The holidays are here, which means many people will be heading off somewhere on vacation. But what if you have animals to take care of? Here are some handy tips for taking a relaxing vacation from the homestead…
One thing that many new homesteaders may not think about at first is “how on earth will we ever take a vacation??” When you have gardens that need watering, and animals that need feeding, tending, and/or milking, taking a vacation from your farm or homestead can seem next to impossible. But we all need a vacation sometimes – even when you’re living your dream homesteading life!
It is a good idea to plan your vacations around busy times on the farm. For example, don’t go on vacation during planting season, goat-kidding season, or when you have eggs getting ready to hatch. This will minimize the care your plants and animals will need while you are gone. Planning to vacation in the winter will help, as the garden won’t need tending to, but if you live in a cold climate, you will want to make sure your animals have a safe, warm shelter accessible to them.
There are a few different things you can do to make sure your homestead and animals are safe and sound while you’re gone. If you have a neighbor who can do simple chores for you (and knows how to do them), that would be ideal. You can also swap animal care with other animal owners – i.e. they care for yours while you’re gone, and you do the same for them. This can get challenging, however, when you are taking care of both your own animal chores and theirs!
You can also hire a farm helper, if you can find one available in your area, who will come to your homestead and take care of milking, feeding, and other farm chores while you are away. You can expect to pay around $20-30 per day, but at least you will know that your farm is in good hands. Make sure you leave a detailed daily task list, including where to find various feeds and watering implements for each chore that you need them to do.
Here are a couple more tips from DaNelle over at Weed ‘Em And Reap:
1. Daily Task List for Farm Help:
Chickens are really easy animals because you only need to make sure they have daily food & water. We fill large containers of extra food & water for them and tell our farm helper to just check to see if they’re empty.
If you’re like us and free-range your chickens by day, but lock them up at night, you might need to add “lock up the chickens & let them out in the morning” to your daily task list…
If your goats are in milk, they’re going to require the most care. Once or twice a day milking is the priority, so you’ll definitely need an experienced milker. Please don’t make the mistake of using someone who isn’t experienced, because odds are they’ll struggle with it and won’t milk the goat completely out, which means a drop in milk supply for the rest of the year.
Food & water for goats is pretty standard, but we also make sure to let our farm helper know not to give extra treats or grain. Lots of people tend to overfeed or spoil goats, but in the end it throws their rumen off balance and makes them sick. That’s something you definitely don’t want to happen while you’re on vacation.
Sheep are by far the easiest to leave, because sheep are grazers and only need a large pasture & water to be happy. If it’s the winter, however, they’ll need to be fed daily with an alfalfa/bermuda blend of hay.
We try to bring our dogs with us on vacation for the most part, but if we can’t, we leave enough food & water while we’re gone, plus we get them a new bone or pig’s ear to keep them busy.
We have a timer on our garden, and we use a lot of wood chips so our garden doesn’t need a lot of water. If we’ve just planted seeds, we usually need to be more attentive to the watering, which is why we don’t usually plant seeds before a vacation.
2. How to Leave Your Farm WITHOUT a Farm Helper
For your milking goats, if you still have the baby goats around, you can leave them in with mom 24-7 and she’ll nurse them so the milking should be taken care of for you while you’re gone. I should warn you, this only works if your milking doe is the mother of the babies you’re leaving her with. A mother won’t let another goat baby nurse no matter how little or cute. She will only nurse her baby goats. If you plan your vacations for when you still have baby goats around, this can really work to your advantage.
As far as food & water for the all the animals, just leave enough out to keep them happy while you’re gone.
It’s always a good idea to have a neighbor check in halfway through your vacation and just make sure the food & water levels are good.