Farm life teaches children ingenuity

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a child feeding cattle hay

“Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them.”

— Albert Einstein

What we learn from farm life and the daily work that goes with it helped to build much of the strength and grit that built the good old USA. I have wondered many times just how different each of us who hold the Farm and Dairy in our hands each week would be without the influence of our farm experience.

A farm kid could never begin to count the ways in which they learned ingenuity while accomplishing even the smallest of tasks during the course of a season. It is a skill set born out of necessity along with an inborn sense of responsibility to figure out a way to finish a job, even if it means creating the fix needed in the moment.

Like a cow

I was still quite young when Dad had me tag along with him to walk the pasture fence. We had a large pasture for the dairy cows, and a big part of it was along a well-traveled, old state route.

“Now, here’s what I want you to do, Jack,” he said, using the nickname he had given me. “Think like a cow.”

I was to consider loose fence posts, a dip in the wire, tall weeds that could cause an electrical short or an absence of coverage in any way.

“Remember, they might have all the grass a cow could possibly want, but they really do find the grass greener under and over a fence that is meant to keep them safe,” is essentially what he instructed me in thinking like a cow. “And if one cow sees it, eventually the rest of the herd will follow.”

Learning

Those simple pasture fence checks taught me so much, and I didn’t even know I was learning. We never had to chase cows because Dad was preventing problems while showing me simple fixes, like stringing a second wire for better coverage or bracing up a wobbly fence post.

Soon, I was doing it myself, and it made me feel like an Einstein-genius. I watched Dad fix tractors and equipment, figure out a simple and often temporary repair on hundreds of things inside and outside of barns. He taught us to treat those old barns with respect and to never let a small problem become a big one.

I also learned one person can’t do it all, and to be wise enough to know when to call those who specialize in equipment, electrical and plumbing repair. Temporary fixes needed to be addressed, not relied upon and forgotten.

Little things

The value of many little things became magically useful: a chain with “s” hooks, sturdy tape, baler twine and wire. I learned when to grab just the right tool in the old toolbox of farm ingenuity. I knew when to grab a hammer, but I also knew when a ball-peen hammer was the best solution.

These little lessons learned along the journey from a child to an adult continue to pay dividends of working smarter, not harder while solving problems on the fly.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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