Kids are Here!

We had been watching the goats very closely for the last week and finally the kids are here!

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We have two mama goats on our little farm: Nora and Fauna. Nora always has her kids first and that has not changed this year. I went to the bank and when I came back she had one baby on the ground. I sat on a little wagon a ways away and waited to see if anymore would appear. Before too long she pushed out another one and much to my surprise a short bit later one more popped out feet first. Triplets! This is the second time Nora has delivered triplets but last year one of them died soon after birth. All three are healthy bouncy kids.

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Two days later I had to work for a few hours in the morning. Trenton and the kids came into town and we had lunch together before heading home. After settling Lucian and Fiona down for a nap we went outside to get a few boards to start building the duck coop. I could hear the goat kids making noises like they were lost so I went to see who was stuck. Goat kids do not stay in fences until they are at least a month old and don’t fit through tiny spaces you think only a cat can fit through anymore. I looked into their shelter and behold Fauna had triplets also! All I have to do is leave for a few hours and that’s when the goats will kid.

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We have never had so many healthy kids before!

The kids, my kids, love to play with the babies and the babies love to play with them. It is always fun to have spring babies. This picture is of Lucian, Fiona and Natalie (Nora’s kid from last spring.)

 

IMG_1035. Chicks, kids, and soon ducklings. Spring has finally sprung.

Chick Season!

Spring in Wisconsin has finally arrived (I hope) and that means it’s chick season.

I’m going to step away from my own children for a moment and move on to a few others.

Every year I work with a local school to set up my incubator and fertilized eggs in their classroom as part of a science/agriculture unit. Every year for a few weeks the 4th grade classroom is the most popular classroom to visit but this year was amazing.

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Not only was there an amazing hatch-out but it turned into an inter-grade cooperative unit. The 4th grade set up stations, presentations, and reading centers for the rest of the elementary school to visit and learn about the incubation process.

They read books about chickens, ducks, and geese to the younger grades and presented videos on chick development. When the chicks started to hatch each group came in to see the new chicks and watch the rest try to hatch.

Not only did the students learn a great deal about development but a few life lessons were thrown in there as well. They learned that unfortunately not all the chicks hatch and even some that do may not make it. It can be hard for them but I believe this unit is a great enrichment tool for them and I am glad each year that I have the resources to add a little of my farm life to theirs.

In the end I brought home a box full of 26 chicks for my kiddos to enjoy.

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We currently have duck eggs simmering in the incubator and I hope to have a great post about them in 18 days.

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2018 Farm Goals

I know we’re past the new year but I don’t start thinking about farm goals until a south wind blows with a hint of spring in the air. Spring is at least a month off but our little warm up has me thinking about this upcoming growing and kidding season.

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We bought this old farm in May of 2012 and have been working to fix it up a bit ever since. Money, unfortunately, does not rain from the sky so it is a slow process. Each year we have a big project and lots of little ones. Over the years our big projects have been: new siding, new roof for the machine shed, new roofs for the garage and lean-to off the barn, a few new windows, and steel for the barn roof.

This year our big goals for the property are:

Remodel the bathroom

Put the new steel on the barn roof

Smaller goals are:

Cut trees out of the orchard, fence, and plant apple trees

Purchase supplies for beekeeping

Fence the creek pasture for the goats

Build a movable coop for ducks (Getting ducks this year)

Repair chicken coop

Mulch vegetable garden, herb garden and flower beds

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When we were discussing our goals for this year Lucian helped and he is very excited about adding ducks to the farm this year. I’ve been told that ducks will eat slugs and caterpillars and I hope they will eliminate the green worms that go after my kale every year. Some of these goals are carry overs of last year but Fiona will not be a tiny infant this summer so they will get done. She will be able to play outside with us while we accomplish these goals and I do look forward to spring!

When it’s Above Freezing

There are chores you can do when everything is frozen rock hard and certain chores that will have to wait till warmer days.

Barn cleaning is a chore that has to wait until the weather is above freezing for more than one day otherwise you would have to use a pick axe to get the job done. The good thing about it being that cold is the animals stay mostly dry because everything is solid. The bad thing is that if you wait until warm spring days you will be shoveling 2 ft. worth of crap out of one stall.

So what do you do?

Take advantage of itty bitty warm spells. We had three days where it was almost above freezing. It was warm enough that the barn started to smell and the animal pens started to get gooey. We picked the worst one to clean on our day off and hoped the weather held so we could go the other two. It didn’t but at least the piglets have a nice clean run now. The goats and chickens will have to wait until the next warm spell. Hopefully it’s before April.

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Sled Train!

Cleaning the barn in the winter has it’s own challenges. For instance, how to transfer manure from the barn to the compost pile. Today it was by sled!

Even though we were working to clean out the barn we had the kids with us so they could take advantage of the nicer weather. My kids love being outside and I hope that stays with them their entire lives. My goal is to try to teach my children that working on the farm can be fun.

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Winter in WI

Winter can be hard on kids, adults, and animals and there are days we act like bears and try to hibernate but other days are great for snowy fun.

Living in an area where the weather fluctuates 50 degrees from one day to the next can really mess with a person’s system. Last week we had a few days where the temp at 7am was -25 and then it was 25 above 0. How can mother nature swing like that?

When it’s -25 nothing can be done but keep the fire burning, the animals in the barn out of the wind, and hope nothing breaks. At -25 THINGS BREAK! I spent an hour outside trying to thaw out our well pump before the pipes burst and the housing cracked on the pump. Luckily we were able to thaw it without anything actually breaking.

Our 3 almost 4 year old son does not appreciate the cold weather either. He loves to go out and play but when it’s that cold going outside to play is not an option. He does not hibernate well, he wants to play in the cold air and snow. After a few days of being cooped up he turns into an angry bear rather than a sleepy one.

Today was one of the first days where it was about 10 degrees outside and the boys took advantage of it. They went sledding down our hill behind the barn and enjoyed every minute of it. After they were done sledding Lucian did not want to come in the house yet. He took the snow shovel papa gave him for Christmas and started shoveling the driveway. When he came in a bit later he said “I was working hard. I shoveled the driveway so Fiona can walk outside now.” Fiona is his 1 year old baby sister and she just started walking right before the holidays.

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I am glad he was able to get outside today and I hope the weather will stay above 0 for a while.

Night Rider

I thought I’d add a tiny story.

My son is three and he has been riding, with help, our Appaloosa for the last two years. This spring he started riding him without a supporting hand to hold him steady while I led Jack around between pastures. I never put a saddle on him during these little excursions, it takes too much time.

The first time I put Lucian on his back this spring without his dad to support him I was a bit nervous. I was afraid he would slide right off the side if Jack turned a bit or stopped a little abruptly but he rode like a champ. He hung on to a fistful of mane and held on with his legs like he should and he had a blast. He likes to do things by himself.

One night while his cousins were over my husband and I decided to saddle Jack and take the kids for a little walk about in the yard. The were each very excited and a bit nervous because they had not had many opportunities to ride a horse before. I’m not sure how they felt about it but I think overall they had fun. Lucian was excited too because he had never rode Jack by himself with a saddle on before but he swung his leg over him without any hesitation and was ready to go.

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He didn’t care that it was dark out he was ready to go! I’m so glad I can raise him on our little farm and give him experiences many children don’t get to have.

Lesson 3: Work/Play

How does a three year old work?

There is a fine line between teaching my child how to have a good work ethic and child labor. I try to make work fun so my son does not know he is actually doing work.

Work can be fun!

I find that praising my son and getting excited over little things makes a big difference in his perception. He doesn’t see work as a punishment or a job to be got through, it’s fun for him. In his mind work is what the grown-ups do so it will make him big and strong.

He enjoys digging potatoes out of the dirt. He gets to find weird edible objects in the ground and he gets to be dirty. Feeding chickens is fun because he gets to collect the eggs when he’s done. He doesn’t even mind helping to clean out the pig pen because that’s what mom and dad are doing. He even gets his own wheel barrow!

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A few things that help make it fun are:

  1. Having his own set of tools or equipment, such as a child sized wheel barrow.
  2. Praise for being a good helper or so strong.
  3. High fives when the job is done.
  4. Not getting upset when he has had enough.

After all he is a small child and I want work to be fun which means giving him jobs he can handle, praising his work, and letting him be done when he’s tired or bored.

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Proud Moments

I’m moving away from my little “life lessons” to share a brief moment where I was proud of my little guy.

On our farm we have a variety of chickens, a pig, a horse, and some milking goats. Right now I am only milking one goat twice a day until I wean the kids off the other goat then I milk two. I have a two goat limit.

Today Lucian decided he wanted to help me milk Nora, the goat. Until today whenever I asked him if he wanted to try milking her he would say, “No, she’ll kick me.”

Today he decided to give it a try. He sat next to me on the milking stand and watched as I squeezed out milk then he gave it a try. I helped him a bit and he tried again by himself. He did a great job for his first time. He was able to get milk out for a while until he lost interest but for a 3 year old he did amazingly well.

I am proud of him for trying something that had previously scared him. This morning he was an independent little man and wanted to help his mom do chores. He learned something new without having to be pushed into it and I’m proud of him for that.

I was also proud of him a few weeks ago when he wanted to help his dad clean the pig pen. He has his own mini wheel barrow and Trenton loaded it up for him before they both hauled out their loads. It’s amazing that my 3 year old enjoys a little work.

Lesson 2: Animal Safety

Learning how to behave around farm animals is paramount to my child’s safety. The goal is to teach them how to behave around animals without being scared of them. A healthy dose of respect is needed.

How do I find that line between respect and fear? Honestly, I’m still working on it. I’d rather my son be a bit more afraid than bold with farm animals, because the bottom line is that he could be injured by them if he is not minding safety rules.

What are safety rules?

  1. Stay out of animal pens/pastures unless mom or dad are with you!
  2. Do not walk up behind the horse.
  3. Do not go by the billy goat.
  4. Running and yelling in the barn is not okay! It scares the animals and scared animals will run right over you.
  5. Walk slowly and calmly up to the animals.

The first three rules are non-negotiable rules while the last two are works in progress as my son is 3 and forgets not to yell.

Teaching my son that the first three rules are incredibly important started by not speaking down to him. I made him understand that it is dangerous to be in the animal pens by himself and he could be hurt. Children understand more than you think.

Follow through! Not only do I have to tell him why he has to follow the rules but I have to make sure he does and add consequences when he doesn’t. Understand that consequences do not need to be harsh but they need to be directly after rules are broken there shouldn’t be lag time. Also rewards for following the rules are just as important as the consequences for breaking them.

Story Time:

When my son was 2 I started him on lessons with my horse Jack. Jack is an 18 year old Appaloosa who should be mellow at his age but isn’t always. He is the greatest with kids but can be a stubborn pain to adults.

Lucian started by helping me groom Jack while I taught Lucian the rules of being around horses. He listened avidly and tried to remember but being 2 he sometimes forgot but overall he did great and Jack stood there and slept while we worked around him.

After Jack was groomed and saddled Lucian went on his first horseback ride and enjoyed every minute of it!DSCN3421

Lesson 1: Dirt, Mud, and Cow Poop Happen

 

One of the first lessons I have learned while raising farm kids is that dirt, mud, and cow poop will get on them.

It’s Okay! Kids are washable.

If your kids get dirty, that’s great. Not only are they enjoying themselves, usually in equal proportions to how dirty they’re getting, but they are exposing themselves to bacteria and microorganisms that will help bolster their immune systems. It is great for kids to play in the dirt because it builds up immunities which will help protect them from future illness. According to WebMD, “when exposure to parasites, bacteria, and viruses is limited early in life, children face greater chance of having allergies, asthma, and other autoimmune diseases during adulthood.

In fact, kids with older siblings, who grew up on a farm, or attended day care early in life seem to show lower rates of allergies.”

Besides the benefits to their immune systems playing outside in messy situations will benefit their self confidence, “I can play there, it’s just mud.” Its also an opportunity to soak up the sun and enjoy a little vitamin D.

The next time your kids are playing in a mud puddle, don’t freak out. Let them play; watch them giggle and slash, or get in the mud with them. Make a few mud pies and enjoy your kids being kids.

If you happen to be at someone else’s house while they play in mud puddles and get soaking wet……….. be sure to bring spare clothes and shoes with you. It’s not a bad idea to keep a bag in your trunk. You may not need those extra clothes often but you will be glad to have them when you need them.

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Now for a great example of kids in muck.

One early spring day I took my kids to visit my parents who own a small dairy farm but my dad has taken to dabbling in pigs. My mom had taken the baby to the house while my son Lucian, who is 3, was playing around the barn. I was helping my dad move some newborn piglets and lost sight of Lucian for about  minutes. When I found him again he sure was a sight to see. My father had been dumping the manure from the barn into a pile all winter so by early May it was a big pile. The manure was mixed with straw from the cow’s bedding and from a 3 year-old’s perspective it looked like a big pile of dirt with straw on it.

When I hollered, “Lucian where are you?”

“I’m over here.” Echoed back from the manure pile. He was covered in manure up to his thighs and elbows. What could I say? He was smiling, a bit sheepishly, so I smiled back and said, “You know you’re covered in cow poop?”

He quit smiling and said, “Oh.” While my dad walked by with a, “Looks like someone needs to be hosed off.”

I said “Yup,” and we headed towards the pump house.

I hosed off his boots then took them off to hose down the tops and bottoms. I took off his pants and put his boots back on him then I hosed off his pants too. We marched up to the house with Lucian wearing his semi-dirty jacket, no pants, and rubber boots while I held his hand and dripping pants. A quick bath, clean clothes, and voila squeaky clean kid. Like I said kids (and clothes) are washable.