Usually every summer we have grandchildren visit overnight. I like to keep them busy, and since I believe every child should spend his or her summers outside, outdoor activities are the name of the game. I call it grandma’s camp. I’ve tried many things, from looking for Indian arrows to pottery. Sometimes you hit a good idea and keep their interest, other times you bomb. But we try.

Last weekend I had two, a preteen and an eight-year-old. Since we now have three who are or soon will be teenagers, it becomes more of a challenge. Grandma has to put on her thinking cap. The executive decision was to have them rough it, you know, find their own meals, make a shelter, cook over the campfire. You get the idea. We were going to attend the Rendezvous camp at Camp Clay to give them an idea how it all was done, but it was cancelled due to rain. Undaunted, I forged on.

First was trying to catch our supper. Well, both have gone fishing before, but the weather wasn‘t the most cooperative and none of us got a bite. But, they were happy playing around the reservoir and exploring a bit. Since we did not catch our supper, that meant it was hamburgers over the campfire. Cooking is a good pastime as well, and we often make cookies when they are here.

But this time our preteen granddaughter made black raspberry buckle for dessert, topped with home-made ice cream - that was pretty special. We made lanterns out of tin cans, outlining pictures with a series of nail holes to allow the candlelight to shine through. We put water in the cans and froze them overnight so we did not crush the cans as we nailed. This went over pretty good and the lanterns were pretty with the light shining through them, so that was marginally successful.

A shelter was another thought. Since time was limited and the weather rainy and cold, I opted for something more simple like using canvas to create a lean to. Now when I was a child it was a simple task and common one to braid twine from bales and make rope. We used that rope for everything from swings to jump ropes. I never had a purchased jump rope with those handles that were attached. Mine were always made from twine. As I explained how we would use the braided rope, I was braiding one. One grandchild did not know how to braid, and I suspect the other did, but lost interest rather quickly. Plus they were used to fancy tents when camping and did not like the idea of that shelter too well.

They like to ride and drive the golf cart so that is always an option. With proper supervision I think it is a good idea for them to learn to steer a machine. Good experience for the day they take driver’s ed. Which is never too far away as fast as they grow up. In fact one grandchild is already driving and another will be soon.

So, we drove back on the farm and checked for pretty stones and Indian arrows. Rocks always seem to fascinate children, and some are really pretty and colorful. We found some that were unusual and pretty, but were also lucky enough to find an Indian arrow. It was almost perfect.

They love to gather eggs from the nests in the henhouse, but rely on grandma to take the hens, who want to set on eggs, out of the nest first. The cats, dog and steers all garner some attention. Having those eggs for breakfast or supper allows them to know where that food comes from. I guess the lore of visiting down on the farm still holds its charm as more and more children are growing up away from the small farm atmosphere that we knew as children.

They have never learned to make their own playthings, never realized how satisfying it is to become one with nature in the woods or field, and don’t spend their summers outside as we did. Air conditioners and televisions, video or Ipads are making an inroad. Sometimes at grandma’s house the controls come up missing. On purpose. There are so many things they can do outside. All that fresh air makes you tired at night, you know. So tired that we all fell asleep before getting a chance to go outside in the dark and use the lanterns we had made or play flashlight tag. Plus we had to get up early for church the next morning.

So, we had a good time; some ideas were successful, some not so much. But, I think they will always remember those visits and would say it is always fun to visit “down on the farm.”


Jeannine Roediger has lived on a family farm all her life, first as a farmer’s daughter and now as a farmer’s wife. She writes weekly for the Times Bulletin and enjoys gardening, quilting, cooking, bird watching and writing.