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Jun 15 2011

On the Farm: Milking a Cow Gives You Time to Think

By at 9:13 am

It turns out that new farmers and new parents have something in common.  Both groups marvel at how days can be completely filled with caring for the needs of others and complain about having “no time”.   It is true that farmers and parents put in long days and nights and the list of tasks at any moment is daunting. We put our own needs behind the needs of thirsty children and thirsty plants and can have trouble finding time for basics like getting haircuts or returning library books.

But there is another side to both mothering and farming. In the past few years, I have spent countless hours nursing my babies and toddlers or sitting quietly as they play in the bath, stack blocks or play in the sandbox.  While your hands are not free and you may have to keep singing, rocking or cleaning up splashes — there is an abundance of time to think.

I was recently talking (on the radio) with Severine von Tscharner Fleming, a fellow farmer and director of an organization for young farmers called the Greenhorns.  She described her experience with a new dairy cow. She said the mandatory 40 minutes of milking each morning provides her with essential time to gather her thoughts for the whole day. Before she had the cow, she went straight to her email in the morning and did not have the time and freedom to think. Other routine farm tasks like weeding and picking can provide similar time.

Since many of us are always within reach of email, Facebook and endless distraction — it is actually a huge gift to have quiet time to think.  It takes some getting used to and lots of parents like new farmers will feel trapped in certain seemingly mindless tasks. We need to find strategies to use this time to our advantage.

At ages 4 and 17 months, my children are starting to play together for small stretches of time. While they play I sneak around afraid that if they notice me they will drop their activities and come running. Sandbox time is when I pull out my computer and write and when there is enough light I try to combine nursing and reading.

It’s definitely a puzzle and some days are frantic without a single quiet moment. But tucked inside many long days of parenting and farming there is an abundance of time to be quiet and think (or sing lullabies, listen to NPR, make up stories etc.). And these days, that makes us pretty lucky.

How do other Kveller readers spend their parenting quiet time?  Leave a comment and let us know.


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