Being a solo female homesteader is not easy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happily married to the man of my dreams, however, he has a more then full time job. Besides trying to keep up with his feisty little farm wife, he is also a fourth generation farmer and business owner. Keeping a roof over our head (and a dozen employees) is his main day to day priority. So managing the homestead (or my side of the ditch, as we like to joke) is my day to day job. It is what I love and what I’ve always inspired to do.
By the time I was young teen, I knew how to cook, how to can and how to sew. I remember being the only kid in my home economics class that could bake a entire apple pie from scratch, without a recipe. I will forever be thankful to my Grandmother and mother for teaching us the basics of homesteading. Never were we allowed to watch TV on school nights and on the weekend, we might get spoiled with some popcorn and a Wyatt Earp type movie. There was no Grand Theft Auto, or sleeping in. There was no convenience foods. But there was a freezer full of beef (that my mom typically received as a Christmas bonus). There was always church, plenty of sticks to build forts and arrows and always cuts and bruises! And with a family of 6, there was always a meal to prepare. Whether we were slicing garden fresh veggies, learning the proper way to cut up a chicken or sewing up a dress, every day was filled with a lesson and knowledge that I have taken with me and teach to my own children today.
As much as I truly inspire to be a modern day Rosie the Rivitor, I simply can not do it all by myself. Trying to accurately accomplish every task personally, is a dangerous expedition. Besides, I’m not doing it for myself. I’m doing it for my family. For their future family. I pride myself in raising wholesome, independent children, that know how and where their food comes from. I want them to respect others and the meal in front of them. My children know food doesn’t grow at Costco. They also know money doesn’t grow on trees. If you want something, you need to work for it, plain and simple. All the more reasons for me to enlist in the help of our three children (13,7 & 3) on the homestead. Beside teaching them to love the land, we are teaching them basic life skills of nurturing and respect. Caring for another living, breathing creature, is an empowering task at hand. Knowing that a domesticated animal will not survive without the love and loyalty from its care taker is quite humbling. Reaping the rewards of what a child can learn on the farm, is a benefit for several generations to come.
10 jobs for kids on the homestead
1.) Collecting eggs.
Easy Peasy! This is the favorite job that our three year old has. He grabs his egg basket, his coat, puts on his muddy boots and
heads out to the coop. He is the egg master. He can also crack and scramble his own perfectly cooked breakfast.
2.) Fill up livestock waterers.
Both our 13 & 7 year olds can master this task. In the summer this is cake, as the hose is kept in the barn and there is no threat of freezing pipes, waterers or hoses. However during the winter, the hose needs to carried down from the garage and connected to the spicket in that barn. They also have the job of making sure that the heat tape is securely wrapped around the frost free pipe and plugged into the outlet. They also need to make sure the water heater is secured in the water trough and doing its job, if not, grab your pitch fork and start chipping kiddos.
Everybody loves to feed animals. Period. That’s why people buy baggies full of grain for a ridiculous amount at the animal parks. “Do not feed the animals” is a sign everyone has seen. Let me tell you, there’s no more amusing job then carting a slop bucket down to the pigs and listening to them grunt and groan while devouring left overs from the kitchen and garden. Likewise, tossing hay to the horses, cows or grain to the chickens, is equal fun. Trusting kids with this chore is an excellent way for them to build a caring relationship with animals that depend on them.
4.) Weeding and Harvesting the garden
This chore is worth its weight in gold. Seriously, there is no bigger task for me then trying to keep the garden free from weeds. I once came to the realization that having a perfectly weeded garden, a clean house and clean kids is a myth. You have to pick one, maybe two, if your lucky. Pulling weeds and harvesting crop is easy, its just time consuming. However when the kids are present at planting time and actively helping out in the garden, they can learn to identify what a specific vegetable looks and they can eliminate the weeds around it. A lesson I learned early on, is that siblings are very competitive! By using this to my advantage, I give them all a feed sack or bucket and they can race to fill it up. BAM. Fastest weed pullers ever! (this works for picking beans and peas also Likewise with harvest, my oldest boy cuts the pumpkin or squash stems and the other two gather and put them in my garden trolley. Spending time with the kids in the garden teaches them the hard effort it takes to grow and produce healthy foods for our family. It also encourages them to eat healthy. There’s a certain pride to take when one puts a seed in the ground and it becomes a amazing delicious plant.
5.) Prepping dinner
Yes. I said it. Once a week we have kids kitchens. Our three kiddos plan a meal, gather ingredients and cook it up. Our oldest (13) is in charge of manning the stove or oven. He is excellent at dredging meat and makes a mean homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Our daughter (7) is excellent recipe reader and instructor ( a nice way for saying she’s a bit bossy), she’ll be a excellent mommy, or lawyer one day. Our 3 year old is still learning. He is excellent at pouring the ingredients into the bowl and wiping off the counters. However, if he had his way, we’d all eat grilled cheese and scrambled eggs three meals a day.
Having the kids plan, prep and prepare dinner not only gets their creative taste buds rolling but it also teaches them to work as team.
6.) Maintaining the homestead, inside and out
During the warm summer months, the homestead is in over charge. Not only are we full blown into harvesting wheat & hay but the grass is steadily growing and the dirty wheat chaffed clothes keep rolling in. Our oldest son is in charge of mowing the lawn once a week. He is also given the task of picking up any fallen tree limbs and maintaining the proper PH in the pool, moving hoses and watering the new trees in the orchard. Our daughter is charge of laundry and dishes. She actually loves this responsibility and with 5 of us, this is no easy task. She loves organizing and being in the kitchen. She sorts clothes, starts the washer and dryer then folds and puts the clean clothes back into their owners room. Our 3 year old can dust, vacuum and wash the table. He has his own cleaner bottle that he calls his “squeaker”. It is chemical free and smells like Christmas.
7.) Mucking the barn and cleaning the chicken coop
I admit, these are both dreaded task. Nobody want to do them, including me. Sometimes its a punishment. Sometimes is a group effort. Either way, it gets done. Both our oldest and middle children can handle this chore. One scrapes out the coop or barn and load up the wheelbarrow. The other dumps the wheelbarrow in the garden and replaces the hay or chips.
8.) Moving grain and wood chips
Luckily for our kids, we only have large square bales on the farm. Their close to 1200 pounds and can only be moved with a tractor, so there’s no “bucking bales” around here. However, there is still bales of wood chips for the coop and calving pins and 50lb bags of chicken and pig feed that needs to be moved from the truck to the barn and stacked. I try and buy feed and chips in bulk because its cheaper, so moving 2 dozen bales of chips & feed to the barn is no easy task. Our oldest can lift the bags of feed or bales and put them in the garden trolley or wheel barrel, while our daughter carts them down to the barn.
9.) Helping Butcher
Dare i say it… Our daughter loves butchering chickens. I promise, shes not morbid. She’s just truly intrigued with the hatch to butcher process and plucking chickens is a great way for her to do her part. I understand for a 7 year old girl, this may be a pretty big, possible overwhelming, experience but this twice a year event, is all she has ever known. Raising chickens, beef or hogs is what our family does to ensure that were eating happy, healthy meat. Its a generational event. When my husband was a child, three generations would gather and slaughter half a dozen beef cows. Everyone had a job, including the children. When he was old enough to hunt, his father taught him patience and the art of carefully field dressing a deer or elk, just like his fathers father did before that. Because our families have passed on this survival skill, we are able to teach our children and they can go on to teach theirs.
10.) Milking the family cow
Milking a cow isn’t hard. But it is a skill that requires patience and the willingness to learn. My grandmother taught my mom to milk “Bessie” at a young age. My mom has always talked about Bessie with the kindest of words and biggest smile. It was clearly a highlight of her childhood. My father in-law started milking cows at the age of 5. His mother would tell him “if you don’t have foam on top of the bucket, your milking too slow!” Milking cows is as American as it gets. Last year my daughter asked for a Jersey cow for Christmas, she was 6 at the time. Already knowing how to milk, we bought her a small heifer to raise for her own. Today she can hand milk side by side with me. She is just as fast as any I’ve met and is clearly proud to accomplish her job. She understands the importance of cleanliness for the health of our cows and our family. She is patient and smart when handling our jersey herd. In just a few years when our son is ready, he too will be milking cows in the barn.
I know, simple right? While willingness isn’t necessarily a job per se, it is a crucial aspect that needs to learned. It is something easy that the kids can do, everyday, to help out on the homestead. Having a positive mental attitude will get you a lot further in life then without it. Whether your a mom or dad, teacher, babysitter, neighbor or whomever, having children that are willing to accomplish a task without whining or arguing goes a long way. I’m the first person to admit that when the kids start complaining about doing a chore, I give in and just do it myself. It makes for a long day, mentally and physically. Keeping a positive mindset on the homestead is essential to survival. Giving up is easy, doing it all over again tomorrow, is hard. There are no vacations on the farm. Somebody must feed, water and care for the animals daily, everyday. Yes, some days, some weeks, I swear its groundhogs day. However, installing the willingness to work and to help others is character trait that can’t be replaced. Its not just essential for living a homestead life, its essential for school, for relationships and their future career.
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