Tuck-In Team turned True Friends
The Tuck In Dream Team
“We’ll bake cookies, make coffee and watch the kids so you can write!” Sometimes we find our village in the least likely of places. This was the immediate response of my valued co-volunteer, and now dear friend, Tricia when I told her I had been tasked with writing about our experience as the Monday night Tuck-In team at Kindred Farm. Though the vision of volunteering at the farm always involved this euphoric idea of bonding with the incredible animals who dwell there, we hit the jackpot in the human department as well.
I joined the animal care team in September 2017 with two small children in tow. Looking back now, I really had no idea what I was getting us into. I had recently given up my career to focus all my attention on being a more present mother to then 6-year-old Olivia and 3-year-old Mateo. In doing so, I felt fulfilled yet simultaneously lonely and lost. In a desperate search to find a place that would allow me to still contribute to society greater than the four walls of our home, I stumbled upon Kindred Community Farm Sanctuary. They were willing to welcome me into their home, er…barn, and bonus, they opened those big doors up to my children as well. In hindsight, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made for us.
Six months in and several rudimentary shifts under our belt, we were enjoying our time as family volunteers. Getting to know the animals, the routines, the recipes, and the ropes. The shifts were rewarding but challenging in a way that I couldn’t fully articulate to anyone else. Everyone loved hearing about our adventures with the bunnies and our cuddles with Louise, but the intricate details of each and every task were lost on those who were listening secondhand. Cue the arrival of our teammates, Tricia and Emlyn, in March 2018 who came to the farm yearning to foster Emlyn’s love of nature and animals. Looking back on the day Keryn told us that we would be training a new family volunteer team I remember being hit with hesitation and worry. Did we know enough to train others? Would the kids get along with each other? Would the Mom and I jive? While I can’t definitively comment on question number one, I am grateful to say the answer to two and three was a decisive YES.
Having someone else at the farm who truly understands the enormous scope of this journey has allowed both our families to continue each and every week. Tricia and I quickly fell into sync while doing our tasks and supervising the work of the kids. Mateo and Olivia put all their trust in Tricia and know she’s there to support their safety and success just as much as I am. Similarly, Emlyn has seamlessly and gracefully acquired a role as my third child every Monday afternoon. There is also peace of mind knowing that while we are looking out for them, they are also looking out for one another. Without even really noticing, the children have molded into a cohesive trio that looks to one another for help through sharing and squabbling alike.
Volunteering to care for living beings carries a great amount of attention and responsibility. Mastering that while also mentoring our own tiny beings, who are eager to complete each and every farm task, is nothing short of terrifying! Safety is of utmost concern, for all volunteers I would assume, but the additional inclusion of children heightens that awareness even more so. As a reward, we’ve come to see just how brave our little ones are but not without the occasional scare or near miss that can be havoc on the nerves. We don’t always accurately anticipate the dangers. One case in point being our constant reminders to keep little feet clear of the massive cow hooves when ironically the only injury any of them have ever sustained was a rooster peck to the face when Mateo got a little to close with his greeting. But we do our best to ensure a harm-free shift for all creatures involved.
Watching the three kids interact with the animals is heartwarming. First and foremost they know that the work needs to be done, and that’s how we show the animals how much we care. While Emlyn enjoys tending to the bunnies in the rabbitat, Olivia looks forward to preparing the meals for the large animals and Mateo loves checking for eggs in the coop, yet they all work together to ensure nothing is missed. Thankfully, there is always time in between to catch up with furry and feathered friends. Connections have clearly been made, with each of the kids having their own special place with the individual animals. Favorites fluctuate from shift to shift but on most days Mateo would tell you that Emmy Lou is his “best”, Emlyn has a soft spot for Louise, whom she even wrote a story about and, Olivia is partial to Clover, having been the one to chose the baby cow’s lucky name.
In a sense, it’s like all three of the children have grown up with the animals. Peanut was just a baby when we began, still drinking from a bottle. While the kids have delighted in her growth week by week, Tricia and I have marveled at the similar changes we’ve noticed in them. No longer dependant on us to walk them through the daily chores, just as Peanut is no longer dependant on that big bottle. Just as the animals make their preferences known, the kids do the same. While they are happy to drop down a bale of hay from the loft, all three of them run for the hills at the mere mention of stuffing that hay into the nets! And what parent among us hasn’t watched a Kindred resident reject a particular food without flashing to visions of our own dinner tables?
Through Kindred Community Farm Sanctuary, our children have experienced lessons too numerous to list in full. They’ve seen the beginning of life, with the birth of Clover. They’ve encountered death when we endured the heartbreaking losses of Clyde, Pearl & Ruby. They’ve even been fortunate enough to develop a more profound understanding of second chances by welcoming the arrival of new residents, like the ducks and the turkeys who would have otherwise not survived. The idea that this deep-rooted sense of empathy goes beyond what we could achieve individually as parents are not lost on Tricia or I. Neither is the valuable sense of community that is being instilled on Emlyn, Olivia, and Mateo at the most impressionable of ages.
In summarizing our overall experience at Kindred Community Farm Sanctuary so far, Tricia and I agree that proud is one of the first emotions that come to mind. Proud of our children for stepping up each week, regardless of whether or task or catastrophe. Proud of the animals for how gracefully they embrace the unharnessed energy that comes with our team each week. Proud of the wider Kindred team for the positive example they are setting for our children and our community. And proud of ourselves for going beyond the daily challenges of parenting to raise a generation that is kind and caring and hardworking. You might say Tricia and I are kindred spirits. A friendship that was born at the barn but has blossomed beyond.
For some, Monday nights are about football. For us, Monday nights are about scooping poop, mixing meals, sweeping barns, petting pals and fostering friendships. And it’s not just the five of us who hold things down at the beginning of each week. Our team has also had the advantage of working alongside some other incredibly caring and capable Kindred members. We owe a great deal to Julia, Matthew, Toni and Keryn who have lent their patience, guidance, and support in so many ways to help us become successful farmers. Clover may have acquired the lucky moniker but WE are the fortunate ones.
ByLeah Wilson ~ Proud Kindred Volunteer