Welcome to spring!
It's been a few weeks (well
probably months) since my last post, but for good reason. We have been
overseas; few weeks visiting the motherland (Wales) with our little bear, so
she could meet the family (or they could meet her) and spend her second
birthday there… yes it’s been 2 years already!
So not only have we been
away, but the few weeks leading up to our departure we spent time preparing and
streamlining as much as possible. I didn't really want to discuss our trip, or
more so our absence from the farm publicly (just in case), even though we had
someone looking after the place.
Taking an extended trip,
well even a short trip takes planning and preparation when you have a
smallholding. I think anyone who has any animal or plant, could relate. The key
is having someone you trust and being organised.
This wasn't our
first trip since living at Maes-y-Delyn so we knew what to expect. We were
lucky to have a young and enthusiastic young man to care take of the place. After all trusting someone with your home, livestock and pets takes a lot of faith,
so selecting the right person is crucial.
But once you have someone
arranged the key is to make it as easy as possible for them and to achieve this
streamline as much as possible. By this I mean
-Minimise your stock
For us this meant not
incubating/hatching any chicks. Fortunately the pigs had their litters just in
time (so we didn’t need to worry about any other arrivals whilst we were not
there). And these were sold before we departed. For me this also meant
upgrading my worms from my composter to the eco tank; they would have been
happy and this meant one less thing to consider (particularly as they don’t
really protest or are visible to remember). We expanded our bee hive by a box;
meaning they could expand and not become overcrowded (and hopefully not swarm).
And as for the veg patch, the pumpkin vines were left to occupy the one side,
with the grower pigs to occupy the other.
-Secure your fences
Fence maintenance is a full
time job on larger properties. But even on a small scale they can take regular
upkeep. Particularly as we have a number of species close to each other, as
well as the house/garden and road and other properties. So checking, tightening
and rewiring electric fences are key to peace of mind.
-Ensure ease of water
By this I mean ease of
access for the animals and the caretaker. We generally add additional storage,
so this doesn’t have to be done as frequently and ensure the access to water sources is immediate and simple as possible. An extra kiddies paddling pool here and there make excellent drinking and bathing/lounging
supplies for dogs and even extra drinking facilities for birds.
I can not stress how import water is. Especially in the tropics, as it does get hot and dehydration or overheating will kill livestock and pets. Pigs need access to clean water, as they will wallow to stay cool but will not drink from a wallow or "dirty water". Many people do not realise this and underestimate its importance.
-Prepare any additional
We label the feed and leave
very straight forward instructions. In the past we have even prefilled and
labelled buckets (but only for a short trip). But it is always good to plan
ahead. So we had closed off one paddock from the cows (we regularly rotate our
stock and manage the grass this way). So this meant they had more than enough
whilst we were away. We even did the same for the laying chickens, sectioning
off part on the rear garden, this is usually rotated occupation with the dogs
(it doesn’t end well when they occupy the garden simultaneously). This way
there were no concerns over whether the pens were locked properly etc. We also
bought a few hay bales for the pigs, as this not only provides extra grazing
but provides them with bedding and entertainment.
-Clean and prepare shelters/bedding.
This is just to minimise
workload for the caretaker whilst you are away; and therefore minimise concerns
over your animal’s health and wellbeing whilst you are away. But this is
obviously dependant on how many animals (or of each type) you have and the
circumstance by which you keep them and how long you are away for. Our free
range and are therefore not confined to their housing, so bedding etc. can be
more than adequate for a few weeks.
-Leave clear instructions
and contact details.
Not that you want to be
harasses for every minor thing, but if necessary it’s good to know they can
contact you. And a good caretaker will send updates or even photos if you want.
But if you are going to be a fair distance away and even in a different time zone
(as we were) it is handy to have a list of names (and numbers) upon which your
caretaker can seek help or advice if necessary. I even leave notes with the
local vet (who know us and our animals well) as to our travel intentions, just
in case their services are required.
Fortunately there was very
little in the way of trouble. The only incident whilst we were away involved
one of our sows (fortunately the more docile one) “visiting” the cows on the
odd occasion during the last week of our trip. This was most likely due to the
weeds that had grown (following some unseasonal rain) between the barb and
electric fencing; causing the “belt” to be insignificant… this has since been
fixed. But as for the sow, she was very eager to return to the pig paddock once
food was on offer! Even following our caretaker to and from the shed, whilst he
got some more for her! That’s one good thing about pigs, they are VERY food
We did lose our sussex
rooster, but he had been “off colour” in the days prior to our trip. We
possibly should have euthanised him, however he had appeared to improve in the
days immediately before our departure. This improvement was short lived.
One thing you do learn to
accept when smallholding is that somethings are beyond our control and losses
are part of this lifestyle (even if we don’t like it). And this would have
likely happened had we been there or not. But now we’re back on board it’s
getting back to business as usual.
As for our caretaker, I think we had a lasting effect- as he has since bought a few layer chicks for his own future backyard flock and eggs: So success all round!