Homesteading with Kids
Homesteading With Small Children: Maintaining the Farm While Parenting
Tending the garden, preserving the harvest, mucking the stalls, cleaning the coop; these are just a few of the tasks that rack up on the daily homestead to-do list. Now add changing diapers, feeding the baby, making lunches, keeping the kids entertained, and sorting out arguments between siblings. How on earth is there enough time in a day to get it all done?
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when homesteading with kids. However, I’ve found there are a few tricks that do help when trying to maintain the homestead with small children in tow. Personally having two kids under the age of five while running a six-acre farm, I’ve had to learn to be more efficient and multitask differently. These tips have helped me to achieve a better sense of balance.
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Homesteading with Kids and Using Carriers
For years I’ve clung to a photograph I saw hanging from the wall at a gallery. It showed a woman with her infant child secured to her with a wrap. She was cradling the sleeping babe against her body while she was working in a rice paddy, a huge basket full of her harvest at her feet. If she could safely work outdoors with her child why couldn’t I? For the more mundane, less physically taxing jobs on the farm, I was inspired to carry my baby in a wrap. There are many different styles and holds that will safely secure the baby based on age and weight. Tasks that allow for an upright posture such as trellising tomatoes, picking fruit from berry bushes or orchard trees, or packaging fresh eggs for the farmstand are all a good fit. The temperature outdoors is worth noting when wrapping a baby to your body as they can easily overheat. Activities requiring bending or lifting should be avoided while the baby is in tow.
I think our stroller was my favorite and most used carrier for my little ones on the farm. With the baby securely fastened in, I was free to move about in any way I needed for farm chores or manual labor. So long as the stroller was in “park” and in the shade, I could harvest from our potager, work with my horses, and clean the coops. My baby was always close to me and I loved the utility stroller for its storage underneath; a perfect place for my phone, water bottles, garden trowel, harvest basket, pacifiers, and baby blankets.
The Outdoor Playpen
My youngest son is currently approaching one year old. He’s no longer interested in staying in a stroller or baby wrap; he wants to explore. Right now I’ve adopted the use of an outdoor play yard for chore time. I pop up the playpen in just a few minutes next to where I’ll be working and then affix a pop-up canopy for shade. I then add a few favorite toys and books. This is another solution that allows for free range of motion while keeping me readily available to my child.
Hire a Babysitter
There are times and situations where it’s not suitable for a child to tag along on the farm. For these occasions, I recommend a babysitter or other trusted caregiver. Seasonal help is certainly an option as needed; getting help with childcare doesn’t mean a year-long daycare commitment. For example, when it was time to spring seed the crops for the year and then transplant them outdoors, I needed time. I brought a babysitter into the home for only six weeks and for just a few hours each day. This allowed me the time to seed as needed, to transplant our seedlings, and to get a few chores completed uninterrupted. Once we reached maintenance mode later in the season, I then returned to homesteading with kids as normal.
Bring The Kids Along
One of the reasons that my husband and I adopted a back-to-the-land lifestyle was so that my kids could experience first-hand where their food comes from. I love nothing more than holding my one-year-old son on my hip while my five-year-old is in tow with the egg basket. We all head to the coop together to collect the eggs. It’s significant to me that my kids feel homesteading is important and that the farm is theirs, that they also have a sense of ownership, and that my children learn homesteading. I think this is accomplished through encouraging their involvement. For example, I purchased a children’s size beekeeper suit for my oldest and invite him to join me in monthly beehive inspections. He is very comfortable suiting up and can readily point out the queen bee, drones, and workers.
Regular harvests are also a great opportunity to work together as a family. I can honestly say my oldest son loves pulling up carrots or potatoes just as much as playing a video game. Walking our trails for summer wineberries is also a family event in our home; everyone carries a basket.
Operate on Kids’ Time
I love crossing completed chores off my list and I can happily hop from one chore to the next. It was a surprise to me to discover that this doesn’t work so well with children. Now I’m a big believer in operating on kids’ time — adapting my schedule and daily routine to suit theirs. My youngest naps best in the mornings so I do my farm chores at that time (personally I much prefer to do them in the afternoons). My oldest child returns home from school every day at 3:30 p.m. This means any pressing tasks for the day need to be done before he arrives. After that, I try to operate on his time, making myself fully present for my children. Additionally, if my children are ill or if the weather is too extreme for them to be out of doors, my plans for the day will also require rearranging.
Raising children is hard. Farming is hard. Combine the two and your hands are overflowing. Above all, I believe that the best approach to feeling balanced is to give yourself grace and patience. To understand that there is no magic cloning machine and that you are just one person. If certain things aren’t crossed off the to-do list today, what’s the worst that can happen? When feeling overwhelmed by trying to balance the homestead, the kids, and the home, I try to step back and remind myself of my priorities. What practices do you employ when homesteading or living off the grid with kids?