Ever find yourself humming along to that silly old tune “Green Acres is the place to be, farm living is the life for me…” and think yes indeed, I want to have a farm? Dream of trading in your laptop and commute for a pair of muck boots and being on a first-name basis with the local feed store manager? My suggestion to you: try farm sitting. Get to know someone with a farm and offer to help them out by taking care of the animals and chores for a weekend- they’d probably be thrilled at a chance to get away for a couple of days.
We’ve had a few opportunities to farm sit for my mom’s alpacas, which affords us a chance to really consider what it would mean to take on the full time responsibility of owning our own herd or flock of livestock. The chickens are one thing- pretty low key on the scale of basic care and feeding with a small flock like ours. But what would life be like if we had a FARM? If we lived the dream and added a herd of sheep or goats or other larger livestock, how would that change our lives? Could we adapt and maintain our current work schedules? What about the kids and school and social commitments, could we make it all work?
I guess the short answer is: yes. Obviously. Families have been farming for generations-right alongside the day jobs, the kids, the schools, etc etc etc…. they get it done. Spending a whole week actually doing these things, however, brings the reality of that lifestyle home. We were up at 5 a.m. and out the door to do chores, not commiserating over how cold the floors are and whose turn it was to make the coffee. After just a couple of days of mucking out stalls and hauling buckets of water and hay bales multiple times a day, on top of our regular work schedules and running the kids to their “appointments,” we found ourselves utterly exhausted- and then it was time to go back out and muck out more stalls.
For the most part, I would say that a week spent farm sitting helped us to visualize how exactly we COULD manage it all, rather than scare us off of the idea. Jobs need to be assigned, chore schedules worked out and agreed upon, and outside commitments clearly communicated. Just realizing the amount of actual TIME it takes each day to clean out a stall, or to fill and move water buckets, is really valuable in helping to understand the commitment you would be making to a farm lifestyle. The animals have to be tended. Every day.
Even with all of our extended family running farms as full time enterprises, and being engaged with them and helping out when we stop by for a visit, it takes being the ones wholly responsible for the place to really help us to understand what we would be in for as a family if/when we do decided to get serious and have a “farm” of our own.
So again I say- try farm sitting out. I guarantee it will be a real eye-opener for you.