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How do you ever get away? It’s one of the first things I hear when people come to visit our homestead. And, to be honest, I get a lot of complaining from my extended family when we can’t just drop everything to head to Florida for some family event or holiday.

To be honest, I don’t really mind. I a homebody, and I would rather be here on the homestead taking care of things. But, I also have a teenage daughter and a husband who would wring my neck if we didn’t get away once in a while. So, we do manage to take at least one family vacation every year, along with some weekend trips here and there. How do we do it? Well, there’s a lot of careful planning involved.

Here are my top tips to help you make a plan to get away from your homestead this year.

Choose the Time of Year for Your Vacation Carefully

This is one of the most important considerations. We rarely go anywhere during the summer months because the garden needs constant attention when it’s hot or you’ll lose everything.

We also have the goats to consider. I don’t like to travel when we’re milking because that’s a lot of responsibility for our farm sitter.

We can usually plan on getting away in late fall after the girls are bred. Winter and early spring are doable for us, too, as long as it’s not too close to kidding time.

Select Your Farm Sitter Carefully

The other important consideration is finding a farm sitter. This will probably be the most difficult part of your planning process. I have a neighbor who checks on things every evening when we’re away, and if we’re going to be gone for more than a couple days, I also have a girl who comes by in the morning, too.

It makes me feel better to have two different people lined up. That way I know if something happens and one of them can’t get here, the other one will.

I always have everything set up so that all they have to do is give everyone a quick look over and check their food and water. Whoever wants to collect the eggs gets to keep them.

Travel Independently

Another option is to travel separately from your spouse. Although this isn’t my first choice, it’s what we often do for visits to extended family. My husband usually plans a visit with his family in early fall when things are slow for him. I go to Florida to visit my family in the winter, which works out great for getting a break from the cold. My daughter goes with each of us when we visit family, so we don’t get too much complaining about this arrangement.

Keep the Chore List as Short as Possible When You’re Gone

This is where the planning comes in. I try to have everything set up so that our farm sitter can be in and out of here in under 15 minutes. That means I do everything I can before we leave.

All the animal enclosures get a thorough cleaning and fresh bedding. Here’s what we do for each type of animal we have on our homestead to keep the chore list to a minimum.

  • Dogs: Dogs are a lot of responsibility, especially if they stay in the house. We like to take our dogs with us when we can get away with it. When we can’t, they go to a kennel we love here in town.
  • Cats: The cats are probably the easiest to prepare. I have a large feeder and waterer for when we go away, and I put out a couple extra litter boxes. I usually just have someone come in a couple times while we’re gone to clean the litter and their good to go.
  • Chickens: The chickens are pretty easy, too. Their feeder is big enough to hold about 7 days worth of food, and I put out two hanging waterers that will usually have to be refilled once while I’m gone. I make sure they can be reached with the hose to keep things simple. The chicken coop has a small, very secure run and that’s all they have access to when we’re gone, so they don’t have to be locked up at night. They are always happy to get out in their big yard when we get home, but they do fine.
  • Rabbits: The rabbits are a little more involved. What I generally do is wheel their whole rabbit tractor into the shed. Our farm sitters fill the waters and hay feeders as needed and give them their appropriate amounts of grain, morning and night.
  • Goats: The goats are a little more involved as well, but not as much as you might think. I leave them in their stalls when we’re away. Our farm sitters fill their hay racks and change their water as needed. We leave specific instructions about their grain and have it all set up so that the sitters don’t even have to open the stall doors to put the grain in. The girls are usually really happy to get out in the pasture when we get home, but since we only travel during the cooler months, they do fine in their stalls.

We don’t currently have any large livestock but when we have in the past, they usually have stayed in their stalls like the goats, or they could stay out in the pasture, as long as they can get out of the rain. Your farm sitter could fill the hay racks and fill the waters as needed.

If you have a milk cow, my best suggestion would be to time your vacation for when the calf can do the milking (this would work for goats, too). Leave mom and baby together while you’re away and you won’t have to find someone to milk for you, and there are no worries about mastitis.

I’m not going to lie. Leaving the homestead, even overnight, is pretty stressful for me. But, we manage to do it every year, and so can you. And think how sweet it will be to come home to all those warm greetings!

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Should You Be Using A Sulfate-Free Shampoo?

If you’re tuned into the natural hair movement at all, you’ve heard a lot of talk about sulfates over the years, mostly about how terrible they are. According to many curly hair gurus, hair products that contain sulfates can strip all of the moisture from delicate curly hair, resulting in dryness, frizz and damage. But lots of shampoos contain sulfates. Are they really all that harmful?

The answer isn’t one-size-fits-all. There are both pros and cons to sulfates, and understanding how they work will help you figure out the right shampoo for you.

What Are Sulfates, Anyway?

Sulfates are detergents. They’re the ingredient that makes your shampoo lather into that satisfyingly sudsy consistency. They’re in all kinds of products, not only shampoo but also soap, dish detergent, toothpaste and tons of other foam-y products. The most common sulfates are sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate and ammonium laureth sulfate.

Sulfates are certainly harsher than natural cleansers — they really get in there and clean. All that lather results in a squeaky-clean feeling. By the same token, they strip the skin and hair of much of its moisture and oil.

Who Should Use Sulfate-Free Shampoo?

The problem with sulfates is that they can be too stripping. Your hair needs some amount of oil and moisture to feel and look healthy. This is especially important if you have hair that is dry, fragile, kinky, curly or coarse. By using sulfates on your hair regularly, you set yourself up for a game of perpetual catch-up, trying to restore the moisture from your hair that your shampoo keeps taking away.

Sulfate-free shampoo is also useful for people with delicate skin, since the ingredient can cause redness or irritation.

Lastly, if you have dyed hair, consider switching to a sulfate-free shampoo. Sulfates strip the dye from your hair prematurely.

Sulfate-free shampoo isn’t for everyone, though. If your scalp tends to be quite greasy or oily and needs to be washed often, sulfates could work wonderfully for you. Also, if you have dandruff or another scalp condition, you’ll definitely want to stick with a shampoo with sulfates and other active ingredients to cut down on the flakes.

Alternatives to Sulfates

Some people enjoy using products with sulfates simply because it’s satisfying — you get a rich lather, and it feels like it’s easy to get clean. Other products may require more scritching and scratching. However, sulfates are just one of several “surfactants” that lather up. Others, like cocobetaines (derived from coconut oil) have a similar effect and are not quite as harsh.


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