The third grade school year is drawing to a close for my children at our local Waldorf school, and they have been busy measuring, digging, and always learning. For those of you unfamiliar with the Waldorf education model, the third grade curriculum focuses on living on the earth, covering such things as shelter, building, farming, cooking, and working with fibers. Reading this, you probably thought right away that this would be right up this homesteader's alley, and you would be absolutely right! This week, our class went on a field trip to Ruby and Amber's Organic Oasis out in Dorena to learn about draft horse powered farming, and since I'm always up for meeting a local farmer and touring their farm, I was thrilled to tag along.
I had the job of coordinating the field trip with the farmer, Kris Woolhouse, and we spent a lot of time re-scheduling due to rain. This is a very wet Spring, and for farmers in the Willamette Valley, it is causing much difficulty with getting fields plowed and crops planted. The original plan for our field trip was to watch draft horse plowing in action, but by the time we re-scheduled to our last possible date, it was still going to be too wet. Thus, it became a "meet the farm animals" field trip, which none of the kids minded one bit.
The first thing that caught my eye and my fancy upon arrival was the chicken coop. Having lived in a school bus once, I will never look upon them with anything less than wistful appreciation again, and seeing one inhabited by chickens just sent my heart aflutter. It was genius. It was mobile. It was moving. It was a fine example of re-purposing in this modern throw-away world and pure poultry poetry.
I took way too many pictures, this one being my favorite.
After snack time, Kris led us over to meet the bees. I was excited to discover they had a top bar bee hive! I have had top bar bee hives on the brain this Spring, ever since a friend had a wild swarm land in his yard on Beltane and I contemplated bringing them home. They flew off before I was able to get a home set up for them, but I discovered that I have all the supplies on hand to build a simple top bar hive called a "Honey Cow", which I intend to build for next Spring. I was glad the children got to see something different from the traditional Western honey production hives, and hear about how top bar hives mimic natural conditions for the bees to build their honeycombs.
We learned a lot about the art of beekeeping and how to behave around bees. The beehive had a little clear window, so we all got a look inside to see what was going on. The only timid one was my daughter, who was a little put off after two bees landed in her hair. I can see going to have some work to do with her around this before we set up our own colony, but I've got a little time.
Next, we headed out into the field to meet the draft horses. Ruby, half of the original team for which the farm was named, came out to greet us and spend some time being fawned over by all the children. She was one happy old horse.
We spent a lot of time petting and brushing the horses.
There was some all out horse snuggling going on.
Then the farmers put all the plowing tack on this team named Tom and Jerry, and the children got to take turns driving them up and down the road. It was pouring rain by this point, but nobody minded. We were having too much farm fun.
We met a couple of other lovely farm residents too.
The big, pregnant sows were happy to meet all the children, and to get an apple from Kris. We got to hear a little about pig midwifery and how to take care of newborn piglets. Apparently great care has to be taken so their mama doesn't roll over on them, until they develop enough agility to move out of the way.
We ate our lunch at the big farm kitchen table and drank hot tea while the rain kept pouring outside. The farrier arrived while we were eating, so we got to watch him work on those giant hooves for a little bit. After one last visit with the horses in the pasture, we said our goodbyes and headed out. I almost didn't want our visit at the farm to end, but we were on our way to one last stop at the Pacific Yurts showroom outside of Cottage Grove to see the three different models they have set up. That stop was brief, but fun. I like to pop in there when I'm in that neck of the woods, just to imagine for a few minutes that I live in one of those spacious 30' yurts out in the wilderness somewhere. The kids were getting a little restless by that point, but I think it was a good rounding out for their block on shelter. If I haven't mentioned it enough yet, I am so grateful that my children are receiving a Waldorf education. Sure, most schools take kids on field trips, and many visit farms, but watching our class I was very aware of all the rich things they learned that tied in with this experience. They truly are learning about living on the earth and how to appreciate and engage with it. Even if they never plow a field of their own, these kids know where their food comes from and how they are connected to it. The future looks promising.