So you live on a farm and you’ve got kids. Challenge acknowledged!
It’s a lot of work being a homesteader. Being a parent is a full-time job on its own. So how on earth do you balance both while trying to survive the busiest season of the farm year?
You’ve got to get creative and have a few tricks up your sleeve.
1. In the garden
You’re in the garden and trying to get the beans picked and swiss chard pulled before the frost. But your toddler finds this less than interesting and continues running off out of sight.
What can you do?
Let them eat! My son loves food. Especially raw garden veggies. Go figure. To buy myself some time, I will grab some shelling peas and an ear of corn and let him munch to his hearts content.
Get dirty! Clothes can be washed. Grab your munchkin a bucket, shovel, sticks, little cars, whatever might be fun in the dirt, and let him know that it’s okay to play and get dirty!
Let them help! I just finished pulling our potatoes this morning with my sons help. Legit, he actually helped. I got him his own bag, and told him the potatoes go into the bag. So I would dig up the mounds and let him rifle through the dirt until he excitedly found a potato to put in his bag. He seriously loved it. Squealed with excitement every time he found one. Kids love having jobs to do!
2. In the kitchen
Harvest time also means canning season. Be it jams, salsas, all things pickled or soups and sauces. But canning requires attention: don’t over-salt the pickles, get your proper sugar to fruit ratio, don’t forget the garlic, did I already add pectin?, how long has this been boiling for? Yikes.
Add a toddler in there pulling at your pant leg, demanding you let them taste the hot pickle brine, and throwing a tantrum when you say no, and you’ve got a recipe for over salted pickles and jelly with the wrong amount of pectin. Your attention can’t be 17542 places at once after all!
So what can you do?
Give them a station! My son, like I mentioned previously, loves to help. Canning isn’t something a two year old can really help with, but there’s nothing wrong with them making a batch of their own “pickles”!
I pull a chair up to the counter for my son. In front of him is his very own pickling station. Some carrots, beans, jars, lids, salt, spoons, water – he can do it himself! Now granted, this can be messy, so you may want to put a towel on the floor under the chair and one on the counter. But oh boy does he love it! He watches me do my canning, and tries to copy! And if he wants to taste test his creation, he can do that too.
3. In the field
You’ve got hours of haying and combining to do, and only a short amount of time before the snow/sleet/heavy rain starts. Oh, you’ve also got a toddler. What to do?
Bring em with! Seriously, I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t love riding on a tractor. To them, it’s like climbing onto an amusement park ride, except this ride lasts a looooong time! And nearly all tractors, combines etc have extra seats in them nowadays and roomy cabs. The tricky part is when you have more than one munchkin. Better bribe the others: “If you’re good while Johnny goes on the tractor with dad, Then you can have a turn next!”.
4. In the animal pen
There’s a lot to do for the animals before winter.
You’ve got to get the winter watering systems set up, and the shelters insulated. If you’re like us and don’t have your own hay, you need to find, buy, haul and store enough hay for the winter. There’s also the task of taking animals to the butcher, or doing it yourself. We do a little of both around here.
So what to do with your little munchkin?
Field trip! Our son loves a good field trip somewhere new. Our butcher is about an hours drive away, so is the farm where we buy our hay. So we bring him with. There’s some new scenery along the way, so that’s fun for toddler eyes. And we always stop at a playground, or park, or have a little picnic rest stop somewhere for fun. We like adding some fun family time to the daily grind!
Helping hands. Never be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes our pride tells us “you need to prove you can do this by yourself “. That’s silly. Don’t listen to pride. Neighbours, family, friends, there’s always someone willing to help.
On rabbit butchering day we were thankful we had the help of both our neighbour and my husband’s father. It would have taken hours and hours longer if we didn’t have extra hands. Someone’s got to tend to the little one! And butchering isn’t really something a two-year old can actively help with. Ask around – you would be pleasantly surprised how many people would be willing to help.
The most important thing
With all of this labour-intensive outdoor work to be done, how can you manage a toddler at the same time? Theres
And here’s my most important point of all…
Don’t sweat the small stuff!
So what if household tasks get away from you for a while. The floors don’t need to be spotless, and as long as there’s toilet paper and a hand towel in the bathroom it’s all good. Toss all the dirty clothes in a pile; you’ll get to it when you get to it. Toys all over the floor? As long it’s not those little land mines (aka hot wheels and legos) just push em to the side and don’t let them bother you.
Autumn is a busy season. It doesn’t need to become chaos because you think your house needs to be fit for a visit from the Royals. The critical things always get done. The rest can wait.
Enjoy this season and embrace being able to share it with your little one.
What are some ways you manage harvest season with children? Share your tips and ideas in the comments below!