If you think because you have livestock and a garden, you are stuck at home, then this article is the help you need. Learn how to vacation when you farm and enjoy time away to get the reset you just might be looking for.
Bookmark this article because these homesteading tips are good ones to refer back to every summer!
The first thing I tell folks when they are considering starting a homestead is, to be prepared to be home….a lot.
That is the truth of it right there.
Whether you have just a few animals on your homestead or a full-time farming operation, leaving for trips or getaways is not easy. Once you add living and breathing creatures to your homestead, ones that depend on you specifically for their care, it is critical that you are there to do just that.
Look at me, for example. I have been homesteading for just over 13 years, and in the beginning, I went nowhere. My days and nights were scheduled by feedings and milking, and that kept my travel options pretty limited.
Even family gatherings were set by my feeding schedule. And when you milk animals, it is even more necessary that your barn schedule is strictly adhered to.
Since my family has a history of farming in our genes, I was ready and prepared for this. Unfortunately, not everyone that begins a homestead fully grasps the reality that comes with it, and before they know it, they realize they are tied to their homes in a way they were not prepared for.
And (sometimes) just like that, the fun is taken out of their new life of farming.
But luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way. All or nothing does not need to be your reality when choosing to take a vacation or do a staycation.
The answer is easy, you can borrow or even hire help to take care of things when you need a break or want to get away to recoup. Dependable, reliable, good solid help that will allow you to catch your breath and recharge your batteries just a bit.
Homesteading can be a bit demanding, and even though most realize it will be hard, the rewards far outweigh the work, and that is why we all do this. Day in and day out with a smile on our faces.
Yet, a break to get away sure would be nice.
how to vacation when you farm
First, before we even get to the hiring part, you will need to do a little prep work.
Go through and make sure all of your animal housing is secure and safe. This will not only keep your animals inside, but it will also keep any bad things out. I am not just talking about big predators like raccoons and weasels but also small rodents that can get in and wreak havoc on your feed, eggs, and even your livestock.
Each month on our homestead, I like to do an outbuilding walkthrough. This is my chance to check for any openings that may allow something to get in. I can then put it on my Hubby’s list to have it taken care of quickly before it becomes an issue.
By always being on top of your buildings and structures, you will keep pests out, making it easier for a stranger to step in when needed.
When building a new shelter or adapting an existing one, always look at it from every angle. Get down low, look up high, and get in close. You might just be surprised at what a weasel can squeeze through if it’s determined, so don’t overlook the small spaces and cracks.
The chicken run is another area to be wary of when building your shelters.
Not many chicken owners worry much about the run, but that can be a huge mistake. A chicken run is not just there to keep your chickens in, but it is also there to keep predators out. Build it so it is effective depending on where you live and the animals that frequent your area.
For us, hawks are a huge issue, and for that reason, we have a small roof that is on the side of our shed to give a bit of overhead protection. This will allow our hens to be out yet covered and masked a bit from the sky.
HIRING REGULAR HELP FOR YOUR HOMESTEAD
If you are looking for a regular break each week, you may want to look into hiring regular help for your homestead. This is not only great for you but a great way to help someone that is looking to make a little extra money.
STEP # 1. KNOW JUST WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR.
- Is this going to be regular help or seasonal?
- Will you need someone each week or only when you travel?
- Will you pay for your help or barter?
By knowing just what you need before you go looking for it, you will be better prepared to decide. When I first started with animals on our homestead, I loved the work. But after 9 + years, I now like to have a break too. For that reason, I have a neighbor gal that comes to our home a few days a week and takes care of the chores.
This was probably the best decision I ever made. As I get older, I am finding that my back no longer wants to do all the hard and heavy lifting. Bringing outside help allows me to sit back and relax a bit without having to work all the time.
I can go out to eat at a restaurant, sleep in, or just read a book out on the porch. Either way, this break during the week is something that has helped me grow as a farmer by giving me extra time and energy to add new projects and experiment with new animals.
STEP #2. HOW OFTEN DO YOU NEED HELP?
Like I said above, I love having weekly help, but it didn’t start out that way. We began with just a day and worked up to a more routine schedule.
You can start out with just 1-2 evenings a week or just a few days here and there when you need to go out of town. As you and your animals become comfortable with your help, you can increase the frequency.
Another option is to know how often you need help each week but leave open the possibility of more time if needed. By starting out small, you can see if the helper will fit in with not only your animals but with you as well.
Personality is key, and before you have your new help work every single day, it is better to be sure things are a good match before committing. That they like your livestock and that your livestock is comfortable with them being around.
Step #3. Be specific about what you need and how you will compensate.
Tell your help from the beginning just what you need them to do and how often you need them to do it. The more specific you are from day one, the less room there is for any misunderstanding.
Go one step further and write it all down. This simple gesture will make things clear from the very beginning that you like to have a set routine in place for the comfort of your animals. This doesn’t mean you can’t change things later on, however.
Step #4. Train them…..well
Hands-on training is the key to keeping you and your animals comfortable with outside help. My girl watched me do chores a few times before jumping in. Seeing what you do and HOW you do, it is really important.
Animals thrive on routine, and any changes, even subtle ones, can through them out of whack. Show how you handle your chickens or milk your goats or cows. Give them a demonstration on how to feed without risk of injury to the animals or themselves.
For this reason, you will want to take things slowly. Have them watch a few times, then do chores with you a few times, watch them do chores a few times, and finally allow them to do chores without you there. This may seem like overkill but trust me on this, the more you train, the fewer issues you will have later on.
SLCG PRO TIP: Make a video walkthrough on your phone of what needs to be done and how you do it. If you need to, you can have your spouse or child step in for just one feeding so you can then make a video with your phone of exactly how you do things.
Now your help can refer to your video walkthrough as they are doing chores themselves. This really is quite helpful for both your help and your animals.
Step #5. Have a “Chore Board”
We are old school on our farm and rely on a dry-erase board to keep our animal’s routines in place. Our help knows to always look there first to be sure there are no changes in feed, housing locations, or routines.
You can set up a chart using a large board like this one. You can then list any feed recipes, water, or extra notes you want everyone to be aware of. Hang your notes out in your barn or animal shelter so it is easy to see and use.
Step #6. Expect an adjustment period
As with anything new, there is always going to be a period of adjustment. Nowhere is this truer than with our animals. My goats will act timid when my Hubby is out in the barn at chore time. This is because he is not usually out there when I feed. Anything different, new, or out of the ordinary is going to make any animals stop and take notice.
Give your help a few days or even weeks to settle in before critiquing how things are working out. This should be enough time for them, you, and your animals to adjust to the new set of hands.
Step #7. To pay or not to pay
This part is definitely something you will need to iron out before getting started. Let your help know what days you need, how long it should take them, and how you will compensate them for their help. Meaning that you are going to pay by the hour or by the day. You will also want to discuss holidays and if they will be needed to work on those days. I have found that splitting them up between you and your help is a great way to keep things fair with everyone.
Be sure you have everything labeled clearly in your feed room. This will keep things so much more organized for your help and yourself. Labels are your friend and will help make chores easier for any help you hire.
How to Vacation When You Farm
Borrow Help for Your Homestead
If you just want help when you travel then borrowing help may be the best way to go. This is a common way for farmers to vacation and a great way to homestead without being permanently tied to their homes year-round.
Look for someone you trust.
Before I acquired regular help on our homestead, I would always turn to a family member, namely one of my kids. But before they were old enough to take care of things while we were away, I asked a close neighbor who also had a small farm.
This is important to remember when looking for someone you can rely on. If they have a homestead of their own, then you know they fully understand what you need from them. Meaning you can trust them.
By trust, I am not just talking about their responsibility level but their experience level as well. If you have a garden that needs to be watered while you are away, you may want to ask someone with a garden as well. This way, you know they understand the importance of routine watering, whereas someone with no gardening experience may not.
The same is true if you have a small flock of chickens that need to be looked after. Ask a neighbor or friend that has animals themselves to look after your flock. Again, the reason here is to lean on their experience in knowing the importance of being on time when caring for living and breathing things.
Pare down the to-do list.
Remember you are getting free help here, so maybe leave “Clean out the horse stalls daily” off of the to-do list. I would instead stick to the basics and lower your expectations just a bit.
A good list of basic care could be:
- Give daily fresh and clean water
- Feed animals
- Give a fresh batch of hay
What does fresh and clean water mean?
What I mean by that is, be sure to tell your temporary help to give fresh, clean water every single day. If the water bucket is full, dump it out and refill it. Fresh water is super important and the easiest way to keep your animals healthy.
Next up is food. Be sure to be incredibly specific on what is to be fed, to whom, and when. Lable feed bowls, post instructions where the feed is kept, be specific on times, and so on. The more specific you are, the easier it will be for your helper.
If you have animals that eat hay, be sure to instruct how much and how often here as well.
Finally, let’s talk about safety.
If your animals are free to roam during the day yet need to be locked up at night, tell your help and why you do this. When they understand it is for safety reasons, they will also understand the risks if they forget to do this. Explain if you have hawks, coons, coyotes, etc. Those nocturnal predators can destroy a flock of hens in one night if left out in the open.
SLCG PRO TIP: Consider using a predator deterrent light around your chicken coop and run. This will help to scare away a majority of animals that can harm not only your setup but your flock as well.
The final word here is to keep the daily list simple and straightforward so as not to overwhelm your help.
Step #3. Be specific about what you need.
As I mentioned above, be specific when explaining what needs to be done so you can vacation when you farm without stressing out about the care being given back at home. Tell your volunteer WHY you do what you do. When they know why they will understand the importance of what you do, and they will be less likely to skip over a chore.
Step #4. How to say thank you.
I know this might sound silly, but knowing how you plan to thank your volunteer is good to have in the back of your mind.
Here are a few ideas:
- A souvenir from the place you are vacationing at.
- A gift basket or a gift card.
- Reciprocate the help for an upcoming trip they will be taking.
- Invite them over for dinner after you return.
Whatever you decide, be sure to do something so they know how much you appreciate them. This will make it easier to ask them again in the future and easier for them to say yes!
SLCG PRO TIP: If you need help watching over your chickens, why not give your help access to all the eggs they collect as a thank you? This is a great way to compensate while giving them one of the joys of homesteading as a thank you.
Luckily the reality of homesteading does not have to be all or nothing. We can have our farm-fresh eggs and eat them too!
If you love to travel and want the best of both worlds, then preparing things as you set up your homestead is a good idea. Ask for help and be clear on what you need and when so you and your animals will both be just fine while you are away.
What things do you do so you can vacation when you farm? Leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you!