A hispanic family pulled in today to buy some eggs and hens and one of the little boys with them peeked through the door into the warehouse and yelled, “Muchos ninos!”. Yes, we have nueve of them, which everyone notices.
Managing the family on the farm, is as much a duty of my daily work as any other part of the farm management. There are 1,001 tasks to be done everyday and the rule is: “No one does a lesser person’s job.” So, my job is to break down every job–and all jobs–into component parts suited to different members of the family.
The default job for any idle person is sweeping. There is always sweeping to be done and normally that’s what you’ll find my three middle sons (Joshua, Jacob and Samuel) doing if you pull up the driveway. In midsummer, weeding is added to sweeping, and just before Christmas, collecting pecans. Little kids are always made to be cleaning…pick up, dust, sweep, etc..
My wife spends most of our working time in the kitchen, which for us means commercial kitchen for farm food processing. She has to filter and process milk every morning and evening, gather and process garden produce, arrange butcher visits, clean eggs, make meals and keep the place clean.
I manage the skilled work out on the farm–the dairy, daily feed, training, moving animals, etc.. I shepherd the shepherds–directing the kids in pasturing the cows, sheep and goats throughout the day. I do all of the “veterinary” work on the farm–from administering shots to delivering babies.
The boys are my apprentices, as are the girls for my wife. They act as extra hands and feet to assist me in any job, and they learn by simply watching me do things and helping as they are able. There are many jobs that require three people, and some jobs that require two, very few that are done best by one alone. When my son brings hay out to the horses or cows at pasture, the gates will be opened and closed by his younger brothers. While my wife is processing milk in the morning, my daughter is getting the babies ready for breakfast. While one son is grinding feed corn, another is filling the water tanks. While one child is sweeping, another is preparing the dust pan. While I am milking, one of my sons is managing the cow’s milk-room feeding. While my wife is laying out garden rows, the toddlers are sticking seeds along the strings. This constant collaboration is not a cute way of managing children, but the wisdom of family life on the farm. There are jobs for everyone that really make every member of the family beneficial to the others.
I’m not going to pretend that managing all this is easy. Keeping everyone busy is not merely good or getting work done, but also for the moral development of every member of the family. “Play” is a bad word in our family because one person’s play means extra work for someone else in the family. God said, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work.”, not five days, not part of six days, etc.. There is plenty of time for leisure on Sunday, when we alll rest. St. Paus taught us, “He who does not work shall not eat.” and play is not work. I tell my sons, “If you want to play, go ahead.” They know what that means.
Before anyone says, “But those poor kids…”, just hold on. These poor kids are inheriting a working farm, with their future property already being paid off while they grow up. The alternative to a working childhood is a worrying adulthood. Most kids playing are simply ignoring their future needs, my children are providing for their future spouses and children, but caring for the farm that will benefit them all. Modern families borrow money to buy houses for themselves. Farm families borrow money to buy land for their children and work as hard as they do because they consider what they give to their children to be the real test of their responsible parenthood. We read in the Bible much about heirs and inheritances, but we hear very little of such things among modern families. It’s a different world they are living in.
There’s no need for Montessori schools on a farm because the children’s work is not fake adult work, but real work. Be it ever so humble a job as sweeing the porch or filling a water tank, it is useful and profitable work. There’s no need to play and no need to fake work. My job is to manage the family on the family farm.