Thriving on Rural Childhood

Story and photos by Craig Reed

With the guidance of their parents, the Henrikson siblings make work on the farm part of their daily routine. Among other responsibilities, 7-year-old Rio is tasked with getting grain and pouring it into the trough for the steers to eat.

Rio Henrikson pours grain into a metal trough for the steers. Brother Cash scatters corn on the ground for the chickens. Sister Sage collects chicken eggs.

In the middle of the yard between the Henrikson house and the barn sits a pile of gravel, waiting for the siblings to spread it around. But the gravel is more than work—it’s also a mountain to be climbed on or jumped from during playtime.

Charlene and Kyle Henrikson are raising their three young children in a rural, agricultural setting in Lookingglass Valley.

There are chores and work to be done on a daily basis, from feeding and watering the dog, cat, chickens, and cattle to planting seeds in the garden and watering them, to helping irrigate pastures and hay ground.

But there’s also time for play. The boys enjoy wrestling, making a hay fort and pulling their sister around in a wagon. Rio is 7, Cash is 6, and Sage is 2.

“I like being outside,” Rio says. “There are places to run around and do a lot of stuff. The animals are fun—sometimes scary, but still fun.”

During harvest time in the garden, Rio likes the carrots and strawberries. Cash’s favorite are tomatoes, to be eaten with cottage cheese.

Cash feeds corn to the chickens

Sage doesn’t have a garden favorite, but she likes squeezing enough milk out of the udder of Lola, the milk cow, to fill a small bowl for her cat, Simba, each morning. At the end of the day, the children are tired and fall asleep easily.

“I want my kids to learn the value of hard work, to enjoy the work and to see something larger and more important than themselves,” Charlene says. “I want them to see the fruits of their labor when the day is done, so when they come in for dinner, everything on their plate is something we raised or grew.”

She says she wants them to be bone tired at night, filthy from helping out.

“It’s important for them to learn how to take care of themselves and how to take care of something other than themselves,” she says.

Charlene and Kyle are raising their three children the way they were raised.

Charlene grew up on a multigenerational cattle ranch near Durkee. She earned a master’s degree in education and taught several years at the grade school and middle school levels. She decided to turn her focus to agricultural ventures to give her children the experiences that come with raising livestock and produce.

Kyle, a 2001 Roseburg High School graduate, grew up around livestock in the Melrose area. He earned his college degree in veterinary science and is co-owner of Bailey’s Veterinary Clinic in Roseburg. He spends his spare time helping his wife and children with ranch work.

Sage gathers eggs with the help of her mother, Charlene, a former school teacher. Charlene is now a stay-at-home mom intent on teaching her children the value of agriculture and hard work.

Kyle and Charlene say they made an intentional decision for Charlene to leave teaching to be a stay-at-home mom and a mentor to the kids in the family’s agricultural projects.

Every two months or so, the family butchers two or three steers. They sell the cut-and-wrapped meat packages at Porter Creek Mercantile in Porter Creek. They also take orders for half and whole beef animals. Some of the animals are sold and go to a feedlot.

They also sell chicken eggs and some milk from the dairy cow at the mercantile.

“Living on a farm or a ranch like we do is an entire lifestyle,” Charlene says. “It’s what we think about from the time we open our eyes to the time we lay our heads down. We hardly ever find ourselves on the couch. We’re always outside doing something for our land and our animals.”

Charlene says even at a young age, her children have learned to respect the animals, land, and equipment that helps do the work.

Kyle says he is proud of the way Charlene involves their children in the everyday activities needed while caring for their land and animals.

“At the end of the day, her goal is not to become rich by procuring cattle or hay, but to live the lifestyle with the kids that we think is important,” he says.

Charlene says it’s important to her to promote agriculture.

“Right now, especially, agriculture is getting a bad reputation from people who don’t truly understand our lifestyle, so I’m willing to share a little bit about how we live and why agriculture is so incredibly important,” she says. “All of our food comes from a farm or ranch. Here we raise almost everything we eat. As far as I’m concerned, agriculture is the lifeblood of a society.”

The Henrikson children are getting firsthand experiences not only out in the barn and field, but with the homegrown food on their plates after the day’s work and play is over.

“I feel extremely fortunate to be able to raise the kids this way,” Charlene says. “But we work hard to make that happen.”