Friendly Farm Animals

Friendly Farm Animals

Ten minutes into my first farm tour of Antiquity Oaks, I noticed something was different. We had walked into the first pasture and goats pranced over to greet me. Then, in the mud pen, a pig approached me.  When I bent down to acknowledge her, the pig fell down on her side. Deborah said, “Oh, she just loves it when you to scratch her belly.” We walked around for a few more minutes and I noticed a cow following close behind. When I stop, the cow comes in close- like she was going to kiss me. Deborah says, “Oh, she just thinks you’re going to hand feed her hay.”

I had to ask: “Deborah, how is it that your animals are so friendly?” It turns out that each spring Antiquity Oaks brings in WOOFers to care for the newborn farm animals. Generally, it’s college students who want to learn more about farming/homesteading and Antiquity Oaks shows them the ropes, which happens to include lots of time sitting with the newborns in the barn. In the process, the animals learn to love human contact.

That said, not all of the grown animals come cozying up to me. The ducks, chickens, pheasants, turkeys mostly keep their distance. The sheep in the pasture do come greet me, but the llama (their protector!) makes sure I know who’s in charge. Note: Picture of Deborah and her kids.


P.S. The old farm horse is as gentle as can be!

Summer 2016 Sneak Peak

Summer 2016 Sneak Peak

OK, a big change for 2016 is the location and having lots of friendly farm animals, but it’s not the only difference.

A Second Cooking Instructor and a Cob Oven.
This is HUGE. To the best of our knowledge, we’re the only camp where a handful or so of kids produce nearly all the meals for the entire camp. It’s great because kids love being in the kitchen creating awesomeness, but it also means we’re on the clock to get meals prepared by a certain time.  A second full-time instructor opens up way more possibilities.

Speaking of possibilities….last year, we had no oven. We are busy planning cooking adventures around the new cob oven. Think great bread, custom pizzas and roasted veggies.

A Production Veggie Farmer.
Antiquity Oaks has grown vegetables and herbs for their CSA members for years, but this year operations are expanding. After working on three different farms, former intern Sarah has returned to Antiquity Oaks and is converting the two acre hay field to vegetable production. She’s growing for a Chicago Farmer’s Market, and is creating a 2,000′ Nature’s Farm Camp Garden with loads of produce for us to harvest in July & August.

Fewer Mosquitos.
With the record rainfall of June, 2015, and subsequent standing water, mosquitos were especially difficult last year. Even if we get crazy rain again this summer, we’ll be in better shape, partly because the surrounding area has fewer wetlands & our nearly 80 chickens and ducks keep the mosquitos at bay.

A Real Shower.
We understand that most kids are OK going five days without a shower, but, since we’ll be with far more farm animals this year, having a shower will be nice.

Next post: About hostess Deborah and why the farm animals are so people friendly.

Summer 2015 in Review (with pictures)

Summer 2015 in Review (with pictures)

Wow, what a summer!Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 4.07.14 PM

Furry-feathered animals welcome us to camp. The chickens and ducks do more than entertain us though…
IMG_8130After eating loads of leaves, seeds and bugs, they offer us food to eat.
Food! It’s all about great food!

That food we turn into meals, prepared by the campers, from scratch!

Of course, it must first be harvested.IMG_7635

At times, we take breaks to check on the chickens (to make sure they’re OK).

And, yes, sometimes the food comes from nearby farmers like Hazzard Free Farm or delivered by cool farmers like Trale of Chestnut Cliff Farm (both families have been farming on their lands for 150+ years).IMG_8214

Farmer Melvin also delivers sweet corn he picks earlier in the day.
As nice as it all that is, and it is nice, the best part may be eating all the deliciousness!

IMG_7819Well fueled, we’re ready for outdoor adventure all over the place.IMG_7938
On, or over, the hay bales.IMG_7828

In the trees.IMG_7951

Getting our hands dirty in the creek 🙂IMG_8257

Making art in The Creation Station.11895066_1163348357013420_8587407576564485638_o

Or working on Food System dioramas in The Wood Shop.IMG_8271

Oh, and don’t forget chores. It seems like there’s always work to be done- like taking care of the goats.IMG_8180

After chores, we go explore a bit. Sometimes, even with storyteller and naturalist .

If we’re out of gas, maybe we take it easy.IMG_8299


We want to make sure we have enough energy to test our muscles.
Or to create musical performances.IMG_8018

To entertain at the campfire.IMG_7795


But before long, it’s time to head for bed.IMG_8322


Who would have thunk it’s possible to have so much fun without electronics and processed food?11822690_1149461121735477_6214630600188331278_n

Thanks also to our hostess. Nance Klehm welcomed us to her land and taught workshops where we learned about our connections to nature.


Speaking of connections, did I mention Food?

Or tell you who loves the broccoli?IMG_8102

What a summer!


Camper Packing List

Camper Packing List

What to Bring.
What not to Bring.

Proper packing is important to ensure a comfortable and safe experience. Please label everything. Don’t bring anything you’re afraid to get dirty or lose!

To bring (mandatory):
___ 4 short-sleeve shirts
___ 2 long sleeve shirts (light weight)
___ 2-3 shorts
___ 1 long pants (light weight)
___ 4 underwear
___ 4 pair socks
___ 1 sweatshirt or fleece
___ 1 rain jacket or poncho (with hood)
___ 1 bathing suit
___ footwear: two pairs, one closed toe, no flip flops
___ toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, if necessary)
___ bath towel and wash cloth
___ sunscreen
___ insect repellant (no aerosol)
___ water bottle
___ cap or hat
___ sleeping bag (or twin sheets) and pillow
___ flashlight or headlamp
___ plastic bag(s) for dirty clothes

May bring (optional):
rain boots
journal and/or sketch pad
disposable camera

Things to leave at home (not allowed):
If a camper brings any of the following items, they will be held by camp staff until camp end.
*any electronic item, including cell phones
*food or candy
*make up or perfumed cosmetic products
*fireworks, matches, candles or lighters
*pocket knives

Photos from April & May, 2015

Photos from April & May, 2015

Various shots, mostly at the camp site, but a few in Chicago like these three of Ashley, Nance, Cheryl & Tim.
photo 3 IMG_6985photo

A cold sunny April work day (including a tour with Aleks)
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Gorgeous trees, handyman Melvin visiting and a Rosemary transplantIMG_7038 IMG_7059 IMG_7143
Chocolate mint (contained), aronia berries & strawberries flowering. IMG_7141 IMG_7138 IMG_7148
Cabbage (next to carrots), 15 potato sacks and the walnut grove.
IMG_7144 IMG_7163 IMG_7169

Our Hostess Nance (for Camp 2015)

Our Hostess Nance (for Camp 2015)
planting golden raspberries

It’s spring and Nance Klehm is focused, constantly moving- lifting, pulling, digging, walking and whistling. She turns 50 this November, but she’s got enough energy for two 25-year-olds and perhaps that’s fitting. You see, Nance lives two full time lives. In both, she’s  a land steward, grower and naturalist. It just so happens that she splits her time between her urban and rural properties.

It was in the city where I first met Nance and began following her like a puppy follows something they look up to. From composting workshops and building community gardens to waste stream work and bioremediation, Nance’s got a deep well of knowledge. I soak up as much as possible.

red wigglers doing the work

Nance comes from good stock, as they say. Her family’s been in the nursery business for 149 years. Currently, her parents run and own Beaver Creek Nursery and Song Sparrow Farms . Growing up in rural NW Illinois, surrounded by a family who worked with plants, Nance couldn’t help but learn more than most. But there are two reasons she’s asked to teach internationally: 1.) She’s curious and seeks out knowledge through doing. People ask her how she knows so much about so many things and she says, “Take a peek at my hands. I get my hands in the dirt.” 2.) Nance makes the complex understandable in an enjoyable way. Her laugh is infectious and a joy to be around. 

50 variety of beans!

In her city life, Nance heads up The Ground Rules. She contracts with select companies and restaurants to handle their organic waste stream, advising, teaching, bringing their waste to nearby nearby community gardens to be composted to remediate Chicago’s soils and grow more food.

as the sun sets, the light…

The rural property where Farm Camp happens isn’t a traditional farm (it was a few generations ago). It’s more a nature preserve, with plenty of room to roam among all the diversity and wildlife. It just so happens that the 50 acres produces a great deal of food (actually, probably more than conventional Illinois farms, whose corn feeds cars & cows). The place is gorgeous and that’s one of two reasons why we’re excited Nance’s hosting Farm Camp (and be a resident teacher).

The other reason: No matter where Nance speaks or what is written about her, her message is consistent: experiencing nature directly is awesome. It not only helps us make connections in our everyday lives, but being aware of our surroundings is a richly rewarding experience in and of itself.

Here’s to exploring and having fun,
Tim. 🙂

P.S. There’s a lot that’s written about Nance recently. One of my favorites: and one on foraging: If you have a spare hour to listen to a podcast: or less time:

Why We Do What We Do.

Why We Do What We Do.

Elena forwarded me an article recently. My first reaction was, I don’t have time to read it. Still, I clicked the link. The first line reminded me why we launched Farm Camp:

The environment is not separate from ourselves; we are inside it and it is inside us; we make it and it makes us.
~ Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, Amazon shaman

Connecting kids to nature brings joy to our lives. And the best part is that kids absolutely love it. Whoever said learning can’t be a blast is crazy!

The article’s here.

Our host Nance Klehm feels the same way: a recent interview of Nance in the LA Times.

We hope to see you at one of our upcoming events 🙂

Pictures from Early March

We’ve started seeds in a couple of spots, including with help from a local 3photo 1photo 4photo 5The farm has six hens. Elena & Tim  ‘shopping’ for more (and ducks), plus getting goats & a couple of sheep and calves (from the neighbors) who come to feast on the mid-summer fresh forage at Farm Camp. See enlarged chicken ‘run’ and paddocks.

IMG_6499IMG_6504photoIMG_6465There are countless nooks & crannies to explore, plus loads of walnut & pine to use in the workshop (& in the ‘loft art center’). The bees emerged strong & ready for forage.

IMG_6479IMG_6484IMG_6508IMG_6497Wild berries along the creek’s edge, the soccer field (yes, we mow it down mid-summer), and Tim sprinting through ‘Pine Hall.’ Nance says Tim may be the fastest (part-time) farmer (over the age of 40) in all of Orangeville (population 793).

In about 120 days, kiddos start arriving….We’re repairing and expanding the fencing to grow more fruits, veggies & herbs this season to feed more hungry kiddos.IMG_6469IMG_6474 IMG_6476

More on Camper Accommodations

More on Camper Accommodations


After loads of discussions with tent manufacturers, we chose the 5000 Ultimate Pro Model from Stout Tent and are thrilled. IMG_8322







From early 2015: Our property has a farm house (solar panel powered) and a big barn. The counselors and campers stay nearby (in the woodland, at prairie’s edge) in large, canvas tents. Since our days will be full of activity, the aim is to provide an environment that leads to a full night’s rest. Campers will all be on their own cots. Each tent is extra large and will house no more than a handful of campers and an adult counselor.

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Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 10.56.45 AM






Also for the 2015 season: If you’re looking for a place for the family to stay before or after Farm Camp, take a peek at Inn Serendipity, a fantastic bed & breakfast just 11 miles to the north and run by John & Lisa.





Optional start (for early risers): fetch eggs, garden harvest, make breakfast

Buckwheat pancakes, fruit oatmeal, fresh berry, mint & power greens smoothie

Morning Options:  
exploratory forage
soap making workshop
gardens tour & lunch prep

Wild salad, black bean & egg burrito, squash salsa, roasted potatoes

Afternoon Options:    
creek and prairie scavenger hunt & learning wilderness survival skills
composting 101 & planting fall crops
taking photos of animals & making picture frames

Snack Break:    
Sunflower granola parfait & watermelon

Late Afternoon Options:
free play/camper chosen project
dinner harvest and meal preparation

Custom mini pizzas, summer salad and blackberry cobbler

Post Dinner:
Telling stories around the bonfire with popcorn. Then stargazing.

Exhausted. Fall into Bed.


Note about Food: This isn’t about healthy food, it’s about making tastebuds dance while providing energy that lasts and nutrients that strengthen, in an environment that screams ‘I love this!’ It’s kid inspired and kid created. And, yes, since everyone’s tastebuds are different, we offer lots and lots of choices with different flavors and textures. For the food not grown on site, like the grains and beans, it will come from friends at nearby farms, like Hazzard Free Farm and Breslin Farm.