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There is nothing worse than finding yourself overseas on that “dream vacation” and suddenly realize that the dream is now a nightmare. Plan carefully because it will not do to run off to Africa on safari at a moment’s notice, trusting in a lucky rabbit’s foot keychain for protection. Sure, grabbing a passport and mosquito repellent will get you there, but you can’t imagine the inconveniences that arise without the items below. The following will tip the scales in your favor.

1. A visa is required to enter a country, and specifies on what terms the visitor is there (tourist, business, work), and how many days the visitor may stay. Sometimes the visa can be obtained at the customs desk of the destination country, but often the visa must be requested and obtained from the country’s embassy before the visitor leaves home. This process takes time, and some embassies are notoriously slow in approving visas, or even reluctant to do so at all.

2. If you plan on renting a car in the destination country, you must find out what is required in order to do so. Will your passport or current license do the trick, or should you apply for an international driver’s license? How much will insurance cost?

3. Photocopies! Make photocopies of your driver’s license, passport, credit cards, social security card, and any other important documents you’ll be carrying with you. One extra set should go with the traveler in a separate place in the luggage from the originals, and a second set should stay with a trusted relative or friend. If, for some reason, you lose the paperwork, you can call home to get the necessary numbers, or a friend can fax them to the officials.

4. Traveler’s insurance is always a good idea. Always. Even if it is never used – which, by the way, would be a good thing, it’s inexpensive and worth it.

5. Prescription medication should be packed, along with the actual written prescription from the doctor. An extra set of eyeglasses or contacts is also a good idea. The medication should always be packaged in original correctly-labeled bottles. An obscure, unmarked bottle or bag of drug in the luggage will tie things up considerably in the airport customs department.

6. A credit card company will become suspicious if an account based in, say, Iowa begins making charges in Madagascar. Always contact the credit card companies to alert them that you’ll be making charges in specific locations, preventing their alarm and temporary suspension of the account.

7. Mentally prepare yourself for an exhausting trip to and from the destination. Be ready for it, overseas travel is grueling, even if all goes well.

8. Take a record of important contact numbers, including close family, the doctor, the dentist, the lawyer, the bank, credit card companies, and the numbers for U.S. Embassies in the destination locations. Relatives should have an itinerary, and an option of emergency contact numbers.

9. Will your cell phone work in the destination country? Probably not. You should investigate his options, but in most cases, it is worth the extra expense and effort to have a cell phone available for use overseas.

10. Search online for forums run by Americans (or natives of the traveler’s country) who live in the destination country as expatriates. They will have experience and wisdom that other tourists may never discover about life in that country. A simple thing like knowing that certain vegetables or street vendor foods are prone to causing stomach upset can make all the difference in enjoying a vacation spot.

Preparation for an overseas vacation is key to getting the most enjoyment from it. In this case, it helps to think like a pessimist, “Something is bound to go wrong,” and be ready. Of course once you reach the destination, it is important to have fun!

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Milking by Hand or With a Machine: Which Way is Better?

One of the first things you will need to consider when you add a dairy cow to your farm is whether you will milk by hand or with a milking machine. It’s a good idea to spend a little time considering the pros and cons of each option so that you can make an informed decision. Your lifestyle, budget, and your cow (or cows) will all have a big influence on which option you choose.

There’s no doubt about it, raw milk is delicious and extremely useful on the self-sufficient homestead, especially if you want to make your own cheese, yogurt, and butter. Whether you decide to milk by hand or with a machine, your family can benefit greatly by having access to raw, farm fresh milk. Here are some key facts about each milking method to help you decide what option is better for you.

Pros and Cons of Milking with a Machine

Using a machine to milk your cow, or cows, makes the most sense for someone who wants to simplify milking and make it fast and easy. Your cow can be taught to go in her stanchion, then you’ll wash her teats, hook up your milking machine, and in less than ten minutes, your cow will be milked. You can even complete some other small chores nearby while the machine does its job.

A milking machine can make your life so much easier if you have a cow with small teats. It can also be a lifesaver if you have a nervous or difficult cow that doesn’t like to be milked. Another benefit is that the milk stays considerably cleaner than it does when you milk by hand into a bucket.

That’s not to say that a milking machine is the perfect solution for any farm; there are definitely some disadvantages. The most notable is that a milking machine can cost you as much as $500 or more. If you’re an average homesteader on a limited budget with only one or two cows to milk, that’s a pretty hefty investment.

Another disadvantage is that, although the milking process itself can be accomplished very quickly with a machine, you’ll need to spend more time cleaning up afterwards. Your machine will need to be disassembled so that all of the parts can be cleaned and sanitized, and then left to air dry. If you are doing your milking twice a day, you will be spending a lot of time on clean up.

Additionally, you should consider the setup of your milking area. Do you have easy access to electricity where you do you milking? Running electricity to your barn could be a huge task. And, you might also want to consider the noise factor. Some milking machines are quite loud. Consider if there will bother you or the other animals in your barn.-

Pros and Cons of Milking by Hand

Milking by hand is the way it’s been done for centuries. For some homesteaders and farmers, doing things the way it’s always been done is part of the experience. To get started with hand milking, all you really need is a cow and a stainless-steel bucket. It couldn’t be much more economical than that!

The process of hand milking can be an enjoyable one, too. Many people love the peaceful pleasure of doing the milking every day. Not only that, over time you establish a solid and loving bond with your cow, which is a sweet reward on its own. And, you really don’t need to have a special setup for hand milking. Anywhere that you can keep clean and comfortable for you and your cow will work just fine.

However, just like anything else, there are some disadvantages to doing all of your milking by hand. For one thing, getting started can be tough on your hands until you build up the right muscles. If you have arthritis in your hands, hand milking could be very uncomfortable for you. When you hand milk, you will need to take extra care to make sure dirt, dust, and insects don’t end up in your milk.

Hand milking definitely takes more time than machine milking, too. Especially if your cow isn’t cooperative. Some cows can be a real pain for milking and from kicking at you to kicking at your milk pail, they’ll try almost anything to get you to leave them alone. Not to mention, one wrong move, and ruined your delicious milk by putting their manure covered foot right in your milk bucket.

The Takeaway

Don’t forget to consider the personality of your cow when you decide, too. Some cows will make it clear that they prefer one method over the other. Some cows may not tolerate the machine, while others may hate having you work with their udder. A little experimentation might be required to figure out what makes your cow the most comfortable.

Before you decide which way to go, consider all the factors that come into play. Maybe you need to streamline your chores as much as you can, so you can get to work. Or, perhaps you plan on selling some of your milk, so it needs to be kept as clean and sterile as possible. In these cases, a milking machine might make the most sense.

On the other hand, maybe the experience of milking by hand is enjoyable to you. Perhaps you look forward to that peaceful time of day with your favorite cow. Or, maybe there really isn’t a good place to set up a stanchion with electrical access. And of course, consider your budget! There’s a tremendous difference in startup costs between these two options.

As with anything else around the farm or homestead, there really is no one size fits all answer to this the question of whether you should use a machine or milk by hand. Spend some time thinking it over and make the best decision for you, your cow, and your farm. And remember, you can always change your mind and try the other method if your first choice doesn’t work out after you’ve given it a fair try!


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