This past Thanksgiving weekend, may sister Lora, brother-in-law Mike, and our two nephews, Gavin, 4, and Logan, 2, came down from northern Illinois to visit the farm for a couple of days. For Gavin, this was his second visit to the farm, but the first when he’s been old enough to have an understanding of what’s going on. He knows that Uncle Lane and Aunt Ricki have a farm with horses and other animals, and he loves animals. So Gavin was very excited about his impending visit. To hear Mike and Lori tell it, Gavin talked nearly non stop for the entire 500 mile drive.
They arrived Saturday evening, and Gavin almost immediately asked me what farm work we had to do. He came to help on the farm, and he wasn’t too interested in waiting until the morning. First order of business Sunday morning was to take hay to the steers and heifers in the back pasture. So we got the horses harnessed and hitched to the wagon. We all rode to the hay stacks where Uncle Lane loaded a pile of hay. We then took the wagon and hay around and out back where the hay was unloaded into the feeder for the cattle. While out there, Gavin and Logan got to see the free range meat chicken flock and the guardian dog, Aegis. Later in the day, Gavin and Logan helped with chores, feeding chickens and gathering eggs (Gavin was really looking forward to getting the eggs), haying horses and feeding pigs. At the end of chores, Gavin and Logan got to watch Uncle Lane hand milk the cow (another very exciting experience). Sunday night we all enjoyed a home grown Thanksgiving meal prepared by Ricki, which can be read about here.
Monday morning brought drizzling rain and colder temperatures. Undaunted, Gavin was ready to head out to do the day’s farm work. Later in the morning, Gavin and Logan helped Uncle Lane spilt and haul firewood. After lunch and nap time for the boys, we saddled up Hijinks and Daisy, and Gavin and Logan got to take a horseback ride through the woods (another thing Gavin was looking forward to). We ended the day with chores again, gathering eggs and feeding chickens, pigs and horses.
Monday evening, after supper, the electricity inexplicably went out in the neighborhood. It’s not an entirely unusual occurrence for us, so we quickly got candles lit and settled in. We all ended up gathering in the living room by the wood stove, talking and watching the boys play. Then the conversation started. Gavin was asked, “What all did you do this weekend?” He started listing things off. Gathered eggs, fed horses, took hay to the cattle, fed pigs, split firewood for the woodstove that was keeping us warm, rode horses. Then, “Gavin, what all did we eat this weekend?”
“Where did the eggs come from?”
“Where did that come from?”
“From the cow.”
And on we went. We had sausage that came from the pigs. Hamburger that came from the cattle. Roast chicken and chicken soup that came from the chickens. Vegetables from the garden. What a great conversation to have with a young boy learning first hand where his food really comes from, and that Uncle Lane and Aunt Ricki raise it themselves. I’m not sure that he really comprehended that the meat came from an animal that had died, but we can get to that in time. The important thing is that the ground work has been laid, and Gavin and Logan had a weekend they're still talking about a week later.
In the spirit of the Thanksgiving weekend, I’ll start by saying I’m thankful for Lora and Mike for giving me the opportunity to share my values with their children, and for ensuring that I am an important part of their lives. I’ll never be able to find words to express what that means to me. I’m thankful for Gavin and Logan being in my life, and the opportunity to pass on a part of myself to the next generation. I’m thankful for having this opportunity to grow our food the way we do and to pass on knowledge to those who desire it. And last but not least I’m thankful for Ricki, who not only kept us fed all weekend with wonderful meals, but also for her being in my life and sharing this life with me, even though it never seems easy.