Today’s guest post comes from my friend Jena Becker. Jena is a Christian, a farmer’s wife, and a new mama to Kent. She has been blogging at Married to the Farm with varying regularity since 2008.
I am a farmer’s wife. That means I have to do the things a farmer’s wife does: Feed cows. Herd sheep. Collect eggs. Garden and can. Drive tractors and bale hay. Run dear farmer husband to and fro. Pick up feed.
This year I became a farm mama. Back when we were planning to start a family we did the math and decided I would stay home. That’s where I wanted to be anyway, and it just wouldn’t pay for me to work and have our child in daycare. People told me I would be “bored” as a stay at home mom, I would be “desperate for adult conversation”, etc. Boy, they really don’t know my life! I don’t just get to keep house – I am busy around here!! :D
Anyway, just because baby came along doesn’t mean I get to shirk my farm duties. I have more to do than ever as we’re constantly trying to expand and operate more efficiently. Where does baby fit in to this lifestyle? How do I get these things done? Here are a few things I’ve figured out that make having a new baby on the farm totally doable.
I took two weeks off from all chores when the baby came. When I first started back at them again I would wait for him to take a nap in the morning and then run out to feed the animals. Our baby monitor wouldn’t work all the way to the barn so I turned the volume all the way up and set it on the fence by the gate. That way I could hear when he started to wake up and hurry in.
Somewhere between 4-6 weeks his morning nap became less predictable. Now I use the stroller and take him to the barn with me. I dress him appropriately: a diaper and light blanket on the really hot days and a lightweight snow suit on these last few chilly days (only in Michigan!). I always keep him in the shade or cover the stroller with an extra blanket to keep him out of the sun. I roll the stroller in the barn – backwards up in to the door like you would a wheelchair – and he hangs out in the barn aisle. I’m right there if he needs anything. Usually he falls asleep on our way to the barn and naps while the cows check him out. It works great – I can take my time without being too far away from him. The only problem I’ve had with him in the barn is the fly population this time of year. Every once in awhile I have to shoo one off of him and that grosses me out. I’m planning to buy a fly net soon to prevent that problem.
(Don’t worry, I was just taking advantage of the cool photo op here during a walk – Kent doesn’t get any of these close encounters while I’m working!)
I’ve been working in our back pasture burning brush and cleaning up some scrap wood. This is the kind of job where you get sweaty and dirty and don’t want to be trucking in and out of the house. Kent goes in his stroller for this too. I prop up the seat back so he can look around and then drop it back when he’s ready for a nap. I take a sandwich, some snacks, a folding chair, diaper/wipes, and burp cloths out with us. Then when he’s ready to nurse I can plop down in the chair and eat my lunch too. Doing it like this means I’ve been able to work outside all day.
I absolutely love my stroller by the way – the big tires go over rough terrain easily and it even has built in speakers for my ipod so I can sing along and keep the baby entertained. My kid doesn’t always love the stroller but if I roll him around a bit from time to time it keeps him pretty happy.
WORKING IN THE GARDEN
The best tip I have for working in the garden is just one word: GLOVES. I have never worn gloves in my garden before but now they are essential. It takes several minutes to scrub my hands clean and there is no time for that when baby wakes up suddenly or needs his pacifier replaced. I have the handy little seat pictured above and I sit it in the shade next to the garden. It vibrates and the screen zips shut to keep bugs away. If I nurse the baby in the house I can usually tuck him in this and get an hour or two of work in while he naps. The stroller would work, too, but I’m all for variety if it keeps him happy. Don’t think you have to spend a lot of money on gadgets either – I picked this seat up at a Mom2Mom sale for $20 in like new condition.
CANNING AND COOKING
We have a Fisher Price Cradle ‘n Swing and it is a lifesaver when it comes to working in the kitchen. I have it near the kitchen table and can easily see him and talk to him while I’m working. I usually turn on the KLOVE station and sing to him (lest you think I’m a good singer – I’m not – that’s why I only sing to the one who can’t complain yet!). Also, I picked another vibrating seat at a garage sale for $5 so I have one to take to my Mom’s and leave there for canning season. It’s small enough to sit right up on the table by us when we’re peeling and slicing. For those times when dinner is almost ready and I just need five more minutes to finish it I’ll put Kent in Dr. Sears’ Balboa Baby sling (pictured above). He loves it. I found mine on ebay barely used.
DRIVING THE TRACTOR
This could work for a lawn tractor too but for us it works on the big tractor when we’re baling hay. We’ve seen other people rig up baby seats and things on their tractors but we aren’t comfortable with that. If my baby is going to be up there I want him safe in my arms. Enter the Baby Bjorn carrier and earmuffs sized for small children. I have a sling that I like for other times but the Bjorn feels safest to me on the tractor and it allows baby’s legs to stretch out keeping him cool and comfortable. He generally falls fast asleep while I drive. I cover him with a light blanket to keep him out of the sun when needed. He’s happy and cozy and I can feel him breathing and know he’s content. He doesn’t mind the headphones and they keep his little ears safe.
WHEN TO CALL FOR BACKUP
There are some jobs that I don’t feel are safe to do with baby in tow. A few examples I’ve found so far: cutting up raw chicken (or any meat) for the freezer, moving or rounding up animals, and having him in the sling while dealing with hot foods or canners. When handling raw meat it takes too long to wash my hands each time baby needs me. Plus, if I have a lot of meat out I can’t just stop and let it sit on the counter for too long. When we’re handling live animals we might get coated in mud (or worse!). Although we take measures to stress the animals as little as possible there are some situations where stress cannot be avoided and they can be unpredictable. If a 1500 pound steer decides he doesn’t want to load in the trailer I don’t want my baby in his path!
So there you have it folks: how this busy mama gets things done around here! Lest you think that I am always sticking my poor baby in some seat, let me assure you that’s not the case. I try to time it so that I’m working while he’s napping. We have lots of time for interaction and cuddles when he’s nursing and having wakeful periods. He’s a happy, healthy little boy and growing way too fast for his mama’s taste!! :)