No one ever said that farming with children is easy. One of the most common questions people ask me is how I manage it with small children.
It honestly takes a while. You can’t just nip out and feed something with two mini farmers who take their animal keeping very seriously. (My eldest is easy and just tags along).
I know that if I was on my own, it could be done in a matter of minutes but I don’t have that option so I just have to go with it.
It helps if I organise myself the night before and get everything ready but that is not always possible.
You can guarantee that if you make plans to go somewhere, one or all of the children will fall over in mud so I try to avoid doing anything before we go out or do it in overalls and hope for the best.
To make things a little bit easier, when my eldest is in school, a bus picks her up which we wait for in the farm yard. I usually feed and water the goats then and sneak off to let the chickens out and give them food and water too. That helps.
Then, every afternoon, we have the same routine-chicks, chickens, alpacas, goats.
Along the way, each animal is either cuddled, chased or shouted at by the boys. They insist on helping get the food in buckets, carry buckets, open gates, give food to the animals and then play with them. Each of those things takes much longer than it should and would be considerably quicker if I was on my own but it is good for them. They are learning about caring for other creatures and that can only be a good thing.
If we are in a rush because we have to go somewhere it can be exasperating but, on the whole I try to be a bit laid back with it and go with the flow. They won’t be small forever and it is at least an activity to keep them entertained.
I made a video of a feeding adventure. It is slightly different than usual because it was a nice day so we took the goats to the field.
At the point of filming, we are still waiting for lambs so the sheep are all in one field with the alpacas. Usually the alpacas would be nearer to the house.
In a week’s time, our feeding schedule will most likely be peppered with lamb feeding at four-hourly intervals and, while the eldest boy loved it last year, I think it will be this year where he really embraces his role. I imagine all the sheep toys will be out too as he quite often replicates what he sees on the farm with his toys.
I suppose the biggest tip I can give anyone in a similar position is patience. All the patience. Patience where you never knew patience existed. I even pray for it on particularly bad days.
Working with children and animals is always a challenge but I love every minute and so do the children.
Feeding time at the zoo takes on a whole new meaning here.