LAST UPDATED JANUARY 21, 2020
It’s so hard to get away as a farmer. Each time we have, it’s been a catastrophic event. Then last one we tried out we ended up just turning around to head home even after having paid ahead for tickets and rooms. Finding a farm sitter that you can trust, rely on and who is familiar with your farm is key to relaxing on a little getaway.
GO DURING THE SLOW SEASON: Don’t go while you have big gardens that will go to weeds while you’re away. Make sure you have no live births or hatches coming due soon. Ensure any young animals are healthy, strong and old enough to be on their own for hours at a time. If possible, have a vet out for a health check before leaving.
We’ve lost animals, had personal property destroyed. Drunken parties—no joke. I found two pair of underwear on the floor. People we don’t know had been invited into our home by people we barely knew but were highly recommended. We really trusted them after they came out and castrated an animal for us that summer.
Our no trespassing sign was run over and found in the driveway upon our drive back into the barnyard. We found serious animal neglect when we came home unexpectedly early. No water, hay or room to roam. Their dog shit all over our beautiful braided rugs that had to then be thrown out. It turned out they’d been banned from having animals by the town.
Call references; their family, school, workplace, town, and animal control officer.
Coop doors were left open likely the entire vacation with half the flock GONE. Eaten! That is like telling predators there’s easy pickings from then on. We had to move them to a new coop. They were thin, had injuries from the constant battle with rats who let them selves in and had a munch on my juvenile birds sleeping on low roosts. Yes, rats will take easy pry even is it’s live. Not cool.
The downright unforeseen stuff rally sucks makes each time we try to leave all that more complicated. Just when I feel like the stars have aligned, the universe says to let go, relax, go on my merry way… My mother-in-law fractured her pelvis a week before, so dad couldn’t farm sit. So I scrambled, finding a farm sitter and another place for our teenage son to stay—he’s not quite comfortable alone overnight. But my back-up milkmaids weren’t comfortable milking alone yet and another was just plain unavailable.
I needed to train more locals, family and friends to milk from now on. It’s handy in case of emergency to have a plan to leave ready to go anyhow. Two summers ago I was in the hospital for ten days and my loving husband needed to learn to milk with his gigantor hands. He is the BEST.
Finding a farm sitter locally . . .
Don’t tell everyone you’re going to be gone for specific dates!
That’s like people on Facebook announcing a countdown to their vacation—burglars and creeps be ready, I’m about to leave my house unattended. There’s surely photos of their house inside and out on their profiles. Personal pet peeve for the greater good.
It’s just asking for trouble. Not only is there now the chance of your property now being targeted for theft, your farm sitter could also be put in an unsafe position. It’s a terrible idea to post photos of vacationing on Facebook WHILE YOU ARE ON VACATION. I know it’s hard. I’ve been there myself—but I waited impatiently. Text photos to friends and family that you will post later.
Make sure your farm sitter is able to keep to themselves and not tell the world you’re leaving. Finding a farm sitter is a major trust hurdle. You can always have to police pop-in for a ‘well-check’ if you are really worried. Should you really, want to be a control freak about it, call your local animal control officer and let them know ahead and ask then to do a planned check-in. Let them know how to get ahold of you, your veterinarian, and a back up sitter. Let your vet know you’ll be gone too. Depending on how much you trust your neighbors, ask them to report anything fishy.
Have practice dry-runs and then one night before do a farmer shadow one last time. Set very clear house rules. Daily check-ins will help you relax! If you are as bad as me, ask for photos. Live game cams are a great tool, and set out signs. We have a hidden camera inside now that’s connected to wifi and records at real time and sends it to my husband’s phone. Our wifi network is set up so any new phones or laptops that connect are reported to us on-the-go too. Use technology or have someone help you set it up—who won’t blab about it. Give them the wrong dates.