The holidays are just ahead of us and many homesteaders find themselves in a position where they need to travel to spend time with family around the country, but it can be almost impossible planning to leave the homestead for anything longer than a night – especially if you have animals to care for. Luckily this is the PERFECT time of year for most homesteaders to get away. (This year we’ll be staying home and saving money for a BIG European vacation in 2016).
It’s Fall, and while there are still many delicious things we could be growing right now, we’re taking a break after the stupendous failure of our summer crop and regrouping and planning for Spring planting. I’ve heard from other homesteaders who tell me that drip irrigation systems are a life saver for vacation – these drip moisture slowly into the ground all day every day and ensure that your plants never have to go without water. (Actually, these may not be a bad idea for us to install this Spring too!) Another great option is to enlist the help of a neighbor to check by and make sure that everything is looking green and healthy, in exchange for the offer for them to help themselves to any produce ready for picking while you’re gone.
Our girls are VERY low maintenance. We check by once a day, remove the new eggs, refill waterers, throw them any kitchen scraps we’ve collected through the day and throw out some chicken crumble. That’s it. The trouble is, this has to happen every day. We can invest in a larger waterer which would buy us an extra day or two. We could buy a bigger grain feeder, again an extra day or two. But our biggest issue with them is the eggs… our girls – if left unattended for long periods of time – will eat their eggs. Yes, we’ve tried the wooden/ceramic eggs, but they are wise to those now and step over them to get to the real ones. On the plus side, a neighbor or family member could easily take over these tasks for us – in exchange for keeping the eggs they collect in our absence.
but now comes the biggest issue… the goats….
Most of the time our goats are also pretty low-key and require little more than feeding and watering every day. But they’re milk goats, and while we’re not milking right now, chances are that we will be when the time comes for the “Adcock European Vacation, August/September 2016”. But we’re working on a plan for this. This holiday season would have been the perfect time to get away because right now our girls are all dried off and “dating”. Any kids born out of these dates would be born March/April 2016 which gives us 5 months of milk before a plan has to be made. So what are our options for next Summer?
i) Drying off. The kids will be old enough to wean in August and we can dry the girls off before we leave. This is an okay option, but not really our first choice. It would be another long hard wait to get started again, and I have SO many plans for our goat milk next year.
ii) Family/Friend/Neighbor. This is a solid option because, living out in the country, many of our neighbors know more about goats and goatkeeping than we do, but for those of you who are still quite “suburban” this may not work.
Just a word of advice: If you have a family member / friend / neighbor who sounds super keen to take on this task while you’re gone – be sure that you are very clear about what is expected. Make sure you do a few trial runs with them. And always, always have a back up plan in place. Sometimes even the most well meaning neighbor with “homesteady stars in their eyes” can become overwhelmed and let you down. Be sure to share the WHOLE story of how it milking goes down every morning/evening/both – don’t just give them the glittering version. It’s important that they know exactly what they’re getting into before you leave town – rather than you getting a call while you’re away with the bad news that they just can’t do it. (Also, a back up plan is important because you don’t know what might come up for said neighbor/friend/family member while you’re gone and they may not be able to complete the assignment).
iii) Goat “Boarding”. We have some goaty friends who live fairly close by – close enough that it wouldn’t be a big deal to drive the goats over there and let them hang out for a week or two. Really, this would have been an okay option for us when we had just the 3 girls, but at this point with 5 goats in total I think it may be a bit much to ask of anyone. I am only including it here because not everyone
has a hard time selling kids has as many goats as we do.
iv) Let the Kids Eat. I’ve heard that it would be just as easy to leave the kids in with the mama’s 24/7 and drink as much as they like, and then separate them when you get back and return to your regular milking schedule. I am not convinced that this will work – our Cheesecake was very temperamental when we were milking her and the slightest change of routine messed with her yield and her willingness to cooperate with us. Of course, she was a first freshener and we were total novices, so that may be the biggest part of the problem.
How We’ll Take a Vacation from the Homestead
We live on my in-law’s property and while they themselves are not really in a position to be able to help with ALL of these tasks in our absence, we do have a 15 year old niece who is always glad to have a little pocket money in exchange for chores. We’ve made use of her services in the past when we’ve run late home from a trip to town, etc. One thing we have learned is that we need to stress the steps involved, and the importance of each step… teens can have a tendency to “half-ass” a task on occasion and – for example – skip over the part about refilling the water buckets, in summer, in Texas… :/
How do you plan to take a vacation from the homestead for short trips away? Do you have ready-to-go plan, or do you just wing it? Tell us in the comments below.
We’d like to wish our readers
a blessed and happy Easter!
Today we’re sharing a fun post – a quick round-up of some fun colored eggs from a few of our favorite homestead bloggers.
Last, but not least, enjoy this delicious breakfast recipe from Angi of Schneider Peeps!
I wasn’t scheduled to post today. I wrote a long post yesterday that I ended up cropping into two parts because it got too long when I went into detailed information on topography of the land where you’re hoping to put your pen and how it can affect things. This morning I woke up to a little rain and so I snapped the below pic to show you how our land holds on to water and why our pen really isn’t in the ideal spot.
But it continued to rain, and the water continued to rise and rise and rise. I went out to check on the animals and was shocked to discover that our yard had become a lake! That’s the goat pen you see in the distance. My poor girls!!
But first I HAD to check on the chickens because you see those circles in this pic? Well those are dog water bowls… you know the kind you get at tractor supply? They were almost completely under water and if they were under water what was up with the chickens!?!
The poor chickens were butt deep in water!! They weren’t smart enough to fly up to their roosts. Instead they were wandering around in their yard watching their water bowls float by. They were SOAKED and honestly there wasn’t a whole lot I could do for them. A had a quick idea, I grabbed a folding table nearby and snuck it in their pen, threw some old carpet on top (for grip) and tried to catch them and put them up there… they weren’t having any of it and kept jumping back down into the water. Argh!! So I did the only other thing I could do… I grabbed a bale of hay, and spread it in the pen to raise the floor level. It created a pretty solid surface and they all rushed up and hung up there until the water subsided. My poor Rooster (Sir Gallahad) had red, angry looking legs, by morning they were back to normal color, but I panicked when I first saw them.
Next up… goats! OMG! I rushed over to the window flap and checked on them. Inside they were still dry, but the water was rising near the entrance to their house, and their bedding was becoming marshy in places. Luckily, their bed area is slightly raised – though only 2 inches higher than the rest of the pen.
My hurricane evacuation plan was to move the goats over to the main barn but there was just NO WAY I could get them there without carrying them and since Roddy was at work, there was no way I could carry them alone while battling the current and muddy sinkholes on the way there. Being Nigerian Dwarves, there was no way they could walk over there without being chest deep in icy cold water. They would have to “bug in”, there was nothing else for it. So I rushed over to grab another bale of hay and built up their bedding even higher – at this point they’re about 2 feet from ground level and I jumped around up there to test the water, but everything remained dry. I brought the girls a bucket of warm molasses water and stayed with them to calm them a little.
It was a hectic day that I hope never to repeat, but again, seeing as we live on the Gulf Coast hurricanes are a very real and constant threat. This was NOTHING compared to the strength of a hurricane and this storm busted holes in all my contingency plans. I am grateful we got this test-run and we’re going to be changing some things to better protect our animals in future. We’ve drawn up plans for more secure housing for everyone. We’re also going to be working on a new emergency action plan. I will keep you posted and will share our plans soon.