The difficult answer

What the young people saw yesterday… children-027

“Often. A little bit often”The stories are just as important as the spelling. For the latter; after the children have written their farmy stories (they have a special book) we collect the spelling words, correct them and add them to our collected words list (individual home made dictionaries). children-041

When creating a written image I think it is more important that a child embraces the flow of language first, and writes without impediment, then deals with spelling and grammar next but in the same lesson. I have a horror of bad spelling so there are lots of exciting spelling lists. children-021

I have always thought that a child who has taken the time to formulate a serious question deserves an honest thoughtful answer. Whereas grown-ups will acknowledge and sometimes accept a lie, as a lie to save face or soften news, a child will not understand or forgive a lie. A child needs to know that they can trust  adults words. My Mum used to say that if they are ready to ask that particular question then they are ready for the honest  answer.

You and I know people who lie to cover something up. Barefaced. No shame. Our respect for them is immediately diminished, whether we challenge the lies or not.  We cannot trust their words. They become the boy who cried wolf, forever. And if we have been continually lied to as children then our bullshit radar will not be developed enough to save us from those liars when we are adults.

So when I was asked whether the lambs were being raised for the table or not, I gave her the difficult answer.  The farm is for raising food. Though it is fun, raising healthy food and looking after the earth we sit on is our primary objective. children-036


But I then went on to explain that we don’t eat any animal that we have given a real name. That is why all the lambs for the freezer are grouped as Murphies and all the steers are called Bobbies. Every year.  But we will not be eating the Mama or Daisy. In this we deviate from a real farm. But the lines are clear and I hope sustainable.

Sheila was out with me yesterday because it was such a lovely day. But when I opened up Mama’s draft-free pen so I could clean up in there letting the lambs out into the corridor, Sheila was asked to stay in her corner.  You should have seen her face. children-071

Why not miss c. Why can’t I have a lambie. I was a good quiet girl when they were being bornded. I lay right next to Mama through the wall, and kept it warm and thought nice thoughts for her.   Can I have one to play with when they are biggerer then?  Can I?

Yes. When they are bigger Sheila, you can help babysit when they are bigger. Now go and sleep with your cats, they are waiting.

I have trained Sheila (in Charlottes absence) to lie in her bed and I cover her up with straw last thing at night. Once she has chosen her spot and laid down for me she does not move a muscle as she is covered. I have noticed, that when I am tucking her in, the gate above her collects cats, they arrive silently and sit poised above the straw. As I leave the pen and turn out her lights I see these little cat shadows dropping gently and quietly, one by one, to snuggle in with the pig.


The Daily View.  One side remains the same with its dreary winter sameness, but the other side …children-031

… changes on a daily basis.

Good morning. You all have a lovely day.




67 Comments on “The difficult answer

  1. Oh the lambies are all so cute and the stories are adorable and yes—-the truth can be told in tender terms and I am sure that is exactly how you shared it with the sweet children! It showed in their stories!!! Poor poor Sheila is missing sweet Charlotte but she will be back again!!!! Loved the pictures today as always.

  2. C –
    Such Lovely lambs! Makes me homesick for the days on the farm. Thank you for being honest with the children. It is SO important. Tucking Sheila in and describing her cat friends who sleep with her brought tears to my eyes. How is Charlotte doing — have we heard from her or the farmer?

  3. You are so right, and so brave, in giving the difficult answer.
    This is why I grow fruit and veggies and rarely eat meat… that priviledge is for those brave enough to engage with the process. I am not that brave.

  4. Wish there was a shot of the cats sleeping with Sheila – that must be something!
    Kids need honest answers to questions they’re old enough to ask, that’s the truth. Some people have trouble keeping those answers age-appropriate, but the story in that farm journal shows just the right amount of information…you were right when you said that we have very similar styles with children …
    Have a good day!

  5. The reality of a real farm. I recall the first time I had chicken from a farm in Hungary, my brother and I played with them (city slickers) and at dinner they served chicken. I almost threw up. I couldn’t finish it. It’s such a shame that we North Americans have so little connection to our food; it’s from the supermarket, neatly packaged in plastic and styrofoam. I think that needs to change. I’m glad you told the children the truth, they really do deserve it.

  6. You have some clever children there, who are absorbing the inspiring philosophy of Miss Celie in the least painful way – by experience.
    I love the thought of the cats snuggling up to the pig. Any news of Charlotte?
    Have a great day.
    PS Jock has started the peacock embroidery but is cussing at the problems of using a brilliant thread that shreds if you look at it, so don’t hold your breath.

  7. The farm journal stories are delightful. I can only imagine how exciting it is to meet the lambs in person. Good idea to tell the kids the truth, difficult as it might be. I will admit though, I never eat lamb because they are way too cute to eat. I’d make a miserable farmer!

  8. Your post reminds me of a funny that I submitted to Christian Reader magazine back in the 90s. They actually published it (after slightly altering and massively shortening it). But this is a true story that happened to my husband (the “sheep farmer”) at a business lunch:

    Some sheep farmers were visited by friends from the city

    The city friend asked, “How can you bear to slaughter those cute little

    The farmer explained, “We try not to get emotionally attached
    to the ones we plan to eat, so we don’t name them.”

    Wondering how the children could stand to eat something they had
    raised, the friend probed, “Well what about your kids?”
    To that the farmer quickly replied, “Oh, we named them!”

    (Julie Helms, Goshen, Indiana. Christian Reader, “Lite Fare.”)

  9. I love their pictures and stories. It seems like no time since my girls were that age. Children deserve our honesty. Even in the tuff stuff. Has your weather improved?

  10. Thank you so much for this post. You are so wise and so right. About honesty. All of it. The children’s writings are heart-rending, sweet. I love them. I have a beautifully poetic child who is being beaten up in school (she goes to a rigorous Italian school here in Italy) about the perfection of her spelling and her grammar and her verb tenses. She is afraid to open her mouth or let her pen fly. It makes me sad. Your approach to teaching is so loving and right.

    • I hope that on the weekends you and your daughter get to play the game “Lets write and see what happens next” give her permission to play with her words, and go back for the spelling and grammar later.. she has a lovely Mum, thank goodness, hopefully she will encounter one of those lovely teachers that love to see children blossom.. teaching is all about enabling a child. Teaching them how to learn, how to seek learning. I do miss teaching.. have a lovely day charlotte.. c

  11. I agree with you. It seems, as I talk to people at festivals…, the stories where the children were “lied” to haunts them as adults. Sometimes as very old adults. Stays with them forever.

  12. Lucky children to be treated with such respect and honesty. It is so refreshing in a world where there is such a disconnect in where food comes from. Anyone who eats meat must understand the relationship between us and the animals who feed us. The Native Americans thanked the spirit of the animal in acknowledgment of this connection. The description of Sheila’s bedtime is so moving!

  13. When we moved to the farm my kids were not in school yet… and farm life being what it is they soon learnt how they were made and how they developed and then how they were born… all the way through to the table… did them no harm and trying to keep them hidden from the realities of life would have been impossible…

  14. Whew, at least that convo is out of the way. Gosh I hated those kinds of communications with my children, but, as a single mother raising the three of them, if not me then who? That way they always trusted me and saw the necessary truth to everything…even if not a nice, sugar-coated, Disney truth. This last Sept when two of my children’s father died suddenly, it was the most horrible shocking thing they lived thru, but understanding his illness and understanding that he would not have had a “normal” life span made them be able to rally and do the necessary things of funeral and closing down his life. A thing which would have been so much more devastating if the truth had been kept from them. And it all starts with hard little truths. 🙂

  15. Wonderful that the children are told the truth. If more children were made aware of the truths within farming, then maybe adults would be more aware of the origins of what they are BUYING and stay away from factory farmed products.
    The lambies’ ears make me smile!

  16. It is a hard truth to learn as a kid. But when you are an adult, you have already learned the hard lessons of life and death. And the importance of treating all things with dignity and respect, including the creatures you are raising to eat.

  17. the more I read about you and your life , the more I admire you….Such sweet and loving actions to keep Sheila warm whilst she is without Charlotte…you really are a loving caring person. God will bless you for all that you do and have done

  18. this is the sweetest story about the farm cats keeping shiela warm. you really need to write a children’s book!

  19. I think it sane and healthy to tech children where food comes from. Far to many people think that chicken comes from a supermarket in a styrofoam and cling film wrapper.
    I’d love to see the cats going to sleep with Sheila 😉

    • I shall continue to sneak up on them hopefully the light will get better, sunny days are so few and far between.. c

  20. I love those stories and pictures! What a great arrangement for everyone involved. And I think that you are so right- a child deserves the respect of a truthful answer to even the more difficult questions.

  21. Those lambs are adorable, as are the children’s stories. Being honest with children is hard, but so necessary. They’re lucky to have this learning experience with you! My one and only animal, Oliver the Siamese, is sitting beside me, joining in this morning’s read. I believe he’s jealous of those cats who get to snuggle with Sheila.

  22. I was thinking of you and your Kiwi builder the other day as I was going through Gatwick airport and spotted a guy wearing a jacket with the immortal words “Kiwi building company” on the back …
    Loving the drawings so pleased we get to see them

  23. Enjoy your days while you can….a very nasty, horrible storm is here and heading toward you sometime soon. Bitter cold wind that takes off your face, freezes your nose shut (I thought we had passed that time up…it isn’t December or January any more) and takes your breath away if you turn face into it.

    Hauling water was miserable this morning. But the hen house was warm and nice.

    The rancher is seeing more and more baby calves…of course, why not in this nasty weather, make a trip out of the warm Momma into ……………………….COLD!

    *♥´¨) ¸.-´¸.-♥´¨) ¸.-♥¨) (¸.-´ (¸.-` ♥♥´¨

    • Oh god, i had better get out there and bring the stragglers in.. they are saying snow tonight but john does not think it will get this far up.. Bugger, well I have my hand warmers.. I hope it will not last too long.. c

  24. Out of the mouths of babes – and excellent gentle steering from a wise Lady. Sheila, will drop those Lambies like hot potatoes once she meets her nieces and newphews 🙂 Laura

  25. Such truth. Honesty in the face of tough questions because the kids deserve it.

    And I agree with your approach to writing. If I became hung up on spelling and grammer, I would not write. My spelling is so bad that in the 7th grade when we had to write a story in class as compared to outside of class as homework, the teacher accused me of cheating, of my parents writing my out of class stories because my in class story spelling was so awful. What I learned from this was to dummy down all my writing using only words I could spell. I went like that for years until a creative writing class my senior year where my teacher wanted concepts and beauty and the spelling came second. I continue to struggle with spelling but now I don’t let it hold me back.

    Oh and I adore you for tucking in Sheila – pulling the straw sheet up, around, and over her.

    • how terrible to have to dumb down your words, spelling is all about sounding out, such a shame no-one taught you properly instead of criticising you, they have no idea of the damage they do some of those teachers. We have spell checkers now, no need to worry about spelling anymore!! c

  26. Your honesty is refreshing.
    Once my children were adults, we were going through some of their school work I had saved and they were still angry that a teacher had marked up their wonderful stories with spelling corrections in red pen!
    I love the drawings of the sheep in their little blue and red jackets!

  27. A wonderful homeschooling day. So much is learned much more than just book work – that is just the icing on the cake.
    Love Leanne

  28. Thanks for the lovely blog entry, c!

    “… I think it is more important that a child embraces the flow of language first, and writes without impediment, then deals with spelling and grammar next …” – Just like Klaus writing his WriMo novel. Only that the corrections follow months later. Maybe in March.

  29. Those stories and drawings are just wonderful, and so is the way you tell the truth. Living on the land is about confronting many realities of life and death. When I first lived at the bach I had to learn to trap and kill possums (and then to skin them and later to make possom stew). No room for squeamishness. Your blog is such a delightful mix of humour, fun, and reality. Thank you.
    PS come over to if you’d like a little dip into our glorious Kiwi summer.
    PPS I love the way the animals are cosying up at night.

  30. Cinders….I’m so glad these children have crossed paths with you…you are giving them beautiful, compassionate, life lessons! More important here than the truth about the lambies is that they see not only why they are being raised but HOW they are being raised…with gentle kindness and compassion. Oh and the vision of you tucking Shelia in at night with her straw blankie?? Now if that isn’t gentle kindness and compassion, I don’t know what is! You and I are kindred spirits! Thank-you so much for what you are doing….for the children and your farmy lovelies!!

    PS. if that was my child in that school in Italy, I would pull her out so fast it’d make their heads spin off!!

  31. These lovely kids come from the farming community: daresay they knew the truth anyway – just wanted it confirmed! Love your sensitivity in not naming animals you know will one day have to go in the pot. Meanwhile they will enjoy every day on the farmy 🙂 ! And yes, had to smile at the pussycats knowing where the warmth for the night lay!!

    • The kids have recently relocated here from Chicago so the farming world is still brand new. It makes their joy of the open spaces and different animals all the more exciting. But their parents are honest souls and I am sure they have already informed the kids about where food comes from.. c

      • In that case they are so very so lucky to have found a fairy godmother in Miss C 🙂 !

          • Ha!Ha!Ha! Just expecting another ‘Oswald’ like storm to cross the Coast some 500 km N!!! Flood warnings out everywhere! You want a spring, we want ‘kinder’ weather!!

  32. I wish we had a place to keep a piggie or two year round. I am in love with your two girls (as I fall in love with ours each year). And the kitties sleep with her! Awww! I am melting 🙂

  33. Aren’t pigs just the best? I have people look askance at me when I rave about the potbelly I had. I used to tuck him in too, he’d get his bedtime cracker than toddle to his pile of shredded blankets, (he was a wonderful shredder) and I’d tuck him in. He’d give a little butt wiggle and a great sigh and go to sleep. I really have to get another…..

  34. Celi, this is a little bit of heaven on earth where the kitties lie down with the piggies, and all is well and all is well, and all manner of things are well. What a gift your blog is to the world, and what a gift your farmlet is to the earth, Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the love and joy you send around the world,

  35. Such sweet little lambie faces, oh yes and Sheila and Kupa, too. Wonderful drawings and words, and wise and thoughtful children are what we want to carry on in this world. Thank you, Celi, for being such a great teacher and a loving and guiding influence for the kids, the animals and for us! Your images yesterday were gorgeous but I was traveling and for some reason my comment wouldn’t post.

  36. What a great post, Celi! Those kids are very lucky that you are able to give them some time. And they will remember and respect you for being honest with them.
    Poor Sheila. Right now, she’s a pig without a cause. I hope her sis gets lucky soon so that the two of them can be reunited.
    The snow has started. I hope it’s not too bad around the Farmy. You’ve got lambs to feed!

  37. I love how the second picture/letter shows the lamb nursing. Your Mum had much wisdom, I’m glad you shared the truth with the children. And I love the ending, the kittens snuggling with Sheila. Probably the warmest place in the barn with all those little purring motors running.

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