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 in 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 a misunderstanding of any kind.
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. I had my girl watch me do chores a few times before she jumped in. Seeing not only what you do but 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 to 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 pretty 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 by using a large board like this one. You can then list out 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 if 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 both your help and yourself as well. Labels are your friend and will not only help make chores easier for any help you hire but for yourself as well.
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 your home year-round.
Step #1. 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, then you may want to ask someone that has 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.
Step #2. 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 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 they are left out in the open.
SLCG PRO TIP: Consider using a predator deterrent light around your chicken coop and chicken run. This will help to scare away a majority of animals that can do harm to 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 in what you need.
Like I mentioned above, be as specific as you can 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. Will you buy them a souvenir? Give them a gift basket or a gift card? Reciprocate the help for an upcoming trip they will be taking? Maybe you will have them over for dinner after you return.
Whatever you decide, be sure to do something so they know just 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!