Post by contributor, Marissa.
When we moved across the country to a tiny community in rural Nova Scotia, we bought our seven and a half acres with a big old duplex farm house without having seen it other than a video and pictures.
With grand – if slightly vague – dreams of our own cow and chickens, we packed up our girls and our dog Molly and headed off to our farming dream.
It’s been almost two years now and I’d like to say we are wiser and have successfully established our small family farm.
But, my friends, success and/or wisdom are still yet to be discovered in our ten year plan. Alright, so we don’t actually have a ten year plan but if we did that would be written in. We do have our chickens and our milk cow, along with an unexpected pony and we have certainly learned a few things along the way.
Beth has asked me if I could share a little about our “homesteading” life from time to time and so I thought I would start out what has been the most important and at times most challenging dynamic of this new life that we are carving out here; how we do all of this with our children.
We don’t ever plan to make our main living off of farming but we do intend to get to the place where we grow most of our own food with enough extra to trade with those who raise what we don’t. My husband also works full time with his own business and so it is a constant juggling act of using the time that we have in a day well. Our kids are still small (4,3 & 16 months) and need pretty constant attention so we are continually working on ways to make this all work.
Because this lifestyle takes so much time, we are intentional about including our kids in the work.
As most of us with small children know, everything takes a great deal longer when you have one, two, three or more keeping you company.
Sometimes it feels like my day would just go so much faster if I could just run out to care for the animals myself and while that does happen at times, I also know that we all benefit for the time that we spend together caring for our animals.
I hope that our kids will grow up with many memories of the hours they have spent fencing with their daddy or pulling weeds with their mama while sharing their thoughts, dreams and stories.
As the kids are out and about on the farm, it’s been really important to teach them how to interact safely with farm life.
It’s one thing to have a few cute little hens that lay your breakfast eggs; they are pretty harmless. But, once you begin including larger farm animals, it becomes very important that your children have some basic rules of conduct around animals. The point isn’t to instill fear but to ensure a healthy respect for the animals that are much larger than they.
At this point, our girls understand they may not enter any pens unless we are with them. Gradually as we work with our animals, they are learning appropriate handling and the importance of calm voices and movements.
There are also essential details such as always closing the gate, putting tools away (we need to work on this ourselves) and keeping the animal pens neat and the girls are learning as we go.
I love that our little farm offers endless opportunities for learning.
Because we will be homeschooling, I’m becoming more mindful of the education available through our daily activities. Eggs are counted as they are collected and placed in cartons for selling. Grain is measured for feeding (Always supervised at this point as too much can be dangerous). Planting the garden offers an entire Biology unit as we learn the relationship of the seeds to the produce that we eat.
I’ve been realizing too that it’s so important to explain things to your children. While I often tend to forget explanations, I find that it sparks interest if I explain why something is important or how something helps an animal. Also as the girls get older and take more responsibility of animals it will help them in their care of the animals.
Some days, when six a.m. comes far too soon, this little homesteading life that we have chosen seems like way too much work. There are times when the last thing that I feel like doing is trudging out into the rain and muck to milk a cow and I’ve been putting off the big chicken coop clean for a few weeks now.
However, when we actually stop and take a minute to think about our life here, we realize that while it is demanding, it is also a lot of fun.
We can and do have fun while farming together and with our children.
Sometimes we do have step back and make a choice to change our attitudes but truly, there are few things that I could think of that are as pleasure-filled as a beautifully sunny, crisp-aired morning spent feeding animals, collecting eggs, and tending the garden; together, with my family.
I love hearing my children laugh with delight. I love that my hands and feet have a constant stain of soil during the summer. I can honestly say that our decision to start this little farm was a good one and it has given me a deeper appreciation for my family, this world that we live in, and life as whole.
Have you ever dreamed of farming or is it something that you are getting into now? What are some things that you’d like to know or advice that you would share?
We love visitors so if you ever have a desire to have a farming vacation, we’d welcome you for a visit!
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