Tuesday, December 9, 2008


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!


Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

I think the apprenticeship sounds like a good idea. With a seven-year-old, the thought of him leaving home seems impossibly remote, and at this point, I have no desire to "replace" him with another person or more!

Deborah said...

I know it sounds so cliche when people say they grow up fast, but it does not seem possible to think that Margaret just turned 21 years old! That's more than two decades! She started taking classes at the junior college when she was 13, which was eight years ago. And she was accepted to universities when she was 16, which was five years ago. And now she's really decided that she wants to finish a bachelor's degree. I guess I should be happy that she didn't leave five years ago! Still, I can't believe two of my children are adults. It's sobering.

melanie said...

I don't know of any formal programs like you suggest, but the farm I worked on this year did do something like you described in the past. The payoff was certainly great to the farmer in terms of labor, but the struggle was that she often did not feel like mentoring on someone else's schedule, and it was difficult for her to give up control of systems that she had taken years to perfect. Also, the living space offered to the apprentices brought them into necessary daily contact with the farmer, and it was hard for her to get used to "roommates" and their ways, which often did not match her own. They frequently wanted guidance, assistance or to visit just when she wanted to sit down and have some family time.

Just a few things to think about...

Deborah said...

Thanks for the input, Melanie. It gives me more to think about.


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