As I sit here writing this, I am supposed to be packing, cleaning and getting ready to hit the road in two days. We are going out of town for the Homesteaders Of America Conference in Virginia this weekend. Instead of packing and getting last minute chores done, I sit here thinking about all the things I need to do, but I am obviously not doing. But all of this did get me thinking that brand new homesteaders may be struggling with the logistics of traveling when you homestead. So this is how we do it.
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Traveling When You Homestead
When most people travel, they have to find someone to watch their dogs, cats, maybe a snake or lizard. Usually, it is not a big deal. But when you have gardens that need to be harvested, animals that need to be fed and watered, medications to be given, sometimes finding someone is extremely difficult.
I’m not going to lie, traveling when you homestead can be a logistical nightmare. It’s not as easy as it was pre homestead. But your days of traveling aren’t over, they just look a little different now. Some homesteaders rarely leave their property. Others will only travel a certain distance away. Still others will globe trot in the winter. There is no right or wrong answer to traveling and homesteading. It’s all about logistics.
Pre-homestead, we just needed to find someone that could either stay at the house with our four dogs, two cats and three bearded dragons or at least let dogs out to go to the bathroom and feed them. Heading out for a quick overnight or weekend trip was as simple as calling one of Jared’s buddies from the fire department to have them do a drive by the house and let the dogs out. Rarely was it a big deal.
Post- homestead? There’s a lot more.
The first time we went out of town, we went to Yellowstone for a week. One of my friends from work was willing to stay the week and hang out with the animals. She had a crash course in goats and we prefilled their foods, medications and anything else we could to make her life easier. She did fantastic and I am extremely grateful for her.
The second trip is to Virginia for the conference. We were lucky that our neighbor is willing to help us out since he will be home all weekend. But how do you travel when you are knee deep in kidding season, or canning season?
Below is how I get prepared to leave the homestead for a few days.
Getting A Farm Sitter
The first thing to do is to line up your farm sitter for your trip. If you’ve got friends or family that is willing to help out, all the better. But if not, check with your local 4-H or FFA. There are a ton of kids that are well versed in farming and would love to make some money. You could also get in touch with your local feed store and see if they know of anyone that would be willing to come out and help.
There are a ton of people out there that are willing to help out if the pay is right. There is no set rate for this, either. Some people who only have a few chickens and need someone to harvest the garden is going to charge less than someone you load chores on.
Have your farm sitter come out to the farm to go over everything with you. I leave a typed list of all the things that need to be done in order of animals. So goats have their own list, dogs, chickens, etc.
If you have a friend coming over and they know nothing about feeding animals, go ahead and pre-fill buckets or jars with feed, so all they have to do is dump and go.
Clean Up Before You Go
This isn’t just cleaning your house. It’s mucking out the stalls, barns and coops and laying fresh bedding. Move chicken tractors, electric netting, etc. so that they don’t have to mess with it. It’s fresh sheets on the bed if they are spending the night. Make sure that they do not have to do that stuff while your gone.
When we leave, we make sure that the only thing they have to do is feed and water animals, let out dogs, and collect eggs.
Harvesting The Garden
First, let me just say this, planning a vacation in July/ August, is not the best possible scenario. Can it be done? Absolutely. But if there is a choice, maybe not go during peak harvest time.
If you are in mid swing with canning and harvesting the garden, life just got a little harder. But it’s still not impossible. When we went to Yellowstone, we told my friend, you can keep anything the garden produces and any eggs the hens lay.
But if it’s the middle of August and you are harvesting the garden every day, that’s a lot of produce to “lose”. Here are some quick tips:
The farm sitter can have anything the garden produces.
Peppers can be frozen, tomatoes too.
Cucumbers and summer squash can go to the goats, chickens and pigs.
Watermelons can stay on the vine for a few days extra.
Look into other ways your produce can be saved until you get back and have your farm sitter do that.
Other Random Chores
Sometimes you have to leave and you have a goat in milk. Or sometimes you had an accidental breeding and now you are going on vacation when your favorite doe is going to kid. You’ve got eggs in the incubator or you’ve got chicks in the brooder. Maybe you have a last minute trip and need to butcher chickens. Or you have a sick animal that needs medications.
All of these things happen. A good farm sitter is invaluable. In theory, you should find someone that is comfortable doing all of those things. The reality is Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. That’s not to say that anyone is at fault, quite the opposite. If you can plan around your vacation, and prepare your farm sitter, everything will be fine.
In the situation of a goat in milk, see if your farm sitter is comfortable milking. If not, try drying her up before you leave. If that won’t work, think about putting her baby back with her while you’re gone. Another option is to see if you have a goat friend that would be willing to keep her while you’re gone.
The best thing you can do when you are preparing for travel is to be as prepared as possible. Our vet has our credit card on file so that if anything happens, we are good to go. We have lists for the farm sitter. Our neighbors are willing to help out and, not only do they have knowledge of animals but have actually met our animals.
Having a good infrastructure in place is also key to making sure that you are good to go. Setting up your farm to be automated, like automatic waterers for the garden and animals, helps tremendously.
Lastly, enjoy your trip! Seriously, you have probably earned it. Especially in the fall/ winter when everything is buttoned up for the season and it’s time to relax and plan for spring.
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