The old saying, "There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a boy," says it all. I would extend the same restorative properties to shoveling manure, closing in the chickens at night, feeding the beefers, tending to the bees, harvesting and selling our corn at two roadside stands, and weeding the garden. When the kids complain, "Gee, Mom, there is nothing to do," then we know things are going well. There is no TV, no shopping nearby, no malls — just a lot of long summer afternoons. Charlie might head down to the stream with his friend Adam and try to catch small brook trout by hand. (To my amazement, they actually catch one or two.) Emily likes to go fishing at the upper pond at the bottom of the summer pasture for small bass. Or they make large rowboats out of cardboard, dig holes, try to build a treehouse, spin wool, make signs for the old logging trails or help me post the property since we have become overrun with out-of-state hunters in the fall. Or, if all else fails, they read a book.
No, this is not a real farm, one that provides a livelihood for its owners. A local Vermonter would never confuse us with the real thing. I can't fix a baler with no more than a hammer, pliers, screwdriver and twine. But I can use a wood cookstove, saddle a horse, raise bees, prune an apple tree, plant and hill potatoes, and do a dozen other small jobs. And our kids are learning the same skills, skills that we hope will last a lifetime.