We gathered the kids together in the living room for some advice. In creating a five-year plan for the farm, we wanted some input from those members of our family not so limited by the confines of practicality, for inspiration, and to include them in the planning process as an educational component.
We were not disappointed.
While listing options for livestock, our eight year old suggested raising unicorns. “We could sell them for a lot of money,” she said. With a smirk, the eleven year old chimed in, “They also have healing powers.”
Me: “Sounds like they might be costly to purchase?”
Eight year old: “But they only eat grass.”
So, unicorns made the list, though in the end, they were voted down due to initial expense and size. Chickens made it to the top of the list, followed by Southdown sheep and a llama. Pigs and the cow went the way of the unicorn.
We then spent time working with the kids on examining structures on the property that might house chickens, food sources that are already growing/or will be grown there, costs of supplemental food sources, bedding, and what kind of egg production we might see out of which breeds. Our eldest began researching the number of chickens we could keep at two of the existing structures, based on square footage. She then calculated the approximate number of eggs they might produce per week, and estimated profits based on those figures.
Next, we looked at preparing for the first, second and third growing season. The girls drew site maps, noting soil types and proximity to water. We talked about elevations, using topographical maps to show low-lying areas where frost might make growing fruit trees more of an issue.
The eight year old made up a worksheet of questions to be answered, like “Why does the stream have fish?” and a question that was rather pertinent, “How did the river get here?”
One of the streams, we explained, was naturally occurring, but the other was created when the farmer long ago created a trench to reach his livestock at the barn.
In the end, the planning had less to do with how to do what, when, and where, and more to do with engaging this next generation in exploring a landscape, its ecosystem, history, and future. Making decisions based on the constraints of budget, landscape, utility corridors, soil types, etc. And without knowing it, they received a great lesson in the permaculture design process and without rolling their eyes even once.