Friday, April 13, 2007

A House Full Of Farmers

Farming has become an unexpected recent topic of conversation here.
Chaos wanted to take "Introduction to Agriculture" as one of his electives next year. ??
Now, I have nothing AT ALL against farmers or farming. Without farmers I would be in sorry shape. After all, I very much like to eat but I would be a poor farmer. Plants do not thrive in my care and I would have a hard time raising animals knowing that later they would be slabs o'protein on my plate. I am ever so grateful to farmers for the fact that I can get my food from the market.

My son (having inherited my winning way with plants) is not what I would consider prime Future Farmers of America material. Add that to the the fact that he's never once shown the slightest interest in any form of agriculture before. Ever. He was not even one of those little boys who liked tractors and backhoes.
I had to ask, "Why the sudden interest in Ag 101?"
His answer? "You know that book, A Hymn Before Battle?"
(If you clicked on the link you will understand my hesitation as I nodded my head yes. I try to read everything my kids read - and as that one is sci-fi (which I love) - it was not a chore. There is, however, NO FARMING in that book.) "And?" I prompted.
"The grandfather, you know, Mighty Mike's father? He had a farm. I think it would be cool."
Ahhhhhh. The grandfather in question was Vietnam era covert ops specialist who had retired to a "farm" that he had stocked with all sorts of traps and weapons which conveniently help to stop the alien invasion. "Chaos - that is NOT farming. And it is not REMOTELY what they will teach you in Ag 101. I promise. Go ahead and sign up for Keyboarding and Wellness this year and if you absolutely can't live without taking farming in high school, you can sign up for it next year."

Case closed. Or so I thought. Then Havoc (the 8 year old) started talking to me about farming. And just so you know - Havoc's MO is to start a conversation in the middle. Assuming you know what he's talking about, he just jumps right in giving you all the details long before he gives you a beginning point or even a topic sentence. Sometimes, if you hang in there, you can sort it out and join in intelligently but more often than not, you have to wait for an opening and ask questions like, "What the heck are you talking about?" This was one of the latter instances.

He "started" by asking me, "Whatever happened to that water buffalo we gave Nurse Nice for Christmas?" (Hie thee hither to Heifer International if you've never given someone a water buffalo for Christmas.) I explained that we'd given a donation in her name towards the purchse of a water buffalo for a village overseas. Havoc was VERY RELIEVED. Then he was off and running about farming. At least I thought he was talking about farming. Thankfully his idea of farming seemed to include barns, livestock, drought and irrigation, and even crops. As a bonus, he knew that crops were plants like wheat and corn and cotton - unlike a certain one of my children (you'll never guess which one) who used to think crops had only to do with mysterious circles and aliens. But Havoc kept talking about "third" farming and then he started yammering on about gold and tourists and having to slaughter all of his chickens. Yeah. Ok. "Havoc, start at the beginning please!"

Turns out he was playing** this very cool game online called "Third World Farmer". Third World Farmer is a remarkable and interesting simulation game. As the name might suggest, the object is to be successful as a farmer facing the obstacles and hardships common in developing nations. Medicine and school are expensive but your chances are slim to none without them. Poachers and civil war and disease zap you when you can least afford it. Plentiful seasons are sporadic and a well can mean the difference between life and death for your livestock. There are interesting ethical decisions - like should you lease a few of your acres for opium poppies which would pay for the medicine needed to save your character's life -or your character's baby's life! One of the options for your down-and-out farmers sometimes is to perform in a "tribal" show for tourists. The conversations this game has provoked in my household! My son's compassion has shifted and grown as a direct result of this game.
He confided to me that he was glad we had given our friend part of a water buffalo, but he had been worried that it was going to waste. He didn't think that she needed it nearly as much as some people in the world did. Now that he understands the whole story, he's on fire to give everyone we know water buffaloes this year.
Just wait 'til I tell him you can give llamas and honeybees too!

**Same with the books - I try to play the games my kids are playing - and they usually have to ask permission to play new ones, but this time Havoc caught me off guard. He learned about this game from the teacher of his gifted class and had assumed it would be ok with me for him to play it during his turn at the computer. He was right in all that. Still, the slaughtering chickens thing threw me for a loop. Kids these days!

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