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From the Farm: Make family time a priority

The value of a father’s influence while growing up is often not apparent till the child starts to look back on their life. Usually that doesn’t occur till a separation of some kind, hopefully not a permanent one, and the child realizes how much their father is a part of them. For a lot of dads, work makes enjoying their children’s growing-up years hard to manage, but it is definitely worth the effort.

I grew up in the city and although a city job is not the same as a farm, jobs still make life complicated. When we visited the farm I was jealous of all the time that the children could spend just working with their dad. Country life just seemed so much more uncomplicated for family time.

Hard farming years have caused a lot more farmers to take off-farm jobs as well as trying to keep up with their farms, so having a quality family life is getting even more complicated. But even in the city we were always short on time. My dad worked six days a week and we had lots to catch up on, on Sunday. That was his day to cut grass or do whatever other repairs my mom and I had lined up, but every Sunday we saw my grandparents. When they didn’t drive anymore we would pick them up and bring them over. My grandfather would work along with my dad or just take us kids to the park. My grandma would help my mom with her work and we had a day together. The only time we didn’t have a Sunday family dinner was if my grandparents were travelling to visit other relatives. During our teenage years my brother and I would try and go out but that was never allowed. Sunday was for family — period.

Thinking about Father’s Day this year made me realize how much things had changed. Sunday dinner with family is very rare and taking time for relaxation and spending time with our adult children is very difficult with everyone’s schedules. I’m sure that we aren’t the only farm family that has found the last few years more than a little trying. We might not be able to control the weather but we can certainly control our reactions to the stress that non-co-operative weather can cause. For us it has certainly restricted our quality family time and I would like that to change.

When our children were little, we were still in the city, and my husband used to love to barbecue. His favourite dish was barbecued chicken. Instead of baked potatoes he would chop up potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic onto a piece of tinfoil, add butter, salt and pepper and cook for about an hour once the chicken was almost cooked. When we were reminiscing about this I discovered our youngest doesn’t even remember these fun times. So that has to change. Father’s Day is a great place to start, to put the men in our families back into the place, head of the family, that they rightly deserve to be and spend some time with them to show them we do appreciate their efforts.

One of the keys to changing is planning. I read that if you want to develop a new habit or get rid of an old one it takes 21 days. So, the key to more quality family time is planning it. Pick something, like a barbecue once a month, and make a date. Tell all the people about a month ahead to put it on their day planners/BlackBerrys or whatever they are using and remind them once a week. This would be Mom’s job. I learned quickly when our first son moved out that dads need their wife to keep up with the kids. He was always telling our son to make sure he called home because I worry but it was Dad who asked every day if I had talked to our son and what was happening.

Keep plans in the conversations. Make it an event. It doesn’t have to be anything more than an hour with a cup of tea but it has to be a commitment. It really isn’t a lack of wanting to be together, it is a lack of keeping it in the forefront of priorities.

My mother-in-law taught us how to have successful chicken or pork (anything fatty) on the barbecue — parboiling. Boil a large pot of water with a pinch of salt in it and add meat. Boil till it changes colour but not till cooked. Chicken legs would take approximately five minutes. This removes the fat and blood and eliminates a lot of the flash fires in the barbecue. Reserve the water to make soup.

Place the hot meat in a metal bowl and cover with enough barbecue sauce to saturate it. During the cooking time more fresh sauce could be brushed on if desired. This recipe is enough for about 10 pounds of chicken.

Zingy Barbecue Sauce (from In the Kitchen with Hedi)

1/4 c. oil

1 c. finely chopped onion

2 tbsp. brown sugar

1/4 c. vinegar

1/4 c. lemon juice

2 c. ketchup

3 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 tbsp. prepared mustard

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/4 tsp. hot sauce

1/2 bay leaf

3/4 tsp. chili powder

Sauté but do not brown onion in hot oil. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to boil. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Cool. Pour into jar with tight cover. Store in refrigerator. Makes 2-1/3 cups for beef, poultry, and pork.

Family closeness is a project worth working on. Even if being together physically isn’t going to happen it is still important to communicate. A friend of mine shared that when her mother passed away in February it was the good-night call she missed the most. She works a night shift and she was always comforted that at least one person always knew she had made it home. My own grandparents used to talk with us every day till they passed. This Father’s Day will be a year since my husband’s dad passed and there isn’t a day that goes by that he isn’t remembered, especially when we could really use a mechanic. It is very important for family to make time for each other before it is too late. †

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