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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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5 Ways New Farm Projects Can Fail and How to Avoid Them

By Austin G. Hackney

It’s no secret that the majority of new enterprises fail. That fact applies as much to setting up new farming projects as anything else. It isn’t always because of a bad business idea or that the market wasn’t there for the produce.

Running a successful farm on any scale is tough. There’s more to it than having a brilliant idea, identifying a market, pulling together the financing, and setting up the infrastructure. There are five common reasons new farmers may fail. It’s worth knowing what they are so you can avoid them and make your project a success.


Running a successful farm is time consuming. Don’t let it become soul destroying. It’s hard to get the work/life balance right. Your farm will be the focus of your attention around the clock, especially in the early days.

But if you let your farm take over your life, you set yourself up for failure. Your happiness, your energy, your sense of identity and value outside the farm, are all vital contributors to your business’s success. Make sure you don’t abandon your hobbies, social life, and family time. Take exercise for pleasure not just at work, and eat well. If you lose touch with your loved ones, your friends, and your health, what are you working for?

Lack of Planning and Development

A great idea is only a great idea. To turn it into a successful farming enterprise means putting in the time and resources to develop the idea into a sound business plan. A poor plan or an underdeveloped concept can spell doom for a farm before it even gets started.

Make sure you explore and develop your business idea. Don’t forget to plan for contingencies. Make realistic cash flow forecasts and allow for scaling up and down as things change and develop.

Losing Heart

Most successful entrepreneurs have tried and failed in business many times over before achieving success. Running a new farm is tough. It’s demanding mentally, emotionally, and physically. You can’t always see the progress you’re making. When you’re working like a dog around the clock and don’t see the results, it can be demoralizing.

It’s important to remind yourself that the only way to win a race is to keep running. Remind yourself of your original inspiration, how great it will be once you succeed, and your deep motives for making things work. Contact other farmers who are already successful. Most are happy to help and inspire others just starting out. Keep inspired.

Irrational Decisions

Successful women who farm have the mark of genius about them. Several of the most successful are considered eccentric in their lifestyles and habits. They may be passionate risk-takers, but they have their feet firmly planted on the ground. In enterprise, doing things differently can be a route to success. But in decision-making nothing beats stepping back and taking a cool, rational view of what to do.

Don’t let your passion and enthusiasm cloud your thinking. Before you decide, it’s a good idea to consult with people whose knowledge and ability you trust. By all means leap, but make sure you look before you do so.

Losing Focus

Managing a farm or smallholding is complicated even if you don’t have a large staff to support. With so many aspects of your business to manage, it’s easy to lose sight of your aim. If you stop doing the few things that push your business forward, and become distracted by the many unnecessary ones, the success of your farm can falter.

As part of your business plan you should have drawn up a mission statement. Make an inspirational version of that statement like a screenwriter’s “elevator pitch.” What that means is to name your core business aim, and the essential strategies for achieving it, and then sum it up in only two or three sentences. When you lose focus, return to that elevator pitch and get yourself back on track.

One thing all successful farmers do is learn from their mistakes. The most successful also learn from the mistakes of others. If you’re running a new farming enterprise, make sure you do both to avoid unnecessary failure. Finally, keep in touch with your passion, work smart as well as hard, and never give up on living your dream.

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