Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Farm Sitting

Owning animals makes it difficult to take vacations.  The guilty feelings are bad enough when you have to board your dog or cat at a local kennel, but what do you do when you have livestock that also needs caring for?  You stay home, that's what you do.  "Real" vacations are something of the past when you live on a farm.

When you lived in the 'burbs you could just ask your girlfriend or next door neighbor to check in on Fido and Fluffy for the week and they'd be more than happy to oblige.  Now that you're farming (or trying to farm) try asking your neighbors to water and feed the chickens, mule and horse along with feeding watering and milking your goats twice a day and see how many takers you get then.  Not everyone can milk a goat or cow.  And not everyone can wield a broomstick to keep the psycho-rooster at bay while filling water buckets and scooping out critter feed.  Or should I say, not everyone wants to do those things.  And honestly, I don't blame them.

When Rhiannon was born, we were fortunate enough that our next door neighbors and my mom took care of the cats, dog, chickens, goats and mule.  The fact that I had just dried up the goats was another blessing.  It was bad enough having to depend on family and neighbors to care for the animals for a month (while Rhiannon & I were in the hospital), but I couldn't imagine having to ask them to milk on top of everything else.

But I regress........

Last weekend, I had the chance to Farmsit for a fellow firefighter.  A few weeks ago she had mentioned something about leaving for a short weekend and I jumped on the opportunity to help her out.  Of course, she also said she'd be more than willing to reciprocate when we went out of town.  And she knows how to milk!  I almost feel kind of guilty because I've been really looking for an opportunity to help her out knowing that she's the kind of lady that would help us out when we needed it.

She has a horse, mini-horse, a young steer, a dozen laying hens, a cat and two dozen Cornish meat birds.  Even though they were only going to be gone for a day & a half, the critters needed tending to. 

The horses have their own outdoor run that is attached to their individual stalls and the steer calf had his own paddock.  The laying hens roost indoors at night and their run is attached and fully enclosed.  The Cornish also have their own secure pen outdoors.  The cat is an outdoor / barn cat.

It was as easy as pie, even with Rhiannon in tow!  I had gone over to her place the day before they left and we went over everything.  Even though it sounds like a ton of work, it went quickly and smoothly.  She had all the horse and cow feed scooped out into individual buckets and hay already flaked off, just needing to be tossed into the animal pens.  She filled the feed and water bins to the top for both the laying hens and the Cornish.  All I had to do was top off the water and scoop a bucket of chicken food for the Cornish (gluttons that they are, ate two days worth of food in just one day), toss some chicken scratch treats for the layers, collect eggs and pet the cat.

E-Z says, "Hey, you're not my Mom.....but since you're here,
toss me some hay & grain, will ya??"

Rhiannon feeding the steak, I mean, steer calf.
Do you have someone who could take over the bare-minimum daily care of your lifestock if you were to have an emergency or, goodness even, take a vacation?  If not, don't you think you should make that one of the items on your Emergency Preps list?  I know it's easier said than done.  It's taken us several years to "find" our Farmsitter.....and we see her twice a month (or more if there's a fire call!). 

So don't be afraid to ask around or even be the first to provide your Farmsitting services.  It's definately a wonderful thing knowing someone can be there for your critters when you can't.


  1. It's one of those things you don't think about when you decide to farm/try to farm. It gets REALLY hard to take a vacation! We generally go on a family vacation once a year and we have a lovely house sitter who takes care of everything for us (stays at our house with her kids). If we didn't have her, we'd probably never go anywhere! Farmsitters are the best. I'm glad you were able to help this family out, and hope they get the chance to reciprocate soon!

  2. How wonderful that your friends could count on you. That is one cute steer calf (and little girl, too).

    We don't take many vacations ourselves. It is not economical for a family our size to do much traveling! :)

  3. Commenting hot off a long weekend vacation...it is so amazingly wonderful to find someone (my sister, in this case) who will farm sit. Of course, once Sage is bred and there is miling involved, all bets are off!

  4. Mama Tea, glad you found a farmsitter. Even better that they can stay at the house. It's a great feeling knowing someone is there 24/7.

    Moo, (you don't mind that I call you "Moo" do ya???) Not that I see you guys doing such a thing (but maybe I'm mistaken), but could you imagine how much it would cost to take a "normal suburbanite family vacation" to Disneyworld for your family? It would rival the national debt!! :)

    Susan, I was thinking of just you when I was writing this post. Can't you bribe your sister to take milking lessons?? :)

  5. Hooray for you! Having someone willing to take on that responsibility is a wonderful gift, and very necessary. :) So, ya got vacation plans yet? ;)

  6. Good post to get people thinking. I'm glad I only have ducks, chickens and dogs to deal with. Fairly easy for "sitters". When we had horses and goats it was a lot harder to find people.

  7. It's hard enough to find someone with the know-how and/or willingness to milk my goat but the real problem is...only *I* can touch her! Guess I should work on that, huh?!?

  8. I've been ruminating on this very topic for a while. All our neighbor farmers have hundreds of acres of crops and huge barns with hundreds of turkeys or pigs. Milking is gonna be a problem! Glad you found someone to trade with!

  9. This is something I worry about everyday. Have lots of young kids in the neighborhood that love to help feed the animals but none that have the patience to learn to milk the goats. Right now my husband and I never go away at the same time. When he goes out of town I stay home to care for the animals. I am planning a two week trip to visit my daughters and grands in December and he will be staying home to do the same. Its tough but works until we can find a good animal sitter.

  10. We were lucky to find out a month before our trip up north, that the retired lady who lives across the street used to have chickens. When we told her about our planned trip and asked if she would mind taking care of them for the weekend, she said sure! What a relief! And she was thrilled to have the fresh eggs - she misses that the most.