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Taking a Vacation When You Homestead (with video)

Taking a vacation when you homestead—it’s almost taboo to say that, isn’t it? You feel a little dirty for saying “vacation” when you’re a homesteader. It might stem from the fact that you just have so much to do that you can’t stand the thought of leaving. Or it could stem from the stigma that people always say “you can’t homestead and take a vacation”. Lies, total lies.

Recently we took the first vacation we’ve taken in over five years, and it was glorious. We stayed in a friend’s beach house on Hatteras Island. We enjoyed time with friends and family, ate well, and laughed even more. It was the best vacation we’ve ever taken. Period. But how did we take a vacation and still run the homestead? Let me show you exactly that.

Hiring A Trusted Source for Vacation

Before you leave on vacation, here are some systems you need to have in place on the homestead before you hand it over to someone else to take care of.

  • Make Sure You Hire a Trusted Caretaker— We did this by using one of our neighbors to take care of the gardens and seeds, and my in-laws to take care of the animals. Splitting the chores between them all really helped carry the load fairly easily. One person wasn’t doing all the work, making chores go by quicker. We paid them with lots of love, eggs, and when summer comes, some vegetables! Most people you know personally are eager to help out because they want to experience the homesteading lifestyle, or because they have their own homesteads!
  • Training and Organization is Essential— What happens if your livestock get out? What happens if something happens to the feed bins and they need to run and get more feed? If they don’t already know your sources and resources, they should. Leave a binder with information on hand, or bring them to your house a couple of times before you leave to train them on the “what-if” scenarios. Also, if you have dairy animals, make sure your caretaker knows how to efficiently do their job. Training is a must for that situation.

Making Sure Your Property is Secure and Prepared

Not only is hiring a trusted caretaker essential, but making sure your property is secure and stocked up is key. This will help ease the process along for your caretaker while they are there.

  • Make Sure Your Fencing is Secure— we thought we did this before we left, but apparently we were wrong. We lost a few chickens while we were gone, but nothing that can’t be replaced. Make sure your fencing is working well before you leave. It’s no one elses responsibility to fix that while you’re gone!
  • Have Extra Feed and Medical Supplies On-hand— because you never know what could happen. If you make your own chicken feed, make sure that you’ve made enough of it in advance.
  • Emergency Contacts— If you’re not hiring someone that knows your homestead well, you’ll probably need to leave a list of emergency contacts. If you have large livestock, your vet will be top priority on that list. After that, your contact information and others.
  • Don’t Take a Vacation During Calving Season— or breed any livestock that are due to have babies while you’re gone.

 

We had an amazing time on vacation, and it’s so important to make that time to get away with your family. Check out this week’s video to learn more about how we were able to take a successful vacation, where we went, what we did, how it affected us, and for updates about what’s happening around the homestead!

 

Why I Let My Child Help Process Animals on the Homestead

Recently, I read a blog post condemning families who allow their children to help process animals. Saying it was disgusting and vile (probably written by someone who doesn’t even eat meat). I read another blog post a few days later, that even went as far as calling these parents insensitive and uneducated when they allow their kids to pose with their dad’s hunt of the day. From what I gathered, apparently I needed to prepare myself for my child to be an ax murderer when he grows up.

** I should tell you now, there are some graphic photos below in the rest of this post, and none of them are from a future ax murderer.
The blogs were riddled with photos of families who probably have no idea that they were the picking party for these bloggers’ posts. Talk about uneducated. I was (and still am) so tempted to email those photos to those unsuspecting families and say “can you believe this person you don’t even know used your kids photo as a beating bag?” I’m pretty sure they’d have some kind words to say to those bloggers, along with a lawyer.

We get that all the time though. We’re used to it. We get the “you’re really going to let him do that?” and the “oh my word, that’s not natural for a child his age”.

You know what’s not natural for a 5 year old boy? It’s not natural when he doesn’t have dirt under his fingernails. It’s not natural when he doesn’t know where his food comes from. It’s not natural when he is forced to sit and play video games or watch tv all day…inside…with no fresh air. It’s not natural when your child doesn’t understand life and how precious it is before the age of 5. Well, it’s not natural for my child, and that’s the beauty of it. My child doesn’t have to be like everyone else.

I’d like to address it publicly, because quite honestly, I’m tired of having to deal with it. Here are the facts…the real ones, not the googled ones, or from the bloggers who have no experience in homesteading and real life.

Here are the reasons we choose to allow our son to help with harvesting animals on our homestead:

  • It teaches him the circle of life. Such a cliche, I know. But it’s true. It teaches him that animals were put here for our entertainment and love, but also to provide for our family. And when done properly, and constantly handled in a loving way, there’s absolutely nothing unnatural or insensitive about it. It teaches him the importance of respecting animals, from beginning to end.
  • It teaches him that food doesn’t come from a grocery store. And that it doesn’t have to be overly processed and full of chemicals. Dinosaur shaped spongy chicken nuggets aren’t the normal. Homemade, crunchy, tender fried in lard nuggets are.
  • It teaches him to be independent and disciplined. I’m not just talking about a 5 year old, I’m talking about preparing him for the rest of his life. He has to take instructions and heed to them, otherwise the entire process is messed up. He has to listen intently, and then act. He has to discipline himself so that he doesn’t rush through it.
  • It teaches him self-sufficiency. Should an EMP bomb go off or a natural disaster occur where there’s nothing on grocery store shelves because they’ve all been looted, my child will never ever feel anxious or upset about not knowing where his next meal is coming from. In fact, he’ll be the first one to say, “let’s go squirrel hunting”. He will never, ever, be dependent on a grocery store aisle.
  • It teaches him the art of manliness. Because it has been lost in our nation. Too often our boys are taught to be like girls. They are taught that they should want to grow up and get an office job, because that will pay more and they can live a luxurious lifestyle. They are taught to find women who are independent and career minded. And honestly, there’s nothing wrong with any of that.  But they are taught that if they have rough hands and dirty shoes, that they are worthless. No, not my son. The sad reality is that my son will be taking care of those people and would give them the shirt off of his back if he had to. My son will know how to take care of his family, whether he has a job or not. My son will know how to be independent, self sufficient, rough hands and all. My son won’t be pressured into believing that he has to live a certain way and do things a certain way to be “worthy” of the economy, an education, or a woman. My son doesn’t have to do everything your kid does — that’s the beauty of having the freed to raise our children differently.
  • It teaches him what the original “normal” was, and still is for many. Do you realize how many kids this is normal for outside of the United States? Do you realize how many children under the age of 10 years old go out, kill animals for food, bring it home and process it themselves while their mothers clean the dirt hut floor and their fathers are either no where to be found or off working in the garden? Please tell me again, how kids don’t understand “life and death”? No, YOUR kid may not understand life and death, but those kids and my kid, they fully understand it. Which brings me to my last point that the other bloggers tried to turn around and say “we knew nothing about”…
  • It teaches him the true meaning of life and death. From beginning to end, he is walked through the process. We cuddle our meat rabbits before harvesting them. We pet our roosters and thank them for their service while they were here, before harvesting them. While the initial shock of blood and flailing is “cool” to a little boy, it quickly becomes serious and solemn. He understands that this animal will never return to us, ever. He knows when and when he shouldn’t kill an animal. He knows what happens when an animal dies. And most of all, he knows it can never be compared to a human life. He has not been, nor will he ever be, desensitized and sheltered from death. Because whether we like it or not, it happens every single day. And whether you want to admit it or just suppress this simple fact, death is a natural thing.

Since the age of his existence, we have included our son in any and all things when it comes to learning about life, especially where his food comes from and anything homestead related. There were many times at the age of 3 when he helped Mountain Man skin a deer. By the age of four, he knew when hunting season was. And now at the age of five, he cannot wait to put dinner on our table.

You see, it starts with the parents. Certainly, there are parents who abuse the right to hunt and/or kill animals, and lack the skills to properly educate their children about it. But please, don’t stick us all in that category.

If you were to ask my son what happens when daddy kills a deer, he would say something like this…

“Daddy shoots the deer, and after he finds it, he thanks it for its sacrifice for our family. He thanks God for the meals that it will give us. Then he comes home and we get to turn it into dinner. But I don’t get to use his cool knife because he says it’s too sharp for me. One day I’ll be big enough to hunt with daddy, and then I can come home and you can be happy that I got a deer too!”

When asked what the difference is between killing for food and killing for sport, he would respond…

“We’re only allowed to kill chickens and animals if we are going to eat them, or if they are sick. But if they are sick, we don’t eat them, because they’ll make you fart and stuff.”

Spoken like a true little redneck boy. No shame…

But most of all, when he is asked what should be killed and what shouldn’t be killed, he always answers with big bulging eyes..

“Oh mom, you KNOW we should never kill people…why do you even ask that when you already know the answer.”

He’s right. Why do people ask stupid questions when they should already know the answer? Shouldn’t that be something we teach our kids? Why has society become so desensitized to death, some might ask? Because we refuse to accept it….we refuse to teach it….

Our son helps us process animals because he enjoys it. He gets excited about helping, being productive, knowing where his food comes from. He gets excited for dinner, and you can see it when he says, “oh boy, is that the rabbit I helped with?” He gets excited because he feels accomplished. He gets excited because he knows the importance of being independent and knowing how to provide for his family. He gets excited because he knows a skill, something that most of his generation will never have. He gets excited because it’s just something that we do here — we get excited, because all of that hard work is finally paying off.

Listen, we all have different opinions and different ways of parenting. I don’t condemn families who eat overly processed food from the grocery store, or who force their children to wear skinny jeans. I am proud of the parents raising their kids to be sophisticated men and women who want to be lawyers and doctors, and I so honor them for raising them that way. All of our friends and family choose to raise their kids differently, whether like us, or not like us. I don’t judge them, and I never once condemn them — they have awesome kids, and they are awesome parents, and that’s just what works for them. But, I only expect the same level of respect in return. Just because your child isn’t on the same level as mine with certain things (and mine isn’t on the same level as yours on certain things), doesn’t mean I’m a bad parent or have bad parenting skills. And that doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent either. We just parent differently, and guess what, that’s ok too….end of discussion.

Preparing for Spring Gardening & Homesteading With Children Underfoot

While we are still in the depths of Winter here in Virginia, we homesteaders often start thinking about Spring, seeds, gardening and new life on our homesteads at the beginning of January. We’ve made our New Year’s goals and wishes, and now it’s time to implement them. We are doers, not just dreamers, and we make things happen.
But not all of us have spare time with which to work. Many of us, like myself, are parents. Parents of newborns and toddlers, while delighted in their children, just don’t have enough extra hands to get everything done in the time frame they wish. And let’s not even talk about when Spring and Summer actually begin.

Preparation and planning are key this time of year for parents of little ones, but so is involving and training them. Here are a few things we’ve found help us train our child to be a mini-homesteader, even at a very young age. Not only will this help you have better efficiency on the homestead, but it will also allow your little one to grow and learn amazing new things.

Involvement and Patience

Even a two-year old child knows whether they are wanted or not. And while many may scoff at the idea of allowing a two-year old to help you dig in the mud, bring you small pitchers of water, and tend to the chickens — it is completely the norm on a daily basis here. And you know what, they love it. But let’s start from the beginning — it doesn’t just begin when the seed planting and other Spring chores begin, it begins during the preparation period as well.

First and foremost, patience is a virtue. If you have a newborn or child that isn’t walking yet, I hate to tell you this, but you’ll probably just have to strap that baby to you and submerge them into your daily chores — however, this might be the easiest of all ages, and they will begin to take a natural interest in your daily routine.

For toddlers and older children, keep in mind that you aren’t just letting your child help, you are literally training your child on how to become self-sufficient, reliable, disciplined and diligent. These are character traits that they will use throughout their lives, not just in homesteading and self-sufficiency. Patience, on your part, is a huge necessity. But, I promise, the outcome will be totally worth it. Your training and patience methods will depend upon your child’s personality and age. You know your child better than anyone. Never force your child to do something they don’t want to do, otherwise, they will never take interest in it. For children that are willingly eager, run with it. For older children that might not have any interest at all, take this as an opportunity to teach them on an educational level rather than just hands-on involvement. Offer them free worksheets and garden journals as an educational resource. You can find many of these for free online. This is also a great project if you homeschool, make it part of your curriculum. Explain to them the importance of self-sufficiency — not that they have to do it, but that it’s a skill that is beneficial to them now and in the future, and it is a skill that came naturally to their great-great-grandparents.

Second, involve your children (toddler and older) in the seed buying and planting process. Allow them to pick out at least one seed packet at the store or in a catalog. Even if it’s something off the wall or that you didn’t plan to plant (as long as it is suitable for your zone and preferably a transplant) — who knows, you might end up liking it! The key is finding something that they want and that they will be passionate about planting and tending to. When ready to plant indoors, set out several planters for your child. Allow them to fill them with dirt while following your instruction. In the coming weeks, whenever it is time to tend to the seedlings, involve them in every step. Do not do their work for them on their seedlings — their seedlings are their project, not yours. Give them responsibility over it. They will imitate what you do under your guidance. When it comes time for the plants to be transplanted, from beginning to end, involve them — again, allowing them to own and be responsible for their own plants. It is their responsibility to transplant, prune and harvest their crop (yes, even a toddler). The best part might be getting into the kitchen with them and letting them help you cook and preserve their harvest.

In the beginning of the process, your child may eventually become impatient, as we often do ourselves when we are excited about new growth. Share in their excitement and in their frustrations. Don’t just blow them off. While it is necessary for your child to want to be involved, it is also necessary for you to share all of the emotions, strengths and weaknesses with them in their involvement.

 

Involvement In Other Homestead Chores

My son takes more interest in tending to the animals than he does in gardening, and rightfully so. He’s a bull in a china cabinet but he has a tender soul. When we first got chickens, I hated letting him collect eggs because I just knew that he would break half of them on the way back up to the house. And the very first time that happened, I still remember it so clearly. He was so proud of himself. He had carefully walked all the way up the hill with his eggs, meticulously paying attention so that he wouldn’t drop them. He finally made it into the house and was ecstatic to show me what he had collected. He was hiding one of the eggs in his little hands behind his back and said, “Mom, guess what I have!” I turned around, and as he quickly pulled his hand from behind his back to show me the egg, his hand stopped, but the egg didn’t. Splat…right there all over the kitchen floor. His precious little heart was just broken and those big crocodile tears began. I knew then, just how important it was that my reaction not be one of condemnation, but of grace, followed by an encouraging hug and a “you are so big and helpful and you’ll do better next time, I know it.”

I get it, I do. Many times we don’t want to allow our younger children to help in other homestead chores because they are just too complicated and time consuming. Gardening is simple, other things are not. But keep in mind that a ten year old will not understand and be efficient in helping you with larger jobs around the homestead unless you involve that ten year old when he is a younger age. Here are a few age specific jobs that might help you involve your children a little better. Please understand that you know your child’s mental maturity, so these are just age ranges.

Ages 2 to 4:

Learning things by mainly watching rather than “hands-on”.


• Collecting eggs with supervision from the chicken coop.
• Helping with the garden — planting, watering, harvesting with supervision
• Feeding smaller homestead animals with supervision (chickens, dogs, barn cats)
• Crocheting and other crafts
• Watching while preserving and canning
• Cleaning up around the homestead under supervision, this includes household chores (vacuuming, sweeping, folding wash rags).

Ages 5-7:

All of the above, plus…

• Collecting eggs from the chicken coop (unsupervised)
• Helping with the garden — tending to plants under supervision but independently.
• Feeding medium sized homestead animals with limited supervision (tamed goats and livestock, chickens, etc)
• Learning how-to and milking animals under supervision.
• Cleaning up around the homestead, unsupervised for small jobs (leaves, cleaning small coops/stalls/hutches, etc), supervised for more complicated ones. This includes household chores (helping with laundry, helping prep meals)

Ages 8 and up:

If you have been doing all of the above with them, then they can move on to these next steps. Do not allow an 8 year old to do the things listed in the next level if they do not have the basic concepts and experience as mentioned above.

• Collecting eggs, feeding animals, cleaning coops/stalls and gardening independently and without supervision.
• Helping with the preserving and canning process independently and with supervision for more complicated projects.
• Milking independently with you there beside them in case help is needed and to ensure that milk is being extracted properly. If you have multiple goats or cows to milk, get them set up and then milk alongside your child. This gives them independence but also allows you to supervise.
• Helping tend to new livestock births with supervision.
• Aiding in the breeding process of livestock, incubating eggs independently with guidance, tending to smaller young livestock independently (chicks, rabbit kits, etc.)
• Tending to household chores — doing laundry (washing, drying, folding), preparing and making age appropriate meals with limited supervision, sewing and mending clothes.

These are just a few idea’s to get you started. Each homestead is different and each child is different. However, the ultimate goal is starting young (with patience) and allowing that to grow into a very handy helper and a self-sufficient child. Not only is it about having your children help around the homestead, it’s about teaching them life skills that will be so beneficial to them throughout their lives. It’s about giving them responsibility and fueling their desire to learn. And honestly, it’s about spending time with them and teaching them. The best way to learn is to watch and be submerged into it. Do not underestimate the ability of your child. If they are never given the chance to have responsibility, then you cannot blame them when they are older for not efficiently taking on responsibility. At the same time, do not overwhelm your child. Allow them to do the things they are passionate about, while watching what they aren’t as passionate about.

All in all, make planning for Spring and upcoming projects fun for your kids — and I promise, you won’t regret it in the long run!

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