Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Farmer in the making


Things are busy but we're settling into a new hectic normal.
I think we've caught up on planting.
I still haven't posted about the Fort Montgomery shoot on the photo blog.
Chicks are coming in a week - we need to sort out their brooder space.

It will all happen.
Just at a slower pace. And that's okay.
We've been noticing that spring is coming, slowly but surely. I see buds on some trees and all the pastures are snow free after today's warm weather. There's still plenty in the woods.

As everyone gels as a new kind of family, I've been keeping Child C close by. He's quick to temper and it can be intense. But he's learning and we're learning and it's getting better to read each other and avoid most outbursts. In the effort of keeping Child C close by, he's been in the barn with me doing chores often. He started out with intense interest and excitement about every aspect of farming. He moved hay bales, threw down bedding, filled water buckets, collected eggs, and avoided pigs after a firm and explicit warning from me. He has a good sense of self-preservation.
But the weather turned cooler soon after the children arrived in our home and I discovered he was more a fair weather farmer. After several mornings of lazy chores on my part, due to the fact that I had a three-year-old wrapped to my back and wanted to be DONE, Child C is back on his own two feet during chores and has focused his farming interest down to one aspect - egg collecting. He's excellent at this task - if not a little too enthusiastic. There has been more than one mild tantrum over a hen that he wanted MOVED so he could collect eggs NOW.

The Dead Chicken
I noticed a dead hen in the chicken barn yesterday.
I assumed it was the lowest on the pecking order and had had one too many pecks from its peers (I now think there may be a weasel problem. grr.). The body was tucked in a corner and I didn't want to draw attention to it, not knowing how Child C would feel. Would death frighten him? Would he be confused? Sad? Scared? Or the dreaded: angry?!
I decided to leave it, hoping someone else would do afternoon chores - or if nothing else, I'd find an opportunity to sneak it out.
During afternoon chores, I was back out in the barn, with the memory of the dead chicken somewhere in the shadowy parts of my brain.
Child C's favorite place is the chicken barn - that's where the eggs are to be found!
He wasn't in there long before I heard: "Sarah! There's a dead chicken!!"
Oh yeah.
Oh no.
"What are you going to do with it?!?!" He asked.
Honesty is best, I feel, if possible, with kids.
"Probably throw it in the woods," I replied.
"NOOOOO!" he said.
Oh no.
Here comes a tantrum....
"I don't want you to throw the dead chicken in the woods!" he said emphatically and there were tears starting.
"I want to eat the chicken!"

I think we're going to be okay with this farming thing.

The Electric Fence
Months ago we had a few families over to sled - it was very impromptu.
Before long the sled tracks were making it to the split rail fence - that also has an electric line or two attached.
Someone asked if the fence was off and after doing a quick mental map of where all the animals were and realized there was no need for the fence to be on.
So off it went.

Fast forward to a week or so ago and the four children that now live here were sledding and exploring and generally wandering around the front yard.
Child C made his way down to the bottom of the front yard and the split rail fence ... and moved the two electric lines apart and slipped through to the pasture.
That's weird.
Then remembered not all kids know about electric fences.
He made his way across the pasture (just a small distance, really) towards the opposite fence - on the other side there is a ditch and then the road.
He won't go through, I thought.
He will see the electric fence and won't go through.
But I walked down the hill and slipped through the split rail fence and electric lines, just in case.
He grabbed the electric fence.
"Child C!" I called, "if you go through that fence, I'll know you're not safe outside and we'll have to go inside."
He gave me a big satisfied grin and turned back towards me.
Fast forward to yesterday.
We need the pigs to get OUT of their mucky area. They are belly to mud and we're nervous about relying on electric lines as we would usually because it may well still snow - feet of snow. Plus, the ground is frozen, making it difficult to put in stakes.
We were able to open up their current enclosure into the next spot that only requires a small area of electric fence.
So the fence is back on.
We realized we should warn Child B and Child C, as they'd shown us that they didn't know about the shock factor of electric fences.
I pointed out wires that had electric on them.
"Is this one?" Child B asked.
"Nope, just this one up here," I replied.
"What about this one?" Child C asked.
"Not that one, but this one" I said.
Each kid touched the "safe" fence after being told they wouldn't zap.
Walking back towards the house, I pointed out another line of electric.
"What about this one?" Child B asked.
"I don't think that one," I said. "You'll figure it out soon enough - just don't touch wires, and you won't get zapped."
"I'm going to touch it!" Child C announced.
"Okay, but it's going to zap you," I warned.
He gave me a mischievous and rebellious grin, with a slight question to his expression.
"You can," I said, "it's your body, I don't care. It's going to zap."
Defiantly he grabbed a tight fist to the fence line.
Looking shocked he quickly pulled his hand away and stared at his wrist.
"That HURT me!" he announced.
"You wanna do it again?" I asked.
A quick shake of his head with big eyes and we had figured out the fence meant business.
I gave a quick satisfied and perhaps unnecessary lecture about the fact that when we say "no", it's not for our fun -it's to keep them safe.

There's a lot of work to be done around building trust ... and every day that trust deepens. So thankful for the connection we're able to make with each other.

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