Hey-o! Calving season is still going and after that it will be fall processing, breeding season and right on into daily silage feeding and hay unrolling. The chores never stop and neither does the attention that we need to give to our kid! We’re nearly four years into this “ranching with kid” thing and while I’m not an expert by any means, these are some of the ways I’ve found we can stay productive while also keeping our kiddo safe and entertained on the ranch!
Flexibility – One of my favorite quotes is “be stubborn about your goals, but flexible about your methods.” Basically, chase your dreams and be willing to change the plan to reach those goals. How does this apply to our life on the ranch? Well, because both my husband and I have full-time jobs, we have to do a lot of our ranch work on the weekends or after our daughter goes to bed. Is it ideal? Not really but it’s what we have to do to get work done. Sometimes, her weekend nap doesn’t work out and she ends up “helping” us, too. Flexibility is key.
Comfy shoes – You’re going to need comfortable footwear to chase your toddler(s) around on the ranch. When I am solo parenting, I have to walk twice as much to get all the chores done, take care of the livestock and do the dinner/bath/bed routine. I should probably get a pedometer honestly, it would make me feel great about my activity level! Back to the comfy shoes, I love my KURU Footwear Atom sneakers.* I feel like I’m walking on air regardless of if I’m in the pasture checking calves, walking across a concrete feeding pad, hiking in the Black Hills or chasing my kid at a rodeo. As an added-bonus, they match pretty much every shirt in my dresser so even though my life is generally a hot mess, my foot-fashion stays on point.
Little chores for little ranch hands – As soon as OAB was old enough to walk, around nine-months-old, we gave her “chores.” We’d give her a small empty bucket and she was follow us around in the barn and yard while we fed animals. It kept her near us and also kept her busy which was an improvement over having to carry her everywhere or push her in the stroller. Now that she’s much older, she has actual chores such as feeding the dogs, feeding her pony, collecting eggs from the chicken coop, picking up sticks after a storm etc. They are still small jobs that keep her busy and keep her in our line of sight but now they are actually helpful. Bonus: she is learning responsibility! I’m ready for her little chores to turn into things like “feed the cows” and “calve the heifers!”
Snacks and toys – You can never have enough – seriously, surround the child with snacks and toys. Then hide some snacks in a toy. You should be good for 20 minutes or so. When we first got cattle, we’d park OAB by the chute in her wagon and surround her with snacks and toys. Now, when we go to work cattle, we’ll take her toy horses, cows and trucks and a little cooler of snacks and drinks to keep her occupied. It doesn’t work for several hours in a row but it does buy some time if we both need to be able to help working cows.
Use the truck – When OAB was a newborn and my husband was traveling, I still had to get the cows fed. I naturally had to bring the baby and quite often she would refuse to nap until she was buckled into her carseat and we got moving. You know what they say about sleeping babies – I’d do my best to keep her asleep the whole time and then, to avoid waking her when chores were done, I’d sometimes kick the driver’s seat back and take a nap myself. She was safe, warm and sleeping and I was safe, warm and sleeping – triple win for the mama-daughter duo! We also have used the snacks/toys method with the enclosed bed, or the interior, of the truck when it’s too risky for OAB to be on the ground if we are gathering or processing cattle.
Be prepared – This is easier said than done but if you can devote a half hour of prep, I promise you’ll thank me. For example, in every vehicle on the ranch there are baby wipes, a spare outfit for the kid (including socks and underwear), band-aids, little hair rubber bands, snacks (again with the snacks), anti-bac Lysol wipes (different than a baby wipe) and a pull-up (or diaper if you have a baby). That may seem like a lot, and it will take some organization to get it going, but I promise you that it will pay off when you have a potty accident, boo-boo, gigantic mud puddle or a hunger attack.
Rugged stroller/wagon – We have a jogging stroller that has been to rodeos, bull sales, county fairs, up and down gravel roads and much more. Our little blue wagon has been used to corral the babe when I’ve been riding horses, at a rodeo or working cows. Safety is a priority and when we can buckle or contain the kid (which was easier before she was mobile) it puts this mama’s mind at ease.
Those are my parenting hacks for farm and ranch life – what should I have included? What hacks do you have?!
Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~
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*KURU Footwear provided me with a complimentary pair of sneakers, however these are my honest opinions about the shoes. If I could figure out a way to put spurs on these things, I would rope in them – they are that stinking comfortable. I received no monetary compensation for this post.