Ever have an 11-year-old farmer’s daughter give you a tour of their farm?
I did and it was top notch.
Last week I traveled to Dickinson County to meet with Jeff and Charity Bathurst. The young farm/livestock family have six children ranging in ages from 11 to three weeks old – four girls and two boys.
As I pulled up to the farmstead, Jeff and I shook hands and he told me he had to drive to town for parts. He said, I could come with him or his 11-year-old daughter, Emma, would give me a tour of the farm.
I opted for the tour with Emma knowing I’d spend several hours with him in the hay field when he returned. We walked into the house where his wife literally had her hands full with her new baby and five other youngsters.
“Emma, come here and meet John and show him around the farm while I run to town,” Jeff says.
Emma and I shook hands and outside we went to tour the Bathurst farm. Tall and slender for her age, Emma sported shoulder length blond hair and blue eyes. “Pretty as a peach,” my Grandpa Bert used to say. And bright, articulate and the perfect hostess. I couldn’t have asked for a better guide.
As we walked west of their home the first stop on the tour was the rabbit hutch. There I learned more about rabbits than I can write about because of the space constraints of this column.
One highlight Emma shared with me is how to hold a rabbit properly especially when showing them at the fair. She looked me squarely in the eye and they sparkled with enthusiasm, joy and pride as she told me about her family’s farm.
She also demonstrated the proper way to hold a rabbit upside down, snugly while grasping the ears near the base of the bunny’s head. Her favorite rabbit was a Blue Dutch breed and gray in color. “I have three different breeds,” Emma says. “I like the different body types, eye colors, lengths of their ears – I especially like to feed, water and care for them.”
By the time we finished with the bunny visit, Emma’s younger sister, Annie, 9, showed up to talk about their three lambs. Here the girls told me the breed of sheep, age, how much they ate each day and they would one day be used as food for people.
Although I’d never met these youngsters they were as comfortable and at ease with me as if we were old friends or I was a nearby neighbor. Sure, they were still kids, but their manners, hospitality and authenticity was a sight to behold and warmed my heart.
Just a few steps from the lambs we entered the chicken fence where 11 birds were crowing and clucking. By this time, seven-year old Alice had joined the tour and went into the roost and brought out fresh-laid eggs for me to eye ball and handle.
Out of curiosity I asked the girls if they ate these eggs and here’s what Emma told me.
“Yes, they’re one of my favorite foods,” she says. “My mom thinks there’s no difference between our eggs and store-bought eggs, but I think they’re better. We know where they come from.”
About 45 minutes later when their dad returned we headed for the hay field where their granddad, Tim, was already busy windrowing hay. Jeff fired up the tractor and began baling. By now, two-and-a-half year old Wyatt had joined the farm tour. They all accompanied me as I roamed about the hay field shooting photos and visiting.
All were more than happy to be out in the field where their dad and granddad were working. Not that they didn’t want to be home with mom, but what farm kid wouldn’t want to be out in the open air and clear blue sky even if the temperature was approaching 100 degrees?
By the way, before we left to go to the hay field, Emma took me inside to meet the latest member of the family, baby Wade. As she took the tiny child from her mother and gently cradled her youngest brother in her arms a smile spread across her face.
“He’s pretty fun,” Emma told me keeping her eyes glued on little Wade. “I’ve always liked babies from the time my little sister, Annie, was born. I especially like babies when they have their eyes open because they seem like they’re listening.”
Out of the mouths of babes come pearls of wisdom.
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.