We have spent quite a lot of time over the last couple of months playing hunt the combine; it may be man made but I think it’s one of the great seasonal events and of course a chance to behave like a little boy again watching and talking about tractors. We live next door to a farm so Matilda and Henry get a front row seat to watch the tractors coming in with their trailers full of grain and then disappearing off again to the fields. I love being in the outdoors as you know so a mini adventure that involves being outdoors and free is hard to beat in my book.
It all started back in June with the Barley harvest, then the farmer moved onto rapeseed, then wheat and finally the flax seed which he’s only just finishing collecting. Quite fascinating watching each field go from fully grown plants to nicely ploughed rows in the space of a few days and those guys definitely work hard. This may be a mini adventure but it’s been going on most of the summer either from our garden, on walks along footpaths or when out in the car. We were the annoying people stopped on the country lanes watching another harvester whir around a field with the children complaining if we didn’t stay long enough.
Combine harvesters have always fascinated me, such amazing machines, and it seems my 2 little monsters are equally fascinated. What’s been really fun is that we have a book called Tremendous Tractors by Tony Mitton which tells the story of what each type of tractor can do and the full process of harvest from planting the seeds to harvesting them. It’s one of Henry’s favourites and we read it loads, but over the past few months we’ve been able to show him the tractors in real life doing each of the things. We spot the harvester of course but also the tractors doing baling (with their different shape bales) and he can tell the difference between a plough and a harrow. Not bad for 2.5 I reckon and he’ll spend hours sat on top of his slide looking over the fence at the farm.
I’m not sure they quite understand yet how the grain is then made into bread, but beginning to educate them on the food chain is something I really believe in. The same reason I like getting them involved in growing vegetables, important for them to understand where food comes from. But I did take them on a little walk into a field after the combine had been through and we picked up some of the wheat that was on the floor so they could look at the little grains on the end of the stalk. Maybe next year we might collect some and try to grind some of our own flour?
The best day of our adventure may have been one of the last, Henry was up early one Saturday (nothing new there) so I took him out with me at 6am to walk Bracken. The farmer had left the blades for the combine in the field next to the path so we went in to have a look. Not sure I’ve ever got so close to the blades before but it was great showing Henry how they worked. Pretty perfect father son time I think.
Did any of you get out and play hunt the combine? Do you have budding farmers at home? What mini adventures have you been on this summer?
Rock pooling has been on my parenting bucket list for a long time, I have many fond memories of childhood holidays in North Devon and Cornwall hunting for hidden creatures in rock pools. Filling buckets up with crabs, shrimp and the occasional fish while wading through pool after pool in jelly shoes and armed with a net. This also meant that taking my own children could have been one of those rose tinted glasses moments where you remember something being awesome but your children just look at you like you’re mental.
However with bug hunting being their favourite pass time by a long shot I thought I was on safe ground, after all rock pooling is really just bug hunting with added water and sand isn’t it? So a few weeks ago when we were on holiday in East Sussex I decided it was time, although the pressure was on a little as Matilda was very disappointed that the beaches were full of stones and not sand! I’d read that Birling Gap was a prime location in that are for rock pooling and a quick study of the tide times confirmed that mid morning was low tide and the perfect time to be down on the beach.
I’ve never been to this are before, but when you can enjoy views like this with almost the whole beach to yourself (god bless term time holidays) I would be very tempted to come back again. The beautiful white cliffs of the seven sisters give a stunning back drop (and running route) and all this is just a few metres from a National Trust car park. Perfect.
So the location was beautiful, the weather was great, we had two excited children and 2 grandparents to help out and a nice packed lunch. Which on its own is a great morning out, what I hadn’t expected was the amazing star fish. Now I’ve seen a star fish or 2 a few times in Devon but never on the scale of here. There were quite literally hundreds of the things dotted across the rocks, pools and sand. I’m not sure if this is normal or if they’d been washed ashore by a storm perhaps but it was amazing to show the children and explain how they moved around.
It was a little odd climbing over white limestone rocks rather than the black granite of Devon but we had an amazing morning investigating all the pools. Although pops may have had more fun than the children and we kept having to tell him to slow down and wait for them. As well as the starfish we found a few crabs, loads of shrimp and all manner of shellfish. We also of course collected a nice pile of shells and stones that the children insisted on bring home.
In fact we had so much fun we came back the next day to do it again. Such simple fun yet this was the thing the kids enjoyed the most of the whole holiday and it is essentially free. On our second visit I introduced them to the joys of building dams in the sand to stop the streams and we even had a little paddle in the water. Although Matilda wasn’t so keen on the waves, she kept asking if they were going to get her, not entirely sure where that paranoia comes from.
To finish the day we of course sampled the finest National Trust cafe cake and coffee in the lovely cafe sat on top of the cliffs. I’ve no doubt this place gets very busy in the peak of the summer but for our visit it was just perfect. Which led me to the conclusion that I think we may well be a National Trust family and not a theme park or zoo one. We need space and fresh air when we go out and the children have inherited my aversion to noisy busy places. Maybe it’s time we got ourselves a family membership?
Splashing in the water
Coffee and cake!
Washing their hands
Spotting star fish
Picture the scene; the 3 intrepid explorers push through the undergrowth in search of the hidden wildlife. They move enormous rocks and crawl under the branches of towering trees in the hope of discovering new species unknown to mankind. So far on this trip they have found a greater spotted Wiltshire slug, a striped forest worm and seen signs of the elusive cumberland sausage racing snail.
When you’re a toddler all this excitement and adventure can be had without even leaving the garden, in fact almost every time I am in the garden with the kids now this is exactly what we end up doing – having a toddler mini adventure. I absolutely love sharing the discovery of wildlife like this with my 2 little adventurers, it’s the perfect activity for them. We’re guaranteed to find something, we don’t have to go far and they can get hands on as much as they want.
Henry wants to get right in there and touch and feel everything, Matilda is a little more reserved initially but once she sees that it’s ok she’s more than happy in picking snails and slugs up to look at them. However she does get a little annoyed when the snails aren’t where she left them and we do also have to be careful that Bracken doesn’t eat them!
I know we’re blessed with our garden being a good size and we also have a big variety of ecosystems to look at (check me with my Geography GCSE terminology). But you can have a mini adventure in even the smallest of garden, all you have to do is look under a few rocks or stones, the darker and damper the better and you’re guaranteed to find snails, wood lice, slugs , spiders and ants. If all else fails lift up the lid of your compost bin if you have one and you’ll probably find some worms and slugs.
We’ve now got a regular circuit of the garden we do which can easily keep us busy for 30 minutes as we check out all the nooks and crannies. So far I’ve focused on the bigger things like slugs and snails which they can easily see and of course don’t move very fast, but I think we’ll start looking for centipedes, ear wigs and grass hoppers.
If anyone knows of any good books or charts for identifying bugs that would suitable for toddlers then please let me know.