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On the Farm

The garlic is just about finished curing. The late tomatoes are finally coming on. Tiny green beans hang on their plants. The cucumbers are happily climbing their trellises, but the summer squash and zucchini have been decimated by the prolific squash bugs. Despite our efforts otherwise, this planting may not yield much more. We have started more seeds, but it might be too late for this season – we’ll see.

Bill harvested more honey. The hives are strong and doing well. The last batch of broiler chicks have been moved out to the pasture. They love the extra room and fresh air. This year’s laying pullets (immature hens) will start laying mid-September so it is time to cull older hens. Marlee reminds us daily that her 6 year-old chicken named Cheetah serves a purpose for our farm even though she no longer lays eggs. She provides companionship and chicken wisdom – we can certainly find room for those attributes!

And with all the rain and warmer temperatures, weed growth has been relentless. I’m not sure I will ever get all the dirt out from underneath my fingernails.Aidan and Marlee have been spending considerable time on the shed roof watching to see where the goats have been escaping their fence. Since recently discovering the alfalfa field on the other side of their pasture, they have been persistent about getting out.

At the same time, I’ve strongly encouraged the kids to spend their days screen-free (a real challenge in this day and age!). Being modern-day shepherds is a perfect way to contribute to the running of the farm and avoid the tempting videos and games on the computer.Bill and I can hear them from the vegetable fields calling to each other as they keep track of the goats. Marlee’s higher pitched voice carries farther. It often sounds frustrated. She’s 2 years younger than Aidan and while sometimes is just fine doing her older brother’s bidding, she’s not willing to let him have complete control. Aidan, being older and possessing quite a bit of animal behavior knowledge knows how he wants things done. I do my work with one ear listening in case they need someone to bear witness to a heated discussion over which small sapling to cut down as a goat treat.

I try not to “solve” these disagreements or pass judgement so they can come to a resolution that suits them both, but often I get impatient and step in – especially if I’m feeling harried with mounting tasks. I forget my most important job is as a parent. Yes, it’s important to provide a home and model a good work ethic, but it’s just as important to be present and patient as my children learn to navigate tense situations with high emotions. It’s important to take time to ask what they are thinking. It’s important to listen to a story about a funny thing one of the goats just did, or to lament over a bruised knee wondering how it got hurt.

These fleeting moments in the whole of my life, that I’m not paid for in money, are often not taken. Yet they are the real reward for my work. Participating in them, I’m paid something more valuable than a secondary reinforcement of money; I’m paid joy, satisfaction, and an overwhelming sense that everything will be ok – even if the goats get out and have a few more bites of alfalfa.

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