I'm home alone today, and it's making me think about the changes that are coming to Antiquity Oaks. Margaret is leaving next fall to go to college, and Jonathan is also wanting to leave, although he is not talking about college. Katherine is 15 and already has her life planned out, so I know I only have her here for another three years, although she has started taking classes at the community college, so she is not around as much as she used to be.
I did all the evening chores by myself today, and it's the worst imaginable day to do chores. One minute I'm trudging through foot-deep snow, and a few steps later I'm sliding through mud. It's been raining and in the 40s all day. The temperature is supposed to drop into the teens (Fahrenheit) tonight, which means a few inches of snow on top of the newly frozen ice that resulted from all the snow that melted today and had nowhere to go.
Margaret told me that she doesn't want her goats any longer, so I'm going to buy them from her. She happens to have some of the best milkers on the farm, even though she was into showing. However, I certainly don't need this many goats if I merely want to provide dairy products for the family -- especially when the family is going to be shrinking! It is a problem, however, deciding to sell goats that have spent their entire lives here. I am telling myself that I must sell all the kids born in the spring. It is tough letting them go after they've been here and developed a personality. They become more like friends, and who amongst us could say, "Okay, I don't need this many friends. I'll get rid of Myrtle."
I was surfing the Internet today (when I should have been grading), and I was looking at farm internship programs. I also saw ads from individuals who are looking for an internship or apprenticeship on a sustainable farm. And I was thinking about how I've been saying that I'd like for our homestead to have a more educational focus, since I don't really see us becoming a corporate behemoth of food production for Greater Chicagoland. We've been at this for six years now. We certainly don't have all the answers, but we've learned a lot, and we have a long list of how not to do things!
So I am pondering the possibility of developing an apprenticeship program for the farm. I like the idea of apprenticeship more than internship because it sounds more hands-on. Even though I teach college, I prefer being a mentor, rather than a teacher. I certainly have a large library of reading materials available, but apprentices would learn mostly by doing. Depending on when they are here or what they're interested in learning, their days could be filled with gardening, goat birthing (or waiting), washing wool, constructing farm buildings, etc. I view it as an opportunity for people to learn about sustainable homesteading, not commercial farming.
If you know of any programs like this, I'd love to hear about them!