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!
So glad to come across your post. Like many, I grew up on a farm and we’re seriously looking at a small farm now. Only it’d be with 3 kids under 5 homeschooling and husband working full time in town. Trying to figure out how we’d make it work. I grew up doing chores. And the 3 and 4 year old help me right now with our handful of chickens. what do you do if you’re the primary farmer though and you have another baby? Last baby we had my garden became overgrown because I couldn’t get out there. Not sure how I’d handle a whole farm. Anyone have suggestions?
My family and I have been researching and preparing for a move to rural farm life and we have a 14 month old and a baby due in December. I so look forward to teachable moments with my small ones and the rewarding, though be it challenging lifestyle. 🙂 any more tips on farming with small children are greatly appreciated and anticipated
Hi, I am considering adding a milk cow to our small menagerie of animals… But I am wondering what to do with all of my littles while I milk her? What do you have your baby and toddler and preschoolers do while you milk? Seems like it would be hard to do with a baby on my back.
Once our cow was settled into milking, the girls were often in the pen while I milked and if your cow is very gentle even milking with babe on back is possible but only if you feel very comfortable and sure of yourself! Often one of us is choring while the other makes breakfast so the kids would either be in the house or with us. Even from very small our kids understood that they needed to stay back from the cow and so that worked for us; they knew where they could be and they stayed there to watch (sometimes that was in with the calf.). A combination of caution and knowing that if they didn’t follow instructions, they couldn’t be out milking with us made it all pretty smooth. That’s my kids though and all are different! General rules are; never behind the cow or directly in front, always to the side closer to the front with my body between the child and the cows hind legs. Hope that helps!
Hi Marissa, that’s awesome that you and your family are living out your dreams. I’ve been dreaming, dare I say yearning for the same. I grew up on a farm in the country in a small rural town but moved away for school and work. Now with small kids, I’m trying to find my way back there. In my opinion, there’s no better place to grow up than on a farm learning strong work ethics, experiencing first hand the joys and fun with families together on the farm.
I suppose my question is how people go about making that move. Farms, it seems are so wildly expensive that financing is just about out of the question for your average person. In your story, you moved quite a distance, unfortunately due to circumstances, I’m unable to pack up and relocate too terribly far away.
It will happen, I know it! It’s certainly worth waiting for!
Hi Jason, almost a year later, I’m seeing this comment! I’ll answer just in case you see it or for anyone with a similar question. You’re very right it is incredibly expensive getting into farming unless one inherits a farm. Even then costs are high. We don’t make our living from our farm. My husband has a full time pjotography business and I have multiple endeavours here at home while schooling my children. We were able to purchase our land because we lived extremely simply for several years, purchased and renovated two homes and sold them. We then packed up and moved to a much much cheaper part of the country property wise. It took sacrifice and still does…we still live simply and still only scrape by. It’s a beautiful life but not glamorous by any means.?Wishing you all the best!
Hi marissa! I am so glad I came across this pin of yours. My husband actually came across yours and your husbands background on a website one day (which was a blessing in itself to read). So of course, I found you on Pinterest to learn some more 🙂 my husband and I are in the process now in moving to a farm house on 20 acres here in Rockwell NC close to where we are both from. We also have 3 children (4, 3, and 18 mo) ALL boys lol. This is new to me and my husband but has been a dream to live on a farm/ homeschool/animals ect. And it is finally happening. We have 30 days till the closing on the house and I get more and more excited each day. I will continue to follow you on Pinterest and look forward to reading and learning more each day from your inspiring posts!
It’s so wonderful to hear others share the same dream as me. I have always wanted to have a small family farm where I can grow my own garden and raise a few animals. My husband it’s a big city kind of guy so there are some farm animals he’s never even seen other then pictures. He is willing to move and help with what he can but it’d be primarily on me since he will be starting up his own business within the next few months. We also have a 18 month old but do not feel I’d be able to home school him. I wish I could but I’m too nervous I won’t be able to teach him enough. I hope that someday I can get the courage and money to follow my dreams like you and have my own small farm but with a little store front to be able to sell anything extra we have an my homemade items. Thank you for the inspiration.
I am so glad to have stumbled upon your blog. I was raised in urban Seattle and settled in rural eastern Washington with my farm boy and our two (almost three) children. Each year we take steps closer to living a sustainable/self sufficient life. But like you said– having little kids is hard! Thank you for this! xo
About three years ago we packed up life in the city and moved several states away to a place I’d never been to start our own farm.
It’s been interesting for sure.
We moved with a newborn, three year old and five year old.
It’s never boring.
To be honest, there are a lot of things I hate about it.
Most of those stem from our business (and income) almost completely drying up since we got here.
But the good is pretty great.
Like today. I’ll spend the day filling, frosting and stacking the wedding cakes one neighbor baked for another neighbor’s wedding tomorrow. It’s simply our gift to the couple. Tomorrow I’ll do the final decorations on everything and join in the fun of a wedding in the pasture next to ours where invitations went out and a general invite to the whole county was made.
This never would have happened in the city, but here, it’s just right.
I am so jealous! It is my dream to have a farm. I have 2 little boys who I also plan to homeschool (3 years and 21 months old). I just don’t have the money for it yet and having to be patient is killing me!!! I just cant wait to get out in the field and take care of animals and a huge garden!
It is so inspiring to hear about your family’s move XC to a farm and how much y’all enjoy it! We too want to have a self sustaining farm one day. I second the comment about tickets but what a journey that would be from America. Hope your family and farm are doing well.
We farm and have 4 children, 5 and under. We tend to take 1 child each day to do farm chores. Because of driving tractors and limited space, this is how it has to be. The problem is we have 3 boys and they hate taking turns… they all want to “help”. We demand instant obedience especially when they are with us on the farm because of dangerous equipment and just never being able to fully trust livestock. Being kicked by a cow or having a ewe or buck butt you is one thing as an adult, but is more dangerous for a child. At their ages, they aren’t allowed to help us grind feed or combine… they are so anxious to get bigger so they can though!
I keep reminding myself that even though I can get things done more quickly by myself, we are instilling a love of this land in them and sowing the seeds of a future farming generations.
Rachel @ reprezent98201
3 fairly unrelated comments:
If I could afford a ticket to Nova Scotia, I would come for a farming vacation!
I have enjoyed following you over at Becoming Kindred. And I L-O-V-E your crowns.
I love that you start science to so early. My 8 month old and I were “talking” about strawberry runners the other day and I am sure that people would think I’m crazy because we used the scientific terms. 🙂
Thank you Rachel! Our humble guest house is here waiting;)
And I say, children understand way more than we think they do and what they don’t understand now will gradually make sense to them. One thing that I love so much about learning with my children is that they are so eager to know about things and everything is so amazing to them:)
I really enjoyed this glimpse into your life, and then that last line stopped me in my tracks! My husband is originally from Nova Scotia, and we have occasionally daydreamed about urban farming. A farming vacation is not anything we ever thought of, but you just might hear from us one day 😛
Back to the post though, I love that you include your kids as much as possible. I’m sure the extra work and patience it requires of you will pay off with great memories and skills for them as they grow up.
Thanks for commenting Alyssa, I do have to remind myself often to slow down for them but it is so worth it!
And I really mean it, we love to meet and share our farm with people! Because our house is a duplex, it is great for hosting families and letting them have some space at the same time. It’s not fancy but we do our best to make visitors comfortable!