“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.