We love raising kids in the pasture, and lambs. The kids we raise don’t originate from goats. They come from town. To see the lambs.
Children average about six and a half hours a day in school. According to a 2015 Common Sense Media report they spend another 4-6 hours a day in front of screens. This number continues to rise. These are all hours spent indoors. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than four hours per day of screen time can be a risk factor in vitamin D deficiency in children.
So we bring children outside. Into the sun which creates vitamin D in their skin. To the pasture where they connect with nature. Leaving the screens behind. We introduce them to the sheep. They hold the lambs. They hand feed the sheep. And we teach them a few things about raising sheep. Lesson One: don’t step in the brown stuff! Lesson Two: continue not to step in the brown stuff!
We practice walking slowly and quietly among the sheep so we don’t scare the lambs or disturb the ewes. We watch lambs nursing and talk about how God gave their mamas milk to help the lambs grow. Kids are fascinated to learn that sheep have four stomachs. We talk about the part each stomach section plays in turning grass into wool and meat. Walking through the pasture – avoiding the brown stuff – we watch the lambs bounce and chase around the meadow. Eyes widen as the lambs surround the children and sweep on past us.
We walk past the pastures to the big walnut tree where the kids take turns on the tire swing. We finish up with a hike through the woods. On our way back we watch the flock eating grass and wonder how they know to follow each other from one area of tasty greens to another. We get down into the “grass” and discover that it’s not all actually grass. There is a difference between legumes (clovers and trefoils), forbs (herbaceous broadleaf plants), and grasses (corn, blue grass). We find examples of each and look at the differences between them. Sheep need a combination of all three types of forage. We feed a mineral and salt mix to the sheep who react to it like it was candy. They need the additional salt and minerals to supplement their pasture diet. We clean and refill their water buckets before ending the tour. Sheep need a regular supply of clean, fresh water.
Coming back to the house, we light up the grill for lamb burgers as we talk about the importance of knowing where your food comes from and how it was raised. We talk about the stress-free life our sheep live. While eating their lamb burgers the kids talk about what they’ve learned. We end the day by asking them to tell their families what they’ve learned.
What do you raise that children might find interesting? We’re always one generation away from not knowing where our food comes from. Do your part to ensure that another generation understands about raising food and connects with a farm. Find some city kids and start raising them in your pasture. .