This is a subject that may not cross the mind of every aspiring homesteader so let's bring it to the forefront of attention, it's hard to vacation when you're a homesteader. A more accurate statement might be, it's close to impossible to take a vacation when you're a homesteader and that's why many elect to forgo vacations all together. I'm here to tell you it can be done but you may need to alter your lifestyle if weekend getaways are a frequent event in your life (good for you by the way if they are). Here are a few reasons why most homesteaders skip vacations.
You are responsible for a lot, probably more than you realize daily
Most homesteaders know they work hard every day, whether it's weeding the garden, feeding turkeys, or cleaning coops, you're busy. The thing is when you're busy all the time it seems normal. The problem is that your normal and other people's normal are not the same. I took a weekend trip a year ago with my boyfriend. We thought it would be fine, just 2 nights away camping with some friends. At the time we didn't have to worry about someone watching our dogs so that was one less thing to worry about (lucky for us, our parents are both very attached to our dogs so it's no issue for them to go stay with "grandma and grandpa" from time to time). We had 12 laying hens, 2 rabbits, and 23 meat chickens at the time. To us, the daily chores were nothing. We had to feed and water everyone in the morning. In the evenings, we had to move the meat chicken tractor and top off everyone's food and water. Sounds pretty easy right?
I asked my sister to handle the morning shifts and my brother to handle Saturday evening (we planned to leave Friday night so I figured we could handle the animals then, and return Sunday night so no need for anyone to come by then either). I felt completely confident in this arrangement until I began typing out instructions. Neither my brother or sister knew anything about caring for my animals and I found myself wondering "is it common knowledge how to dump and refill a chicken waterer?" or "they'd know the difference between rabbit food and chicken food, right?". I ended up typing up a 4 page (yes 4 page) instructional manual with pictures of everything. I found myself writing things like "turn the white part of the chicken waterer counter-clockwise to release it from the base". I thought "when the hell did this get so complicated?". It wasn't complicated to me but I bet it was to them so I proceeded with finishing my manual. (Side note, before I adopted the farm life I used to pet sit as a side hustle. I often found myself searching for things like the dog's food or it's collar before resorting to calling the homeowner and finding out it's "obviously" under the sink or whatnot. So, I appreciate when people are crystal clear about where things are or how they work when you're taking care of their animals.)
We set off Friday night for our trip and I felt pretty good about leaving our animals. My sister called me after she visited our animals on Saturday morning to report everything went well. She had also been smart enough to stop by a few days before we left to go over everything in person, unlike my brother. He didn't have time to stop by and assured me he could handle it, no problem. Sure enough, I got a call from my brother around 7:30 pm Saturday night and he was obviously frustrated. He didn't read any of the directions I had left him and was basically in a cluster-F of a situation. The first line of my "manual" read, "whatever you do, don't let the hens out of the coop because you won't be able to get them back in there before dark". The first thing he did was walk over to the coop and open the door. He left it open while he removed their waterer and feeder and just let them all pour out. We typically let our hens out every morning so the fact that no one let them out until Saturday evening probably made them feel like they were escaping Alcatraz. My brother went on to complain that when he attempted to move our meat chicken tractor he accidentally ran over one of the chickens. He thought it was fine but he said he was frustrated that they didn't know to move with him as he yanked it across the grass. I mean…they're chickens, no one said they were bright. All and all he completed everything that needed to be done, in the most time consuming and difficult way possible.
Our trip was cut short due to a sudden drop in the temperature and onset of heavy cold rain. We got back to the homestead after 10 pm on Saturday night (being gone just over 24 hours) and I immediately went out to check on our animals. Everyone was okay except the laying hens at no water…zero, which didn't even seem possible to me. Upon further inspection, I realized that my brother had somehow hung the waterer on an angle and all the water poured onto the floor of the coop. Since it had only been a few hours since he was there, I thought "ok no big deal". However, the more I thought about it, had we not come home early, those birds would have been without water for over 24 hours and depending on the temperature I could have come home to dead hens.
Why do I tell you this long-winded story? Because we were only gone 1 day, with trusted family members taking care of our animals, armed with a complete "farm animals for dummies manual" including pictures, and I still barely dodged coming home to dead animals. Entrusting someone else with your farm is a huge leap of faith and it why it's so hard to vacation. I'm also not saying my brother intentionally mishandled anything on my homestead, it was just simply way more work than he was expecting.
Does this mean I can never go anywhere again? Not necessarily
Farmers can and do sometimes travel but it's not as easy as dropping your dog off at a kennel and heading to the airport. Here are some things to consider.
I've found the ideal person to watch my homestead, now what?
So, you've found and vetted the perfect homestead-watcher? That's great! Be sure to treat them well and pay them handsomely. Also, be sure to go over the below checklist before handing them your keys to ensure a smooth transition as you skip off to your vacation.
Vacationing while homesteading is possible, it's just not easy. The trade-off is that you will probably enjoy homesteading so much you won't crave a getaway like you did in the past. I sometimes think about how nice it would be to take a weeklong beach vacation, and perhaps someday we will, but for the most part, there is always something exciting happening right here on the homestead that I couldn't imagine missing. To me, homesteading has allowed me to create a life I don't need a vacation from and with any luck it will do that for you as well.