Any power tool, including a cordless screwdriver, cannot be operated by people under the age of 18. We have lots of requests from folks wanting to come as interns, but what do we call them? The government has no category for interns or neighbor young people who just want to learn and help out.
We'd love to employ all the neighboring young people. To our child-awning and worshiping culture, the only appropriate child activity is recreation, sitting in a desk, or watching TV. That's it. That's the extent of what children are good for. Anything else is abusive and risky.
Then we wonder why these kids grow up unmotivated and bored with life. Our local newspaper is full of articles and letters to the editor lamenting the lack of things for young people to do. Let me suggest a few things: digging postholes and building a fence, weeding the garden, planting some tomatoes, splitting some wood, feeding the chickens, washing eggs, pruning grapevines, milking the cow, building a compost pile, growing some earthworms.
These are all things that would be wonderfully meaningful work experience for the youth of our community, but you canât simply employ people anymore. A host of government regulatory paperwork surrounds every âcould you come over and help us . . . ? By the time an employer complies with every Occupational Safety & Health Administration requirement, posts every government bulletin requirement, with-holds taxes, and shoulders Unemployment Compensation burdens and medical and child safety regulations, he or she can't hire anybody legally or profitably.
The government has no pigeonhole for this: "I'm a 17-year-old home-schooler, and I want to learn how to farm. Could I come and have you mentor me for a year?"
What is this relationship? A student? An employee? If I pay a stipend, the government says he's an employee. If I don't pay, the Fair Labor Standards board says it's slavery, which is illegal. Doesn't matter that the young person is here of his own volition and is happy to live in a tee-pee. Housing must be permitted and up to code. Enough already. What happened to the home of the free?
You would think that if I cut the trees, mill the logs into lumber, and build the house on my own farm, I could make it however I wanted to. Think again. It's illegal to build a house less than 900 square feet. Period. Doesn't matter if I'm a hermit or the father of 20. The government agents have decreed, in their egocentric wisdom, that no human can live in anything less than 900 square feet.
Our son got married last year and wanted to build a small cottage on the farm, which he now oversees for the most part. Our new saying is, "He runs the farm, and I just run around." The plan was to do what Mom and Dad did for Teresa and I trade houses when children come. That way our empty nest downsizes, and the young people can upsize in the main family farmhouse. Sounds reasonable and environmentally sensitive to me. But no, his little honeymoon cottage or our retirement shack had to be a 900-square-foot Taj Mahal. A state-of-the-art accredited composting toilet to avoid the need for a septic system and sewer leach field was denied.
When the hillside leach field would not meet agronomic standards and we had to install it in the floodplain, I asked the health department bureaucrat why. He said that essentially the only approvable leach fields now are alongside creeks and streams, because they are the only sites that offer dark-enough colored soils. Sounds like real environmental steward-ship, doesn't it?
Look, if I want to build a yurt of rabbit skins and go to the bathroom in a compost pile, why is it any of the governmentâs business? Bureaucrats bend over back-wards to accredit, tax credit, and offer money to people wanting to build pig city-factories or bigger airports. But let a guy go to his woods, cut down some trees, and build himself a home, and a plethora of regulatory tyrants descend on the project to complicate, obfuscate, irritate, frustrate, and virtually terminate. I think it's time to eradicate some of these laws and the piranhas who administer them.