gross; look at it’s butt!”  Roar of laughter from the whole lot of them.  Okay, so they’re not traumatized, just grossed out.  I can deal with that.  They continue to watch in awe, or disgust, whichever it is, they can’t seem to take their eyes off the whole scene.  Snap some pictures for Facebook of the sheep shearing and now we’re off to something new.  Whew.

A farm walk through the fields wielding a “wonder jar” proves to be a favored activity among this curious group.  Rocks, herbs, leaves, flowers, bugs, asparagus fern, feathers and other treasures quickly fill the children’s fists and then find their way into the already overflowing, heavily decorated little plastic tubs that serve as our wonder jars.  The parents are just going to love me today :)

And then we plant those painted flower pots since we ran out of time yesterday.  In the middle of the planting, the silliness begins.  Okay, time for some free-play, lunch and then send them home.  We made it through another day and it was a good one too.

Wednesday.   I’m up at 6 and let the dog out to fetch the paper.  Ugh, the blast of humidity that greats me as I open the door is an unpleasant start to this day.  And then I remember-farm camp.  Oh my, I hope no one is miserable in this heat.  It’s raspberry picking day.

They’re ready.  They can’t wait to pick raspberries!  Pint-sized hands carrying pint-sized containers and walking in a nice little row is sweet until we leave the shade of the animal area and hit the field.  We’re not even 3/4 of the way to the patch before I hear the complaining begin.  Smile, just smile.

We make it to the patch and the novelty of it outweighs the heft of the heat.  Once instructed on the proper ways of picking and ways of avoiding the thorns, the kids go at it.  Purple finger tips and some tell-tale purple mouths appear quickly, soon after the start of picking the ripe black raspberries.  Boxes are filling slowly but surely.  I mean to snap photos but never get a chance.  Help is needed and requested by some more than others and I am happy to lend a hand.  The sun beats and we’re ready to move on in only 15 minutes.  That’s okay.  I’m starting to feel pretty sweaty out here; I’m sure Audrey is feeling the same way and by the looks of these kids, they’re in need of a drink and some shade.  Coming up.

To the bakery to learn what we do with fresh fruit, besides eating it right away.  :) Now we pick up our ice-cream making supplies.  1/2 and 1/2, sugar, rock salt, large and small baggies, ice and vanilla along with the recipe for some “baggie ice cream” and our pints of raspberries.  The kids are excited.

Up to the tent.  Wash the berries.  Put the cookies in containers.  Make the ice cream.  Create berry, cookie sundaes.

It didn’t go nearly as smoothly as it sounds here, but we’ll pretend it happened that way.   I’m sure the part that the kids will remember is eating all that delicious cold sweetness on a sultry day.  That’s all that matters.

The rest of the time, what little there was left, was spent eating lunch and hanging out in the shade.  The “garden and dirt-loving” kids puttered around with some more planting and dug around in the wheelbarrow of soil.  Our animal lovers fed the veggies from their lunches to the rabbits because they said their moms packed those special for the rabbits.  Hmmm, sorry to the parents if that wasn’t true.   And our keen observers and future farm managers did just that.  They observed, read farm stories, chatted about this and that and managed the heat….the 90 degree heat with nearly 100 percent humidity.  Farmers, even wee ones, work in all kinds of weather.

It was a good three days and I’ll miss those kids.  However, I’m pretty sure that they’ll be back.  They’ve taken some ownership here.   They are right to do that.  This is the farm where my family lives, works and plays.  But it is also our community’s farm.  We welcome all of these children and everyone else in our town and out of it to visit, enjoy and learn.  And farm camp?  We’ll offer it again next year and every year after as long as we are able.  Thanks to those kids who joined us this, our first year!  See you soon :)

please visit us at www.paulusfarmmarket.com or just come on out-it’s much more exciting live and in-person than it is on the web.

 

 

 

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strawberry stardom

We love our customers.  We love to see their shining faces and happy smiles when they walk through the big doors of our old-fashioned open-air market; when they find that perfect bunch of asparagus or that hanging basket of flowers that “will be just perfect on the porch.”

We have so many nice comments about the fruits, veggies, homemade pies, whoopies and homecanned goods.  But there’s one item, at one time of year, that really shines…

STRAWBERRIES

When you come in for strawberries, we know it.  You make a beeline for them with a determined look in your eye.  You pick up one quart; half of them are gone before you pull out of our drive.  You come back and get two more.   “Those darn kids; they just eat them all!”

You come back and get two more…the next day.  “I barely had time to wash them!”  “I had really hoped to make some jam, but they were all gone by the time I got to it.”

So you decide that you should get more.  But how many more?  A panic sets in…  “Geez, maybe I should grow my own.”  Maybe you should!  We  love to hear about all the people who grow their own gardens.  We think that’s fantastic!  It’s hard work and anyone who does it should be proud of themselves.    And if you still need more?  Come on in, we’ll have them for you-for a while anyway, because they only last for just so long.

But that’s what makes strawberries and other coveted produce so sensational and why I labeled this blog as “strawberry stardom.”

Eat what’s in.  Eat what’s local.  Grow it yourself or support someone who does.  When Strawberries are in season, eat lots of them and enjoy.  Make jams, jellies, syrups and save them for later.  Frozen strawberries are fantastic for smoothies all winter long, but enjoy those fresh ones NOW.

Strawberry Stardom is now.  Asparagus stardom is now.  Spinach stardom is now as is lettuce.  Soon peas will come into the spotlight so just as you’re getting rather tired of the others, you’ll have something new to enjoy.

And don’t worry, they’ll all come again next year.  Everything in its time.

For now, here are a couple of recipes to make the most out of those sweet sweet strawberries -if they make it home :)

Creamy Strawberry smoothie:  1 1/2 cups homegrown strawberries, 1 qt. milk, 1 pt. strawberry or vanilla ice cream or yogurt.  Combine all ingredients in a blender at high speed about 1 minute.  I like to add a bit of honey to this too!

Strawberry sauce:  2 C. fresh homegrown strawberries, 1/2 C. sugar or honey, 1/4 C. water.  Crush 1/2 C. of berries.  Dissolve sugar in water and bring to a boil; stir in crushed berries.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and pour over the sliced strawberries.  Chill thoroughly.  Super yummy over pancakes, waffles, cheesecake, pound cake, shortcake (we have homemade shortcake at the market) or ice cream.  I think I’ll try it over a waffle, ice cream sundae!

 

 

 

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Scout’s walk on the farm

Hello!  I’m Scout.  My owners keep calling me their dog, but I know better.  I’m the field inspector on a daily basis.  I walk Amy, the lady of the house, every day and while she’s getting her exercise and clearing her mind, I’m working.  I’m always working!

Today I first examined the field of potatoes.  They’re looking great!  The green leaves are bright and the weeds haven’t taken over.  Check that crop off my list.  Now where is that lady of mine?  Oh, she’s taking pictures and checking something she calls “Facebook” with her phone.  Ugh, this technology stuff has everyone looking down at tiny screens all of the time instead of just looking up-at the sky, at the fields, at me, at our family!  There’s so much going on in life.  Why would anyone want to look at a tiny screen all of the time?

Me, I just observe my surroundings and think a lot.  I’m a really good listener too, but I digress…back to work!

Oh!  I see the guys picking something.  I’m running, I’m running, I’m running.  My lady is calling to me.  Man!  Now I have to go to her. But then she stops.  Now she’s looking at her phone again.  She’s easily distracted and now I can run again!

Wow!  The guys are picking strawberries!  I thought it was too early for those!  Everything seems to be early this year, but no one is complaining.  It’s much better than the loads of rain we had last year at this time.   Boy I sure did love running in that rain and in that mud too.  My family didn’t think it was so great though.  They yelled a lot when I came in the house and shook all over everything.  I don’t know what gets into them sometimes.  I wish they could just see how much fun life is when you run in the mud!

I’m looking for my lady.  There she is.  Now she’s taking pictures of the strawberries; she looks happy.  I love to see her happy.

And we’re off again.  I’m running ahead and she’s smiling.  She’s heading for those white boxes where the buzzing things live.

We’re there.  She’s getting near to the boxes and now she’s taking pictures.  I’m telling you this from afar because I know that those buzzing things like to bite me sometimes.  I don’t need to be told twice to stay clear of them!  I hope my lady knows that too.

She’s okay and she’s moved away from the boxes.  I guess we need those things around here, but I sure wish they’d be a bit more friendly.  I would love to get some of that sweet stuff they store in there!

I’m running again.  I love living on a farm.  There’s so much room out here for me to run and so many new things to smell everyday!

Right now I’m smelling asparagus.  We’re in the middle of our largest patch and it is full!  The guys pick it every day but today they’re still picking strawberries.  I guess they’ll pick the asparagus next.  I love this stuff!  It’s one of my favorite treats.  I also love green beans but they won’t be in for a while yet my lady told me.

My lady picked two handfuls of asparagus for our dinner tonight.  She said she’s going to saute it with mushrooms and marinated turkey breast (fresh from that darn turkey that used to drive me crazy with his gobbling–no more of that–HA!) and then toss it in with some risotto tonight!  Sounds good.  I hope the kids leave me some leftovers :)

We’ve turned around to head home now.  I think I’ll stay by my lady.  She gave me a few spears of asparagus.  I’m not really hungry but I don’t want to make her think I don’t like it, because I really do.  I like walking beside her after I’ve had my share of running.  She smells funny though, kind of like she rolled in a patch of sweet smelling flowers.  I don’t know why she doesn’t roll in something more appealing like this patch of stuff that I’m about to roll in….

“SCOUT! NO!  Yuck, now I have to give you a bath!”  says my lady.

But even as she says it, she reaches down to give me a little pat.  I give her a lick.  We have a great relationship despite our differences.  I guess that’s what makes things interesting around here.

 

 

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A mother’s love

The love of a mother is a wondrous gift.  It is strong.  It is peaceful.  It is powerful and necessary.

The gift of love is the most cherished gift I’ve ever received.  My mother gave this gift to me as well as to my four sisters.  I received another form of this gift when my own babies left my womb and I too became a mother.  I was attached, physically and emotionally and I knew this was a gift that would keep on giving.  The fact that it would also keep on taking came later!

**Re-gifting is not a problem with the gift of love.  The more you do it, the better it is.**

The strength and might of a mother’s love is felt by every mother.  We’re exhausted from birth to graduation and beyond.  We often feel powerless and weak.  But the impact we have on our children is everything but powerless.  It is endless, important and yes, extrememly powerful.  I’ve seen this power in the way my children speak to each other and in how they handle situations.  They’ve learned some good things from me and when I observe those traits, I find myself swelling with pride.  Then there are those “other” traits they’ve learned from me-the ones that make me shrink with guilt.  I try to use my “powers” of influence for good more than not.   I will keep trying.

Peace.  My favorite part of mothering.  Living with children is not always peaceful.  Sometimes you really have to look for peace in order to find it, but if you begin to look for it, often you’ll find that it was always there…it just depends on your definition of the word, peace.  Sometimes I re-write the dictionary to find what I’m looking for :)

Love is a necessity.  Newborns must be swaddled, touched and spoken to in soft voices in order to thrive, even to survive.  That necessity doesn’t stop.  Whether your children know it or not, they need those smooches and “embarrassing” hugs to make it in this world.

We’re celebrating all mothers today at Paulus Farm.  As a special tribute, we’d love to have you post your own “mom” stories here for everyone to read.  They can be funny, sad, heartfelt, joyous…whatever you’d like to say about yourself, your children or any other mothers in your life.  Just please be kind :)

Also, since we have many farmyard mamas here at the farm…

It would be great to see some “animal mother” stories here too.  Those animal mamas sure could use some inspiration just like the rest of us!

Happy Mother’s day from all of us at Paulus Farm Market-mothers, grandmas and aunties…and all of our furry animal mamas too.

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hunting for eggs in the drizzle and mud makes Easter, and life, all the more memorable

Anytime we really want it to rain, we just plan an event.  A big event.  Like an Easter egg hunt for about 200 people.

Now, really, I’m not one to complain about the weather.  I leave that up to my husband.  :)  “It’s sunny; we need some rain.  It’s cloudy; the plants need more sun.  It’s raining; the hay’s getting wet.  It’s 30 degrees; the field crops are going to freeze.  It’s 95 degrees; the corn is wilting and won’t pollinate”……really, I’m just giving him a hard time.  I just never realized until meeting him how much a farmer relies on the uncontrollable nature of the weather.  Now I get it and I tend to worry some too…

However, we try hard not to worry about the weather when it comes to fun stuff.

Because really, how much do kids love wet, messy mud?  Okay, there may be some who don’t care for it too much, but I bet left to their own minds, without someone scrunching up their noses and scolding every time a bit of dirt appeared on their shirts or shoes, that most kids like to get dirty.  Most could at least grow to tolerate it to some degree-maybe even play, have fun, run around and experience all that mud, rain and dirt can do for them.  Please let them try it and you try it too… ’cause it can do a lot for you.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So on this particular weekend, when we had a good bit of rain in the middle of the night on Friday and a light drizzle throughout the early morning on Saturday, we didn’t worry about the weather.  The rain was good for the spring crops.  The cloudiness kept the temperatures where they really should be in March.  Jim didn’t complain about it-well, not too much.

“What about the Easter Egg hunt?”  he says.

“It’s a rain or shine event.”  I say

Fast forward to the hunt…

The kids don’t even notice that it’s drizzly and cold.  They’re smiling.  Pink, green, polka-dotted, bunny shaped and old-fashioned wicker baskets are twirling around on their arms.  They’ve worn their boots.  They’ve worn their raincoats.  They’ve brought their parents who are also smiling.   The hunt goes on.  It’s under the tent and inside the giant greenhouse.  It’s outside in the drizzle.  It’s in the messy, wet straw.  There are sweet, feathery chicks and  downy ducks to pet.  There are soft, musky smelling bunnies to snuggle.  There are lots of dirty, messy, filthy kids, clothes, coats and shoes.  There is mud and memories.

Many of our family members came to the egg hunt on Saturday.  Many more of our friends came to the egg hunt too.  I enjoyed seeing every single one of you even though for some it wasn’t more than a moment in the rush of what is always an egg hunt, it was a moment-a great moment.  Thank you to all of you.  Thank you to the new visitors too.  We hope you had fun and we hope to see you often at our farm.

Even though I say we try not to worry about the weather when it comes to fun stuff, you know we still do.  It’s just natural.  I can say that we weren’t worried, but in truth, we may have been just a tad worried.  We wanted everyone to have fun.  We wanted everything to be perfect.  We had plans.  The plans we had weren’t possible because of the weather.   Mother Nature changed our plans and we made it work.

A kind, smiling and damp woman at the hunt said to me that we had a great crowd-that the weather worked out in our favor!  At first I looked at her kind of funny…thinking she was joking.  Then I realized that she wasn’t joking and that she was right.  It did work in our favor.  Thank you to that wise woman :)

Here’s to many more muddy memories in your own backyard, at the park or on our farm.    “Nature is beautiful, but it isn’t always pretty!”  Last Child in the Woods

 

 

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Boys will be boys, especially on our farm

Stones and sticks and fire-starting flints, that’s what my boys are made of…at least on some days.

These warm March days have brought all types of newness to the farm.  Animal babies, flower-filled greenhouses, freshly plowed and planted fields and…campfires.  Yes, campfires.  My boys love to build campfires!

The other day our youngest asked if he could build a fire.  We usually do this in our backyard fire pit with the supervision of myself, my husband or our older son who is a Webelos Scout with fire-building credentials :)  Of course, I’m always peeking out the kitchen window to be sure those credentials are legitimate and that everyone is safe.

But the commercialized, metal fire pit was growing old…read “boring” to a couple of young boys.  So, the idea of building a REAL fire, in the driveway, came about one day.  I believe my husband is to be credited with this brain child and I have to say it turned out to be a great one.

The corner of the driveway may not sound like an ideal space to you.  To us, living on a working farm and not worrying too much about the status of our driveway, it seemed a safe and logical place for a little child-led adventure.  No trees in the way, no grass to catch fire and no animals to scare, unlesss of course, our barn cats decided to venture that way…which they didn’t.  But just building a fire didn’t prove to be enough of an adventure for our little rascals.

So…as I’m standing on the front porch, enjoying the sight of the kids’ small and well-controlled stick, stone, twig and straw-filled fire, built entirely by themselves mind you, I suddenly see one of them running to the chicken yard and the other one rummaging through the garage.  I am about to yell and tell them to tend their fire but I don’t need to .  The older one comes running back with a large aluminum can in his hands, proceeds to wash it out under the water pump and runs back to the fire.  The younger is gingerly walking, albeit at a fast pace, carrying what I soon realize to be an armful of fresh brown eggs, probably plucked right out from under the hens!   They have a plan.

The can is full of water.  It’s carefully placed in the fire.  The eggs go into the can of water.  They are cooking their own afternoon snack.  They’re beaming.  I’m beaming.  Love this moment.

But I’m also anticipating their needs, as all of us mothers do.  So I go to the kitchen and grab a pair of long-handled tongs and another container, one with cold water.

I go back outside and walk to their wonderland.  Their eyes are glued to the can, to the water, to the fire and to the eggs.  Mine are glued on them.  I’m so thankful for their sense of wonder.  I hope they always have this.

About 15 minutes later we’re removing the eggs and plopping them into the container of cold water.  They’ve acknowledged my presence and enlisted my help with cracking and peeling the eggs.  The first one is still a little runny inside.  It becomes Scout’s afternoon snack; he loves it.

Eggs go back into the can, back into the water, back into the fire for 5 more minutes.  “Eggs take longer on the open fire,” notes Ryder.  Lesson learned.

5 minutes over.  Eggs back out and plopped into the cold water container.  Mom gets to help again.  Crack. Peel.  Perfect.

I’ve never seen them eat eggs with such gusto.  Maybe I can get them to cook their own vegetables over the fire.  Maybe that will be another day.  For now, I’m savoring this one.

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On a side note, I’m reading a book called “Last Child in the Woods.”  It’s a great read and it will make you think about nature and children and a lot more too…I highly recommend it.

Enjoy this day :)

 

 

 

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