Spring time is the busiest time of the year, hands down, for any homestead. It’s comparable to being locked in a whirlwind, you just keep running, planting, watering, feeding, moving, weeding, milking, gathering, mulching, mowing, tending, cleaning, loading, shoveling, watering, canning, processing, administering, caring, and then you go to sleep and start over the next day. It is exhausting, and at the end of the day your body literally melts into you bed, and before you can think the words goodnight all the way through, you are a sleep. Your hands are sore, your body’s sore, your mind is sore, and sometimes even your heart is sore.
Does this mean that we don’t enjoy it? Does this mean that we want to give up, that it’s too much? Never. But it is certainly a season for setting the truly determined apart from the dreamers. It’s a season of constantly weighing your homestead with your quality of life. Carefully choosing those projects and new additions to the farm with great care, knowing that with each thing you add, you will be giving a piece of yourself to it. Constantly asking yourself, “Are there any more pieces of us to go around?”
This year is the first year that our children have really taken on a significantly helpful role in the homestead.
Here are some of the chores that our children are responsible for on the homestead, these things are in addition to their regular house chores:
My Techie, 11 yr old:
Cleaning out the barn and hauling compost to the garden 2 x’s a week.
Keeping both the front and back yards, (which are not insignificant), tidy, clean, raked, and mowed.
Helps move the chicken tractor twice a day.
Feeds the dogs and cats.
Helps administrate all farm classes and photography.
Preston’s Sidekick, 5:
Handling all kitchen scraps, ensuring that they go to the chickens are compost in a timely manner.
Cleaning all the stock tanks, checking them each day for debris and water level, emptying and cleaning them once a week.
Helping to do the feeding chores, specifically the chickens.
Training a cart goat wether
Learning to milk on the side.
My Shadow, 3
Helps feed the baby chicks
Helps make baked goods, and can, in fact, make bread all by herself, minus the oven part.
Helps with the watering in the flower and herb beds.
Generally trying to be the boss of anyone else that will listen to her commands.
Our children also help weed the garden, pick produce, milk, gather eggs each night, and help with any other special projects that are going on.
Is this slave labor? Will they grow up hating this homestead?
I don’t believe so. We are a family farm. With family being the key word. If our family is not strong then our farm is not strong.
Some keys to getting our children to help and enjoy it:
Lead by example. We don’t ever ask them to do something that they have not witnessed us doing and we try to make sure the have been shown exactly how to do it, usually numerous times.
Work as a team. We work together as a whole unit, each taking care of his own responsibilities, but all of us interacting together.
Give a quality based incentive. What this homestead yields to our lives is all the incentive Preston and I need. And that incentive is not a small motivation for us. So, we try to give our children that same incentive based reward. “When the chores are done, we will all play Candy Land together!” “Let’s finish the barn work, and then we can have ice-cream!”
Understand this is completely different than the tactic “If you are good, I will give you a sucker” which allows an option to be bad. Part of working together as a family is Dad and Mom setting a work ethic standard for the children to follow. Everyone is going to have bad days here and there, but as a whole, children want very much to be like their parents. If you set the tone for the work, they generally follow it. And even if they can’t make the long haul at 5, by 11 they are certainly able to keep going and, sometimes, even out work their parents!
We make work fun. What, you think cleaning poop out of the barn isn’t fun? It is! We make a game. When it’s time to rake, we break into teams. One little and one big form a team, generally My Techie and Preston’s Sidekick are a team and My Shadow and I are a team. We divide the barn in half. The Little’s get their small, kid sized rakes, which is very important, and the Techie and I get big rakes. We say “GO!” and the raking is on! First one to get their side of the barn raked into piles without missing any spots wins. Next, using the same team structure, we get two wheel barrows and shovel and haul all the fodder to the compost site, whoever hauls all their compost first wins. This usually involves wheelbarrow rides, and lots of running and laughing. It’s FUN! And the kids enjoy it! And guess what? The barn is clean at the end of the game.
This approach can be taken with just about any farm chore. Work can be done quickly, efficiently, and still be fun.
We are certainly not perfect, and we have our days when no ones wants to do what they are told, nothing gets done right, and I want to ship the kids off to some mission in an impoverished country, so they can see how good they have it. We are real! But, for the whole, it’s working. They are loving life. They are loving farming. They are acquiring skills that most people could only dream of. And they are learning a work ethic that is generally being lost in America.
We have about 2 more months of full throttle push here on the homestead, and then the Texas sun heats up and after about 1 p.m. we prepare to fry if we go outside in the blazing sun. We have chosen to rework our school year, (yes, we homeschool), to have our intense studies take place in the hottest part of the summer and the coldest part of the winter, when we really have no desire to do anything more than up-keep outside.
Yesterday was a normal, hard-push spring day on our farm. Work from morning till night. But we took a second to be extremely grateful, to just breath it all in last night. We made grass fed burgers with homemade buns, last season’s pickles and a side of fresh-from-the-garden zucchini. My beautiful family realized that they were eating the fruits of their labor. Each one of us had a hand in that meal.
Homesteading is not for the dreamer and fantasizer. It’s not for the faint at heart. But if you can resolve to give everything, every part of who you are, and not back down from that resolution, than there is no better life.