For the next few weeks, we will be releasing previous posts from the old website.
8/7/09 “Teaching the Kids to Run the Farm” by Amy Jo
When we first started “farming” (a term I use lightly), we were about as “green” as possible. I still feel like we are “green”, but certainly a lighter shade than when we started 5 years ago. Had I realized how much time it would require, I doubt I would have been brave enough to take the plunge, or at least I would have said it was not possible. Being a homemaker and home school mom already amounts to at least a full-time job, and my husband works a full-time corporate job. Adding the duties of our homestead animals, etc., would certainly put us in the “overtime” category.
Since reality kicked in early on, we have often stopped to ask ourselves, “Are we really supposed to be doing this?” Our soul searching leads us to various decisions about the farm on a micro level, but as far as the overall picture of our life, it is supposed to include this homestead venture…for now, anyway. With this (sometimes daunting) understanding on board, we are ALWAYS seeking a better, more-efficient, more effective way of making the most of our farm experience, especially where our children are concerned. Thus, I delegate.
One of the reasons I enjoy home schooling is that it gives me more opportunities to spend time learning together w/my children. I just love it! It is a dream come true to see them taking it all in, light bulbs coming on, and abilities develop, right before my eyes. My best days are those spent here at home, working on school work and projects, with no phone calls, no trips out, no interruptions. Well, you can imagine that those days are more rare than I would like.
Since starting with the homestead, my favorite new saying is, “You never know what a day will bring.” Well, this is certainly true when there are animals involved, and especially true when there are other, wild and domestic, animals outside of our fences and property. The animals have to be fed, watered, de-wormed, mineraled, salted, in some cases brushed and ridden, trimmed, trained, taken to the vet, protected, acquired, sold, talked about, etc. Here at Legacy Farm, these duties fall mainly to the children and I. However, if I am not careful, they fall more to me than to the children.
A person that is very dear to me once told me, “Whether you are working at home or elsewhere, you can certainly either neglect or properly attend to your children.” This was convicting to me, as I realize that just because I am “home” doesn’t mean I properly allocate my priorities and time. This has come to mind at different times along the way when I have, at times, realized that I am answering animals needs myself instead of teaching the children to do as much as possible or, at least, to do it with me. For example, when I hear the chickens squawking in the middle of the day, instead of heading outside myself to investigate the problem, why not head out together or send a couple of the kids to do it on their own? I realize that most things I do here at home and on the farm I can choose to do alone or use them as teachable moments.
This is a journey for me. I have to remind myself that, while it may seem easier for me to “just do something myself”, it will be much better for us all in the long run to take the time to teach the children how to do whatever it is they can do, then delegate various responsibilities in accordance with said training, and to then hold them accountable for their responsbibilities.
Presently, the children are trained to do the following tasks/chores w/out help:
Ellen (age 15): Milk the cow and goats, handle all milk and supplies, organize milk for anytime we share it w/others, handle cows and goats, wash and stock all milking supplies, trim goat hooves, coordinate chore-time and all feeding and watering duties, train/ride/handle feed horses, plan and manage goat breeding, make chevre, cream, and ricotta cheese, and make bread of many different kinds, as well as already being a proficient (excellent, actually) cook (unlike I was until into my ’20s).
Tyler (age 12): Dose monthly Ivermectin for all of our dogs, milk the goats, grooming and nail trimming for our 7 dogs, mow large areas w/our riding mower or push mower, chop and stack wood, coordinate chore-time and all feeding and watering duties. Tyler is in charge of breakfast most days, making hot cereals, pancakes from scratch, eggs and toast, and he is making our sandwich bread from scratch now.
I am teaching Ellen and Tyler how to vaccinate the dogs and goats. Tyler can do it w/very little help. I am teaching Ellen how to plan for and purchase all of our goat and cattle de-worming supplies. All of the children understand how to look at the animals feces to assess their worm load, and other signs of health or sickness. Tyler is taking over all seed-saving duties for our ever-expanding gardening goals.
Abby (age 9.5): Abby is in charge of the laying hens, tending to their nest boxes, feeding and watering, and collecting/washing/packaging the eggs. She can feed and water most of the animals independently, but usually we work as a group for the two main chores times. Abby can handle most of the dogs and sometimes the goats, and she can be in charge of all of the feeding. She rakes and scoops and waters. Abby milks the goats when we are keeping the milk for the animals, but only milks for human consumption if Ellen or I are supervising. She does a great job milking.
Sam (age 6): Sam feeds the dogs and helps feed the goats and chickens, but he is not able to handle the adult goats or adult dogs without supervision, just in case one of those animals becomes stubborn. Sam helps tote hay in the wagon, he rakes and scoops the various animals areas, and helps with watering. Sam can milk the goats very well but, again, not when we are using the milk for ourselves. It is too hard for him to understand/apply cleanliness issues.
I keep praying about ways to delegate and ways to work TOGETHER with the kids. Having a farm gives us much fodder for learning/working together. The other benefit is that I am not trying to (hopelessly) accomplish way more than one person possibly can (though I have tried), all the while missing out on the time I can spend w/the children.