Oh, the Joys of Raising a Toddler … On a Farm
Once spring rolls around, everyone I know is itching to get out to the barn, get the tractor into the fields and start a garden.
I’m no different, but this is my first spring to have a toddler on our dairy farm – an experience I don’t think I was totally prepared for as a new mom.
My son was born last year in February, and while he spent a lot of time outside last summer and fall, he was still very young and had no idea what was going on. Winter was simply miserable and he stayed inside all the time.
But now that the weather has broken, my son’s newest addition to his vocabulary is “OUTSIDE!” He’ll stand at the locked screen door, pounding and screaming to be let out. And now that he’s hit a little growth spurt, he can even reach the handle!
My darling little boy will unlock the door and quietly let himself onto the porch, no shoes, no coat, no hat. And then the door slams and he giggles as he runs for the calf hutches. I can’t even remember how many pairs of white socks are now stained brown and green.
But his antics don’t stop there. On his way to the barn, he typically encounters a small, friendly cat. I’m wondering just how long this cat’s friendliness is going to last when my son picks him up daily by the fur on his back and tosses him around. But “kitty,” as my son calls him, doesn’t seem to care about the abuse; he just comes back for more.
Now, we’re off to the calf hutches, typically still without shoes on. My boy just loves Mickey – a spring Holstein calf who’s as friendly as they come. My boy and Mickey will exchanges kisses through the fence, he’ll let her suck on his fingers, and when Mickey gets excited and starts kicking her feet in the air, my son normally lets out a big belly laugh – which I need to get on video at some point.
By now, my mom (his daily childcare provider) or myself has caught up to the little toddlering monster and forced him to put shoes on – a daily battle in itself.
Next stop, the “middle heifer” pen – a group of around a dozen show heifers that are, of course, spoiled rotten. Rolo, a winter Jersey yearling, is the first to greet my boy as he climbs the gate. Rolo typically covers his face in slobbery kisses and gives him a new cow-licked hairdo.
There are even times when my son feels the need to taste-test the manure, or “poo” as he refers to it. The first time he took a walk to the barn this spring, the very fist thing he touched was two fistfuls of manure and both handfuls went in the mouth. Being a farm kid myself, I didn’t get all that worked up. Yes, it’s disgusting. Yes, there could be health complications. But having done this a time or two myself as a child – and my siblings did it too – and having survived, we all just had a good laugh and washed my son off with the hose.
Moving along his daily, often multiples times a day, walk to the barn, my little monster normally bypasses the largest heifers for the weaned calf pen. But one particular day a few weeks ago proved to hold a new and exciting discovery in the barnyard – mud puddles!
Initially not noticing the puddle, he put one foot down and noticed something wasn’t right. Since grandma didn’t say no, he put the second foot in. And it splashed! Needless to say, he thought this was awesome and covered himself in muddy water.
He never did make it to the weaned calf pen that day.
While raising my son on our family dairy farm is a dream come true, I’m sure there will be many more laughs, tears and stories to be shared over the years. I hope to use this “mom blog” as an avenue to document my growing son’s adventures on the farm, as well as the challenges I’m sure to face trying to balance my life – mom, dairy farm wife, full-time Lancaster Farming employee, daughter and sister.
- Jessica Rose Spangler, market editor