Dean is just a few days back from his three-day trip to The Farm School. This is an utterly amazing place; a small family farm donated, a number of years ago, to an organization dedicated to introducing children to farm life. School groups go (it's hard to get a slot, since schools like ours return each year -- ours was the first school to send a group 16 years ago and we've been returning ever since!) -- and they run summer camp programs as well.
One of the extraordinary things about the place is that the children aren't simply "helping out" the adults at the farm. Rather, it is the work of the children themselves that keeps the farm going; they have a tiny crew that could never operate the farm alone.
Children get up at 6, stretch, and do an hour of farm work before breakfast (unless you're on breakfast duty that day -- the kids also do all the cooking with the help of one adult). Slopping pigs, gathering eggs, milking cows, letting the sheep and goats out to graze -- those are typical morning chores.
After a big, hot breakfast, they have a morning meeting and then break up into smaller groups for more farm work. Splitting wood, repairing fences, tending/planting crops, spreading manure, stirring compost, and if you are there in the very early spring you might get a chance to work in the sugar house, boiling down the maple sap for syrup.
There's plenty of time for play, and community time, and snacks.
The evening meal is prepared and shared, then you might go on a sunset hike, or a run on the ridge.
Their weather was good, although a little wet and dreary on the last day.
Dean loved all the farm dogs, all the food, all the time with his friends, and all the work.
This was his second year, and he's grown so much in the course of this past year -- so there was none of the worry about how he would do, so far from home. He's an old hand at it now, at being away from home and enjoying himself and taking care of himself. While I am overjoyed at his independence and happiness and growth, and while I don't make myself crazy with worry, I still miss him terribly when he's gone and struggle to imagine a life, someday, when he's gone more, when he's gone from home.
My neighbor said to me that there's a reason you're not just pregnant for one day, just as there's a reason kids don't leave home until they are about 18 or so -- it's so you have time to get used to the idea, to prepare for your new life.
I know it is what I want for him. I'm even so, so thrilled that he's decided to do a back-packing trip this summer with a group from school.
I just have to figure out how to better use my time and make my own life once he's flown the coop.
Glimpses of a life ahead. I'm in no rush for it.
(I took these photos on his last day there, when I arrived to pick him up.)