Life on the Farm

May 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Some days, it seems like all I hear is “Why?” “What?” “How?” It started two years ago, when JP turned two and a half; and it quickly became apparent that I was going to need to brush up on my mastery of Practical Life (not to mention engineering, plumbing, physics, astronomy, and physiology). The onset of this prolonged phase of questioning (the kind that follows you into the shower and becomes a nagging buzz in the car) coincided with our family’s relocation out East, which meant that I had just quit my full-time job, was seven months pregnant with my second in the middle of summer, and was temporarily living alongside a major highway in a corporate apartment infested with ants. I panicked: how was I going to keep my Energizer Bunny occupied and myself from going crazy at the same time? My salvation came from Frying Pan Farm, a small not-for-profit working farm just a few minutes away in Herndon, VA. It turns out that many of JP’s questions could be answered on morning excursions to Frying Pan Farm; things like: “Where does milk come from?” “How does my cereal get made?” “How do tractors work?” “Why is a cow’s poop so big?” (OK, so he never asked that last one prior to visiting a farm, but it soon became a favorite.) It also turns out that all these questions (and many more) are answered in Flip Flap Farm (Ages 2.5-6), part of a fantastic non-fiction series by Usborne Publishers, which breaks down topics through clear, concise text, charming illustrations, and a multitude of flaps (sometimes three-deep!) that little fingers can lift up to learn the complete story.

I first happened upon Flip Flap Farm in the General Store at Frying Pan Farm (sidenote: some of my best book finds come from off-the-beaten-path gift shops, because when a store has a niche focus, books which might otherwise get shelved in an obscure section of a bookstore end up front and center there). Organized by season, Flip Flap Farm starts with springtime: we see baby lambs and calves alongside their mommies (a flap opens to reveal a sheep who has “moved away from the others to have her baby”); a vet examining the newborn animals; and a tractor scattering new seeds. In summer, the sheep are sheared: a flap reveals the “cool, shorn sheep” and another takes us along for the ride as the fleeces are washed, spun, and turned into clothes and bedding. My favorite spread is Milking, where flaps showcase the digestion of grass inside a cow (did you know that cows swallow grass, cough it back up, and then go on to chew it “for ages” before swallowing it again?); as well as a number of brilliantly-executed flaps that show how milk gets from a cow’s udders to your grocery store’s shelves. Not surprisingly, JP’s favorite spread is Farm Machines, where (by turning a wheel) he gets to watch a combine harvester move through the fields, cutting wheat and turning straw into bales (that’s where your cereal comes from, baby!). There’s lots more, including a look at what the farmers do in the dead of winter, but come on, what are you waiting for? Get in the car! I hear they’re milking at 4pm today.

Other Favorite Picture Books on Farm Life:
Big Red Barn (Ages 1-3), by Margaret Wise Brown
Farm (Ages 4-8), by Elisha Cooper
Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm (Ages 3-6), by Alice & Martin Provensen (and, incidentally, my husband’s favorite book as a kid!)

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