I just returned from a 10 day vacation in heaven. I came home to your basic, everyday nightmare.
The dog has fleas. The ferret has worms. We lost 2 ducks and Ping has a hole in his face (from a predator).
Other than that, everything went perfect. It could be worse. Trust me, I’ve come home from vacations to much worse.
Aside from the mess I am currently surviving through, the vacation was fabulous and you should go on one too. I just hope your return is more successful than mine.
We have achieved the impossible, moved mountains, conquered Everest and all that… We left the farm. We went on a vacation. We returned unharmed and almost no one died. Almost.
We have a farm.
We like vacations.
Vacations can be prickly because for some reason my animals seem to think that when I am a couple thousand miles away on a beach somewhere is the ideal time to:
- give birth
- get sick
- die or
- become otherwise completely in need of knowledgeable attention.
Homesteaders beware – if you leave there will inevitably be a crisis.
It’s OK. I know there will be problems, but I’m still gonna be tanning my backside on a beach by the ocean and no cow is going to stop me.
There is something very nostalgic, memorable and cherished about family vacations. I think they are a wonderful way to create memories and traditions and just hang out as a family. Homesteading for us did not mean the end of vacations. It just meant getting creative.
When we began this homesteading journey I was told by all the folks within 23 miles how the [insert farm animal here] was going to “tie” us to the farm and ruin our life.
- “You’ll never be able to get far from home.”
- “Those morning and evening milkings are really going to tie you down.”
- “Prepare to never go anywhere again.”
- “You’ll be married to the cow.”
- “It’s gonna be like prison.”
I have never been good at listing to what other people tell me (just ask my parents). I’m apparently what my family refer’s to as a “hard-head” and I like to learn things the difficult way…..
Also known as experience.
Also known as taking the field trip.
This has brought much pain and suffering into my life. It has also brought a lot of learning and on-the-job-training. Yes, I have not heeded wise advice and that has cost me, but sometimes – they are wrong.
Yes, I have 2 milk cows. Yes, I go on vacation. Yes, you can too!
It’s part preparation, part expectation.
Be warned. This vacation proposition comes with some hurdles and some required surrender.
#1 It’s gonna cost you.
Just go ahead and work into the “vaca-budget” the farm-hand fees. Be prepared to pay. I would much rather be paying a qualified, animal-loving, experienced farm-hand than “ask” a neighbor or friend to take care of all my animals. I know of folks who hire teenagers, or the person across the street. I suppose this could be plausible depending on the complication of your homestead and the experience of your neighbor/ teenager. Most of my friends have never owned a cow much less milked one. My neighbors don’t have experience with pigs, chickens or other critters we have around here (think ferret and ten thousand bunnies). I say “no” to friends and family and go with a professional for “critter keeping” while we are on vacation. It’s worth it to me for the peace of mind.
#2 Someone is going to hurt themselves or die.
- This is another reason it is a good idea it is not your brother, sister or next door neighbor taking care of the animals. You’re going to want a professional farm person who knows what to do when your ducks have talon gashes in the sides of their faces. Thank you Mrs. B.
#3 Someone is going to give birth
Here is yet another reason to go with the professional, not the neighbor. It never fails. We always come home to more animals than we left on the farm. Birthing events usually require some attention. Animals may need to be moved. Animals may need to be separated. Animals may need special housing, boxes, nest materials, dietary supplements or feed. If it’s a large animal who gives birth it can mean even more action needs to happen (like pulling the calf out).
Be sure you have realistic expectations for the hired helper. I do not expect her to spray my fruit trees, blow off the driveway, clean the milk barn, mow the grass, brush the cows or even spray them with fly spray. All I want her to do is keep my animals alive.
#1 Pare down the to do list
I know that there are few folks who are going to do everything I do around here. Not only would that be a pretty steep job requirement, it really isn’t necessary. When we leave the farm for a week for a vacation I only have the “farm-sitter” do the mandatory chores. This helps the farm-helper stay sane and keeps them from having to move into my house. The list of chores I leave with farm-sitter are totally basic. Food, water, love.
#2 Expect Problems
Having a farm or a homestead comes with regular challenges and problems. It seems like we have someone conceiving, giving birth, dying, being eaten or being treated for some sort of problem (yes, garden included) on a weekly basis. You may have an issue once a month or once a year or once a week. The more you have going on at your place, the more often you’re fighting the universe. OK, it’s not the universe. But sometimes I do feel like the whole world is against me. Especially in the garden.
- So, since I have a cabbage worm problem when I’m home – there’s probably going to be one when I’m gone.
- Since I have 13 rabbits, there could be a litter of rabbits showing up at any time.
- When I have a cow who likes to get mastitis, there could be a mastitis flare-up when I’m gone.
- Just sayin’. Life happens… even when you’re at the beach.
#3 Time it Right
There are times that are great for vacation and times that are terrible. We try to schedule our vacations when the farm is in “easy” mode. Times to go on vacation:
- When the cows are dry (milk cows are dried off a few months before calving each year) this is a great time to get away because you don’t need to worry about milking, mastitis and hopefully not calving.
- When the chicks/ducks are out of the brooder. Baby animals are just more work. Once everyone has moved to the bigboy coop the poultry are easier to care for.
- Before you get the spring pigs. We always get our spring pigs after our vacation. No one has to even worry about feeding, watering or swimming with the pigs – because their aren’t any.
- After you slaughter the pigs. You could also time your get away after the hogs have moved to the freezer. This, my friends, would be a great time to celebrate!
- After you process all the meat chickens. Yes, I wanted to fatten them up for 2 more weeks, but the lake was calling me (last fall), so the birds went into the freezer a bit prematurely. The chickens taste fabulous and the farm-sitter didn’t have to deal with gross, half-bald, meat chickens. Win-Win.Times to (try to) Avoid vacation:
- When there’s a new-comer. We try to assimilate any big additions or projects around our vacations. Bottle calves, Sheep, whatever – if we are going to add something new to the homestead we do it after the vacation.
- After buying 50 meat chicks or baby chicks/ducklings in general. If you’re dealing with heat lamps and drinkers and brooders you probably want to stay close to the farm.
The week your cow is due to calve.
The week after you cow calves.
You probably get the picture….
#4 Nothing’s Perfect
If you wait for the perfect time, it may never come. So, even if the chicken is limping and the rabbits may give birth, sometimes you just have to cut bait and go. It seems like our vacations inevitably fall when we have someone potentially about to procreate. We try to avoid missing these events, but once you have enough farm critters, it seems like someone’s always pregnant. (Kind of like me 10 years ago)
Sometimes life happens while you’re away. When it does, it’s OK. We lost a member of our homestead last week. One of our sweet ducks was ripped off the farm by a predator. It stinks. I was on a beach drinking something fruity when it happened. I’m not mad at my wonderful farm-sitter. Heck, I’m sure it could have happened whether I was at the beach or in my garden drinking water from my berkey. Stuff happens. Ya’ know?
I chose vacation. I know it does carry some risk. I know things can go wrong while I’m gone. I think it’s worth the sacrifice to spend the time off with DH and our 4 children. We’ll have the memories forever.