Feeding the cows (Farm Visits)

Feeding the cows                                                                                   

IMG_0785Our next visit allowed us to see what happens to the ‘brown and spotty cows’ who, were in the fields on our first visit.

On arriving at the farm we noticed how much colder it was than in Cheltenham. As soon as the children were out of the car the huge icy puddle was spotted and investigated. Stamping to break the ice even tempted the adults and the children enjoyed walking, sliding and falling on the slippy surface.   More stamping on the ice that had come out of the puddle… does it break? Why not?

A tour around the barn, across the yard to the silage clamp ended with a close examination of the Loadall and other machinary.

“Come on boys, lets go and feed the cows”. We walked to the cowshed, a massive building with metal gates and corrugated roof, listening all the time to the cows’ lowing increasing in volume. The cows were separated into age groups and already had silage to eat. The “cake”, a mixture of grain and pellets, was poured out of sacks into small buckets for the children. Daniel and Lolo, the only ones brave enough to feed the cows, came back time after time to have their buckets refilled.   Some of the cows stayed at the back where it was warm and had to be coaxed out for their cake. Once they were all fed, it was time for our snack, a lovely cup of tea and delicious slice of chocolate brownie or fruit cake.

Next, the dairy farm!

The farmer had kindly arranged for us to visit a neighbouring dairy farm where there is a robotic milking parlour.

After looking at the cows bedroom, complete with mattresses, we went to see the robot. James and Daniel, in particular, found the milking process fascinating, watching the cow in the machine. Others were not so keen on the noise but went outside and happily watched the cows queuing up to take their turn.

We were also incredibly fortunate to see a cow with her newborn (less than 12hrs) wobbly calf. The bull named Brian, a huge animal but apparently quite placid, and some other young calves who, will move to another farm in the summer when the older cows move into the dairy herd.

The farm trips have sparked many discussions. Daniel is very interested in the cows reasoning as to where they are in the sheds. “Are they ‘in the back or front stalls’?” and Why? are constant questions. “I think they come to the front to call to each other” was one explanation.

In our group the dairy visit prompted lots of thoughts about dairy cows; we all winced at the thought of being pregnant again ten weeks after giving birth!   We are astounded by the volume of milk produced but at the same time feel incredibly privileged at being able to visit firsthand and see the whole process. For me it once again highlighted the dedication of farmers.

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Walking the Land (Farm Visits)

Farm Visits   Over the last year we have been privileged to visit a farm in the different seasons.

Walking the land

What a diverse place a farm is. As we walked past hedgerows blackbird, sparrows, chirped with excitement. The ground below us home to a myriad of insects. A kestrel hovered overhead, what had he seen running through the field? We entered a field, footpath running through the middle of the crop, towering maize meant for a while we were in a tunnel, a river of green running either side. The coarse leaves veined and ridged, the stalks straight rocking slightly in the breeze. The path took us to the farmyard where a tractor beckoned. We drove to the other side of the farm past curious cows, pushing their noses into our bags, to a field of waving grass.

“Looked at the back and saw the trailer I could see Mummy, but not the bales of the hay. Farmer drove the steering wheel because I was not allowed.”  Daniel (age 3)

The children ran off, disappearing into the grass making hiding a breeze and, seeking not for the faint hearted.

At home the visit sparked an interest in tractors and trailers. Besides using the ones we had we made ones from:

  • Duplo
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Lego
  • And even made a trailer for our trike
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Harvesting with a combine – an exact science (Farm Visits)

Farm Visits  Over the last year we have been privileged to visit a farm in the different seasons.

 Harvesting with a combine – an exact science

 “What a fantastic visit.” “Amazing” “perfect” “what a journey” so relaxing” “How does that happen?” are just some of the words used to describe the combine harvester ride.  Daniel remembers every detail.  His account (I scribed)

“We undid our seat belts and got out of the car to talk to farmer. The combine harvester was a “LOT OF FUN”. All that wheat was taken into the tractor. Tractor and trailer went into the barn. We stood in front of the table and the tractor tipped the grain out. Then the tractor went out again and the pusher came in.”  Daniel (age 3)

We had a great tractor ride followed by a ride in the combine harvester. The combine ride is very relaxing, almost floating over the wheat field (compared notes with driver – he wasn’t so relaxed). We followed the path of the wheat, as it moved from the field to filling the grain box, moving into the trailer and finally being tipped into the grain store.

Both before and during the visit the importance of moisture became very apparent.

  • Rain= no harvesting so we had to wait until the weather was right.
  • Moisture levels in the grain affect storage. We saw how both a vented floor and augers turning the grain in the store ameliorated the effect.

We were given a sample of wheat to bring home. So far we have…

  • been playing with the wheat, it was driven over by the combine then cut up for straw for the stables.
  • made a grain store. Daniel is having great fun using his tipper truck to dump the wheat and tractor with pusher to push it into the store.
  • milled the flour and are going to make pizza with it.
  • drawn a map of the combine’s journey including tractor stops, trailer path, gates and hedges.
  • realized the significance of the weather on the farmers work.

We tried to press the rape seed but no luck – so we are just pushing it around with tractors and diggers etc.

Combine harvester journeyMap of combine journey

Daniel drew a very accurate map of the combine ride – this is how he described it as he drew it.


Yellow: where the combine went (the path of the combine harvester)

Blue dots: – where the tractor stopped (transfer of grain to trailer).

Red: is the hedge and gate in the corner of the field.

Black: is the trailer journey

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Look at these great ideas for outdoor play!



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Spring is here

Spring is here

Spring is here

Last week we were on holiday.  When we arrived home the garden had changed from a tranquil green carpet to a swaying riot of yellow.  My little boy ran outside and quickly returned crying "Mummy come quick, they have grown.  Look! Look!"  He took my hand and pulled me to a 'host of daffodils'.  They have grown, what's happened - the wonder in his voice was magical.  Amazed and overjoyed at the transformation.

I was thrilled by the beauty and magic of the flowers and by the joy of discovery shown by my son.

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Playing With Emotions – Body Play – The Play and Playground News Center

Playing With Emotions – Body Play – The Play and Playground News Center.

I found this article fascinating and totally agree that we should be focusing on how children learn and experience their world.  I am now off to read Gopnik’s book….

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Small world play

Today I was reminded of the importance of small world play.

Here at Natural Explorers we use small world play in a variety of ways the most obvious being pretend role play.  But when we mix a variety of materials it suddenly becomes a sensory activity.

IMG_0568 farm small world IMG_0570 IMG_0637 farm4 IMG_0641 farm 3

In the farm we used popping corn as our sensory material.  Initally it was unpopped and the animals ate it, it was stored in the barn and just generally handled.  Then we popped some, ate some and played with some…. so many activities generated from that one small world senario.

When the small world is made to represent a place it becomes a habitat or ecosystem and then we are able to demonstrate how birds, animals, insects and nature all interact.

IMG_1190 dino small worldIMG_0689 dino 1IMG_0690 dino 2

At first the dinosaurs lived in a small world but eventually wanted to go off and see the world.  The children, using their own initiative, built a den for them (from found wood and some leaves) and provided water, brought over in a shell.

We can use it as an engineering scenario – building dens or homes for ourselves or other animals.

IMG_0681 bear's caveHere having built a great den for ourselves, an imaginary bear made themselves comfortable and chased us away.  So not only had our building skills been stretched but our emotions too!


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Winter walks

Happy New Year

Take a walk in the cold, maybe crisp, maybe damp air this winter.

Here’s one I took with family over the holidays.  Christmas morning – blue sky, sunshine perfect for a little perambulation.  A step outside into crisp, sharp air, breathe deeply and we are off across the field.  At first walking is the main preoccupation and then some bright rose hips folowed by haws, capture my eye – enough to forage??? No, lots of birds tweeting maybe I should leave them.


The frost has touched everything and sparkles abound. There is ice everywhere even the canal has frozen over, seagulls skating madly.  A squirrel scampers up a tree, stops nibbles on a nut then scampers off.

Returning home the sun catches the trees highlighting the lichen, the red tones of the bark on the branches and a spectacularly split tree trunk.


So go on……. Get your wellies on….  What will you find??

Ripe haws

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Discoveries 2013

“Discovery by its very nature is empowering”

December:  Trees are almost bare.  We noticed the blackbirds and pigeons having an argument about who was going to eat the holly berries!  Blackbirds won.

November: Forgaging for nuts brought a great haul of sweet chestnuts.  

October:  Autumn berries are out in abundance.  Have you tasted rosehip cordial?  We have, it is delicious so had some more. Today, we collected conkers after we had watched a truck knock into the Horse Chestnut tree.

September:  Harvest time, this week we have harvested our pears… sweet and juicy and foraged some blackberries.  Have you seen any combine harvester’s in the fields or bales of hay?

August:  Here we go round the Mulberry bush… we have tasted mulberries.  Have you?  Our pears are growing how long before we harvest them?  Which vegetable families are ready for harvest?  Cucurbitaceae, Legumes?  We have seen lots of butterflies, Peacocks, Red Admirals, Small whites and alsorts of bees.

July:  Phew, it’s hot! Paddling pool to the fore..  We have had great fun learning about water, picking and tasting summer berries including gooseberries, strawberries, currants, raspberries… 

June:  Lovely sunshine! Pear blossom is over replaced by tiny pears. Peony flowers are opening to display beautiful pink petals, layer upon layer.  Potatoes are sprouting.  We were playing in the meadow and saw lots of wild flowers.  Buttercups, daisies, waving grasses.

May:  Lovely sunshine!  Pear blossom is out, leaves are suddenly covering the Beech trees, Peonies have grown about 50cm in 3 weeks.

April:  We have been watching our frogspawn.  The tadpoles have grown from tiny black dots in the frog spawn.  They are now very wriggly with swishy tails and sharp teeth.  We are watching for leaves to come on the trees, they are late this year.

March:  It’s very exciting Spring is almost here and our first session will be soon underway.

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