|On vacation at Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, Alaska in May|
Last week I gave several talks in the Seattle area, and as always, I
encouraged people to start small with their homesteading dreams. I
explained that you don’t want to get overwhelmed by starting with too
much, but I’ve recently realized another good reason to start small: you
need to be sure that you have someone to take care of your homestead if
you ever want to take a vacation or even if you have to travel to the
bedside of an ailing relative.
Homesteading is a
365-day-a-year commitment when you bring live animals into the picture. Unlike an office job where you can turn off the computer and tell your boss that you’ll be back in a week or two,
you can’t turn off your chickens or goats or tell the weeds to stop
growing in your garden. Real life waits for no one.
livestock talks, I always suggest starting with chickens because they
are about as easy to care for as a cat. You can fill up their waterer
and feeder and leave for the weekend, and unless temperatures are above
90 (and eggs might start to incubate) you don’t even have to ask a
neighbor to pick up eggs for you. However, as many urban chicken keepers
have told me, asking neighbors to check on the chickens once a day and
gather eggs can actually make your neighbors more enamored with your
chickens — especially when they get to keep the eggs they collect.
Other livestock, such as pigs, sheep, cattle, and goats, need daily or twice-daily attention, and if you have a dairy animal that doesn’t have a calf or kids nursing, you’ll have to find a farm sitter who can milk. Do not expect to find someone with these skills very quickly. It is much easier to find a dog sitter. However, you can also plan kidding and calving with vacations in mind so that you can leave home when you don’t need to have someone milk for you.
Although taking a vacation from the homestead is more challenging, it is not impossible. With a little planning, you can have your fresh eggs, homegrown produce, and vacations too.