How Mothers Work: Jade Miles

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Meet Jade Miles and Charlie Showers and family

Mums of babies and younger kids seem to share their day-to-day story all the time, but after that… crickets. In an effort to hear more from mums of older kids, we’re sharing this new series called How Mothers Work. We’ve asked mums we admire to tell us how they make it all work — from raising the kids, to doing the job, to living the dream. We hope you’ll pick up some great advice from mums in the trenches along the way.

Hello Jade Miles

Jade Miles and her husband Charlie Showers run Black Barn Farm, a biodiverse orchard, nursery and workshop space in north east Victoria. Yes, the very same Black Barn Farm where Mumlyfe publisher Bron spent two weeks earlier this year randomly wwoofing on Jade’s farm (she’s supposed to have written all about her marvellous experience, but so far NOTHING!).

Jade also co-hosts a popular podcast, founded a community co-op, is the mother of three (Clementine, known as Minnie, 10, and identical twins Harrison (Harry) and Bertram (Bertie), 14) AND her beautiful book Futuresteading is out today.

So, Jade is basically the smartest, kindest, most hard-working woman we’ll probably ever meet. Here’s what makes her tick along in life as a mother, a worker and all-round ace human.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Jade Miles and Charlie Showers (@black_barn_farm)

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We’re a family of five: two adults and three urchins living at Black Barn Farm, a 20-acre orchard (complete with feathered and furry menagerie) in north east Victoria. We grow over 100 varieties of heritage fruit – mainly apples, pears and berries. In theory, it’s paradoxical. In practice, it’s a deeply rewarding, deliciously challenging and rather muddy pursuit.

If you popped in for a spontaneous cuppa, you’d probably find me weeding the veggie patch. Charlie might be in the orchard or waist-deep in a research paper detailing the most effective methods of organic pest control. And the kids would be roaming on their bikes, recipe-testing in the kitchen or, in a flurry of responsibility and initiative, feeding the chooks.

For the better part of a lifetime, we’ve pursued a considerate, regenerative, hands-in-the-dirt existence (which explains the mud stains). We haven’t always gotten it right, but we have amassed a personal inventory of experiments, failures and revelations. Hard-won lessons of identity, community and what makes a good life. Between us, we’re stubborn, idealistic, practical, whimsical, determined, exhausted and peckish – day and species dependent.

Jade Miles and daughter Minnie

A typical week

No days are ever the same because of the vastly different seasonal activities.

Typically our weekdays and weekends are pretty similar with 5am starts to fit in morning walks in the bush, a little life admin and a full pot of tea before kids wake up bringing chaos.

Animals and the hoop house gets checked, watered and fed at first light and if between April and October, a load of wood gets barrowed to the back door to keep the wood box and Rayburn ticking day and night.

Dinner is usually put on to slow cook before we head out into the paddock or patch. The bulk of the day is spent outside: pruning, mulching, grafting, fencing, fixing, propagating, planting or harvesting.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Jade Miles and Charlie Showers (@black_barn_farm)

[The kids] have all attended the local Montessori School since they were one and the boys now attend the local high school which has a ‘cycle four Montessori stream until the end of year nine. They arrive home from school on the bus at 4pm, so we often walk into the village to collect them in our work boots and also collect the mail from the primary school, now run as our post office by volunteers.

In summer our work days keep going until last light, but in winter we tend to wrap up outside when the kids return. We have wwoofers living with us six months of every year so our days are full. Mealtimes are noisy and busy and conversation is long and large. During winter the wwoofers are gone and our days are much quieter. We intentionally hibernate and have quiet, family, home-based days and nights.

My working life

The farm is work and the list is endless. We are working towards getting ready to open to the public six months each year as a pick-your-own. It’s a constant part of our daily conversation that the kids are entrenched in.

I also sit on a couple of boards which I tend the work for at night and I work three days each week for Sustainable Table. This fits in while the kids are at school. I also write for various publications and also my book, which has been squashed into all the gaps around everything else. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Jade Miles and Charlie Showers (@black_barn_farm)

What’s most important to me

Lunch! We ALWAYS stop for lunch. It’s is a broad and ranging variety of just-plucked veggies, jars of pickles/olives/chutney, homemade bread or crackers, fresh nuts from a friend’s nearby grove, boiled eggs, sauerkraut and possibly cookies or cake if someone has baked.

Always stop for lunch

Little kids versus big kids

We have twins so their early years felt relentless. We were also travelling a lot at that time, so we had no rhythm or home-based systems. As they have grown up and we’ve committed more strongly to a homesteading life we have found a beautiful rhythm.

The kids have become much better communicators and respond well to the varied opinions and lifestyles presented by all the wwoofers we have on the farm. They have become more responsive, engaged in our daily patterns and inclined to challenge ideology. Rather than simply filling their days with activities that feel like a never ending distraction. 

The kids help out at Black Barn Farm

We haven’t really changed our approach to parenting. We’ve always given them a really long rope to explore, make mistakes, make a mess, form opinions and discover their own preferred approach. We didn’t have screens when the kids were little, but when the boys turned 14 they bought themselves a phone and the battle is now real.

This took me by surprise

[My kids] prolonged innocence. They still feel very hooked into family and haven’t pulled away from us yet. By their age I was fiercely independent, but my boys are not eagerly seeking mates over family yet.

Jade Miles and sons Bertie and Harry

My biggest challenge

My biggest challenge is knowing when to become a dominant parent who “knows best” and when to let them make their own decisions. It’s a skill I’m still developing. Lots of open communication and ongoing talking.

Read more How Mothers Work stories here.

My biggest joy

 Seeing my children becoming independent, articulate adults who know their own mind with their own opinions and knowledge bank.

There are some things I think I get right along the way:

1. We are incredibly close and open as a family. The kids (and their friends) can discuss or ask anything frankly. This seems to be holding us in good stead as we navigate the changing dynamics and needs of individuals. We can comfortably debate some really big topics in a (mostly) respectable way.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Jade Miles and Charlie Showers (@black_barn_farm)

2. We are building a ‘family’ business and the kids know they have a role to play in this. So despite their reluctance to get stuck into the endless jobs list, they are actually pretty good at picking up the tools when we really ask them to.

3. [We are] offering them a life that is open, diverse, filled with opportunity to really explore what makes them happy and interests them.

The Showers family

My hopes and dreams for my children

[I want them to] simply find their own super power and to be really happy in what they choose their path to be (which we expect will change direction a number of times). We don’t yet know what any of them will do. They are not sure themselves and that’s more than okay with us. I’d love for the boys to find a way to be independent of each other, which to date hasn’t been an option.

You can find Jade Miles on Instagram here. And buy Futuresteading from Booktopia here (25% off for a limited time).

Futuresteading by Jade Miles

Images from Futuresteading by Jade Miles; photography by Karen Webb, illustrations by Megan Grant. Murdoch Books RRP $39.99.

Written by Mumlyfe Team

Mumlyfe shares useful stories to help you raise nice kids and feel good about yourself too.

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