The years have rolled past and Farm Camp continues to evolve. There is always a plan but the days are allowed to veer in whatever direction they happen to go. Sometimes there are horses, sometimes goats, sometimes we make it over to Farmer Tim's zoo, sometimes we don't. One year we went on a horse-drawn-wagon ride and saw a real tipi. One year we visited a sheep farm.
For the past two years we have visited my friend Cass's horse ranch. She had two new horses this time, beautiful Haflingers that were the perfect size and temperament for young riders.
Before the horse rides, we all climbed a wooden ladder to explore the hay loft, where the air was striped with dusty light. All the kids were fearless, even the littlest boys, climbing straight up and bounding up the stacked square bales as if they had done it their whole lives. Amazing. Grandpa would have been so proud of them. Zane nearly gave his mother and I a heart attack by leaping across the opening from one loft to the opposite. I admit I was almost certain he would fall through and kill himself. That loft brought back many memories of my siblings and our cousins playing up in the hay loft of my Aunt Ella's barn.
We had several Nature Hikes, looking for interesting bugs and plants. Here we are, ready to start out on our first nature hunt. Note the adventure hats, buckets for collecting things and whistles to announce especially wonderful discoveries.
We explored the creek and threw rocks off the bridge. Here is the whole crew and Zane and Audra on the bridge. That cowboy vest Z is wearing belonged to Able when he was a little boy.
Abbey and little Everett on the long walk back from the creek adventure. I think this was E's first trip down the rocky creek bank. He was a trouper but content to hold mama's hand on the way back.
Zane and Maggie on the explore under the bridge. These two used a beaver felled tree as a balance beam, walking up and down its length and imagining a house in the midst of the trees.
Great-Grandpa Dotter had recently gifted us with an authentic, Okeene Rattlesnake Hunt snake catcher. This proved very, very useful on our several snake hunts during the week-end. The first hunt was out to the West Pasture where there is a shale pit. This particular morning was a little cold which made it a lot easier to catch the lizards and snakes. Zane caught the first lizard but let it go when it opened its mouth at him. Zach, the head snake catcher, caught a small Rat Snake, and a Garter Snake, and Brendan caught the second Prairie Lizard and we dropped him into our collection container (a large Sonic Cup).
Of course there are no pictures of the actual snake hunt, despite the fact that there were several cameras slung around various necks. It was far too exciting for anyone to stop and take pictures. We also found lots of scorpions curled up beside all those snakes. We did not collect the scorpions.
Here are Zane, Audra (with Rowan) and Kari on the second snake hunt which took place on Sunday afternoon. Able was the head rock flipper and snake catcher this time around. There were lots of lizards this time and they were super fast, since it was a much warmer day. We took everything home and put them in the tub with the second set of turtles we had caught that morning.
The first set of turtles (one tiny mud turtle, two box turtles, and one red-slider) had been thoroughly observed, pestered and patted, and released in a turtle race the evening prior. All the animals were unharmed and were released back into the wild after one day in captivity.
We did lots of research in our nature books. Here Abbey and Everett are learning about tadpoles during a resting time.We had caught at least forty tadpoles the day before while we were at the horse ranch and are hoping some of them live to become frogs for all our ponds.
Is there anything more fun, on a hot summer's day, than splashing in a mud puddle trying to catch some fat gray tadpoles?
The other big adventure was a trip to Adventure Quest in Enid. This is a hands on science place with this elaborate castle play area outside. This particular day we were short one camper due to his having an upset tummy. There are three levels of hallways and stairs to run in this place, all perfectly safe. No one can fall out, but you can slide down to different levels in lots of places. We usually lose some small someone in here but they eventually turn up. The kids love losing the grownups and are always giggling when we find them.
While all this nature and exploring was going on, Uncle Zach, Uncle Brent and Uncle Able were busy working on the Forever Treehouse. If you remember, last week we had only the uprights and the frame finished. On Saturday Brent and Zach finished the floor and the stairs and on Sunday Able and Zach finished the walls and rails upstairs.
A couple of pirates with spy-glasses.
Here is what it looks like now. We still have to make the railing for the steps, cut some windows, add the roof, fix the trap-door entrance, and work on the crow's nest. All the men went home aching and bruised but the results of their labors was magnificent. No broken bones yet but we did have a couple of close calls. Little Rowan was happiest building towers on the ground underneath the house with little scraps of wood. Here he is in his safety glasses 'helping his dad'.
Grandma fell into bed before the sun set on Sunday and slept like a rock. Oh my aching back and feet! We had a blast and look forward to Fall Farm Camp in October. Yes, this is now a twice a year event.