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The Perks of Raising Goats

 
grazing goatsGoats are one of the easiest and more rewarding livestock animals to keep either on the farm, or even in your own backyard depending on size and city regulations.  Goats are intelligent, useful, and loving creatures that reap many benefits as well as teaching responsibility to those just starting their journey into farming and livestock. 

Goats can be a very easy entry-level livestock animal for many reasons.  They are relatively low maintenance (compared to other livestock,) and provide a lot of byproducts that can be used.  Goats provide a lot of milk and, depending on the size of your herd, meat.  Goat meat and milk can sustain a family pretty well, and may even eradicate the need to buy dairy.

Some goats even produce fibers that can be spun into yarn and made into clothing.  Cashmere and mohair are only some of the examples of fibers available from goats. 

Goats are great for selling and breeding, as quick turnover and low land requirements can mean an easy and fast yield.  Plus, the more you breed, the more milk and meat you can produce for yourself and possibly for sale, depending on the scale. 

Feeding baby goatGoats also make great pets.  Known for their mild tempered friendliness and hardiness, goats have been a popular choice as a pet starting in the 20th century.  You can even put a leash on one and walk them around the neighborhood! 

By far one of the most interesting perks of raising goats, however, is the fact that they are essentially organic lawnmowers.  Goats will eat up almost any kind of weed you have in a yard.  People have even been known to rent out their herd to eradicate weeds off public lands. 

So, if you’re the type of person who’s tired of mowing the lawn, needs a steady supply of milk, meat, income, and cashmere, starting a herd of goats could be highly beneficial.  Try it!

This article was written by Eric Kneff, who is associated with Brahman Systems, a producer of cable protectors for industrial purposes. He has an interest in outdoor living and reducing hazards in the workforce.

Winter Gardening Tips to Live By

 

GardenTo the outsider, it may seem like gardening is a seasonal thing that only takes place during the warm summer months, but true gardeners know that gardening never stops. In fact, most of us begin planning next year’s garden before the crops are harvested in the fall and spend many happy winter’s days getting ready for the arrival of spring.

Reading
Now is the time for reading up on your favorite plants and learning about gardening. Think of it as preventive medicine for your plants and take to the time to learn about those that interest you most. Seed catalogs provide a host of information, but don’t overlook buying books about gardening in your region.

Mixing soils
Winter is also a great time to mix soils for containers so it is ready to go when you need it. A combination of one part peat moss, one part potting soil and one part perlite makes an excellent soil for containers. Making this ahead of time and storing it in airtight containers gives you a head start on gardening and gives you a chance to get your hands in the dirt.

toolsInspect and Clean Gardening Tools
If you are like many gardeners, you may have overlooked the value of cleaning your garden tools before you put them away. Winter allows you time to examiner and replace any tools that need replacing, or cleaning and oiling your existing tools. If you didn’t do so at the end of the season, now’s the time to give them a closer look.

Make a Garden Plan
If you are like many gardeners, you probably make several garden plans before you settle on the one you like. Take the time now to browse online and view some of the amazing gardens others have grown and try your hand at designing one to show off your favorite plants.

Ordering Seeds

  • Order your seeds early to avoid the heartbreaking experience of being told that new varieties are soldseeds out. If you find something you simply must have, order the seeds as early as possible. Remember the seeds will keep on your shelf until spring, but if you wait too long others may have purchased them all.
  • Keep in mind the number of frost-free days in your location and order flowers and veggies that are suitable for your region. While you may be able to gain a week or two by starting them inside, don’t plan on much more than that. Plants that are started too early typically do not perform well and suffer from transplant shock when they are transferred to the garden.

Soil and Trays

  • Buy new seed starting trays or sterilize your existing trays by washing them in one part household bleach to nine parts water. Let them air dry before filling them with soil. This kills off soilborne pathogens that may infect your new plants.
  • Purchase sterilized seed starter. While it may be tempting to use leftover soil from pots of containers, it may contain disease spores that infect your new plants.

Getting Ready

  • Set up your seed-starting center. While a mini greenhouse makes seed starting easy and mess free, you can use tables, shelves or any other solid object placed under plant lights.
  • Consider a heated seed mat, such as the Gro Mats by Cozy Products. These provide even bottom heat for your seedlings and speed germination and growth.
  • Install your plant lights so they are ready to go when planting time arrives. You can purchase special plant lights for seed starting or use ordinary shop lights suspended 6 to 8 inches above the seed trays.

Planting

  • Check the seed packet for the proper seed starting time. While tomatoesmarket 68781 1920 and peppers should be planted 6 to 8 weeks before transplanting time, other veggies, such as cucumbers require less time.
  • Plant the seeds according to the depth recommended, as this varies by variety.
  • Check to see if your seeds need light or darkness to germinate.
  • Keep the soil moist, but not soggy, until seeds germinate than then water when the soil dries.

About the author: Nannette Richford is a freelance writer from rural Maine where she lives with her family. When not writing about gardening, she can be found working in her garden where she has grown flowers, herbs and vegetables for over 25 years. Richford has extensive writing experience in gardening and landscape and has been published in influential online industry publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle(SF Gate), Garden Guides and Yahoo! Shine. She also publishes her own website Maine Garden Ideas. Connect with Nannette on Google+ and Twitter.

Barn Raising in New England

 

This past spring I wrote an article in the local paper telling the tale of a dinner party which included the most delicious lamb dish I have ever tasted. Ironically while we were having that fabulous meal, three little lambs were born in their barn.

Two of these lambs now reside with us here on our farm. (Oxbow Farm in Dublin, NH)

Unfortunately their reason for coming to stay with us was tragic-their home was destroyed by fire. You can't imagine my shock when I received a text from my friend early in the morning, having only dropped her and her husband off at their home not a full 8 hours before, following a relaxing night out with friends.

Nothing can erase the historic value of their previous barn built over 200 years ago, but they decided to rebuild and bring farming back into their lives.

It was amazing to see all of their dreams put back on track yesterday with a very impressive barn raising!

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Nate, with the reflection of the barn beams being hoisted up in his sunglasses.

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 Kim Graham of Oxbow Farm lives in Dublin, NH with her family. She raises laying hens, pastured chickens and pigs at her small neighborhood farm. www.oxbowfarmnh.com

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Visitors Welcome: Advertising Your Farm Stand or Market to Drivers

 

Here in the Midwest - and especially Northeast - leaf peeper season is finally winding down, and that means the holidays are right around the corner. Every year, each seasonal shift or major holiday sends millions of Americans driving across the countryside past countless farmstands, markets, and all manner of agritourism attractions. Whether your farm store/stand is on a back highway or within a few minutes of a major highway exit, a little bit of strategic advertising can help funnel tourists and travelers to you during the busy season. 

Almost every year our family makes a 2,000 mile drive between the midwest and New England, where my wife's family is from. We have two small children (both under 4), and over the course of four solid days of driving we stop often; always looking for interesting places to stretch our legs and wallets. It's usually just minutes after we're back on the road with snacks or souvineers in-hand that we start plotting our next pullover destination.

If you want your roadside farm stand or attraction to catch the business of some of the millions of car-bound traveling families like mine, promotion is important, and it doesn't have to be big-budget to keep your parking lot full throughout the tourist season. 

Here are some tips to help you advertise your roadside farm stand or market so that you can benefit from each surge of extended weekend and seasonal vacation travelers:

  • Space-out signage: Place roadside signs miles ahead of your farm in both directions and, if possible, on all major highways. Provide directions  with time estimates (e.g. Joe's Farm - 3 mi. on Rt.) to help lead travelers in. Consider your signs from the driver's perspective and get creative - make your signs more intense the closer they get to your stand; X miles, 1 mile to go! Almost there!! You missed us - turn around! Thanks for stopping!
  • Be specific with messaging: Most roadside attractions advertise "homemade," "custom," or "quality" goods or items for sale. Promoting a specific popular item or attraction is more compelling to the weary traveler. On our roadtrips, I'll end up pulling over to investigate Fresh Spiced Cider Doughnuts or 24 Varieties of Heirloom Tomato before Homemade Pie or Farmers Market every time. 
  • Meet the need: Whether it's food in convenient utensils-free packaging or access to a restroom, cross-country drivers are more likely to pull over for a sure-thing than something that "looks promising." Adding some key words to your signage usually says more about what you can offer travelers than your farm's name or products. Hot Eats, Local Jams/Gifts, Clean Restrooms, Award Winning Peach Pie, Pick Your Own - these are all phrases that have attracted countless visits from would-be bypassers.
  • Remember the kids: Offering something to entertain little travelers can mean the difference between an extended stop and "We'll stop at the next good place." Consider advertising simple things like petting animals, antique vehicles, local/regional crafts/activities, festive displays, "family friendly" restrooms, or anything else to keep children entertained, clean, and fed - you'll quickly see a boost in curious families stopping by on a whim. 

 

 

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Free-Range Family: Fall Festival at Wolfe's Neck Farm

 

On Saturday, October 12, we took Will to the Fall Festival at Wolfe's Neck Farm, a non-profit farm here in Maine focused on agriculture, community and education.

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Will was VERY excited about going to the festival. Mostly he was excited to see cows and chickens, and had been asking to see them all week. It was a gorgeous morning and there were so many great things to do there, here is a rundown of what we did:

  1. Admired the sheep out grazing in the field as we walked to the farmyard.
  2. Checked out the two visiting alpacas.  The brown one was especially soft. I'm actually not sure I ever felt an animal as soft as she was, I bet her yarn is amazing!
  3. Visited the beekeeping table. Will loves to watch the bees when we go to Gilsland Farm, so he was really excited to look at the bees and tell the beekeeper that they were making honey.
  4. They set up this great big pile of haybales for the kids to climb up and play on. Will really enjoyed this and climbed all the way to the top a couple times throughout the day.
  5. We decided to be festive and let Will have his face painted for the very first time. He got to look at a page of different paintings and choose what he wanted. He ended up choosing an apple.
  6. We went into the barn to visit the animals. One of his favorite activities was running around with the chickens trying to feed them some of their food and pet their feathers. He was really gentle about it, which is good, it was just so funny to see his face all lit up as a squealed in delight.
  7. Will attempted his very first straw maze. It was pretty crazy in there, as there was a lot of children running around and kept almost knocking a bewildered Will over. But he was a trooper and really tried to find his way out, testing out all sorts of directions. In the end he got a little worried and started yelling that he wanted Daddy, so we scooped him up from over the fence when he got close enough.
  8. My husband and Will sat at a craft table and made a little pumpkin together.
  9. For lunch, we sat under a giant tent and listened to a Rick Charette Concert while we enjoyed our yummy local food. Rick Charette was around back when I was a kid, and I have fond memories of going to his concerts when I was in school. It was fun to be able to share his music with my little Will.
  10. Watched a cow having a bath, which was another of Will’s favorite activities of the day. I think we went to go check out the cows having bathes three times. One time I helped wash, but Will wasn't interested in soaping the cow up, he just really enjoyed seeing them be cleaned.
  11. Took Will for his first hayride out to the pumpkin patch. Once we arrived at the pumpkin field a very excited Will ran off to find his pumpkin. He was so cute running around picking up different pumpkins to show us. In the end, we helped him to find a largish pie pumpkin so we could actually use it later to make some pumpkin pie.

At this point, we were planning on just walking to the car, which was closer to the pumpkin field than the barn. But Will was so excited to go back on the tractor and then to see the cow have a bath and run with the chickens one more time, that we couldn't refuse. So onto the tractor we went.

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I knew that there would be lots of things at the festival that Will would enjoy, but I had no idea that he would love it as much as he did. We simply had a fantastic day and I am sure Will will continue to talk about all the fun things he did and saw for weeks to come. It looks like we found a new annual family tradition! What a superb way for a local farm to celebrate sustainable agriculture, the beauty and bounty of autumn, and to bring the community together.

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Hello + Introduction!

 

My name is Kimberly Peck, and I am an artist and photographer here in Peterborough NH. I received my first camera at the age of seven, fell in love with farms in the first grade, and now focus on agricultural and portrait photography. I am excited to write my first blog post for Everythingfarm.com & I am happy to be a part of your community! Growing up in Vermont, I was surrounded by the amazing farms along the Connecticut River Valley. Now, as I make my home in the beautiful Monadnock Region of southern New Hampshire, I am once again surrounded by fertile hills and valleys that have long sustained family-run farms and local agriculture. Over the past few years, with the increasing interest in homegrown food, the Monadnock Region has attracted a new generation of farmers to work its fertile soil.

Kpeck2In 2011, drawing inspiration from my childhood in Vermont and my current home in the Monadnock Region, I began photographing local farms to support the growing local food movement and to feed my passion for documentary photography. The goal of my farm series is to use the visual narrative of photography to connect farmers and their communities. I want people to see who is growing their food and to understand the hard work that goes into farming. The resulting photographs compel us to think about the food on our plates, where it came from and who grew it. Every farm has a story to tell, and, through the photographs, each farm has the opportunity to share theirs.  Originally featured in our local paper,  The Monadnock-Ledger Transcript, under my column, Locally Known, my farm photography continues to evolve into an inspiring and creative exploration of local agriculture. Over the past three years, I have documented over thirty local farms.

KPECKThe response to my farm photography has been extremely positive, and I am now turning my photographs into a self-published book, Farm, Food, Life: Photographs and Recipes Inspired by Our Local Farms. The expected publication date is November, and the book will be available at area shops, farm stores and online. Farm, Food, Life will feature photographs, farmer profiles, and recipes showcasing local ingredients produced by the featured farms. Professional cook & farmer Sarah Heffron of Mayfair Farm, in Harrisville, NH, and I created approachable recipes geared toward all levels of cooks and bakers...how yummy is that! As a little sneak peek, I will tell you that the Layered Chocolate Rice Pudding, using local milk from Manning Hill Farm, tops my 'favorite recipe' list!

KPECK BookI would like to thank EverythingFarm for the opportunity to share my work & to further promote our local agriculture. I look forward to writing more posts in the months to come...I plan to feature more local farms and to continue my Locally Known column with the EverythingFarm community!

Many thanks ~ Kim

Portfolio: kimberlypeckphotography.com

Facebook: facebook.com/kimberlypeckphotography

Etsy: etsy.com/shop/KimPeckPhotography



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A Family First: Attending the Fryeburg Fair

 

For many families, attending agricultural fairs is an annual tradition spanning generations. The very first agricultural fair was dates back to the early 1800’s. At that time, the main component of fairs was education. This was a time when the field of agriculture was really starting to take off, and new discoveries about growing food and effective farming were the focus of agriculture fairs.  Modern agricultural fairs still have an educational element, but the emphasis now is more about entertainment, and competition of the best agricultural products. Ribbons and trophies are awarded for categories such as livestock, food and crafts. Modern fairs also provide an opportunity to acknowledge the impacts that agriculture has had on the communities throughout the years.

In Maine, there are 27 agricultural fairs annually. The Fryeburg fair is considered Maine’s largest fair and attracts more than 300,000 people annually. I remember going to the Fryeburg Fair once when I was really young with my Aunt and Uncle. But that must have been 20 years ago, and for some non-apparent reason, I have never been to another agricultural fair since. This year I decided to change that, and convinced my husband that we needed to bring our son to at least one fair this year. He loves seeing farm animals so much, I knew he would enjoy it, and it would give me a chance to see what fairs these days were all about.

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The Fryeburg fair really is huge. About a mile away from the fair, houses start having signs out for $5 parking on their lawns. The traffic is insane for the entire duration of the fair, and there are lines and lines of people both inside and outside of the fair. As Will was really excited to see cows, chickens and horses, we spent the majority of our time checking out all the animals. They have numerous humungous buildings packed full of stalls of animals.Walking around for four hours, I’m not convinced we even saw half the animals at the fair. There were areas where children could walk amongst the animals and feed and interact with them. Areas roped off where judges were hard at work ranking them and awarding various ribbons. There were even areas where livestock were for sale, and if I could have done a better job convincing my husband, we would have went home with a tiny lop-eared rabbit or two. Everywhere we went, the farmers stood by their prized livestock, ready to answer any questions people had.

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Our favorite part of the fair was the poultry barn. They had some eggs set in a glass incubator, and we were able to watch a couple chicks hatch. Will was amazed by both the emerging chicks and the little chickens only a few hours old running around peeping and chirping at each other. It was a great learning opportunity for him and he talked about it for days afterwards.

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So while I think overall my two year has learned more in the intimate setting of individual farms, experiencing the enormity of the Fryeburg Fair was worth it. It is fantastic to see how much interest our community has in the field of agricultural, and it was fun to partake in the festivities.

References:

Devlin, P. (2011). A Rich History: American Agricultural Fairs. Retrieved from: http://durham.patch.com/groups/arts-and-entertainment/p/a-rich-history-american-agricultural-fairs

Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs (2012). History and Facts. Retrieved from: http://www.mainefairs.org/about.html

Mullett, M. (2008). County fairs: a significant part of America's agricultural history. Retrieved from: http://www.coshoctontribune.com/article/20080927/NEWS01/809270302/County-fairs-significant-part-America-s-agricultural-history


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Free-Range Family: Did Your Local Strawberry Crop Weather the Season?

 

 

Maine Pick-Your-Own Strawberry Farmer Chronicles Difficulties and Challenges

pick your own strawberriesEarly this month, my son Will and I ventured over to Doles Orchard in Limington, Maine, to pick our own strawberries. This has become a tradition for our family. We find that it’s enjoyable to spend the time outside, it’s more satisfying to eat food that you worked hard to pick, and it feels good to support our local agriculture.  We have a special place in our hearts for Dole’s Orchard in particular because I worked there for a couple of seasons between college and graduate school, and the owners of the farm are wonderful, hard-working and knowledgeable people. They have always been great about answering the millions of questions I pestered them with, so I took advantage of that fact to briefly interview them about this year’s strawberry season:

  1. Do you feel as though the harsh winter we had this year had any influence on your strawberry output?
    This winter was not especially harsh, but it did have quite an influence on our strawberry crop. It all started a year ago in May when we had 8.5 inches of rain in a day, then about ten more days of rain. This caused flooded soil conditions, which led to some of our strawberries becoming infected with black root rot. This is caused by a complex of soil fungi and causes weakness or death of the plants. Some of our plants died while others were weakened and did not fully recover before winter. In January when we had our coldest temperatures we had no snow cover. Snow is the best winter protection we can get. It's wonderful insulation and it prevents desiccation. Due to the plants going into the winter in a weakened state, they were more susceptible to winter injury.
  2. How has the spring weather fared for your berries?
    This spring we had several frosty nights. We were using our irrigation system to protect the flowers, but at some point early in the morning our pump quit and we lost the first weeks flowers. The first flower to open, thus the first fruit to ripen, on each plant will be the largest fruit that plant will produce for the year, so we lost the best part of our crop. Then we had two weather conditions during our strawberry season. We had one dry day during a two week long period of continual wetness. In addition to keeping customers away, the wet weather was perfect for fungi to infect the berries. The other type of weather we had was hot. When the temperature gets above 90F plants stop growing, but fruit continue to ripen at an accelerated rate. Throw in an increase of fungal growth in the heat and wetness and you have lots of over ripe fruit that are rotting very quickly.
  3. How have the prices of your berries compared this year to previous years?
    Our price was the same as the previous two seasons.
  4. Overall, how would you rate this season compared to previous seasons?
    Thanks to the series of conditions above, this was our worst strawberry season ever.
  5. What would you say is the top benefit of having "pick your own" berries as opposed to selling already picked berries?
    The beauty of PYO fruit is the much lower labor input and much better price we are able to get selling direct.

I might add that allowing people to pick their own berries helps create a sense of loyalty to the farm, as it has with our family. Despite it being a tough strawberry season for Dole’s Orchard, and for Maine in general, we were still able to come home with a big box full of delicious berries to freeze for the winter.

Jasmin Robinson lives in Maine with her family where they practice home-scale permaculture and spend time learning about and supporting local farms.

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Free-Range Family: Today's Farmers' Market - Local Food, Local Music, Local Fun!

 

 

farmers market crowd 300x300I was thinking the other day, “What is it that’s so appealing about the early season farmers' market?” At least up here in Maine, you can’t yet buy vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers, only a few, hardy greens since the growing season here has just begun. Yet, at the Portland Farmers' Market this past weekend we could barely find a place to park and quickly became one family in a sea of hundreds browsing through the various farm stands.

So what draws us out to these early market days? Of course there are items available for purchase, like vegetable seedlings, gorgeous flowers, and even meats, cheeses and butter. Perhaps that is motivation enough for some. But there are additional reasons. One is that the start of the outdoor farmers' market in Maine really signifies that the growing season is here; that stretches of warm and sunny days lie ahead of us. We can’t help but celebrate by getting outside, purchasing available, fresh produce and breathing in all the delicious smells that only a farmers' market can provide. I remember only a few years ago, the market seemed so small with fewer farms involved, and not nearly as many people in attendance. Now, there‘s a long waiting list of farms that want to be included.localmusicat farmers market 300x225

Another huge reason people are drawn to the Portland Farmers' Market is the sense of community it provides. There are musicians playing cheerful songs, little children dancing with siblings, and local vendors selling their homemade crafts. The market has become more of a community gathering to celebrate local food rather than just a place to go to purchase it. It’s a place where families meet up to spend the day and find delight in sharing with their children; a place you can’t help but feel happy. The sense of community is overwhelmingly pleasant.

And that brings us perhaps to the main reason why people are already swarming to the farmers' market: the passion that people have about eating locally. In a society where you can easily pop into a store and without thinking twice, buy genetically modified food full of toxins and artificial ingredients, shipped from thousands of miles away …it’s refreshing that more people are finally starting to take notice of their local food sources right in their back yard. Today, there is a growing trend toward supporting local agriculture. There’s something so satisfying about buying food directly from the farmers with whom you can converse, and know that the food you are purchasing is fresh, healthy, safe and humanely produced. I know that as a young family, we strive to be conscientious of everything we eat; it is a wonderful opportunity to be able to buy directly from the farmers themselves. When I go to the Portland Farmers' Market, I can’t help but feel a sense of pride in the movement toward favoring local agriculture and the strong sense of community that the market conveys.

Jasmin Robinson lives in Maine with her family where they practice home-scale permaculture and spend time learning about and supporting local farms.

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Free-Range Family: ‘Old MacDonald’ to the Rescue at Pineland Farms

 

 

ducks on Pineland FarmI don’t know if you have ever stood right next to a full grown milking cow, but they can be quite enormous! To my one year old, who is less than three feet tall, I am sure a cow might as well be a full-grown dinosaur. That goes for horses, too. Admittedly, even though I have ridden and worked with horses for years, I still feel intimidated by their sheer mass and strength. Even the smaller animals like geese with their curious piercing eyes, and goats with their playful horns are awe-inspiring. I can’t imagine how daunting these great farm beasts must be to my son, Will.

Recently, Will and I met up with some friends at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, Maine. We found them busy in the education barn learning how to felt toys from both rabbit and sheep wool. The children were each given some pieces of fleece and were shown how to mold the wool into shapes by gently patting and rolling it with soapy water. They made items like soap dishes, balls, and toy carrots while learning about the usefulness of animal fur in the process. As Will is still too young for this kind of project, we stayed for a little while to check out a cute Angora rabbit hopping around the classroom, and then chose to spend the majority of our time wandering around the farmyard visiting the animals.

From previous experience, I know that Will gets pretty scared around large farm animals. So I wasn’t surprised when he tried to scale my body like a tree trunk when the first animal we came across was a huge milk cow munching on some hay. But I came prepared this time. At home, Will loves reading stories about farms, playing with toy farm animals and singing his current favorite song: “Old MacDonald”.  He wants to sing it all the time and it has gotten to the point that when I am singing other songs he will interrupt me and say “E-I-E-I-O”. With that in mind, I decided that if Will appeared afraid to check out the farm animals at Pineland Farms, I would sing “Old MacDonald” to see if the familiarity of the song would settle him around the animals. This tactic worked like a charm! While Will clung onto me for dear life, I sang out “Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O… And on his farm he had a cow….” To my relief, he crept out from behind me and sang out “moo moo”, with a big grin on his face. We finished the song and then sat contently, watching the cow munch hay while Will “mooed” and pretended to eat hay like the cow. We continued this drill with the other farm animals too, and Will transformed from being ultra scared to mega brave, to the point where I had to chase him across the farmyard to stop him from kissing an eager goose!

Jasmin Robinson lives in Maine with her family where they practice home-scale permaculture and spend time learning about and supporting local farms.

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