“Farm Life Sucks Sometimes”
My 8-year-old son, Mason, most of the time, absolutely loves farm life, he loves “being a farmer.” He says it a lot, constantly reasserting his passion for what our family does. He loves that we grow food, he loves that we live “way out in the country” and he really loves taking care of all of our animals.
In fact, he spends such a great deal of time with our livestock, that they have become his friends. The boys have named all of our animals (maybe not the best idea) and mason makes multiple trips per day to the barn to pet and play with them. In fact, as Mason is a very observant little guy, he can literally tell us all of the idiosyncrasies of each one of the animals; their particular habits, how and where they like to eat or play. He really studies them quite well; always learning more and more each day.
However, this week a new lesson caught him off guard. Part of farm life and raising farm animals is also taking those same animals to the livestock sale. To be honest, I was rather excited about getting to take the boys to their first auction. They’ve never witnessed it first hand before and I just knew that this new experience would be a great one! Boy, was I ever wrong!
The business side of farm life.
Farmers have to make daily decisions that directly relate to the success of their farms; weighing benefits versus expenses of all of the working parts of a farm. In our case, we came to the decision that holding on to our dairy goats as well as our miniature potbellies was no longer worth the time and expense involved; thus it was time to head to the sale.
As a good homeschooling mom, I took this opportunity to explain how and why all of these decisions get made, how it would benefit our family and our farm and how the process would go. As I always do, I included them in every part of the process from beginning to end. We all learned together…through a bunch of laughter and a few tears.
I knew that this decision wouldn’t make the boys terribly happy, but I guess I just didn’t realize how devastating it would end up being for Mason. As we were beginning the process of loading up, the first tears began to fall. They lasted throughout the night…and I ended up joining him.
Loading up…and hilarity ensues…
In my experience, loading pigs is pretty easy, loading cows not bad at all, but loading goats and miniature potbellies is a huge pain in the butt! We are basically forcing them to leave the home that they love and get into a trailer that they want nothing to do with…what could go wrong? We had a few nice, mild-mannered nannies that are very easy to deal with, it just took a little leading. However, we had a few punk goats that really made us work for it.
Chasing and chasing and chasing…over fences, through the barn, around the corrals… The absolute worst of which was our billy, a gymnast in his own right, a virtual Houdini, in fact. The four of us spent about 45 min chasing this one goat down. (While I snickered under my breath as I watched my husband jump over fences, dodging and weaving, all the while, smoke beginning to pour from his ears!)
The goat was Emmitt Smith, juking and jumping, and we were a worn out defensive line.
I finally cornered him while Logan, my 11 year old, grabbed his horns from behind and held on tight ’til dad got to him! (Not a moment too soon either. I’m pretty sure my husband was about 2 minutes away from shooting him!)
Goats loaded, we still had to chase down and carry all of the potbellies to the trailer…in 100 degree temps. (**wishing I had snapped a couple of pics of my husband catching baby potbellies with a fishing net.) By the time the trailer was loaded, we were all drenched and exhausted, and we had just gotten started.
What could go wrong at a livestock auction?
There were quite a few tears and long faces on the way to the auction, but I really did figure that once we were there, the excitement of it all would win out in the end. Nope. As soon as we started unloading the animals, the tears came harder and I have to admit that at that point, I was even feeling it. Guilt. Letting go of our animals; the ones that we have loved and cared for. Mason was sucking me in to a shame spiral!
From the moment we began loading, the pleading had started. “Mom, can we just keep them?” “Mom, can we keep some of them?” “How about we keep one of them?” “What are they gonna do without us?” “Mom, can we just load our goats back up and leave?”
In an attempt to alleviate some of the sadness, we tried to make this field trip as informative as possible. My husband and I took the boys through the areas to see all of the various livestock and we saw some of the workers loading them in…big mistake. Because, what we witnessed from that point on, made it even worse. The sale barn employees were kicking the animals in the heads, grabbing and lifting them by their ears, slamming huge metal gates on them. We literally watched as the workers killed one pig and severely injured another–right in front of us. The look of terror in my children’s eyes was only upstaged by the rage that they were beginning to exhibit every time a worker hit an animal. (Needless to say, we won’t be doing business there anymore.)
Farm lessons for farm life.
By the time we FINALLY got to leave there, the atmosphere in the truck was like that of a funeral. I fully believe that we all felt it. Sadness, remorse, maybe a little guilt. (…a lot of guilt–at least on my part.) But we made it through…as a family; leaning on one another for that extra bit of encouragement and support that it took to finish the task at hand.
There are so many ways to learn lessons. But the method that lasts the longest, the method that teaches the most, is life.
Learning while you live and living what you learn.
We made the decision, we took the necessary steps for success on our farm and we followed through and saw it to the end. Sometimes life’s lessons aren’t the easiest to deal with, but they are still lessons that have to be learned.
I’m very proud of my family. Proud of each member; proud that I can always count on them to face any problems head on, learn more and more every step of the way and immediately look forward to whatever happens to be next.
Next, in our case, will be a new herd of goats, (a lower maintenance breed) plus a donkey. (Because, clearly, we are saps and weaklings when it comes to the devastation in our children’s faces.)