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Saturday 8 October 2016

Hoes Down Harvest Festival 2016

Last weekend we left the city and headed to Fully Belly Farm in Yolo County for the annual Hoes Down Harvest Festival. This was our third time attending the festival and it was just as much fun as it was in previous years. Even better - it wasn't scorching hot like it has been in the past! And it wasn't stormy overnight like last year, so camping out was a little more comfortable. 

Thanks to multiple kid related pit stops along the way we arrived a little later than planned on the Saturday, but the day was still young and there was plenty of fun to be had. The kids were keen to help set up camp before heading to the festival area so we set up the tent, inflated mattresses and laid out sleeping bags before joining the fun.

We arrived at the kids' area just in time to watch a sheep shearing demonstration. I grew up in the country and visited many shearing sheds with friends and family, so I'm pretty familiar with sheep shearing. For the kids however, this was a completely new thing and they couldn't believe how different the sheep looked with their haircuts!   

The kids checked out the freshly shorn wool - which they thought felt and smelled disgusting! - then headed to the craft tent to make felted rocks with wool shorn (and cleaned) a little earlier. I never realized how easy making wool felt is. The girls each chose a smooth rock and were given a piece of wool large enough to wrap around it. They then dunked their wool and rock into a tub of soapy water and smoothed the wool around the rock. Once the rock was completely covered, the whole thing was placed inside a piece of stocking and they rubbed it around in their hands until it was smooth and ready to dry. Well, Lola and Mathilde did. Ava thought the whole process felt disgusting so I made hers. I actually thought it was a pretty calming activity and quite enjoyed it.

From the felting activity we moved onto the hay bale fort which is always a favorite with the kids. Mathilde was happy to climb over the top of the hay bales while Ava and Lola crawled through the many tunnels underneath. The claustrophobic in me is kind of terrified of the tunnels, but the kids love them. In fact, after quite some time of playing on the top of the hay bales, Mathilde was keen to go through the tunnels too. I dreaded the thought of her getting upset inside and refusing to move, but luckily there was a very short tunnel on one side that you could see straight through so she went through this one over and over.  

We then moved onto making corn dolls. The girls missed out on this popular activity last year so they were pretty excited to make dolls this year. They were pretty happy with how the dolls turned out.

Even though the day wasn't a scorcher like in past years, it was still pretty hot. So when we saw an ice cream churning activity we just had to join in. The girls took it in turns turning the crank to churn the ice cream and were then rewarded with a cup of the most delicious vanilla ice cream.

By now we were all ready to head down to the creek to cool off. Along the way we stopped at the amazing dunk tank. The dunk tank was Ava's favorite thing about the Hoes Down last year and this year Lola was keen to give it a go too (she chickened out at the last minute last year). Ava had her first turn and made an amazing splash at the end as she plummeted into the water. Lola followed, however just as she was about to get to the bottom of the slide part she freaked out and put her legs out. Worried that she'd get her feet caught in the rollers, the volunteers staffing the ride stepped in to stop her. Lola was a little upset but decided to give it another go. Second time around she did the same thing, however with Daddy's assistance she very slowly made her way into the water with a big splash. Next year I'm sure she'll do it on her own. Maybe Mathilde will be ready to join in then too.


We then headed down to the creek. Unlike last year, the creek actually had a decent amount of water in it. It looks pretty shallow in the photos below, but to get to this point we had to wade through water that came up to Mathilde's armpits. Last year the creek was like a series of islands with ankle deep water (at the most) between them. The girls enjoyed splashing about in the cool water, finding shells and interesting pebbles, and playing with leaves and reeds.

After drying off Mathilde and I checked out the pigs while Kim took the big girls to get some food. Mathilde loved patting the pigs, especially their funny snouts, but as she kept saying, they were very stinky!

Mathilde and I then joined the others for an early dinner before checking out the goats and cows in the petting farm (which was just about to pack up for the day).  Mathilde was keen to see the animals up close but she was a little worried that the goats might eat her! I don't blame her - goats are evil!

By now it was starting to get a little dark and the air had cooled down quite a lot. We headed back to the tent where the girls got changed into their pajamas.

With the girls snuggly warm in pajamas we headed back to the festival. By now it was dark and the pumpkins that had been carved during the day were set up along the road. Like our previous visits, we missed out on carving a pumpkin again. Next time. It was still fun to check out the pumpkins that others had carved. Mathilde walked along saying "I love this one" over and over.

We grabbed after dinner snacks of popcorn and cookies before heading back to the campsite to sleep. It was still relatively early (much earlier than the girls would normally go to sleep), but with the lack of city lights the girls were ready to sleep. We headed into the tent and fell asleep to the sounds of live music as the festival continued on into the night.

The next morning we woke up a little after the sun and ate breakfast at our campsite before heading out to explore the farm. Saturday had been the main day of the festival, so on Sunday the activities were all packed up. There was still plenty of food on offer and workshops available, but for the most part the festival was over.

As it was a little quieter we took the chance to do a few things we'd missed the day before, like taking fun photos with the Hoes Down sign, running around in the grass maze, and playing on old tractors. I think the tractors were Mathilde's favorite part - although she was a little concerned that she couldn't get any of them to go!

As you can see in the photos above, the sky was starting to look a little dark. We were worried that it might rain so we stopped playing farmer to pack up the tent. Luckily, it didn't rain at all before we left the farm.

We had such a fun time at the Hoes Down again this year. Have you been to the Hoes Down or another harvest festival near you? It's so much fun to get out of the city and play farmer for the day!

Looking forward to our day on the farm again next year!

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