Raising Children on a Farm
While shooting a short video of Middle Farm recently with very well reputed Aaron Child I was reminded of how much freedom children often have growing up on farms.
If there were a list of ‘things you must do by the age of ten’ they would probably fall far short of their non-farming friends, as time off is rare. But watching them laugh uncontrollably as they fall head first into a metal feed container, catching chickens to show Aaron, hiding from Soay sheep, racing around on their bikes with (rightly or wrongly) absolutely no bodily protection, they exonerate any guilty feelings I may have.
Although computers and televisions still play a balanced part of our lives, true excitement is still found in the discovery of caddis fly larvae under a rock in the stream, or watching newts, toads, frogs or water boatman in and around the pond. In winter, as foliage dies back, we find a multitude of plastic miniature wild animals and dinosaurs that have role-played in children’s games with all the bugs and butterflies throughout the summer. Thankfully, it has finally been understood that caterpillars, dead flies and fleas are not welcome in the house, even if they are in a lidded box.
Raising children in this environment, or watching someone else’s enjoy a day on the farm, is a tremendously uplifting experience. Their understanding of the natural world and all the local creatures in it surpasses any knowledge that I had at the same age. In fact, I continue to learn from them all the time.
I am sure that our kids will not fully appreciate the childhood they have here until they are fully grown and maybe have children of their own. When they look back and remember witnessing piglets being born, feeding animals, making fires, boiling up nettle soup in the garden and having acres of space to run, ride bikes and make camps, I hope they will value the independence they’ve been lucky enough to grow up with. In the meantime, it’s all about the play, learning and pushing boundaries.
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