Kids Galore!

Graco Farm 007It was almost a year in the making, and despite a lot of last minute juggling, last weekend we finally pulled off a bit of a coup. Eighteen boys, between three and sixteen, headed south to Graco’s Farm, accompanied by eleven chaperones and three extra children. We were almost forced to cancel due to the threat of heavy showers, but the boys were so excited – they had been up since 4am – we couldn’t do it to them. Instead, we watched nervously as we headed south under clouds drenching the world with non-stop drizzle from Calamba to Los Banos and threatening to drown the day.

Luckily it had perked up by the time we reached the farm, and the boys emerged into a world sparkling with raindrops, all remarkably quiet considering three hours cooped up in a bus, perhaps a little overwhelmed by broader horizons.

Dante and Grace were awaiting our arrival, keen to introduce the lads to all the Graco Farm 237animals. But let’s get our priorities right: food first, and a merienda of rambutan and rice cake, with a cup of refreshingly chilled pandan juice flavoured with lemon grass under a canopy not far from the open-air goat shed.

 So many special memories of that day will fill all our heads for some time to come: 

 Watching the boys question Dante eagerly about the two ungainly ostriches with their huge eyes, so beautifully belashed, and the rather damp peacocks…

 Eighteen boys butting heads with as many kids, who were grabbing branches greedily through the railings from eager hands…

Graco Farm 136Meeting a cheeky young goat who could knock the lid off the feed bucket with her head…

 Small hands eagerly grabbing feed for the goats, encouraging those scatty animals to eat from their hands, while little Matthew, wary, heart pounding furiously, nervously approached the hungry goats from the safe height of my hip…

 Watching Christian, only four, but confident and cool in this unfamiliar environment, running and tumbling like a circus clown across the paddock to the pond, and later, leading the boys in single file, like a sergeant major, to the photo spot…

 Two dozen boys in purple T-shirts hurtling madly after turkeys, ducks and chickens, causing a rumpus…

 Laughing at the male turkeys (toms or gobblers) with their loose, rubbery red Graco Farm 159wattles (snoods) who fanned their tail feathers with narcissistic smugness, unaware of how truly ugly they were and how much better they will look on a platter at Thanksgiving…

 Chatting to gallons of muddy brown ducks through the wire who were glossy white before the last storm…

 Cupping our hands to hold the tiny chicks, soft and downy, in tortoiseshell colours…

Graco Farm 302 Gourmet cooking with pizza bases and a wide variety of toppings, waiting incredibly patiently for them to arrive, in batches, until everyone had a pizza in front of him and the feast could begin…

 Colin, like the Pied Piper, leading the kids across the paddock to the pond full of water hyacinths…

 Improvising games with cheap balls from Toys R Us, using up some energy and retrieving one from the pond by dangling the tallest boy down the bank almost into the water to grasp it with his feet…

 A handful of daring boys scaling the trunks of the rambutan trees to grab the last of the fruit, others grasping eight feet of bamboo tipped with a sharp scythe to cut them down from ground level, stuffing arms full into their t-shirts or the legs of their tracksuit pants…

 Winding up the tyre swing and spinning and spinning and spinning until even Graco Farm 350those watching were dizzy…

 Hugging the elderly farm Beagle,  kind and patient with over-excited boys…

 And a final line up on the office steps, with everyone but Aarushi and Fiona (noted missing by the boys immediately, when we took them photos) waving arms blocking some faces, but all alight with smiles…

And back at school on Monday facing endless, wheedling, wide-eyes requests about when we could go back to the farm…

* With my thanks again to Nicola Barker for her glorious photographs.

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