Monday, October 10, 2011

A Homestead Cannot Run Itself

We moved to our half acre a little over a year ago with grand plans.  Okay, the "we" with the grand plans was me.  An orchard.  Raised beds.  A pollinator garden.  The chickens (moved from our old place).  Bees (hopefully next spring).

Many of my plans came to fruition (no pun intended) but I forgot how much work it can be keeping up with everything.  The pounds and pounds of unrelenting process-us-now or else tomatoes.  The unyielding siege of summer squash.  The diligent delivery of eggs.  The baking from scratch, the home-cooked meals, the hand-knit Christmas presents.  Not to mention keeping the house in decent shape, the front (non-edible at this point) yard weeded, the patio swept, the cats cared for and so on.

My dad visited in the midst of tomato-fest.  He looked at my two kids - ages 6 and 8 - and said: "It's too much work for one person to keep all this up."

Yeah!  What had I been thinking.  Keeping up a homestead is quite a bit of work!  These weren't just beings who needed help with homework, required lunches packed for them, prodding to clean up their rooms, help folding their laundry.  These were little homesteaders perfectly capable of pitching in big time - beyond the set the table/clear the table sort of thing.  Heck, in the Little House on the Prairie days (my kids hate it when I bring this up), kids their age would be out plowing, chopping wood, baking, you name it.

I set about asking for help.  Big zero.  Demanding help.  Not much more.

And then, Pinterest came to the rescue.  I came across the idea of the Job Jar.

I promptly brainstormed all the little things I do during that day that a 6 and 8 year old could help with.  Man there was a lot - a lot that would help me keep my head above water and keep me a step ahead of the chaos.  A lot of places where some well placed child labor could keep the homestead afloat.

The Implement:

My Job Jar is a thrifted canister filled with folded paper notes.  It works well and didn't cost a dime but the kids keep picking the same jobs over and over again.  I might switch to popsicle sticks or wine corks (here's the general idea with ping pong balls).

A Facebook page commenter suggested a job wheel.  Here's a handy one for multiple kids.

A blogger friend uses a coat hook type of solution.

And, if you are willing to pay for the chore beyond regular allowance, chore magnets are a fun idea.

The Follow Through:

Now, when my kids get a consequence (in lieu of the time out system), they have to do a job from the job jar.  If they leave toys and such out after they go to bed or don't clean up their rooms, whatever's left lying about goes into the ransom box (another Pinterest find).  It can be ransomed by one job per item.

We have regular, daily jobs that the kids need to do to earn their weekly allowance but I suppose job jar pickings could be tied to the allowance as well.

Have you tried a system like a job jar?  How did it work for you?  How do you get your kids to pitch in?

* I'm linking to Homestead Barn Hop for this post.


Heather said...

This is a great idea! My 3 year old consistently tells me how overworked and tired she is when I ask her to put her toys back in her toy box. Maybe if we made more of a game out of it, it would help :-)

Bethany said...

No, I haven't and it is a REALLY cool idea. My kids are a little young, which has the good and bad points. They aren't tired of being "helpers" yet but they tend to do things haphazardly.

I really really like all those ideas you listed. In fact I've been reading about Pinterest lately and I might just need to get on there to see what all the big deal is about!

Truth be told, my best solution to the fact that one person does not a homestead make (at least, if you have more than one person to care for) is that we're working towards a plan to become less financially dependent on the JOB so that we can actually move out to the country and homestead for real. Two adults working at it full-time is a lot of help!

Jennifer said...

Yikes. I'm not sure how you do it singlehandedly, either, and I definitely don't think you should have to! Kevin and I are not very far into homesteading (we live in a condo...), but if I cook, he cleans -- if he expects to eat any of what I make. I am NOT a nurturer by nature, so I expect him to pull his own weight around the house. The only one who gets to slack off is the cat.

I read about a book in the SF Chronicle this week called Bake the Bread, Buy the Butter. It's about one woman's experiments with making things from scratch, and she gives her recommendations on what is worth the time and energy to make for yourself, and what you're probably better off buying. It might be useful to help you balance your time and projects.

dixiebelle said...

Great idea... my 6 year old & 3 2/3 year old can help out to a certain extent... they garden with me, they are helping with the chooks, but some days, playing nicely together & staying out of my way is the best way for them to help!

In terms of general discipline though, the 'job jar' sounds like a good idea!

Green Bean said...

@Heather - Thank you! I need to work on making it fun too but in the mean time, my oldest told me he feels good about himself after he does a job. Really?

@Bethany - Yes, two adults would be a better solution. For sure! Not sure I could get the mister on board though. ;-) In the meantime, definitely check out Pinterest!

@Jennifer - Ohhh, that sounds like a good book. I'll have to reserve it from the library. Thanks for the rec.

@dixiebelle - You said it sister!! Sometimes, I'm just so happy if the kids are occupied and I can actually get something done.

Jill said...

I love the idea of a job jar. I'm curious though how well it would work with tasks that need to get done NOW. Like if 20 bushes of tomatoes are all ripe today...yet none of your kids picks "help mom pick tomatoes", how well does that achieve the goal of you not doing all the work?

My mom did the chore wheel for weekly and daily tasks (laundry, bathroom scrubing) and it was awesome as a kid - the wheel rotated monthy so you never got stuck with your least favorite chores for too long.

I'm not too keen on the idea of a ransome box. To me, if a kid has to do a chore just to get their fun stuff back, that might make them view chores as a drudge or a punishment. Which, to me, is contrary to the goal of teaching children to realize that everyone in the family needs to do their part. Always - not just when you make a mistake.

Very thought provoking post!! (visiting from the barn hop)

robbie @ going green mama said...

You'll have to let me know how the job jar turns up!
We have a chore chart, and they can theoretically move a space on the "game board" if they help out. Needless to say, it's slow moving!

Green Bean said...

@Jill - I love the idea of the chore wheel. That may be in our future at some point if the job jar fizzles. I hear you on wanting to keep things positive and I always hesitate. However, it is effective and trying to get my kids to understand that they pitch in to the family effort didn't work well for me.

@Robbie - Oh, a game board! That is inventive.

SharleneT said...

I think the most important thing is to raise the child to understand that they don't get a free ride whilst everyone else works to make their world nice. Based upon their age, they have chores to do, whether they grumble about it, or not. It's part of being a family unit. And NEVER ask a child if they want to help you. They aren't helping you, they are part of the family and chores are a part of their life. If they say no when you ask them for help, then you have to respect that and do it, yourself. So, DON'T ask. It should all be handled very matter of factly.

I'll finish with there's a whale of a difference between age-appropriate help and slave labor. But, no family member should grow up with the idea that someone else is supposed to do all the work, while they just get to do what they want.

Debra Mennins said...

Have your kids have the chance to become chimney cleaners yet? This would be one of the more gruesome chores that can replace corrective discipline if the crime was heavy enough.


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