Posted by: J Nyman | May 1, 2009

Farm Moms Do It In the Hay

Recently, I’ve been marveling to my husband, John, that I can actually get farm work done with the kids around these days.  This is a long awaited miracle.

By ‘kids’, I mean our son who will be 4 in August and the little girl I have taken in for daycare for the last two years.  She just turned three.

Kids love lambs

Above: John and Shea feeding bottle lambs

Two toddlers combined with my opinions about mixing parenting and farming was not a recipe for getting work done.  In times gone by the ‘tie the kid to the fence while you drive the tractor’ parenting theory was quite prevalent.  We’re not into that here.

Despite John’s frustration that I’ve been unavailable to help him for the past three and a half years, I firmly stuck to what I consider common sense.

Forcing two-yearolds in snow suits to walk up and down a huge hill back and forth to the barn with no help mom’s carrying buckets of grain, for example.  Or leaving them screaming while you feed hay because the kiddies – 25  lbs – are scared of the sheep – 150 lbs – when mom’s not carrying them.  These things don’t take a lot of deliberation to figure out.

Now that they’re bigger, though, and more comfortable in the barn, I’m going to take advantage of my new ability to get things done – and to let the kids get things done.

There is nothing small people like better than to feel they’re getting to contribute and be a part of what you’re doing.  It applies in the barn just as well as in the kitchen.

So, with that said, here are a few tricks I’ve figured out and picked up from other farm moms for helping kids enjoy chore time:

  • Hay is always fun.  If you think you don’t have a need to have loose hay around, think again.  A safe spot – like that empty pen – is a great place for a climbing, burying roll in the hay, kid style.
  • If you have an extra pen, why not put a slide or some sand in with some sand toys?  Or wood shavings.  The extra pen is a blessing.
  • Trampoline with enclosure a.k.a. huge playpen.  I met a sheep farmer whose children – 3 years and 18 months – would spend all chore time playing on the trampoline with special ‘barn’ stuffed animals and soft balls.
  • Give them their own, kid sized tools.  Our son has a pitchfork with a 36 inch long handle.  We taught him how to use it without injuring anyone and he loves it.  Visiting children get excited to take a turn really feeding the sheep.
  • Make sure they can get up high.  Kids are eye level with sheep and a good head shorter than even a young calf.  Let them get out of range of licking, nibbling and loud baaaa-ing when they need to.

And, finally:

  • Don’t wear out your welcome.  Be prepared to pack it in within a few minutes if the kids get tired.  I don’t mean jump the second someone make a peep.  Make a judgment call.  Have you been focusing on your work to the exclusion of the kids for too long?  A little independent time is important, but once they’re done, you need to be done too.

Growing up on a farm is something I always knew I wanted for my kids.  I don’t want to farm first, parent second, though.  But I also don’t want to parent first and farm not at all.  That would be cheating them of all the great things kids can learn and do on the farm.

So, as ‘my’ kids get more independent and confident, I will let them see me – and help me – work more.  With a little forethought, it can be good for all involved.

If you have any tricks to share when it comes to combining farm and kids, please tell.  Even if you have the most incredible ‘tie them to the fence’ farm parenting story.  I’m up for a good laugh.  (Funny, mostly because it’s a thing of the past, for the most part.  Thankfully!)

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