Saturday, September 17, 2011

Children on the Small Farm

Once, a long time ago for this area, agrarian pursuits were a necessity of life.  Folks didn't "go to work" in the same sense that most of us generally do today.  Children weren't such a burden but a blessing upon their families.  Children were welcomed into most life spaces and activities.  Efficiency was traded for education and learning and being part of a larger community.  Children and their families lived generally in larger familial or religious or some other form of the village.  I'd bet that is from where the notion that "it takes a village to raise a child" came.

It seems that the village today has been traded for "SuperMom" who cleans and cooks and washes and transports and schedules and plans and manages and teaches and so on and so forth.  At least it seems that way to me.  Some may call my plate overfull (which it is) or me just a young, new-ish mother (which I am).  And while my family is still learning how to blend together, we also have a few things figured out quite nicely thanks.

One, our children need other people besides us to interact with.  Well, during Market season, they get to go once a week with a dear friend to play for a few hours.  Yes, they miss a good deal of learning about working and being at the market but it gives them a break as well as us!  everyone is happy all around.  (that and we go to two markets and have only one night is with our friend, so they're still getting that).

We have also, our circle of friends.  Granted, most of them are older and if they have children they are teenagers.  But who cares?  We see eye-to-eye with them most of the time.  That is always the important part of friendship, not age or life stage although those can be nice at times too.  They love us, we love them, they love our whole family and our kids have tons of loving aunties.

We are starting to figure out how to run our farm both as a business and as a passion together with our children.  Obviously, we cannot afford daycare, not on the farm and certainly not on my small income.  We often explain our baby steps as "bootstrapping" it all together.  We certainly are.  We have had some generous help in some places but we refuse to place ourselves in debt because we know we will never escape it.  We have placed economic sustainability at the forefront of our business and life.  One step provides for the next.  One day, our farm will be our livelihood.  Our children therefore, are a part of our business as well as our family.  Being nearly two and nearly four, they're not always the most helpful but they have their moments and they have their small helpful routines.

HannaMae always helps Papa harvest cucumbers.  Alli is starting to understand the concept of a "red" tomato as opposed to a "green" tomato.  sometimes.  They are rather effective herders of sheep in simple situations.  they are awesome brick-movers, for a little while.  They are super good at the art of a dirt bath and in the mud-hole swim.  They have incredible imaginative abilities.

No, their childhood is definitely far from today's conventional childhood of snacktime and playdates.  Rarely is anything on a rigid schedule at our house.  They go to bed after 8pm.  Do I care?  Yes and No.  Yes because they are outside the societal norm and may have a hard time becoming part of it all.  No because I know they are happy, healthy, well-fed, imaginative, intelligent, have strong immune systems, are creative and curious.

So when folks ask us how we do it all, our answer is "we don't."  Something always falls through the cracks.  Sometimes dinner isn't until 9 or ten or 11 sometimes.  Sometimes they watch every movie they own in a week... twice.  Sometimes they get so dirty i can't recognize them as my own.  Sometimes people ask me where they got so dirty on days that they are a little dusty and I prickle at them.  But I'm sure they'll turn out okay.

I'm also sure that between Jason and me, as husband and wife and as business partners, we will be able to figure it out.  The two of us will be able to be counted as one and a half workers or even two in some moments not because we have a babysitter but because our kids know how to "help out" by staying out of the thick of it all for a few moments.  We will be able to manage our farm so that we will be able to hire some extra hands for the most desperate times and still pay ourselves enough to live on.  maybe, someday we'll even be able to afford our own health insurance!

Yep, parenting and farming are both full-time jobs without pay or hours.  That doesn't mean that it has to be one or the other.  gee, maybe we'll even homeschool our kids while earning our living wage...

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