Each of the five days of the camp followed a theme. On Monday we asked the question, "What do farmers do?" The highlight of that day was going out to the barnyard to do farm chores together: feeding the chickens; gathering eggs; feeding and grooming the goats; and feeding and petting the bunny. I've never seen kids enjoy work so much! I boiled the eggs the kids had gathered (along with a bunch of others) to offer them as a nutritious tip for their labor. Yum.
Afterwards, we sent everyone out into the woods to collect sticks and assigned them the task of constructing their own miniature barns and corrals out of those sticks, short lengths of twine, sheets of bark from our paper birch tree, and craft glue. (This project proved to be a tougher challenge than we'd bargained for, and helped us all appreciate the genius that early American farmers must have employed in building their own rustic barns and fences.)
I also gave them a chance to grind whole kernels of wheat into a coarse flour; to feel, smell and taste the difference in whole wheat flour and white flour; and to mix a combination of these flours, along with a bit of salt, into the water and yeast. Later, they each got to knead and shape a small loaf of their own. During the second part of the morning, they made homemade butter to go on their bread loaves, vigorously shaking cream in small jars until it solidified. The loaves were baked and buttered just in time for their parents to pick them up. Mmmmm . . . I hope they shared a nibble or two!
After a break to visit with the animals in the barnyard, they returned for an exercise in seed starting. First, we taught them how to make their own seed-starting pots from newspaper. They then filled these with organic potting soil. In one of these, they planted nasturtium seeds, and in the other green beans. Now they can do some "mini-farming" at home!
Our final activity of the week was to welcome the campers' parents, grandparents, and other special people to our backyard for a short Closing Ceremony. Here each camper was awarded a well-deserved "Honorary Farmer" certificate.
They were, indeed, a great group of "small farmers," and my family and I are grateful that they got to be a part of our own little farm for a week. Happy future farming, kids--whatever that might mean!