Little man’s milestone a Milk Maid’s journey, too

schoolmorningdriveway

Today is Little Man’s first day of school and, inside an incredibly still house, my mind spins.

The little boy who leapt onto the school bus without looking back this morning was born while Milk Maid Marian was in its infancy.

baby

The blog has tracked Alex’s life on the farm, from supervising operations through to being a hands-on member of the team with his own favourite jobs. He’s seen flood, fire, drought and snow in his five years. What adventures will the next five bring?

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Infectious farm life

gullynudge

I did not choose to become a farmer “for the lifestyle” because it’s harder than you’d think.

It certainly wasn’t for the money. My decision to buy out the farm was something I found hard to explain to my incredulous accountant even though it could not have been clearer to me. Maybe if I’d had The Wind in the Willows handy, I’d have shown him this:

Home! That was what they meant, those caressing appeals, those soft touches wafted through the air, those invisible little hands pulling and tugging, all one way! Why, it must be quite close by him at that moment, his old home that he had hurriedly forsaken and never sought again, that day when he first found the river! And now it was sending out its scouts and its messengers to capture him and bring him in.
The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame

My childhood was filled feeding calves, riding ponies, priming pumps, dodging snakes and learning how to drive. That stuff, the snuffling of grazing cows and the wildness of the farm through its changing seasons got under my skin.

Today, my own children play with the calves. I do everything I can to tend their love for all things living and build their capability with all things mechanical.

mechaniclores

And they’re thriving. Not that every day is like a scene from the lid of a chocolate box. Farm life is great for kids in so many ways despite – or because of – the challenges it brings. Resilience, independence, self esteem and a work ethic flow from long days dealing with setbacks and simply doing what has to be done. No need for tough love to learn life’s lessons.

Even so, there’s a part of me that questions whether we’re doing the right thing, infecting our kids with farm life. Opportunities for young people are undoubtedly richer in well-resourced regional cities.

And what will life on the land be like for my grown-up little people in 20 years’ time if they, like Mole did, feel the tug of home’s invisible little hands? I don’t know for sure but I soothe my mother guilt by remembering that at least they have the chance to grow up slowly.

Farm fit

 

Before Bed Bike Safari

Before Bed Bike Safari

At my local primary school, I was an okay runner but at the big regional secondary school an hour’s drive away, I was a star. The townies were no match for a fit farm girl.

Farm kids get a natural workout every day as my little girl’s muscular legs will attest. On Boxing Day, she urged me along 10kms of forest tracks on her new pushie, complete with a “passenger” to match mine. Tonight, she was desperate to go on a ride before bed, so I said “just around the boundary then”.

The boundary ride was a nice little adventure and a good chance to check the fences and more far-flung paddocks. We are besieged by kangaroos and wallabies who are very charming but give fencing and pastures close to the forest a beating.

The kangaroos are welcome to some of the west-facing paddocks, which are already quite desiccated. The others won’t be far away. In fact, I can say with some confidence, Friday will cast a new hue over the farm. The first summer stinker of 2013 is forecast to be 40 degrees in the shade and the Bureau says not to expect any rain for at least the next eight days.

Time to figure out a new rain dance, I guess.

The positives of being a dairy farmer

It’s one year since I started Milk Maid Marian and seeing as I’ve just finished reconciling our accounts for March, I thought it perfect timing to do the same for my life as a dairy farmer, beginning with the top five positives.

Love of the land
The first one has to be love of land. I am connected to this place and think of myself as its custodian. Just being here is good for the soul.

Farm children have something special
The farm allows me to work with Zoe and Alex, even in those precious early years. The farm’s also a great teacher: respect for work, respect for the environment, animals and nature. They have seen birth, life and death first-hand and I hope they have learned to accept life with good grace yet develop inquiring minds. There’s a palpable sense of responsibility about farm kids that’s matched with the enormous freedoms of farm life.

Working with animals
Cows, calves, bulls and dogs all have their own personalities but none of them play office politics around the water cooler. Because we work with our cows at least twice a day, we get to know and appreciate the characters!

Exercise for mind, body and soul
Farming is not for dummies, lazybones or fragile souls. The challenges are immense and that can be enervating because there is always something new to learn and do.

Knowing that we are making a difference
We produce great, clean, healthy food while looking after our animals and the land. That’s very satisfying.