Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Vacations from the homestead

On vacation at Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, Alaska in May
Last week I gave several talks in the Seattle area, and as always, I encouraged people to start small with their homesteading dreams. I explained that you don't want to get overwhelmed by starting with too much, but I've recently realized another good reason to start small: you need to be sure that you have someone to take care of your homestead if you ever want to take a vacation or even if you have to travel to the bedside of an ailing relative.

Homesteading is a 365-day-a-year commitment when you bring live animals into the picture. Unlike an office job where you can turn off the computer and tell your boss that you'll be back in a week or two, you can't turn off your chickens or goats or tell the weeds to stop growing in your garden. Real life waits for no one.

In my livestock talks, I always suggest starting with chickens because they are about as easy to care for as a cat. You can fill up their waterer and feeder and leave for the weekend, and unless temperatures are above 90 (and eggs might start to incubate) you don't even have to ask a neighbor to pick up eggs for you. However, as many urban chicken keepers have told me, asking neighbors to check on the chickens once a day and gather eggs can actually make your neighbors more enamored with your chickens -- especially when they get to keep the eggs they collect.

Other livestock, such as pigs, sheep, cattle, and goats, need daily or twice-daily attention, and if you have a dairy animal that doesn't have a calf or kids nursing, you'll have to find a farm sitter who can milk. Do not expect to find someone with these skills very quickly. It is much easier to find a dog sitter. However, you can also plan kidding and calving with vacations in mind so that you can leave home when you don't need to have someone milk for you.

Although taking a vacation from the homestead is more challenging, it is not impossible. With a little planning, you can have your fresh eggs, homegrown produce, and vacations too.


  1. Have not seen a post of yours in a while, but this one was SO true... and sadly, in my life, it always falls to ME to have to find the sitter when we need to get away. It can be very difficult, how well I know.

  2. We have been fortunate to have a client or two of my husband's (he's a large animal vet) who is happy to be able to trade out on their account by doing chores for us when we are gone. However, we have never had an animal to milk (though I would love to have one); I know that would complicate things!


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