“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.
So, how do you take a vacation when you have a homestead? Here are a few of my best tips:
How to Take a Vacation When You Have a Homestead
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 When You Have a 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
Can you vacation when you have a homestead with a dairy 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 it easy to vacation when you have a homestead? 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. 🙂
More Homesteading Tips:
- Managing Homestead Livestock in Winter
- Top Six Money Principles for Homesteaders
- On Homesteading Stereotypes
- The World’s Worst Homesteader
- When Homesteading Makes You Lonely
Listen to the Old Fashioned On Purpose podcast episode #4 on this topic HERE.
Carole West @ Garden Up Green says
This is a great list of ideas, sometimes the thought of leaving the farm for a long period of time can be really overwhelming. It’s been almost six years since I’ve been away for more than three or four days. I love our lifestyle but sometimes it can be rather consuming. I agree choosing the time of year is really key.
Liz M says
This is a really helpful list – thank you! As we build up our little homestead slowly, this is one thing I have worried about. This makes it easier for me to envision getting away occasionally (something that is reply important to my husband). And I totally agree about it being harder to leave the garden than the animals! 🙂
Jill Winger says
It totally can be done Liz! 🙂
jane roberts says
I would love to go on vacation! But when I think of the chickens, the cats, dogs, the horses my son who has a brain tumor who lives with us . Well I have to get a horse person to take care of them. A person to cook and clean for my son and the inside cats. Same person for horses can do chicks. Someone who can let outside cats in and out and feed 3 dogs , one very spoiled. Also I keep VA men who would not normally have a home! Only have one now, so who ever feeds and cares for him cares for my son . Every time we go to SD we use 3 people . By the time we get our air line tickets, motel, and rental car , pay the 3 people, that’s a lot of money! Yet I miss the Black Hill so bad . we’ve gone for 21 years sometimes twice a year. It’s two expensive now for us to go. We’ve had large horse vet bills . Bless your heart for all the good info. on food and trips . I love to read all about it .
A great article full of tips. I have only been away for long weekends for the last 4 summers. It’s too hard for me to leave my veg patch. Next year I am getting a house-sitter and going on a proper beach holiday.
What scale is used when you say DE is a 7 and diamonds are a 9? I cant seem to fins this scale and am wondering if this is right…I need more
Sounds like you’re referring to Moh’s scale of hardness….
Great tips, Jill! Our lives have definitely changed a bit since the addition of a large organic garden and a small flock of chickens (not to mention all the yard work!), but you’re right–travel is still doable. Our beach trip this year is scheduled for the week after Labor Day–the rates are cheaper then, too.
Jill Winger says
Yes– doable, just gotta be extra creative! 🙂
“Create a life you don’t need a vacation from” and that’s me!! I hadn’t heard that before but now I will be borrowing that line as it helps explain why I rarely like to leave my little homestead… especially in the summer, as you explained so well. Crowds, lines, airports, dirty gas stations… ummm… pass.
Jill Winger says
we are definitely on the same page! 🙂
We are planning to move and start our new homestead next year (we are currently suburban homesteaders) and I’ve been considering starting a business of taking care of other homesteaders animals and properties when they need to be away for either planned vacations or last minute events like a funeral.
Jill Winger says
If you have a lot of homesteaders in your area, that sounds like a fantastic business idea!
Dorothy Terhune says
Wonder where you are locating – I have a small hobby farm in Michigan and am always looking for someone to come and stay while we’re away.
Diana Hengerer says
Love your website, thank you so much for all the great information!
Where in ID are your folks? I am up north of Weiser, enjoying my first season
of homesteading where there is actually enough sun (and water) to grow a garden, unlike my previous place in Oregon.
Steep learning curve, but I’m having a blast!
Jill Winger says
They are up in Moscow. Great growing seasons up there where you guys are!
Barbara Arrington says
We also live in Idaho. We get a couple of kids from our church to come feed our chickens, they keep the eggs and we try to pay them if their mom will let’s us. Works out great. We usually only go camping or to cut our firewood that we heat with or sell the extra when we have it. We usually stock it up.
Lady Lee says
Great tips. Thanks.
What are you doing about the eggs? Do you just leave them in the coop the whole time you are gone?
Jill Winger says
I usually let the person who’s doing the chores keep them. Or if we’re only gone for a couple days, they are just fine sitting in the coop (as long as the chickens don’t eat them).
Sally Olson says
Great tips, Jill. We are actually away from our homestead as we speak. The garden water is automated and our awesome neighbors look after the animals.
Jill Winger says
Good for you for getting away for a bit Sally!
All tips are spot-on. We have 20+ chickens that range in a fenced field, raised beds in two separate areas, and two cats. Going on vacation always demands lots of planning and prepping.
The cats require two visits a day to be fed (grazing on dry food makes one chubby), so we still need a sitter that’ll come twice. But I try to streamline the chicken and garden chores like you do. Enough water for at least 3 days at a time. A full feeder, which covers 9-10 days. We even have an automatic chicken door (adorstore.com) that is on a battery.
The garden is my biggest concern because some of it requires hand watering. So when I arrange how much to pay my homestead sitter, I have learned to offer a flat rate for caring for the animals, and I then offer a separate, maximum possible amount of payment for the care of the garden (based on how good it looks when i get back from vacation). It seems to work. When I used to lump the payment all into one flat rate, I have come home to half-dead plants a couple of times and felt guilty about not paying the full amount, because it was a friend’s kid, or whatever. So now I offer to pay based on quality of work, for the garden.
Jill Winger says
I really like your idea of offering extra $$ depending on how much time they spend in the garden. Smart!
I’ve been doing ‘this homesteading thing’ for 2 1/2 years now, and I’ve been wondering how I could get away, even if just for a long weekend! Thanks for the tips!
Jill Winger says
You’re welcome Sheri!
We have a small homestead with a flock of chickens, a medium sized garden, and three Doberman Pinschers…and we live about 70 miles from town. I really like your livestock ideas, but what would you recommend for the dogs?
Denise Olczak says
I have 13 horses, 3 inside outside cats, one barn cat, and 5 hens plus a huge garden and over an acre of lawn. We try very hard to take a vacation for a week to 10 days every September after Labor Day. Every year I have local college student who I have established a good relationship with, come and live at our house. I provide all of the food they want to eat and a paycheck for doing all of the chores. Usually by mid-Sept the horses can just be out on pasture and there isn’t much stall mucking to be done. Every year that person changes, but God knows my deep need to sit on an ocean beach and refill the empty so that I can pour out once again to others.
Jill Winger says
We just take our dogs to a local kennel. It costs $$, but I feel better that way.
Great ideas! I always hesitate to ask friends who are doing chores to water my potted flowers, herbs, hanging baskets, etc. So I’ve used a trick I heard about years ago, and it has worked great every time, no matter how hot and dry it gets (southwest Montana) while we are away…..sit all potted plants in a small kiddie pool and add a few inches of water. They wick the water up from below, and when you come home, just put them back where you had them.
MaryJo Heine says
Great article Jill. How do you keep the mice away when you have feed out all the time? I have a great feeder that my husband built. It can hold 10 50 lb bags of feed. I don’t use it anymore though because I was overrun with mice!
Terri Jones says
We have a garden, dog, cats and chickens. When we want/need to leave town, we have a wonderful neighbor that takes care of things for us. We let her and her family have any eggs or produce that is collected while we are gone. She uses this time to teach her grandchildren about the animals and plants.
Fun to read that your folks are in Moscow. That’s my neck of the woods! Love Palouse country!
Have you thought about doing any videos on some of the daily chores of the homestead? I would love to “take a tour” of your place and get an idea of how you have things laid out, where they are located in proximity to each other, your daily routines, as well as some tips on making life a little easier.
Maybe we should have cows instead of goats. The goats can’t seem to be left alone at all. We are going on a short trip this week while son takes care of the animals and I already worry about what will go wrong. We went somewhere last year ( had to, this was a unavoidable family thing) and 2 goats got sick right before we left, and one was severely injured somehow while we were gone ( she is fine now). I was looking up how other farmers and homesteaders deal with this. Milking is a problem also, last year we just dried up our 1 milk goat we had at the time, now we have several. It sounds like you have it figured out! Our neighbors are also farmers and very busy, I would hate to ask them to take care of our animals ( they would) for a vacation trip. I would only do it if it was a family emergency or something.
JETHRO PAUL RAYMER says
CAN YOU PLEASE SING ME UP FOR YOUR NEWSLETTERS .
South Of Eden Farms Nigerian Dwarf Goats and Anatolian Shepherds says
We found another goat breeder in our area and we agreed to farm sit for each other when either of us goes away. I prefer having another farmer that is experienced with the same livestock, versus a pet/house sitter that doesn’t really understand how to properly care for these animals. They also understand exactly how big of a job has been entrusted to them because they know how much they have invested in their farm and they would want someone trustworthy looking after their animals, so they provide the same in return and we can relax and not worry while we are away. We’ve started offering this service to homesteads in the Tri-Cities region (Johnson City, TN to Asheville, NC) and we really enjoy it.
Kayla- Prairie Homestead Assistant says
That’s so awesome that you were able to find someone qualified to watch your farm when you go away! That’s a blessing! There’s nothing like being able to take a vacation from the farm without worry!
Kelly B. says
Absolutely love your blog, and this post. Travel time was a must when I agreed to the homestead. As much as I love it, there are grandchildren to visit and places to see. At this time, chickens are our only livestock, and the best purchase we’ve made is an automatic coop door. Opens at dawn, closes at dusk, works beautifully. As for the garden and greenhouses, everything is watered with soaker hoses on timers. And we deal with weeds when we return. But as you said, you do have to pick and choose the time of year to travel, some seasons are easier than others!