Things have been busy here on the farm.
What with the monumental hoop house project (which is turning out to be way more challenging than we originally thought because of our aforementioned clay/rock soil...more on this later!) to normal summer chores with the garden, chicken processing and longer daylight hours…things have been sheer exhausting.
Add to that the fact that summer is when pretty much everybody is getting married, from my sister to a work friend to an old college pal of my husband’s, that leaves very little time for anything else!
We’re actually headed to a wedding about six hours away from us this weekend. As we were getting the long list of chores done that we needed to before we left, it came into my mind that this would make a truly fascinating blog post.
Because in reality, what farmer/animal owner/etc has not struggled with this challenge? Let’s face it.
It’s incredibly difficult to go on vacation when you have a farm.
When we went on our honeymoon last year, we were lucky enough to have a friend living nearby that could check on our animals and stay with our dog for us. She absolutely loved it – she was in her tomato-eating, pig-feeding glory all week.
Unfortunately, that friend moved across the country, and while we have other friends nearby, none of them are in a great position to be able to stay with the farm for an entire week.
So are you ready to learn more about how to vacation-proof your farm? Because, yes, you can go on vacation (or even a short trip) when you have a farm. You just need to do a little bit of advanced planning!
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How to Prepare Your Farm for a Trip Away
1. Save some extra cash
As much as I would love to say that your friends, family, or the 15-year-old kid down the street are going to be happy to check on your farm for you for free – and tend to all of you animals – that is unfortunately not the case. You are going to have to save some extra money to pay for someone to do these chores.
And unfortunately, if you want someone really good – someone who knows what they are doing – you are going to need to save even more. Call it the cost of doing business – or budget it into your overall vacation expenses – but you need to save some extra money to pay the person who will be tending to your critters.
2. Consider hiring a professional
It may not hurt to have someone tending to your animals who knows what he (or she) is doing. A professional who knows what to do when your rooster has a gash in his neck a mile long – or when your ram is limping or your pig won’t get up – will be invaluable. If you have someone in your network that you can convince to care for your animals while you are away, it will be worth it.
If you can’t get one talented individual to care for your entire farm, why not hire a passel? If you have one person that can come collect eggs and a different person that can watch your dog and a third that can feed your sheep, let the tasks be divided up. It might be a bit more juggling on your part to help keep everyone organized, but it will be worth it.
3. Consider your timing
And know that as much as you plan around your timing, there are some emergencies that you cannot account for. Traveling away in the winter? What will you do if your water freezes? What if a storm knocks out power to your equipment? Have a backup plan for everything, and a backup plan for your back up plan too.
4. Get as much done ahead of time as possible
Even if you have someone tending to your animals while you’re gone, don’t expect them to do everything. They are not going to weed the garden or mow your lawn (but if they do…can I have their number? Seriously?). We were lucky that the woman who cared for our animals and watched the house while we were away was also kind enough to harvest our garden every day, so we didn’t have produce rotting on the vine.
However, get whatever you can done ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about it while you’re on vacation. You’ll have a long list of chores to do when you get back, but you’ll be all rested up from your vacation, right? Here are some suggestions:
- Clean barns and living quarters
- Mow the lawn
- Harvest and weed the garden
- Process any food in the refrigerator (can, freeze, dehydrate, or throw it away)
- Refill autofeeders
5. Lower your expectations
That sounds negative. But it doesn’t have to be. It’s something I have a lot of trouble with, since I have a tendency to be a perfectionist.
But the reality is that something will probably go wrong while you are gone. Life happens, and life happens in full force on the farm. Unfortunately, life doesn’t stop happening just because you decided to take a hiatus. The problems that plagued you before you left for vacation will still be there – don’t expect them to be gone.
You might still have aphids in the garden. The chickens might still have mites. You need to be prepared to deal with anything that might spring up while you are away.
6. Make things as low-maintenance as possible
Even though we are having a friend check on our animals while we are gone away to the wedding this weekend, there’s not much that he will actually need to do. Despite the fact that we have 100 chickens (including 50 egg layers), 12 sheep, and 8 pigs, all he needs to do is:
- Collect eggs
- Feed the chickens
- Make sure fences are hot
- Feed the sow
That’s it! Everyone else is on auto-feed and water systems. There won’t be any hauling water out to animals – we will fill the barrels before we go – and there won’t be any shutting the chickens into the coop at night.
We have all of our chickens out on chicken tractors (since we will only be gone two nights, we will move them early in the morning before we leave and then the evening we return) and a small group in a coop. The group that is in the coop doesn’t need to be shut in because they have a ChickenGuard Automatic Coop Door Closing System – I highly recommend this for your chickens and if you don’t already have one, you need to look at the reasons why you should get one here.
Why so little work? We timed the trip right, for starters – no baby chicks in the brooder, no pregnant animals, and it’s not a time of the year when we have to worry about power outages or frozen water. But we also have our farm set up so that we can be as lazy as possible – and do as little work as possible.
Consider automatic systems. Obviously, someone will need to come and milk animals or feed them if they require daily feed or medication. However, you can easily put a timer on the garden sprinklers to water it or use mulch to keep things moist. Your feed and water systems can be automated, too.
7. Plan for the worst
Check everything before you leave – make sure fences and gates are tight, secure, and functioning properly. Have all your tools ready to go in case someone needs to make a quick fix.
Have plans in place if something bad happens. Make sure you leave feed, halters, or ropes where your hired help can reach them in case an animal gets out. Leave the vet’s phone number in an accessible area, and consider making a checklist of what needs to be done every day. You might also leave a farm first aid kit within reach.
Planning for the unexpected serves two purposes, one of which is arguably more important than the other. If you plan for the worst, you’ll have systems in place so that whoever is tending to your farm can deal with a crisis fast and without panicking. More importantly (I think) it will set the mind of you and your farmhand at ease – you don’t need to lie in bed awake during your vacation thinking about everything that could go wrong.
8. Have someone come check
Even if you don’t need someone to come to check on your animals every day – maybe you are just so automated and such a perfectly well-oiled machine you don’t need daily care – it might be worth your time (and peace of mind) to have someone swing by once or twice. This is a good idea just in case the unexpected happens – say a tree falls on a fence and cuts out your electric or your pig knocks over her water barrel and is suddenly out of drinking water.
Have someone stop, just to set your mind at ease.
9. Be uber-organized
The best way to stay stress-free on your vacation is to be extremely organized. Think about what you need to do on a daily and weekly basis. Think about the tools you need and the chores that need to be done. If you have a farmstand or another farm-based business, what business tasks need to be done (such as marketing, sales, or deliveries)?
Prioritize. If any of this work can be done either before or after your return, do it then. If not, think about what must be done while you are gone, and make sure this information is communicated to your farmhand. Make sure things are tidied up and that everything is in order and functioning so your farm help does not have to work around a mess.
10. Vocalize your communication preferences
Do you want your farm help to call you every time they collect eggs with a quantity report, or do you only want to be contacted in case of an emergency? This is a matter of preference, but make sure you let them know when and how you want to be contacted.
Most importantly? Relax! You’re on vacation. Whoever says that people with farms can’t take a vacation was misinformed. There are plenty of ways you can see the world, unwind, and relax – and still come home to a functional farm.
What tips do you have for leaving your farm while you are on vacation? Be sure to let me know in the comments!
Want to learn more about homesteading? You might be interested in reading these other posts.
- How to Butcher Chickens
- How to Keep Predators Away From Your Chickens
- The Best Egg-Laying Chicken Breeds
- The Ultimate Guide to the New Hampshire Chicken Breed
- How You Can Make Money Raising Chickens
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