Quill Pig Farm

My daughter, Sara, and her husband, Doni, have created a wonderful life on a farm in Plainfield, Vermont.  They raise beautiful and healthy pigs, primarily, and have the meat humanely processed.  They sell their delicious products in Vermont, also delivering to Manhattan and Brooklyn once a month.    

This may seem shamelessly self- and family-promoting (I guess it really is), but suffice to say I am immensely proud of them and their pure intention to be honest and trustworthy business people.  

When Sara was little, she wanted to someday live in the country.  She has certainly fulfilled that dream, and then some! 

The name “quill pig” is a folkloric name for porcupine, no doubt because it looks to be very much part of the swine family, but with quills.  Doni found a dead one on the property a few years back, looked into the origin of the name, and together with Sara, decided that was the absolute perfect name for their farm.  

Last summer I stopped the car on a back road, and my granddaughter, Audrey, and I watched in awe this prehistoric-looking creature lumber down the road, stopping from time to time to raise its quills upward.  As quickly as it could, it scrambled into the woods.  I learned later that porcupines don’t propel their quills when threatened, but simply release them into those unlucky enough to be in contact with them.  Indigenous people would throw a blanket over them, and the quills would release into the blanket.  They would then be used for decoration.  Brilliant!

If you want to learn more about the farm, please go to quillpigfarm.com.


We bring home these beautiful and precious babies.  We love them, nurture them, trying our hardest to fulfill their every need.  We stare at them for hours on end, looking for signs of connection.  We are thrilled when they make the tiniest bit of progress.  They grow and change daily, learn and delight us.

So, it stands to reason that we are shocked when, only months later, they start saying “No!” and suddenly aren’t cooperating.  WHAT HAPPENED??!

We continue trying the same things that were working just last week.  Nope.  It seems completely counterintuitive to be the “boss” when we hadn’t needed to be.  Until now.  It feels wrong, unnatural.  But, alas, it isn’t.  

Our job is to try to keep pace with where they are in their development.  And not to blame ourselves, or them, when we just don’t understand what’s happening at any given moment.

At some point early on, and because we’ve done a good job, they will pull away slightly.  I remember reading that when we are holding our infants, the first sign of individuation, or separation, is when they arch back.  Maybe.  It makes a certain amount of sense to me.

These states of holding and letting go, remain part of our relationship with our children forever after.  They need to separate, and we participate in that dance from the start.  We are hard-wired to hold on, and have to learn when to let go, bit by bit.  They are hard-wired to do the same.

That is all to say, that when they start asserting themselves, this is a new level of separation.  The trick is not to take it personally, but to see it for what it is.  We need to repeatedly work on removing or minimizing the idea/thought that we need to bend them to our will, and to respect their need to separate.  

I break it down to what we feel is reasonable or unreasonable.  Do they need to get dressed in warm clothes when they go out into the cold?  Should they be allowed to keep throwing food on the floor, even when they’re two years old?  Vs., do they need to finish every single bite of food on their plate, or like the same things we do?  Can they pick out their own clothes even though we think they look silly?  Can they make their beds, imperfectly?  There are thousands of possible scenarios, but you get the picture.  When my daughter was little, I used to hear “Pick your battles.”  I guess that is a good way to express this.

On the other hand, they need to win some of these “battles.”  And we need to teach them what’s important, and what can be negotiated, or let go of.

We can keep adoring them, even when they frustrate us.  That never needs to change.


I admit that I was just listening to NPR about Mexican families who teach their kids to help around the house from the time they are able to hold something in their hands (age one-three).  I wrote about this subject briefly in 2010.

The attitude is, really, of letting their children help with chores because they want to.  I believe this too.  Not that I was great at it when I was raising my daughter (she is 36 now and the mother of three-year-old Audrey), but I did have that in mind – like having her make her bed.  Of course, it didn’t look like it was actually made.  But that’s not the point.  Not to expect them to do the chore like we would or even an older child is capable of, but that they are included in what the adults around them are doing.  

This desire to be part of what’s going on around them is a powerful force in us humans.  Some parents feel, rightly, that they would have to clean up the mess that was left by the toddler who “helped” make dinner, or wash dishes, put their shoes away, etc.  But it’s about including their small children in what the older children and adults are doing and not making fun of the job they’ve done.  

As all of us experience as time goes on, our children grow up so fast!  We experience them, hopefully, one day at a time, and “all of a sudden” they are teenagers, or parents themselves.

So, if we start right out of the gate, we will be raising kids who are part of their family in a very deep sense.  What a gift to give them!



There is no better introduction to the social world than Judy Stevens’ playgroup.  Our two sons graduated years ago but the values they learned and the experiences they were introduced to in such a small egalitarian group of three boys and three girls easily counts in their long journey through childhood to adulthood.  Where else can you find a teacher who makes everyone a cape then encourages them all to decide whether it’s a skirt or a magic carpet or an accessory for space travel! As an artist Judy’s creative ideas are endless and open but that doesn’t mean life at the loft is willy-nilly. In fact just when you need help in potty training, guess what, Judy facilitates that too and if you’re little one hasn’t quite grasped the concept of sharing yet, well this is where they will learn it because at Judy’s there is always a teaching moment going on. In the landscape of early childhood schools and playgroups, Judy’s Playgroup is the cherry on top. Its specialness is evident the minute you take your shoes off and enter the soft matted floor of her bright loft. In this safe and homey place your children will dance, plant seeds, conquer puzzles, role play, build sculptures from magnets, learn to be a friend, share lunch, navigate differences and above all have fun. What could be better.

– Leah Singer and Lee Ranaldo