“I’d like to homestead like you, but then I could neeeeeever go anywhere…”
It’s a phrase I hear quite a bit, and yeah, I totally get it.
In a day and age where the extent of most folks’ home responsibilities end at keeping the goldfish fed, the mere thought of being responsible for a milk cow, and a garden, and a flock of chickens sounds daunting.
And it kinda is.
I’ll be honest: I don’t love traveling. I’m happy-as-can-be to just stay at home most of the time…
I’ve heard it said you should create a life you don’t need a vacation from, and I’m totally there.
I love our land, our animals, our routine, and our projects.
But as my home business has grown, I’ve had the need to travel more lately in the past year than ever before. In the last 6 months, I’ve been to Jamaica, California, Oklahoma, and Idaho, and I have to admit– it’s been good for this homebody to get out and see the world a little bit more.
And I did it all without selling the milk cow or giving up the garden.
Here are a few of my best tips:
How to Take a Vacation When You’re a Homesteader
1. Be selective about what times of year you travel
This is the most important one. There are certain times of year (like summertime) when it’s really, really hard to convince me to go anywhere.
When the garden is in full swing and the heat complicates the watering chores, I am much more comfortable staying home to make sure everything runs smoothly. Therefore, I try to do the bulk of my traveling in the late fall/winter/early spring when my plants are dormant and there isn’t as much to do.
2. Find a trusted caretaker
I know… This is easier said than done. We happen to have a wonderful neighbor who comes up to our place and checks things when we leave. We try to have things set up so he only has to come once per day. However, depending on the season and how extensive your homestead is, it may make more sense to hire a “homestead-sitter” to stay at your house while you’re gone.
Although it’s not as fun, if you are married, sometimes it works best to just leave one spouse at home. As I write this post, I am up in Idaho with the kids visiting my parents, and my husband is home working on projects and watching the homestead. This won’t work in every situation (because dang it… sometimes you want to vacation together!), but there have been times one of us has made the choice to stay home to keep a handle on the chores.
3. Minimize chores as much as possible
There are two versions of my chore list: the detailed, intensive version, and the “just get ‘er done” version. Whenever I leave, I do as much as possible beforehand to keep the list to a minimum (more on that below). When things are running smoothly, and it’s not the dead of summer when everything needs to be watered, our chores can be completed in 15-20 minutes. That makes me feel a bit better about leaving.
Specific Strategies for Taking a Vacation from Your Homestead
I feed our chickens free-choice, so as long as I fill their feeder up completely before I leave, it can go for 5-7 days without needing to be refilled. Their waterer can go for 2-3 days before refilling as well.
The hardest part about chickens is keeping them safe from predators while we’re gone, especially when I try to have our neighbor only come up once per day… So sometimes, I just leave them locked in their run the whole time. They don’t love it, since they usually get to free-range, but better safe than sorry.
The Large Animals
We have a float attached to our very large water tank which does a wonderful job of keeping the tank full at all times with minimal fuss. (The only catch is that you can’t use it during the winter when it freezes…) Our animals graze during the summer, which greatly simplifies the feeding routine, as long as there is green grass.
When winter rolls around, we feed large, round hay bales, which only need to be put out every 7-10 days (depending on how many animals we have at the time). So if we put out a bale out right before we leave, sometimes it doesn’t even need to be replenished until we get back (depending on the length of our trip).
The Milk Cow
A milk cow is the part of homesteading that strikes fear into the heart of every wanna-be traveler, and I won’t lie– it’s a challenge. However, my once a day milking routine has greatly simplified things.
Because I leave the calf on the cow and just pull it off for a twelve-hour period before I want to milk, I have the option of leaving the calf on steady for several days at a time if I need to travel somewhere. (This works for goats as well).
I have done this countless times and it works beautifully. The cow doesn’t get mastitis, the calf doesn’t need to be bottle fed, and I don’t have to find someone to milk for me (which is NOT easy…)
The only time this doesn’t work is if you have weaned the calf and you are milking twice daily. If you are in this stage of lactation, you must keep the cow milked out every day, otherwise, you’ll run into big problems. Therefore, I just don’t travel much during this brief period of twice a day milking. Thankfully, it’s usually a fairly short amount of time, as I often wean my calves, milk for a couple months, and then end up drying up the cow to prepare for the next calving season.
Call me crazy, but I have an easier time leaving my animals than I do my garden, which is why I really try to avoid traveling in June, July, or August, which are my peak gardening months.
Thankfully, if I *do* have to leave for whatever reason, my deep mulching technique drastically simplifies things, as it keeps the weeds from going crazy while I’m gone and reduces the need for constant water.
I also have my garden sprinkler set up to hit all the areas of the garden without having to drag it all over the place, so if I did need someone to water it for me, it would be fairly simple.
That being said, I’d rather stay close to home in the summer months.
So is vacationing while homesteading the easiest thing I’ve ever done? No, but it can be done. The slight hassle of coordinating chores while you’re away is no reason to put off your homesteading dreams.
And one thing is for sure: the very best part of vacationing as a homesteader, is coming home to the land, critters, and plants you love.