As 2017 comes to a close and we reflect upon a bustling farm season, there are lists and lists of things to improve upon, things to change, things to keep just as they are, and then there are things that fall under the category of "TBD, a work in progress, and yet to be figured out." Farming with Children ranks as #1 in this special category for 2017.
Navigating the balance, style, and systems involved in trying to operate a farm business while raising a family is not something that comes naturally to us. We did not grow up on farms and are quite clearly figuring-it-out-as-we-go. I LOVE talking to people, young and old, who grew up on a farm or who are raising their children there - hearing their stories of how they do it, what worked and what didn't. Like most things in parenting, there is no one recipe or handy manual to consult - this is one situation where you just have to dive in and figure it out. A work in progress, no doubt, but here are a few small lessons we have learned in this great adventure in 2017....
1. Say YES to the kitty. Or sometimes, kitties..... Not only are they SO CUTE, but they make excellent distractions for your child(ren) while you hustle about trying to get things done. And keeping the mouse population in check is a pretty sweet bonus.
2. Invest in the Mini. We have a growing fleet of mini shovels, rakes, and wheelbarrows that have become invaluable over the years. Kids love to feel "big" and like they are part of the action with their own sized gear.
3. Embrace the mess. Quite possibly one of the best babysitters around, this particular mud puddle has kept our children occupied for hours. I walked out of the workshop one day with an armload of bridesmaid bouquets to photograph and came upon this scene.....absolute joy and absolute mud. He was pumped to be having so much fun and I was pumped to have gotten my bouquets made!
4. Help is a loose term. It seems like there is a very romantic notion that kids helping on the farm is something that should naturally happen. For a long time, I thought we were doing something wrong because helping was the last thing that they wanted to do. Does any kid really want to work on a hot, dirty, long, difficult task to completion? Nope. Do they want to see what you are up to, try it for a little bit, and then go off and play? Yup. When I changed my expectations and realized that help is indeed a loose term, everyone was happier. There are so many great kid-sized jobs on the farm, but sometimes it just takes some advanced thinking, patience, and matching a task with a child's personality. From digging holes to posing with a bucket of flowers for a picture to deadheading zinnias, there is a place for everyone. As kids get older and start to want to earn money and buy things, the farm is just the right place to be. We developed a long list of jobs for our resident tween this summer and he picked and chose jobs that he liked, earning money for his doo-dads.
5. Put the vacation on the calendar. Without advanced scheduling, it is easy to fill out the entire season with deliveries, projects, harvesting, planting, etc. We made the conscious decision last year to put several vacations on the calendar, find help while we were gone, and make it happen. It was a hustle, no doubt, but taking the time to get away during the growing season was invaluable. Connecting our hard work as a family with having the luxury of getting away was a priority that we wanted to make happen.
Each year is different as our family changes and grows, bringing new challenges and new opportunities. Maybe someday we'll get it all figured out, but in the meantime the adventure in learning continues. On to 2018!