Monday, June 6, 2011


When we first considered moving from our suburban neighborhood to a rural property, one of the things we were concerned about was how we would be able to take vacations and get away once we had farm animals to care for.  I mean, finding a pet sitter or a boarding facility for a beloved dog can be tricky enough, but when you have 5 horses, 9 goats, 22 chickens, a llama, 5 cats AND a dog – well, you see the dilemma.  Yet, it was important to us not be tied to the farm to the extent that we couldn’t get away for a ski weekend or take a family vacation each year.

And I figured, I’m a creative problem solver; where there’s a will, there’s a way!

One of the first things you figure out when you live in the country is you’d better know and befriend your neighbors.  On our street there are 10 properties of approximately the same 5 acre size.  Eight of us own horses, so we often rely on each other to help out when needed.  There are times when we may not see or talk to a neighbor for months at a time, other than a wave from the distance, but if a horse gets loose, it’s amazing how quickly someone spots it, rounds it up and puts it back where it belongs.  We’ve done this for just about every neighbor at some point, and they’ve done it for us.  And we always offer and are willing to feed and care for their animals when they have a need, so when it’s our turn to ask, the favor is often reciprocated.

Another thing you learn is that there are plenty of folks out there who would love to live on a farm, but probably never will, and they are often happy to “play farmer” for a week to get a fix for the country life.  We’ve had whole families as well as single friends who have been willing to come for a weekend or even a couple of weeks at a time and take care of all the critters in exchange for the chance to experience and enjoy the rural life.  In fact, Brian and I did this for some newlywed friends of ours almost 25 years ago.  We stayed on their farm and took care of their horses and house pets while they went on their honeymoon, and I still credit this experience with being one of the reasons we eventually ended up living this lifestyle ourselves.

So even as we’ve accumulated more and more animals and our feeding and care routine has become more demanding and involved, we’ve always been able to get away for a much needed change of pace or family down time at least a couple times a year.  But it’s not easy.  I spend hours making arrangements, typing up notes, worrying about details, and generally stressing out before each and every trip.  My “farm notes” has grown from a single page of instructions to a 7 page Microsoft Word document and sometimes I need a vacation just to recover from planning for the vacation.  But I feel really lucky that there have been so many willing (and even eager) friends and neighbors to step in and help out so we can occasionally take a break from the daily responsibilities and get away. 

This past week our family went on a vacation and I spent a good two weeks preparing notes, recruiting and training helpers, moving animals around to make things as simple as possible, and getting everything in order.  Just as I finished all the preparations and had all 4 helpers lined up, we found out that the place we were planning to go (Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons) was having unusually terrible weather with snow, road closures, avalanche warnings, flood warnings, etc.  Somehow this just didn’t sound like the trip I had envisioned when I’d started planning it months ago.  But since I had all my pet-sitters in place, I knew for sure we were going on a vacation somewhere.  I just really wanted to go somewhere that felt a little more like summer.  So, the morning we were supposed to leave, I completely shifted gears and decided to head south to Mesa Verde and the Four Corners area instead.  I cancelled hotel reservations up north and booked a hotel for our first night in Cortez, CO.  I thought we’d get down there and then plan the rest of the stay.  Risky, but with a wonderful weather forecast in that area, I figured how far wrong could we go.

Luckily, I was right and we ended up having a fabulous time visiting some parts of Colorado we had never seen before.  I guess for most people planning the vacation itself is where they spend all their time and energy, but for me, that’s the easy part once the animals are cared for!

Life Lesson:  Make good plans, but then be flexible

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