What The Farm and The Farm Home Should Do For The Child -
(This post and the previous one (Grandma, What Do Bees Say) were written within days of each other this week, and I think speak to the same subject - what a farm can do for a child. I have a copy of a wonderful old book, published in 1919, called Farm Life. It was part of a series of books published for Sears, Roebuck & Co. It is a beautiful old thing and I treasure its wisdom and sentiments. I quote from it here and hope that you will enjoy it as well.
I have known in my heart for a very long time that this place that my husband and I live was not meant to be just for us. God has not allowed us to have it, to remain here, simply for ourselves. I always thought it might be a place to share with a larger group. But maybe His plan is for us to focus on these children that have become part of our lives - our grandchildren and now Alex. Time will tell and I only pray that I would be willing and worthy of the task!)
"Nowhere can the foundations of that education which makes for lasting benefit to humanity and to true happiness for the individual be better laid than on the farm. Here the old-fashioned virtues of obedience, orderliness, patience, promptness, cleanliness, self-control and self-reliance are essentials to success; and the child should and will be led to value them, even before his or her schooldays begin. Indeed, on the farm, helpful habits are formed of necessity and almost unconsciously - taken from a book on Farm Life, published in 1919 for Sears, Roebuck and Co.
School started up this past week here in Michigan and all across the country. Alex begins the eighth grade, going back into public school and back to classmates he attended with from kindergarten up until middle of fifth grade. That is when his mother passed away and he was taken away to live in a new place in a new school with new challenges. Some he was unable to overcome. And so he is back with us, and I am so thankful every day for the opportunity to make a difference in his young life.
When he first came back to live with us, he was full of anger (rage!), frustration, remorse, sadness and insecurity. Some of that remains. But we also see a change as he learns to cope and to care for others and himself. As he begins to heal. So much of that is because of the farm.
When he first came back to live with us, he seemed to have forgotten all he had known and learned in his early years. “I will do the chores because I have to and its what you expect from me, but I’m never going to like it and I will never be a farmer when I don’t have to” was his declaration.
And when he first came back to live with us, he began helping Bill prepare a horse for sale. He attended his first horse sale, where he was welcomed back into “the fold” by friends and family members who had known him in his youth, who knew of his life story because of us. He got to drive that horse in the sale preview with Bill. He was accepted, he was treated like a normal kid, he was given responsibilities by others as well as us. And he handled them all and began to blossom. Then Bill fell ill, and full responsibilities of the farm fell on me while he recovered. Only I was NOT alone....Along with extended family members, Alex took on that day to day responsibility with me. I needed him, the farm needed him, “Doc” (Bill) needed him and probably most of all - the animals needed him. He learned what it meant to have another living creature rely on you for food, water and care. Lambing season began, and it was the worst lambing season of my entire life (including when I was a kid on the farm!) We had triplets, we had backwards lambs, we had a terrible prolapse on a young ewe with twins during a horrific thunderstorm. We had one of our elderly ewes deliver twins and only have half of her udder working, so we supplemented those two lambs (left them with their mama so they could still be “sheep”, but brought them bottles of milk supplement throughout the day to keep their tummies full) These two lambs, plus one other, have become the start of Alex’s personal flock of sheep. Because yes, he did fall in love with farm life. With tending sheep. He learned to build fence with my Dad (Gramps as Alex calls him) This summer we saw and heard such advances as his excitement over having a clean barn, having hay and straw in the mow and even this week as he adjusted to his school schedule he was already thinking ahead to lambing season and getting up at 5 am so he would have time to check the barn before he got ready for school! How many teenage boys OFFER to get out of bed that early? LOL
Yesterday we had people here to buy a ram. I heard Alex - the same Alex who wasn’t going to like farming, who been so socially immature that it was often difficult to take him in public - I heard that same boy tell these folks how much he loved shepherding. He told them the story of how he had gone from refusing to touch a slippery newborn lamb to helping deliver and even to bury one that was lost. He told how when he had a bad day, he could come to barn and sit amongst the lambs and watch them jump and play with the joy of life. “How can you stay mad or sad after that?” he asked.
How can you indeed.....
“I believe that the country which God made is more beautiful than the city which man made; the life out of doors and in touch with the earth is the natural life of man. I believe that work is work wherever I find it, but that work with Nature is more inspiring than work with the most intricate machinery. I believe that the dignity of labor depends not on what you do, but on how you do it; that opportunity comes to a boy on the farm as often as to a boy in the city, that life is larger and freer and happier on the farm than in the town, that my success depends not upon my location, but upon myself - not upon my dreams, but upon what I actually do; not upon luck but upon pluck. I believe in working when you work and in playing when you play and in giving and demanding a square deal in every act of life” - Edwin Osgood Grover
“Nowhere can the foundations of that education which makes for lasting benefit to humanity and to true happiness for the individual be better laid than on the farm. Here the old-fashioned values of obedience, orderliness, patience, promptness, cleanliness, self-control and self-reliance are essentials to success....Indeed on the farm, helpful habits are formed of necessity and almost unconsciously” - Ella Frances Lynch.