I had one of those overwhelmingly proud mama moments recently that I have to share. Juniper and I spent the morning of my birthday harvesting fruit for the Portland Fruit Tree Project. They help local fruit tree owners maintain their trees in exchange for donating the fruit to the Oregon Food Bank. If you volunteer for a harvest party, half the fruit goes to the food bank and the other half is shared among to the volunteers.
This particular orchard was in Cornelius, about an hour outside Portland. The fall air was crisp, sky was blue and the dwarf orchard trees were bent over with apples. Juniper and I strapped on our harvest aprons and began picking fruit, along with a dozen other food activists.
I think most volunteers had low expectations for how helpful a three year old would be. But together Juniper and I must have harvested over a dozen milk crates of fruit. Each was whisked away to be weighed and sorted by other volunteers while we kept diligently picking.
Juniper was in charge of picking the bottom apples while I did the top ones. We talked about how we would get to keep some of the fruit, but the rest would go to families who need help with groceries. I showed her how the fruit breaks off easiest if you try to turn it upside down on the stem. It usually snaps off, leaving the tree branch in tact. She caught on like a pro.
My apron was often just as full as Juniper’s apron. All those apples she carried had to be almost as much weight as her, yet she was packing them in, then gently emptying them into the crate when she ran out of room.
We haven’t gone out of our way to make Juniper’s life a version of Homestead Apprentice – it has just happened naturally (no pun intended). She goes where we go, does what we do and eats what we eat. She doesn’t love all of it, but she loves most of it. And I can see the signs of an iron-clad work ethic at this tender age already – she’s a helper, a giver and a do-er.
Parenting is hard work and I struggle with wondering whether our choices are the best for our kids – do we work too much/not enough, do we feed them the best food, do they have the right ratio of structured time vs. down time, and the list goes on. But at least for this one morning I didn’t worry a bit. She’s growing up to be the perfect little being I so hoped and wished she would become. And that was quite the unexpected birthday gift.
I would love to hear your stories about how you grew up with an appreciation for urban farming and green living. Even better, how do you integrate your little ones into your homesteading lifestyle? Tell me about it in the comments below!