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The Most Valued SlowMoneyFarm Asset

May 25, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom early on I counted several things that we wanted to do here at SlowMoneyFarm. The rabbits and poultry and produce were, of course, part of it. It was something I wanted to start where we were with the room we have available. And it was something needed for Connor.

I think his mom’s smiling down to see the young man he’s become. He’s got a ways to go in maturing, but the differences are immense. Not that many years ago it was tough to entrust him with topping off a horse tank daily.

He’s now in charge of watering the animals three times a day, and collecting eggs three times per day. He checks the group pens when we have them (mamas with unweaned babies) to insure they have plenty of feed. Three times per week minimum he cleans the pens that have solid floors. He feeds the dogs. He’s responsible for keeping his laundry monitored. He cooks simple meals – not just 1 or 2 things, but enough that he could right now cook for himself for a month if he had to. He helps with other projects as needed – hauling bedding to garden monitoring.

His discernment and decision making needs some fine tuning sometimes – at 14, almost 15, he’s grown up a lot the last few years. He has learned when something breaks we don’t just go buy another one. From early on I said a big part of the farm was taking a good kid wanting to find trouble after the latest in major upheavals in his life…and out the other side a productive adult who is capable of using the tools life hands him.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWould he like to have no chores, play video games all day, kick back like he used to? Yep! And with that he was finding time and opportunity in alcohol (yes at 10-12 years old) and other inappropriate for his age activities. His parents were not uninvolved. He’s never been a bad kid – but could have been.

When he came here we felt he needed structure. Boundaries. Responsibilities. In that point, he probably has more than many kids his age. He doesn’t always like consequences.

I’ve had some criticize. He should go to school like others instead of homeschool, and shouldn’t have so many responsibilities and…well folks like to criticize! But I know the differences I see in myself between me and those who did not grow up around agriculture. I know to reach his dreams he needs more than conventional.

Some time ago I bought a couple of little tailgate soil test kits. Yesterday he dug one out, and went out to one of the beds. He followed the directions, and determined the ph level, nitrogen and potash, although the potassium was defective. He determined it was high in nitrogen and needed potash. Instead of handing a solution I asked *him* to connect the dots. “What would we need to add to increase potash.” OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“I….don’t…know!” he gave emphasis. “Think about it! This is a semester test.” I named off a couple books he’s read for science and agriculture. He thought for a minute. “Bone meal, blood meal…” It wasn’t a question – when he stopped to think he knew. Agriculture is out of his element but he likes science, and the “sciency” part of soil testing interested him enough to do it on his own.

And although that’s a snapshot, it’s a big part of the big picture. For two years in countless situations we don’t hand him the answer – but make him connect the dots. Make decisions, with guidance, to get a predictable or best case outcome. Think! Make decisions – and sometimes those decisions are wrong.

It’s been rift with tears and frustration at times. Even as an adult responsibilities suck sometimes. Two summers ago a young bunny died and, after watering and checking all cages, he failed to see and remove it. He said, in frustration, “It’s not my fault the bunny died!”

I looked him in the eye and said “No it’s not. But it *IS* your control what to do about it. It IS your responsibility to remove it, not leave it there.” And at that moment we were talking not just about bunnies. It was about life, loss of his mom and a whole lot of levels beyond a bunny.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe think the responsible, kind, good person he is becoming is among the best products. The ability to work for days on a job he took on, get some money and decide he wanted shorts for summer, so he asked to go to the thrift store to see if there were any on the rack before looking in department stores. He has a concept of what it takes to get those $100 shoes and expensive clothes others have because he’s putting value into work. He didn’t find his shorts, but found two high school test books he wanted for $5 – which I bought for him so he still had his money.

He’s gotten scrapes, bumps, bruises, an infection and learned that even when something breaks, in life the job still needs done. He’s learned to check in and that when he tells someone he’ll be there at 3 he better be there at 3, or call them to update. He’s (finally!) gotten the concept of doing independent work rather than a job for some town business as the only way to make money. He can’t work at a fast food restaurant in Jasper 20 miles away because of age and distance. He can dig a drainage trench for a church up the street for a couple hundred dollars, and find things to make and sell, and raise his rabbits to sell stock from. He’s learned those $25 rabbits don’t generate a lot of profit, or any profit, if held too long. He’s learned sometimes animals die even if we do everything right.

Those, dear reader, are life lessons. Those will carry on long after I’m gone, the rabbits and chickens are gone and the gardens grown over. It affects communities where he will live and be a part of. And there’s many younger than him coming up the same way. If more attention is paid to them than the troublemakers shooting on the streets, maybe there’s a chance for a better way – for all. It may come that 30 years from now he lives next to – or is married to! – your daughter.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 26, 2013 9:18 AM

    Thank you for what you’ve done for this young man, Jan.

    • May 26, 2013 9:24 AM

      Connor’s mom was my best friend – I met her and worked with her because she was taking off to have him. When she got sick I knew her priority to that point was him, and insuring he didn’t head down the dark roads his sisters did. It’ll be the blink of an eye and he’ll be moving away – lots of lessons to teach before then. Very proud of him – even in the rough patches!

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