Lately, my social media pages have been flooded with pool pics, airport check-ins and requests for hotel recommendations – it’s summer time! Vacation season! But we’re dairy farmers, and with the current state of milk prices, we’ll be lucky to get away for 24 hours.

Instead, the kiddos and I (and the husband, when we can drag him away) have a whole slate of adventures planned for this summer. Here’s our list of low-cost and no-cost ways to make memories while school is out:

1. Go hiking

Check out your local state parks, county trails and even the woods in your own pasture. Go on a scavenger hunt to collect flowers, leaves, interesting rocks, sticks and seeds to use in craft projects (or that county fair scrapbook). On public lands, instead of collecting items, take photos of the interesting things you see, and research them when you get home.

2. Summer reading programs

Did you know that school-aged children go backwards about two months each summer? Fight the “summer slump” by visiting your local library and signing up for their summer reading program. Many libraries also have free activities for kids throughout the summer. Our library’s reading club has set a goal for each student to read 10 hours before school starts, and we’re starting with an exciting book on tarantulas.

3. Become a local tourist

A few years ago, I found out that the arboretum in the Quad Cities not only had a life-size Candyland game throughout their features, they also had $1 admission on Tuesdays. For a dollar, we wandered around for hours and took photos with every Candyland character in the park. Google your local tourist attractions and museums to check out their low-cost days (Tuesdays seem to be the trend in our area).


4. Random acts of kindness

Have the kiddos make a list of ideas to help folks in your area – painting, lawn mowing, cookie delivery. Keep them busy by learning how to serve others.

5. Visit a county fair

Wait – isn’t the county fair the highlight of any farm family’s summer? Of course you are going to the county fair! This summer, take the opportunity to visit a fair in a neighboring county, or a fair that you haven’t been to before. Tucker’s personal record is 12 fairs (in two states) before he was 4 months old. Even now, we try to make sure to support our neighboring communities – and get some great ideas for future fair projects while we are at it.

6. Play in the park

I’m writing this on a picnic table under the shelter as my kids swing on swings, play on the slides and make new friends – it’s a win-win for us. The boys are having a blast in a new environment, and I’m catching up on work that I can never seem to get quiet time at home to finish.

7. Have a bonfire

Every weekend evening during the month of May, I’d look out the barn door during milking and find Tucker dutifully building a bonfire (he’d wait for Daddy to light it, of course). We’d pull out our basket full of s’more ingredients (we like to try different kinds of miniature candy bars) and roast marshmallows. Sometimes we’d sit out for an hour; sometimes we’d sit out for 15 minutes, but I know those memories will last a lifetime!

8. Become a scientist, or an artist, or a ditch digger, or a chef

Take advantage of the summertime to further your child’s interests – masterpieces with sidewalk chalk, notebooks full of observations, trenches dug in the sandbox (I was told these were drain fields) or cookies in the kitchen. Give your children some hands-on opportunities to learn life skills on their terms.

Enjoy these tips and ideas this summer when you need a little break from the hustle and bustle that is summer on the farm!  PD

Heather Moore is a dairy farming mama herself, raising three little boys with her husband, Brandon. The Moore family has a 50-cow dairy and custom feeds 800 head of beef cattle near Maquoketa, Iowa. When she is not chasing around cows and kids, you'll find her volunteering, cooking and very occasionally, sleeping.