For the Love of Goats
Have you thought about renting out a room or a small cottage or cabin on your farm through Airbnb? Meet Tammy Gallagher of Texas who has done just that! In this episode, she talks about why they opened up their farm to guests and exactly how that works with her goats and other livestock.
For a complete transcript and more photos of her adorable cottage, goats, and donkey, keep scrolling!
Tammy’s listing on Airbnb — Shady Paddock Farm – Willow House
Deborah Niemann 0:00
Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode. Today’s episode is being brought to you by Stanley Premium Western Forage, which I have been using and loving for well over 10 years. And we are joined today by Tammy Gallagher from Paige, Texas, who obviously has goats. And she also has an Airbnb. Welcome to the show, Tammy.
Tammy Gallagher 0:26
Thanks for having me, Deborah.
Deborah Niemann 0:28
I’m really excited to talk to you about this. I’ve been on your Airbnb page. Of course, there is going to be a link in the show notes for people to see. It is so adorable. Like, I want to come down there right now and stay, because it’s just such a cute little house in the middle of your farm. And it looks absolutely ideal. So, tell us first a little bit… Like, I know you had goats before you moved to your current farm. So it sounds like the goats came before you started an Airbnb.
Tammy Gallagher 1:00
Yes. So, the goats started off just as kind of pets, we had a few of them. And, just like everybody says, you can’t have just one; they start multiplying. We sort of outgrew the property that we had, and our kids grew up and moved out. We had this really big house. And, it was just time to downsize the house, upsize the pasture area and the land, and so we went on the hunt for a great piece of property. And we found it here in Paige, Texas, of all places.
Deborah Niemann 1:38
Awesome. Yeah, it is so beautiful, so — and of course, there’ll be pictures on the show notes page also that people can see. So, why did you decide to start an Airbnb? And also, this is — I’ll point out that in your case, your Airbnb — it is a completely separate building. Your listing says that it’s two bedrooms, two beds, and one bath. So it is a separate building with like a kitchen and a private bathroom and everything. So tell us a little bit about how you decided to start an Airbnb.
Tammy Gallagher 2:11
Well, the… we… Like I said, we had a large house before, and we downsized, and we downsized by an enormous amount. So, we really needed a little extra space for when the kids and the grandkids came, or other family members came to stay. And the back part of our property, the five acres that we have on the back part of the property, is actually not enclosed for the goats. It has barbed wire up from where the previous owners had cattle out there. The views are beautiful from that area. And we just thought, “Well, you know, what a great place to plop in a little cottage.” So it’s a dual purpose; it serves as a spot for family to stay when they come. But other than that it’s sitting there empty. And, we’re kind of getting to that age now, we’re starting to look for retirement income, and that’s what it is. It’s a great little retirement income, we’re starting to supplement those funds, and I just love talking to people. It serves so many great purposes out there.
Deborah Niemann 3:21
So tell us a little bit about the building itself, because you didn’t build it from scratch.
Tammy Gallagher 3:27
Right. It is actually considered a park model, which is an RV. It looks completely like a little cottage. We had it built off-property. It was completely customized; we could move around the walls, choose all of the different finishes inside, just like building a house except in miniature form. So it didn’t take too long to build, I think maybe about three months or so. And it’s got wheels under it. So they hooked it up, drove it out here, which was a little challenging. We had a little issue with it not fitting through the front gate by about one inch when they got here. So, yeah, that was a fun day, because of course my husband was out of town that day, and I thought, “Oh my gosh, what am I gonna to do?” So, you know, I just did what any girl farmer would do. I went out to the barn, got the grinder, cut down the pipe fence, and pulled that sucker right through the pasture.
Deborah Niemann 4:31
Oh my goodness, I love it. That’s awesome.
Tammy Gallagher 4:36
But yeah, the guys that brought it out were really accommodating and understanding and we just kind of laughed about it at the end of the day. But, it was, you know, kind of one of those situations that you look back on and have a laugh, but at the time it was it was pretty stressful.
Deborah Niemann 4:53
Yeah, I bet. I would not… Oh my goodness. If that happened to me, I would be really not happy. Yeah, I can only imagine.
Tammy Gallagher 5:03
It was a little bit of a… It had to do with the way the roof came down. So the actual building itself had plenty of clearance, and they had actually come out to make sure that it would fit through. But something to do with the way the roof was put on it, like I said, it was about an inch that we needed to make it through, so.
Deborah Niemann 5:24
Oh my goodness. So, how did you get started in terms of… Like, so you just went to the Airbnb site, signed up, created your profile, and stuff so that, you know, guests could see what you have there. And then, one thing I did notice when I was looking at your site is that you don’t have a lot of photos of the goats and chickens and everything. I’m assuming that was on purpose, because I would think that you would have put pictures of them there. Why did you focus really on just the accommodations, the house, and everything?
Tammy Gallagher 5:59
Well, so the farm experience, the little encounter that everybody gets to do with the animals, is completely optional to the people that are coming out. I do have plans to get some pictures of the animals uploaded. But it’s… Most people that come out are interested — very interested — in seeing the animals, however, we’ve had folks come out that just really want to just get away, and they’re just here to enjoy the peacefulness of the country, escaping the city life.
Deborah Niemann 6:31
Okay, so then the next question is: Do you have any issues with people, like, deciding to give themselves a tour? Or how do you handle that? Do you explain that to them when they arrive, that they can’t do that?
Tammy Gallagher 6:46
So, that was really an issue that kind of created some anxiety for me, because our home is at the front of the property. We’ve got three different paddocks that we have the goats in, the chicken and guineas and pheasants are in a different section. Our house faces the front of the property, and the cottage is out at the back of the property. And I was really stressed out about people wandering around, letting themselves into the paddocks… It really hasn’t been an issue. I find that the people that come out are very respectful of the property, of the animals. It is on our listing multiple times that they’re not to go into any of the pastures without myself or my husband present. So when people make a reservation, I send them a little welcome letter that has kind of a reiteration of the rules on the property. And, you know, we kind of put it out there in black and white several times. And you know, like I said, people have just been really great, because I had thought, “Oh, I need to put padlocks on all the gates. And what if somebody comes over and gets in to the pasture and gets themselves into a pickle?” But, we just really haven’t had any issues. People are very respectful.
Deborah Niemann 8:10
Awesome. Yeah, that would definitely be a concern of mine. And I think a lot of other people, too, that if you’re not paying attention that people could get out there and possibly even like feed your goats something that they think — because so many people think, “Oh, goats eat anything.” And I, when I interviewed somebody who has goats in the city, she said that that’s a problem that she’s had with people just walking by trying to feed her goats.
Tammy Gallagher 8:35
I actually had problems with that when we were up in the Dallas Fort Worth area, because our fence line was right along a very well-traveled country road. And, my neighbor would call me every once in a while, “Hey, there’s somebody out, pulled over on the side of the road, and it looks like they’re trying to feed your goats something.” Yeah, I’d go running out there.
Deborah Niemann 8:58
Tammy Gallagher 8:59
But being out here, you know, that’s obviously not a problem because we’re way out in the country. I did make it pretty clear on our instructions, on our rules, that contrary to popular belief, you cannot just feed a goat anything. They can’t just eat anything. They’ve got very sensitive digestive systems. You could make them really really sick. So I really put out there, don’t feed the goats and this is why it’s so important.
Deborah Niemann 9:27
Oh, awesome. That’s a great idea. So, do you give them… So, as part of the experience do you give them any kind of treats or anything to feed the goats when you take them out there to meet the goats?
Tammy Gallagher 9:39
So basically, what we do is a “morning chores experience.” And, I show up to pick them up at 8:30. We do practice biosecurity here on the farm. So part of the requirement is that everybody has to wear shoe covers before they go into any of the paddocks. So they meet me with their shoe covers on, and we head out and start in the buck pasture. The buck pasture is one of those places where I give people an option to go in there with me or not, because anybody who has goats knows how aromatic they tend to be.
Deborah Niemann 10:22
Yes, aromatic is a great way to describe them.
Tammy Gallagher 10:26
And especially, you know, when they’re in rut, that oil, if it gets on your clothes, it’s just, it’s stinky. And most people are kind of like, “Oh, you know, we’ll stay over here and watch you do that from this side of the fence.” So I give them an option if they want to come in and experience what I’m doing with the bucks, that’s really pretty quick. Give them their little morning feed, make sure everybody’s got water, let them out, make sure everybody’s got hay, of course. I do keep the llama in with the bucks. So if they want to interact with the llama, they’ve got to come in. And what we’ll do is interact with the llama first before I let the bucks out of their barn. Everybody on our farm goes in, except for the guardians, they go into barns at night because we’ve got quite a few predators out here. So they can feed the llama. He is a guardian, he’s not, you know, super pet-friendly. But he does know that humans equals food. And he will let people pet him and come up to them if they’re offering him something to eat. He’s a nice boy, he’s just not, you know, following me around the pasture. He’s out there doing his job, taking care of his boys. So we do that. And we… If I have a mamas with larger babies over in the middle paddock, we’ll go in and see them and they can interact with some of the older kids. And from there, we travel around to the doe barn and the doe pasture. And that’s usually where I’ve got smaller kids, if I’ve got moms with babies with them, which is always fun for anybody to get to interact with the baby goats. That’s always the highlight of everybody’s trip, I think. And if I’ve got girls and milk, the last thing that we do is head into the milking parlor. And, of course, you know, we’ll have everybody sanitize their hands. And I show ’em how to milk a goat, which is, I think most people really enjoy that.
Tammy Gallagher 12:33
It’s really kind of interesting when I have couples come to kind of see the expression on the face of one versus the other. And I always think, “Oh, you know, the ladies are going to want to milk the goats and the men are going to kind of stand back a little bit,” because that’s how it is at my house. I milk the goats. My husband’s like, “Nah, that’s okay, you can do that.” But, you know, you get animal lovers from all walks of life, from just… It’s just crazy to see all of the different personalities that come out here. And the way people interact with the animals, it’s always a treat. It’s always something different to see. And the questions that you get, the expressions that you see on people’s faces from how, you know, a buck smells, to what it feels like when you accidentally get squirted with warm milk.
Deborah Niemann 13:29
Tammy Gallagher 13:30
So, it’s just, it’s a really fun time. And then we go from there and let out the chickens, and, you know, see if we have eggs, and they can take a look at the pheasants, and we talked about the guineas. And, it’s just a really neat experience for me every single time because I get different questions. And you know, I don’t always know the answer. So a lot of times I’m learning things because I’m looking stuff up.
Deborah Niemann 13:55
Mm hmm. So do you charge extra for the chore experience? Or is that all part of the price of staying there?
Tammy Gallagher 14:05
It’s included. So if you want to come out just to escape the city, just to come out and see what it’s like to be on a working farm, and just have your privacy, you are more than welcome to do that. I’ve had some guests come out that, I never hardly even see ’em unless they’re leaving the farm to go get something to eat. But if they do want to have an experience where they can interact with the animals, pet the animals, ask questions, that is offered as one morning during their stay. So we just schedule that.
Deborah Niemann 14:42
Okay. Now, one thing that I know popped into my head really soon the first time I heard about people with farms and goats doing Airbnb was the liability issue. How is that handled? Does Airbnb have some insurance for you? Or did you have to talk to your insurance agent?
Tammy Gallagher 15:02
Yes. And yes. And yes. So, yeah, Airbnb does have liability coverage for their hosts. And this is, we fall under their “farm experience stays.” So, they obviously understand that people are interacting with animals with the farm experience. We did talk to our insurance agent, we are a farm, we have a farm policy out here., so we made sure that what we were doing was kosher with that. And then we also have our LLC and our insurance with that. So we are kind of covered as much as we possibly can be, just because that was a concern for us, having people out here walking around on our property. And like you said, you know, there is always that concern that someone’s going to do something that they shouldn’t do that you’re unaware of and get themselves into a pickle, or animals are animals, you never know when someone’s going to step, you know, one of the animals is going to step on somebody’s foot and cause them some discomfort, or someone’s going to stick their finger back in the back of a, you know, baby goat’s mouth and get chomped on. So, we just wanted to be sure that all our bases were covered so that we could sleep easy at night.
Deborah Niemann 16:25
Right. So did you have any big surprises when you got started? Like, the first few times people came to stay?
Tammy Gallagher 16:33
umm… Not really. I would say the biggest problem that I have had… I’m a people pleaser. I always want everybody to have a fabulous time; I want this to be a memorable experience for them in a very, very good way. So I have a tendency to kind of worry a little bit, just because I want people to leave here knowing that they’ve had a great experience. So I think probably the biggest surprise, I could say, would be, you know how you always have that one situation where everything goes wrong?
Deborah Niemann 17:15
Tammy Gallagher 17:15
One couple that came, and it just seemed like every little thing, you know, the smoke detector went off when she was making breakfast, and you know, woke the husband up. And, it just seemed like every little nitpicky thing that could have possibly happened, happened with that one couple. And, I think that they wrote the best review that I’ve ever had written from anybody. And so…
Deborah Niemann 17:41
Tammy Gallagher 17:42
…I think I was blowing it a little bit more out of proportion, like I said, you know, I want people to have a good experience. And I think I was more worried about the little nit-picky things happening than they were. So…
Deborah Niemann 17:57
Tammy Gallagher 17:58
But we did, you know, what I did when I first got it set up is I had someone stay there out in the cottage that was a heavy acquaintance, somebody that I didn’t know really really well, that could give me some feedback. And I said, you know, “Honestly, here’s the deal. Go stay there. Please tell me anything good or bad you can think of.” And, you know, I was really worried about the bed, because that’s what I remember. If I go someplace and the bed’s uncomfortable, I’m like, “Oh,” all night long. And I was really worried about the bed. And I had taken a mattress recommendation from my brother who has this particular mattress that he just absolutely loved. So that’s what we put out there. And I was kind of concerned that it wasn’t going to be a bed that would be comfortable, kind of in the middle for everybody. And, yeah, I got some pretty negative feedback on the mattress from this person. So I thought, “Oh, thank goodness. I am so glad that I had this person come and stay.” And so that mattress went out and we got a different one, so. Haven’t had any complaints about the the new mattress.
Deborah Niemann 19:20
That’s a really good idea, though, to ask somebody else to stay there and give you feedback before you actually have paying guests.
Tammy Gallagher 19:27
Well, you kind of wonder, you know, is there anything I missed? Because you think of all these basics, you know, the coffee pot and the coffee filter and the coffee. And, you know, are there enough towels, and do I have the right pots and pans, and, you know, because when you’re setting up your household, you sort of accumulate those things as you need them. So putting them all into a space that you’ve not stayed in before… I just wanted to make sure that it felt cozy and comfortable and they had everything that they needed. So, that really worked out to be a pretty good way for me to kind of ease my worries on that.
Deborah Niemann 20:08
Okay. So if somebody was thinking of doing this — which I kind of am — is there any advice that you would give them? Anything you wish you had known ahead of time?
Tammy Gallagher 20:23
Um, you know, this has really, it’s sort of evolved as I’ve done it. Um, one thing that I would recommend that I’ve started doing, and I kind of got this after I had a few people come, is before you start your tour, if you’re going to interact with your animals, have a chat with the folks that you’re taking onto your property, and get a feeling for what their comfort level is. How much do they know about farm animals? Have they ever been around a goat? Have they ever held a chicken? Because we live in this environment all the time, and we take for granted that the things that we do every day in our interactions are things that other people might feel a little uncomfortable with. And sometimes you’ve got, you know, mixed experiences — animal experiences — within the couple or the family that’s there. So, perhaps somebody there is actually kind of afraid of animals a little bit, where everybody else is really open to wanting to pet them and feed them and all that stuff. So that’s something that I’ve started doing, is I really kind of get a feeling for how comfortable they are with animals in general. And then I can accommodate what I offer them to what I’ve learned in that conversation.
Deborah Niemann 21:54
That’s really great advice, because I’ve noticed that, you know, when people come here for, like, an on-farm homesteading consultation, or even, like, potential interns and stuff, some people really are afraid of livestock when they come face to face with them. And not even just like, big cows or horses, but, you know, the UPS driver is scared of our goose.
Tammy Gallagher 22:19
Yeah. Yeah, I mean, everybody has a different comfort level, and a different knowledge level. You know, I’ve had folks come out here that have had goats before in the past, and so, they’re not interested in some of, you know, kind of like the simple facts. Like, I try to share fun facts with folks when we’re going around, and we’re talking about, you know, the goats, and how they have a four chambered stomach, and they only have, you know, teeth on the bottom in the front. Those kind of things, people are like, “Really? I had no idea that goats didn’t have teeth on top in the front.” And so someone who has never been around a goat finds that really interesting, versus somebody that has had goats before. Your conversation just goes in a completely different direction. And, like I said, I always take an opportunity to learn something new. I still consider myself quite a novice with goats. I’ve just had them for four years. I learn something new all the time.
Deborah Niemann 23:27
Mm hmm. Wow, that’s great. This has been really interesting, and I really think that anybody who is thinking or has been thinking, like, “Hmm, maybe I could make a few extra bucks by having an Airbnb on my farm,” that you’ve definitely given them some good things to think about and to consider. Do you have any final parting words? Words of advice?
Tammy Gallagher 23:51
You know, if you’re thinking about doing it, I say go for it. We tossed it around for a little while, and we did do some research to kind of see how many Airbnbs were around, how many farm-experience Airbnbs were around in our area. I actually have a friend who has an Airbnb, and she really encouraged me to just go ahead and do it. I just, you know, we just kind of tiptoed around the idea for a little bit. And then we just took a leap, and I’m so glad that we did. We have met some of the nicest people, interesting personalities… It’s just been a fabulous experience. And the feedback has just been amazing. And there’s nothing better at the end of the day than going out to my cottage when someone has left — and we keep a little book in there for people to leave a note for us — and reading just how pleasurable their stay was, how peaceful it was, the things that they enjoyed, the things that they liked learning about. It just, it really makes you feel good on the inside to know that you’ve shared something with them that brings you so much joy in your life.
Deborah Niemann 25:16
Oh, that is a wonderful note to end on. Thank you so much for joining us today. This is awesome.
Tammy Gallagher 25:24
I’m so glad that you asked me. I’ve really enjoyed it.
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