Other kids get a play pen. Actually, Baby M has two of those. One for inside in the living room (which he mostly only sleeps in now), and one for the barn (which got taken over by baby goats, and stinks). However, they don’t suffice.
You see, doing barn chores, or yard work, or really anything at all with an eleven-month-old in tow is basically impossible. He wants to be held. If he isn’t being held, he wants to explore. He “helps”. Baby M throws down anything you pick up. He scatters piles. He screams and scares the goats. He pinches. He puts things in his mouth that are not strictly edible. Or that are just disgusting. His clothes get filthy. And so forth.
However, the work does not stop just because there’s a baby on the farm. We managed for the first ten months by trading off – I would supervise Baby M while Hubby shoveled, for instance, then Hubby would parent while I did evening chores. That was mostly functional for the day-to-day stuff, and my Dad and Step-Mom would occasionally come out and help for the two (or more) person jobs that we couldn’t manage anymore, like vaccination and tattooing. Occasionally frustrating, but the necessary stuff got accomplished.
Then I went back to work.
And yard work season hit; spring finally arrived.
Now, we still trade off for chores, and for evening-and-weekend stuff like mowing grass and pruning trees. However, there’s a lot to be done that just won’t fit into my before-and-after-work hours. And somebody has to do it, baby or no baby. So we built the Hay Pen.
The Hay Pen is sort of like a play pen…but completely different. We made a perimeter of hay bales around a relatively clean bit of ground in the barn, out of the way, but still in sight of the places we would tend to be when we were, say, milking goats or feeding bottle kids. This has the added advantage of freeing up two adults for dealing with worming, vaccinations, disbudding, and such. Luckily, Baby M seems to like the Hay Pen, especially when Molly Underfoot the barn cat comes to play. Baby M does not, however, like the baby goats, who jump on the bales and nip M’s ears.
There may eventually be hay pens all over the yard. There needs to be one behind the barn, where Hubby will be putting the squash this year, and one in the big garden. Hubby is contemplating one in the back yard, too, so he can prune trees, rake grass, and pick strawberries without having to pay too much attention to Baby M. We have a big garden wagon hat Baby M could hang out in, but he always wants to stand up, but the sides are too low for that to be safe. With all the thistles and nettles in the grass, a blanket on the ground isn’t really ideal, either. In the Hay Pen, Baby M can pull himself up on the hay bales, and cruise around quite quickly; he’s beginning to walk, too, so he’ll have a safe space to practice that as well. Being made of old bales, we can make the pens as large as we like; even two or three bales to a side, if that’s how much space M needs to be happy. Meanwhile, Molly Underfoot always seems to gravitate to where the baby is, and seems very tolerant of M’s less-than-gentle attentions, so she will provide hours and hours of entertainment, I’m sure…