I consider one of the major drawbacks to homesteading to be losing the ability to take vacations, attend weddings, and other fun things away from the farm. I know people who burn out on homesteading because of this or never take the plunge into this lifestyle because they aren't willing to give them up. I am unwilling to give them up. You can homestead and still get vacations, though it is more work and you're likely not going to be able to take spontaneous trips. We take at least one family 10-day trip a year. Here is how we make it happen.
Make Vacation Non-Negotiable
Whether you already have a homestead or are planning to start in the future, I wholeheartedly recommend you make taking at least one vacation a year completely non-negotiable. If you have children at home, they need a vacation every year, too. I may be hard to trust that things will be alright while you are gone, but disconnect! Leave a contact number for whoever is covering for you, but I discourage checking in every day just because. Trust that no news is good news and enjoy some time off the farm.
I will admit I miss the ability to spontaneously leave on spur-of-the-moment trips, and perhaps one day I will have my own crew of Umpah-Lumpahs that know the routine and can be called upon for help at the drop of the hat. But until that day when pigs fly, I plan ahead.
I select a time to vacation when there is minimal farm activity. For example, I don’t want to be gone when all of my sheep and goats are having their babies in case some of them needs help. I have had births while I was gone – some uneventful and one that resulted in a weak baby dying. I try to choose a low-risk time. If you rely on gardens, design a time in your schedule when you will walk away from it for a period of time. This works well in the winter. If you have things year-round, train help and build in a gap. It can be planned.
If I plan my vacations well in advance, that also gives me time to coordinate with the farm sitter and modify my plans if they are unavailable. If I really want to go at a certain time, I can also consider looking for another farm-sitter.
Simplify Tasks for Hired Help
Take a hard look at the volume of chores you have on your farm. If you have animals that need milking once or twice a day, consider what sort of help you have at your disposal. If you’re gone 7-10 days, you have to find the right person who can milk twice daily for that long. It’s not impossible, but it may be more difficult. Using automatic waterers and simplifying feeding makes it easier to find capable help.
When you choose a time to leave, take the time to train someone to your farm routine. I think it’s important to make sure the farm-sitter isn’t afraid of animals and isn’t afraid to contact me if there are problems. I find middle-school to high school aged students have been reliable, especially since I trust their parent to provide a little coaching, if needed. Adult friends are also a great option if they don’t have long work hours and a lot of demands at home already. Whoever you choose, make sure to do the chores with them several times. I write them out in a list and have them follow the list with me standing by to answer any questions or see where I didn’t give adequate guidance.
I try to find out a fair wage to pay before the trip, but often it’s a difficult for thing for them to price. It is for me, too. I try to figure the time they spend from the moment they step out their door to come to my farm to the moment they’re back at their place. I calculate a generous hourly rate and then bump it up a little. My hopes in doing this is that it’s not taking advantage of them and also so that they are willing to do it again in the future. If we go someplace fun, I try to bring back a treat or a little souvenir as an extra thanks.
Dream Big - Consider Multiple Vacations
There is no reason you can only go on one vacation a year. If you feel like you need more, just plan ahead and get reliable help. When you budget for the trip, budget for the farm-sitter, too. Plan ahead just the same as with a single vacation to make it happen.
Wife to Brandon, mother to Tess and Liam, farmer, entrepreneur, cook & baker, nurse, and accountant who loves to try new things, travel, and work toward greater self-reliance.