I feel like I need to make a plan for summer.
Arthur, my biggest boy, started pre school this year, so for the very first time we are breaking up for the summer holidays. Every Mum, Dad, Grandparent and carer I have seen for the past few weeks has at some point mentioned what they plan to do to fill up the summer holidays. Whether it’s working out how to juggle childcare, or how to make summer memorable, or how to prevent the family from going stir crazy, its on everyone’s mind!
This has got me thinking. Because as a child I LOVED the summer holidays. It’s the thing that first comes to mind when I think back to being a child. Every summer was brilliant, and every summer seemed to go on forever. So what was it that made my summers on the farm so special? Once I can put my finger on the secret ingredients that made my summers so special I can start to replicate it with my boys! So here goes with my top 6 summer experiences.
1. Whenever you are outside, hunt for 4 leaf clovers!
I remember my mum showing me how to press a 4 leaf clover inside the front cover of one of my books. Challenge accepted- to find a rare gem to go inside the cover of each and every book in the bookcase! It became quite an obsession, whenever I would see a thick patch of clovers, to have a glance through it and count the leaves, desperately hoping to find one with 4. I have to admit, I’d still have a look now! There is something so magical about it, and this is something I’m definitely getting my boys into when they are big enough to understand. Such a small thing to add a bit of enchantment and engage them in nature.
2. Helping to prepare food that was growing an hour ago!
My great aunties and my granparents were all keen gardeners, and had big vegetable gardens on the farm. In the summer we would get the chance to help them pick, dig, and gather, and they would beam with pride at the fact that we were preparing food that was still growing earlier that day- you couldn’t get fresher. They would also take us blackberry picking around the hedgerows toward the end of summer and we would delight in the free food we had found and hauled back. Then came my favourite part, turning our harvest into a meal. I honestly attribute my career in food to these beginnings. Because once you have tasted food that fresh and honest, and played a part in podding the peas, stringing the beans and slicing the rhubarb- you can’t go back! I remember us all sitting around the table competing as to who had the most peas in their pods, and trying desperately to fill your podded bowl up first, only for Dad to walk in from the farm and steal a handful to eat raw; and put you behind in the competition! I also remember with utter devastation when my granny said I couldn’t help her string the beans because it was the start of the season and they were still scarce and as a child I would waste too much!
3. Packing a picnic to take across the fields was serious business.
Nothing gave the primary school age me a bigger sense of freedom than packing my cheese sandwich, apple and a penguin biscuit into my coolest ‘bum bag’ and setting off across the fields to find a spot to eat it. I said summer was fun, I never claimed to be fashionable!
4. ‘Garden Camping’ was the best holiday!
Like every other arable farmer with combining to do, we didn’t go on a family holiday over the summer holidays. We used to go about June to ensure it didn’t clash with the summer harvest work. Luckily my best friend also lived on a farm a few miles away so we used to make our own holidays, pitching our tents and camping in the garden. I’m not sure if we ever made a full night, but the pitching the tents, the midnight feasts (that didn’t make it past 9pm) and the torches and ghost stories were the best fun!
5. Watering the pigs was great entertainment.
I don’t mean giving them water to drink, they had plumbing for that. I literally mean watering them with a hosepipe, on a hot day. Pigs struggle in the heat, they are big animals with small surface area, and they don’t sweat so they don’t lose heat very easily. Spray them with the hose though and you have never seen such joy. Snouts in the air, snapping at the water, curly tails happily waggling, and darting around in the puddles it makes on the floor. Lovely.
6. Tractor rides that taught you so much.
Summer was a busy time for Mum and Dad, but if you joined them on the tractor or combine while they were working they had all the time in the world for us. They would teach us about growing the crops and the history of the farm and the family, as well as talk about news, politics, cricket, anything. My dad taught me the whole of Marmalades, ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da Life Goes on’ and when I asked him how he knew that song his answer was ‘I made it up’. I literally was about 20 when I found out it was an actual song and not something my Dad made up. In fairness to me ‘Desmond had a barrow in the marketplace, Molly was a singer in the band’ sounds like something your Dad made up!
So where does this leave me for my boys summer? It seems to me the best plan is to not have a plan. Just a few suggestions for activities that they can run with. It wasn’t planned fancy days out I loved as a child. It was exploring, learning, and getting more freedom as I got older.
What are we going to do for 6 weeks? Spend a lot of it outside and take each day as it comes!
Maybe even start to train our workforce!