Last weekend, with family in town, we took advantage of a few extra hands and finally cut our tomato plants free from their string trellis in the high tunnel. The high tunnel, or ‘hoop house’ is a key method of season extension for the CSA, allowing us to have vegetables like carrots in the early part of June and tomatoes well into October. It was truly a family affair, and even Leif pitched in- cutting plants fairly indiscriminately, but keeping busy.
One of the more gratifying aspects of working at our farm is being able to integrate our young son more and more into our work, but still keeping it fun and light. Although most people would already understand that working with a toddler in tow presents its own challenges, here are a few of our strategies:
– Be on their time for a change. Being a compulsive scheduler, this is my biggest challenge. When we’re outside working, even though we still need to get certain things done, I try to allow Leif the freedom to explore at his own pace.
– Focus on the process, not the result. Even though Leif didn’t really do much to help with the tomato plants, he practiced using tools, learned the value of work, and spent time with family. Sure, he spent 10 minutes trying to cut twine with a pliers, but at least now he knows the difference between pliers and shears!
– Allow mistakes. When we moved out to new farm and erected about a mile of electric fence, keeping 1 year old Leif from getting shocked was a full-time job. Finally, I let him get shocked. That was the end of it. The shock didn’t injure him, and that little bit of discomfort saved us considerable time and worry in the future. My job is to keep him from harm, not from failing.
Even at 3 yrs. old, Leif loves the idea of being needed. And even though his ‘help’ may actually make a task take longer, he sure makes it a lot more fun.