Thursday, September 5, 2013

Dancing and the Pig Farmer

People have started to notice that I am spending a lot of time with my son, Simon, lately. (Simon has Down's syndrome and requires an ever present care giver/overseer for his safety).

I meet the bus every afternoon. I take him to therapy. I do laundry with him. We fix the evening meal. We go together to check the pigs in the afternoon. Sometimes there are simple farm jobs we can do together. There are trips to the bank, library, grocery, pharmacy and associated farm businesses that we make together. In general, many of the tasks that my wife has always done are falling on me.

People are starting to notice and politely ask questions.

Here is the deal.

My wife and I have made it our goal in life to raise children we enjoy living with. To this end we have chosen a very "traditional" family style. We have made the sacrifices for my wife to be a "stay at home mom", we have home schooled our children, we have invested in our local church and the attached community of people. We feel we have been richly blessed, very fortunate, and largely successful at our goal.

So this past summer several events transpired to force us into new patterns of behavior. One event was the departure of our last college bound student to begin her studies. This removed the Simon care giver of choice from our home.

Another event was the sudden death of my mother last December. She was the ever present fall back care giver. If all else failed, call grandma. Despite our best efforts to the contrary we ended up calling more than we probably should have. Without her there is no back up plan. We are now experiencing what it is like to live apart from extended family. I don't like it.

The next event was a major upheaval of staff at my daughter's fledging dance studio. My daughter and another fine instructor made up the senior teaching staff at the studio. This instructor left to form a competing studio and took a lot of the student body with her. This exodus is not surprising since student's tend to develop an allegiance to their instructor more than their studio. The reduced student body forced cuts in other assistant instructors and front desk personnel. It was a disaster at one level.

In response to these changes and in an effort to stabilize the business, provide an adult at the front desk, and to give encouragement to my daughter, my wife is spending her afternoons and evenings at the dance studio. This change has been very positive to the family relationships and has brought home the value of raising children we enjoy being with.

The final event in this series was the much anticipated transition in my pig business from caring for a breeding herd with large numbers of mommy pigs, baby pigs, and daily chores to a business that buys baby pigs and raises them to market weight. A transition that was intended to provide me with a less intense, stressful, and time sensitive lifestyle. As a human I needed to slow down and have some time to sit on the back porch and read or whatever. While the mental adjustment is far from over, becoming Simon's care giver fits well with this transition.

How does all this fit in a blog that is supposed to encourage its readers to think more deeply about food and where it comes from?

I hope you will see in this that I am a farmer after I am a husband and a father.

I am not unusual among my peers.

All across America, the people that provide those things that show up on your table as food are making these hard decisions and negotiating these interpersonal connections. Before the first livestock is fed, the first seed is planted, the first farming chore is done, men and women are figuring a way to raise children and see to their care. This is the core of who we are and what we do. In that respect, I doubt that the farm family is much different than the non-farm family.

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