It’s closing in on the time for school to be out and summer vacations planned. Most of our thoughts are turned to where we should go and what we will need to pack. If we have a dog or cat, we add boarding them with the vet on our list of things to do. But for us, I don’t think our vet would appreciate it too much if we hauled 16 cows, 75 chickens, one dog, seven cats and five guineas to him to board. So we have to take into consideration that we will need a farm sitter. For the sitters, we have a list of everything that needs doing, and depending on the chores depends on the sitter. If all we need is feeding and watering, we don’t mind either asking a neighbor or having someone who doesn’t know as much about the ‘details’. But if milking is involved, we need to know that whoever cares for the farm while we’re gone, not only knows how to milk, but how to care for it once it’s out of the cow. If you are looking for a farm sitter, here are some considerations. These can also be adapted to any home – just pick and choose the ones you need.
1) Feeding animals: Make sure you have plenty of feed available, with detailed instructions on what and how much to feed each type of animal. We have four different sets, and each one gets a different type of feed and amount, so make sure you are very clear. Also make a note of any allergies the animal might have. Our dog needs to stay away from corn products, so we keep special treats for her.
2) Medication: Unless it’s something easy, do not expect your sitter to give your animals shots or oral medications. Even the most gentle dog or cat may react negatively to a different person trying to open their mouths to give them pills, and giving them shots are out of the question. If my cows need injections, I always tell my sitters to call the vet or Jim and Lorea, who are well versed in caring for cattle.
3) Emergency List: Don’t just write names and phone numbers on this list. Mine is rather detailed, due to the different situations that can arise. Our numbers are at the top, followed by 911 for our local fire department and sheriff’s office, and then the numbers for Charles, who is the Police Chief of Hall Summit, and Lee, who is a sheriff’s deputy – both of which can make emergency decisions on our behalf). Next in line is our vet, with a second backup vet in case Jeff isn’t available. Following those comes the names of neighbors who either have keys to our place, know our daily routines or have extensive knowledge on individual animals and how we handle things. George is first on the list, as he’s right across the street. We have made a note to call him about any general questions and as first responder to emergencies. Under the cattle listing are four names, depending on the type of emergency. Chickens and guineas have two, and the dogs and cats have three. We also have the number of our Insurance Company, just in case a disaster happens with our home, and they need to be contacted. We also include the names for backup sitters. If ours gets sick or injured, we want them to get help immediately, but we also have to consider the continued care of the farm. We also give this list to George, who will act as back up in any given emergency.
4) Daily Chores: Sometimes it isn’t just about feeding and watering critters. We always have something growing, and those plants will also need watering. If there is anything in the greenhouse, it has to be opened every day and closed every night. Fences need to be checked. Live traps may need to be set for possum and other critters that loved to dine on our bags of feed. Certain bills may need to be mailed – we have those ready to go with a sticky note on them as to what day they should be mailed.
6) Specific Chores: If our sitter has to milk, we leave detailed instructions on how to process that milk, as well as instructions on sterilizing the jars. How to wash and store eggs are also on the list, as well as a price list for any sales that may occur. If we are incubating eggs, those instructions go on the list. Anything that needs special care should be on this list with detailed instructions.
5) General Things: At the bottom of our list are things that are just general for day-to-day living. Things like what foods are available in the refrigerator and freezer; local restaurants and phone numbers for the pizza place (we live too far out for delivery, but they can call it in and go pick it up, if they choose). How to work the DVD and television, or the stove. We also list anything that is off limits – such as those blueberries in the freezer that I’m saving for a special recipe. I encourage anyone who sits with us to ‘help themselves’ in my craft room, but let them know any yarn or supplies that I will need for projects I’m working on.
It’s the little things like that which make us nervous about leaving. If we are lucky, it’s an easy fix. If a cow gets sick, that’s a whole other problem. It will require a farm sitter to make the judgment call to either handle it by themselves, alert a neighbor or call the vet, and a farm sitter who may have to deal with disposing of an animal. Then the question begs to be asked if the sitter will know enough to isolate the sick animal or isolate the other cows from the area until a diagnosis can be determined. The list I provide for any sitter may be overkill, but I’d rather the sitter be over-prepared than under.
Do you ever have to hire a farm or house sitter? What do you do? Have there ever been any problems that could have been prevented? How did you handle it? I am very interested in your input on this subject. It may be very rare for the Country Boy and I to leave at the same time for several days, but when it does happen, I want to be prepared.