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Giving Children a Taste of Life on a Farm : Country: A camp outside Santa Paula introduces youngsters to horseback riding and making butter.

April 26, 1990|JANE HULCE

The goats aren't just for show at the Painted Pony Day Camp outside Santa Paula.

Young campers at this real-life farm tucked into the mountains learn how to milk the goats, sometimes at the risk of getting squirted in the face.

But that's not all. They also strain and pasteurize the milk, and, using eggs from farm chickens, they make ice cream.

"Every part of camp is a learning experience, but it's also fun," said Pam Colvard, who runs the day camp with her husband, Steve, a Santa Paula elementary school teacher.

They are getting ready for their second summer of operation. They offer weeklong sessions from June 25 through Aug. 24 for children 4 to 9 years of age. The days run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at a weekly cost of $80.

The camp is on five acres owned by the Colvards, about six miles outside Santa Paula on the road to Ojai. With their children--Ashley, 7, and Nicholas, 5--they live in a yellow farmhouse they built themselves three years ago.

Steve Colvard has been a teacher in Santa Paula for 15 years, but his dream has always been to run a farm. He started two years ago with five goats. Gradually, he added horses, cows, rabbits, lambs, pigs, chickens and ducks.

The livestock collection was an immediate attraction for people traveling Highway 150. They would stop and ask to pet the animals. The popularity of the animals led to the petting farm and country store the Colvards opened in 1988.

Steve Colvard is no gentleman farmer. He's up at 5:30 to milk the 19 goats. He milks them again at 5:30 in the afternoon. He cleans the corrals and pens himself.

Nor is he a newcomer to summer camps. He ran a summer program for gifted children for five years. Pam Colvard previously taught preschool.

The weekly camp sessions are small--no more than 20 children at a time--and that suits the Colvards just fine.

"We like it that just Steve and I are with the kids," Pam Colvard said.

Each day of camp focuses on a different type of animal. On Tuesday, when it's horses, they ride the pony. They learn to feed the animals and handle them.

"It's good for the children to learn they have responsibilities, that the animals depend on them for food," she said.

The children also try gardening. Using child-size garden tools, they learn how to plant vegetable seeds and water them using a dam and canal-like system of irrigation the children call "raging waters."

By the end of the week, they've had a real taste of farm life. They've made butter from whipping cream by shaking it in a one-gallon jar. They've eaten the fresh butter on crackers and sipped buttermilk for the first time.

This summer, the Colvards plan to add some special features. The children will see a sheep sheared and the wool spun into yarn. A beekeeper will bring his bees. And a Chumash Indian expert will talk to the children. A Chumash burial ground is near the farm.

The camp isn't all farm activity. The children sing camp songs, hear stories and work on crafts. They dress up and act out stories.

Behind their house, the Colvards have a 15- by 30-foot fenced swimming pool. Both are certified water safety instructors.

For more information about the camp, call 525-9820.

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