Let me tell you, planning for a holiday is bloody hard work. I’m almost at the point where I think I’d rather stay at home. You know? Just pretend that we’ve gone away, but really just stay at home.
I was having a chat with a friend today and she asked what happens to the animals when we go away? Good question. Glad she asked. I guess when you live in suburbia you can get a neighbour to feed the cat and you can put the dog in a kennel. Asking your neighbour to look after 20 cows, 8 chickens, 2 horses and a pampered 16 year old dog is not the best way to foster good neighbourly relations!!
Add to mix the accommodation side of the farm, and you have yourself a planning and logistical extravaganza, complete with its very own spreadsheets!
A guess the first thing that you have to get your head around is the fact that you simply can’t lock the front door and leave. When you have animals, someone has to be here all the time. Luckily we have friends who are happy to pack themselves up and have a farm stay holiday in the Hunter Valley. That said, if they aren’t experienced with farm animals (and not many people are) and things go wrong- then it can get really stressful.
So how do we manage the animals when we are away?…..
For the most part, the cows are easy enough to look after. As long as there is enough grass in the paddock and they have access to water, they live a pretty chilled existence. You really just need to cast an eye over them daily to make sure they haven’t done something stupid. Yep! Cows can do some really dumb stuff. Like when a calf works his way underneath a fence and then can’t work out how to get back to his Mum. You’ll have Mum on one side bellowing, and the calf on the other frantically running up and down the fence line. Or my personal favourite…. When the bull from a neighbour’s property decides to “do what bulls do” and demolish a 5 stand barbed wire fence and say “hello” to the cows. I’ll leave you ponder just how one sorts that situation out! (Waving your arms around and screaming at him to “go home” doesn’t work. I’ve tried.)
The horses are by far the highest maintenance of all the farm animals. They are my babies and I’m extremely particular about their diet, what time they get fed, how many rugs they have on each night…what mood they are in. No. I’m not kidding. If horses are out of sorts it can be an early warning sign to sickness. There is no way I could go on a holiday and leave them with anyone other than a professional. Luckily one of my good friends owns a horse stud, so my 2 will be having their very own holiday at her stud while I’m away. (Hi Suzy!!)
That leaves the chooks and the dog.
Again, asking someone to look after a 16 year old dog is not something I’m comfortable with. Sadly we lost our other 16 year old dog just a few months ago.Cookie & Muffin spent their entire lives together. They were literally never more than a few meters from each other.
Over the years we have sent them to a wonderful kennel that caters specifically for small dogs so I know that they will take good care of Cookie, and give her lots of cuddles- but I admit, I’m anxious about her being there without Muffin.
The chooks provide the authentic “farm stay” bit for our friends and are the easiest of the farm animals to look after.
There is also the bonus of fresh eggs daily!! They have automatic feeders and water and can be left locked in the coop, but they much prefer to be out to scratching in the garden. The hardest thing is remembering to lock them in at night. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been sitting on the lounge at 8pm and suddenly think OMG!! the chooks. Then it’s a mad dash in the dark, with fingers crossed, hoping Mr. Fox hasn’t beaten me too it.
So there you have it. We “farm out” some of the farm animals, and have friends “move in” while we are away. General farm maintenance also continues while we are away. That has to be scheduled and confirmed before we leave, and contingency plans put in place for the “just in case” situations.
Seriously, I need a holiday from the planning alone!!!!