We are starting a new phase of ranching for our family here at Lonesome Dove Ranch, and it’s a stage I have been anticipating for a long time. Of course, I’m referring to the fact that our kids are slowly but surely starting to earn their keep. Opening and closing gates, fetching things, even helping remove twine on bales when we feed cows…the balance is slowly starting nudge in our favour. Of course, having an extra set of little hands pitching in around our ranch isn’t the primary reason for having children, but it certainly can be a nice little side effect. There’s never a shortage of work that needs to be done.
One of the best things about life on a farm is working alongside your family. I’ve done a straw poll of ranchers and farmers over the years and when asked what they love most about ranching, their answer almost always includes working hand in hand with other generations. This response has come from young ranching mothers and grizzled, grumpy old cowboys alike.
Probably the best gift my parents ever gave me was the gift of growing up on a farm. When you’re a kid, you don’t realize what you are learning when you’re out in the field or riding shotgun or picking rocks but as a parent, I’m realizing that the lessons never stop. We talk about how and what and why we are feeding our cattle. The kids watch the numbers on the scale increase and they notice how they go down when we put out the feed. They learn the importance of monitoring the health and welfare of our animals and are quick to notice anything that might not be feeling well. They learn about nature and keep watch for the snowy owl that watches for us every day when we check the water bowl. It’s probably the broader values of daily chores, like responsibility and safety and adaptability, that sneak up on them and me too when we’re donning our ski pants for the 83rd time this season.
I usually like to do things quickly and efficiently so I can move onto the next job on my to-do list. However, when you’re packing around three willing helpers aged three to five, molasses in January moves faster. Their staunch independence also slows things down because whatever chore they task themselves with, they insist they must “do it myself!” From them, I have learned that I am darn short on patience and that I really need to relax. Even if it takes five minutes for one kid to pick twine from a bale, that’s okay. Where do I have to go that is more important?
The help hasn’t been limited to farm work either, I might add. Every time we make a meal, or throw wet clothes into the dryer, or wash dishes, a chair magically appears beside us with one to three children ready to get in the fray. I even went to check on a kid the other day after I noticed he was a little too quiet and I discovered he was folding towels. Folding! The towels weren’t folded to my standard specifications, but I’m learning that it doesn’t matter. They were folded! By someone other than me!
According to most people, we are in some of the very best years of our lives. I’m not quite sure when they started and I don’t know for certain how long they will last. I just know that for now, the help is willing and sweet. And I can use all the help I can get.