Going on vacation can be wonderful and an event to look forward to, but when you own a small farm the process becomes more complicated. You cannot just pack up and go. Arrangements need to be made for the care of your property and animals. It can be surprisingly difficult to find the special person or people to feed, water, move, and milk a variety of animals.
We have not been away from the farm for more than two nights in years, but we’re going for a little longer vacation in two weeks. My husband’s Aunt Lori has rented a resort for July 14th through the 21st and has invited us to spend the week with the whole family. Although we won’t be able to spend the whole week we’re very excited to get away from home for awhile.
To make this happen we have to find a few willing farm sitters and accomplish of a few lingering chores to make our sitters’ lives easier. Every season has different challenges and with July comes the heat. My sister, Sondra, and our neighbor, Bridget, will be doing chores twice a day for us but I worry about watering the animals when it is very hot. Especially the pigs. Pigs are wasteful with their water because they like to roll in the mud to cool off when they are hot. Pigs don’t sweat so they have to find different ways to stay cool, mug rolling is the preferred method. After they dump their water dish to make mud their drinking water is then gone.
A list of chores to be completed before we leave:
- Plumb in drinking cup for pigs. This way they have continuous water to drink but not to waste. Our lovely chore ladies can throw a bucket of water in for them twice a day to roll in.
- Weed whip the fence line. Although Jack, our horse, does not test he fence our goats are constantly testing it. We want the fences working at high voltage so animals aren’t wandering far and wide.
- Till the garden. Weeds seem to grow twice as fast as the vegetables. To keep them down until we get back Trenton is going to till the rows before we leave.
I’m planning on having our chore ladies come over to practice. Bridget has never milked a goat before so it should be fun for her! We are only milking Fauna once a day. She still has a kid with her so if she is not milked completely it is okay, the kid will finish her off but unfortunantly she is not the most patient goat when it comes to milking.
I’m excited to head out for a few days. Planning to read, write, and knit in between chasing children around!
Last year I started horse lessons with my niece, Aurora who was 7 at the time. By the end of the summer she was wielding the lunge whip, building muscles, cleaning hooves herself, and improving her balance while riding bareback while I led Jack around.
This year we started a little later, because of weather and schedules but now lessons are back on. It’s funny how much you forget over the course of winter.
Our first lesson was mostly getting re-acquainted with how to behave around a horse and to not be shy.
A few items we worked on:
- Don’t be timid. A horse is a thousand pound animal who likes to be scratched hard to make it feel good. If you’re not putting a little muscle behind a scratch it feels ticklish, like a fly landing on them. Horses don’t appreciate that.
- How to pick up a horse hoof. Run a hand all the way down his leg, grasp his ankle, and lean into him. Be ready when he takes the weight of his foot and be fast to pick it up. Put some muscle into the lift! Some horses will do it for you but Jack makes you work for everything.
- Behavior while lunging. While lunging a horse your job is to watch him and his job is to watch you. This is an exercise in maintaining pace, establishing dominance, and honing skills in observation. Horses are experts in body language and you need to be too.
- How to lead a horse. Aurora has short arms so I fed a piece of rope through a 2 1/2 foot length of PVC pipe so she can keep him off her heels. Jack has a bad habit of walking close to you and has been known to heel step if you’re not paying attention to him. We reviewed where he should be and how to keep him in his space and out of hers.
- Brushing etiquette. Most children love to brush horses so we mostly went over how to walk behind a horse and his ticklish spots.
- Opening and closing gates. It’s hard to work with an animal if you’re afraid of the fence to take him in or out. I had Aurora opening the electric fence to get used to it. When she is more adept at leading I will have her practice leading him in and out.
Overall it was a great first lesson and soon she will remember all of these items from last year.
The three main skills to remember around a horse or any animal are:
- Be Bold!
- Pay Attention!
- Put Some Muscle Into It!
I’m going to start a few lessons with Fiona, my daughter, who is 2. She needs to remember that he is bigger than her. She loves Jack and has even ridden him bareback without support while I led him around. She clings to him like a tick and loves every second of it! The girl has a lot of attitude and forgets that she is only pint-sized.