Tim Stahmer’s post about how to learn creativity and critical thinking prompted me to finally get this post written. It’s been drafting itself in my brain for the past few weeks but I just haven’t had enough quiet time to write. You see, I live on a farm and spring is a busy time of year. While my husband is the farmer-in-chief, I have daily chores that include feeding pigs, chickens, and bees along with collecting and processing eggs. It’s also flower gardening time, and I’m busy with a 1200-square-foot plot along the road that seems to sprout weeds overnight. And our most recent experiment* has been successful so now we have six baby chicks that hatched in the incubator yesterday. Plus, I haven’t given up any of my “real work” but at least I work from home so I can sit on the front porch with my laptop.
As I work around the farm, I think a lot about what I am learning. It mostly involves being creative and applying critical thinking to solve problems. We can’t afford to buy a lot of new stuff. So, my chicken coop is part of the old smokehouse, and the pigs live in an outbuilding on the property. We battled snakes in the hen house so eventually used part of a roll of house wrap to line the inside. The roosts are made of pieces of a former plant stand and the nesting boxes are stacking crates that I found for $1 at a discount store. As for the pigs, they drink fresh water from an old cooler rescued from the barn. I’ve had to experiment with tying it off to keep them from tipping it over. (Pigs really like rooting stuff up and I think tipping the cooler was a bit of a game for them.)
Certain tools lend themselves to hacking. Mason jars, for instance, are wonders: we found boxes and boxes of them around the farm. We drink from them. We feed the bees with them. We store all manner of seeds and food in them. Sometimes, I even use them for their “real” purpose and make jam and can vegetables.
There are plenty of books and website on farming and we use them as reference guides to see how others are hacking their farms. Thank goodness there is no written test…but there are plenty of tests. It took several tries to keep the snake out, and we lost chickens because of my failures. I had thirsty pigs a few mornings when they tipped the cooler.
And the new hives are just one big test: my bees are busy building comb all over the place and my local beekeeper friend is coming over to help me get them under control. We have one hive that appears to be thriving while we wonder if the second one will survive as there is very little activity. Beekeepers will tell you that if you ask 100 beekeepers the same question, you will get 100 different answers. There are guidelines but hives are alive and bees are independent so you have to solve your unique problems in unique ways.
As Tim points out and I experience every day, creativity and critical thinking are learned by doing. As I solve problems, I create a toolbox of solutions that can be applied in other areas as well. Kids need the same kind of authentic problems to solve so they can begin equipping their own toolboxes.
*We have two roosters and we wondered if we were getting some fertilized eggs. So we randomly put 12 in the incubator about three weeks ago. The answer is yes.