Saturday, November 20, 2010

Training the troops

As I have not much news to share about our homestead - everything is growing along - I thought I would share about something that is close to my heart - children and work.

Often people ask if my children willingly work in the garden and why I feel they need to work in the garden if it's "my hobby".

First I do not see myself as a hobby gardener. I think we are busy with something much bigger over here and whilst not being sure of the ultimate goal, we are working together towards learning a skills set which has been lost in the passage of time for most 21st century dwellers.

I am in no way a doomsday prophet like some of the survival types I bump into on the web, and while I respect their viewpoint, my faith is in a loving Father God who will care for me and mine. However, along with this faith I believe I need to read the times and what I see is alot of food related illnesses, GM foods, feedlot beef as the new normal, rising food costs and plenty of behaviour based issues in children with links to preservatives and colorants.

This led us to trying to grow some of our own vegetables back in 2008. When we started on that journey the children were excited to help. My then 11yr son was a keen helper with the woodwork - building the vegetable bed frames, fences and a hot of other things.

My elder daughter (then 13) loved planting the seedlings and getting new vegetables started. Our then 9 year old would lovingly water and care for the plants...our then 6 year old was the chief harvester.

As the years wore on and we added two new areas, lots of containers and baskets, we found that their interest wained and it became necessary to set aside family gardening time which happened to be Sunday mornings. After breakfast we would work for a few solid hours until the job list was done for the day and then after lunch their time was their own.

Some of the children would grumble and groan more than others but as I know that what we are doing is for the good of all, we insisted on the work being done. From small my children have been actively involved in the running of this household. It's a busy one with both Superman and myself having home businesses, homeschooling, animals and cooking from scratch, and I had to admit to myself early on that I cannot do it all alone.

While my husband jokingly calls our foursome "the slave labor", we actually believe that learning to work hard is a priviledge that they have - to be actively involved in building a strong team, caring for our environment and learning skills like growing food, preserving and canning, cooking from basic ingredients, conserving energy, living frugally and more.

Here are some ways that our children serve in our home -
Daily chores
Feeding animals
Cleaning up after animals
Preparing meals (each child has one evening a week to cook)
Making lunches
Sowing seed
Watering pots and containers
Making fences
Chopping down/pruning trees
Turning compost

Lots of things to keep them busy!

Recently we decided that the load was too heavy on a Sunday when we found ourselves working past lunch time. We had a rethink and a family chat and they asked to have more daily garden chores assigned to them so that they could work less on a Sunday.

Summer is here now, so there are the gorgeous windstill early mornings to look forward to where we can picnic, go to the beach or have breakfast at a local dam. Therefore we changed things around to accomodate the children's desire and our need for downtime on a weekend.

By the way...we do not pay our children for garden chores unless we would have to pay a professional to do the job anyway. For instance, we have had to remove large amounts of trees and root stumps and as my elder son has embraced this job which we would have had to pay someone to do, we are paying him. Funnily enough he often does not always want money but rather another currency - computer time, so we do an 1hr in the garden for 1 hr on the PC like a charm!

I do hope that you all encourage your family to be part of your homesteads in whatever way you can!


madsonblueeyes said...

Great inspiration, Wendy.

Lois Evensen said...

Beautiful post.

My three kids were raised in a similar way, but we did not have the large garden to tend. We did have quite a bit to do on our city property so they all had outside jobs. They had inside jobs, too, and generally were not paid to do them. We all did what we needed to do to run the household. They were sometimes offered additional jobs for pay, always something non-recurring that needed to be done, which gave them an opportunity to earn a little money and gave them the opportunity to learn to handle it.

In a previous life (before retirement) I taught parent education courses. If I were still teaching, I would use your post as an excellent teaching tool.

What a beautiful family you all are.

Very best,

Patsy said...

I love hearing about your family. I think appreciate and have a sense of accomplishment when they eat what they have grown and harvested.

I have a question about your raised beds. They always look so wonderful. Do you start them with compost and soil or just soil or what?

Cyndi said...

you are giving your children an invaluable gift! good for you

Wendy said...

Thank you for your lovely comments...we are pretty normal with the ups and downs of family life but work is well done for the most part.

Patsy, our raised beds are really good! We dug in a lot of compost and manure before planting and after a heavy feeding crop I always plant peas or beans.

I will be doing a extensive post very soon on improving bad soil as the last area we are working on has very very dead soil and we will need to put in some green manures as well. Watch this space!

Linnie said...

Great posting, thank you, Wendy!
We also believe in teaching our children to work.