"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Farmsitters (Just Whose Expectations Are Too High Here?)

Summer is on the horizon, and that means yet another attempt to take a vacation from the farm and visit family in Mexico.

Due to a string of circumstances beyond our control - well, not exactly beyond our control - well okay, let's just start over. Due to a string of circumstances totally brought on by our own laziness, lack of foresight, and disorganization, we have not visited Mexico in well over three years. We have bought tickets, we have packed our bags, we have even arrived at the airport. But we have not gone (see Adios, Snow!, and I Spoke Too Soon.).

Hope and Paloma have basically no memory at all of Oaxaca or Abuelita's house, or of any of their cousins. Their Spanish is spotty and pretty much all receptive. They know diddley-squat about the land their father comes from and the way people live there. Typical American kids, in other words. That's not our vision for them. We want them to grow up not only bilingual, but bicultural. A couple of weeks every other year is not the way to accomplish that goal, but it's the best we can do for now. At least they need to know their relatives better.

So, planning for leaving the farm is underway. I put an ad on Craigslist looking for a farm sitter which I thought was pretty straightforward and laid it all out pretty neatly. Here it is:

Hello all:

My family will be traveling for two weeks this summer and we are in need of a responsible, conscientious individual or family to stay in our home and take care of our diverse crew of critters. Staying in the home is essential - we have three milk goats who will need to be milked twice a day. If not milked every twelve hours they will be in great pain and might even get mastitis and die. So, if you are not willing to stay here, please don't bother to write.

Please DO write if you:

- know how to milk goats
- like dogs (2, a collie and a whippet mix)
- would enjoy a "staycation" in a large, comfortable house with a spectacular view, high speed internet, satellite TV, and really cool play equipment for kids
- have references
- want to make some money this summer

Responsible teenagers with good references will be considered. In the interest of full disclosure, here is a list of our animals:

-four goats, three of whom will need to be milked twice daily
-two ponies, out on pasture, no need to feed
-bunch of chickens - somewhere around fifteen or twenty - not much work
-two friendly but rather large dogs
- one cat who you might not even see
- two hives full of bees. No beekeeping required. Just leave them alone and they'll leave you alone.

Realistically, I expect that you could expect to spend about an hour to an hour and half a day tending to everything that needs trending. Pay to be negotiated when we speak. Oh but hey - perks include twelve to fifteen eggs a day and a gallon or two of milk!

Thanks for looking!

That's clear, isn't it? The response has been overwhelming, I've received somewhere in the vicinity of a hundred calls. Of these, only three people say they have milked a goat a before. Everyone else says they can learn fast! Many people have asked if they REALLY need to stay in the house (yes you REALLY do). Several people call and the first thing out of their mouths is "what does it pay?" before they even let me ask them if they've ever milked a goat.

I have interviewed two of the three responders who say they have milked goats before. The first response came from a young gay couple who owned a share in a milk goat through a cooperative. So they have milked goats, but never cared for them. Odd. The farm part of the interview went well. I ran them through the routine, showed them where everything is kept, met all the animals, etc, etc. They seemed capable enough, if a bit nervous, perhaps. But when we went into the house, I could see it wasn't going to work.

I'm not sure what they were expecting, but it clearly wasn't my old farmhouse, which is nice but not - let's be real - going to grace the cover of house beautiful anytime soon. Or ever. Neither will I be receiving the housekeeper of the year award from Martha Stewart's own hand, ever.

Perhaps my ad was misleading. We do indeed have a spectacular view (you can see it on the sidebar - see?)
high speed internet, and satellite TV. There is indeed some awesome play equipment for kids. The house is large and comfortable. But comfortable like a worn shoe, not like a five star hotel.

Perhaps I should amend the ad, and add something along the lines of "This is not a bed and breakfast, it is a working farmhouse. It is not the kind of place you would ordinarily pay $150/night to stay in. It is the kind of place I will pay YOU $20 or $30/night to stay in: that's the point of this ad. The carpet is shot and a couple of the closets smell faintly of cat pee. If this is news to you, you probably don't have much real farm experience and should look on the next ad. If you are busting a gut laughing right now, you should call me for sure."


Amy said...

That is such a fantastic idea. I have never thought of that. I may just have to try that one of these days.

Maybe in a year or two my family will fly out for a vacation in WA and take care of the farm for you.

Periwinkle Farm said...

Oh boy good luck finding someone : ) I had to put up an add on craigslist for a job position at my work and i will say you are going to meet some interesting ppl and crazy and well you get my point. Have a happy mothers day tomorrow : )

Q said...

I wish I could stay in your warm and comfortable home with all your critters! Great idea to place the ad. Hope you find just the perfect house sitters.

Jesica said...

I like the addition about the house. Some folks have unrealistic expectations. Good luck on you search for farm sitter. Just out of curiosity, how long do y'all plan to be away? (But I don't have goat milking experience....)

Anonymous said...

I am busting a gut laughing. :)

Jennifer said...

Some people probably do have unrealistic expectations. Finding someone who will work and is dependable does not sound like an easy task for sure. Probably why I gave up all hope of ever going on vacation again when we moved out to the farm and got the goats. If you find someone dependable it will give me hope we might actually get to go on vacation ourselves again someday! Too bad I don't live nearby, I have lots of goat milking experience and would be more than happy to help out. Of course I would rather have the favor returned if needed than to be paid. ;-) I would keep the fresh eggs perk though! LOL.

dilli and the manthing said...

ahahaha... many good wishes to you in finding someone that doesnt either starve your animals half to death or over feed them so much they become ill. If you are real lucky you may find someone that can even water all the critters too.. No really I am wishing you the best but finding honest, decent, trustworthy people that enjoy taking critters and can truly appreciate the good life.. We have quit going anywhere for more than a day trip because of near disasters while leaving the animals under the care of others..

sunset pines farm said...

what a neat idea. For someone like me(which I am guessing is the type of person you are looking for) the term "working farmhouse" would be much attractive. I can see how some folks might find it offensive.
I hope you find just the right people or person to take care of your crew so you can enjoy your trip.

Garden Lily said...

Good idea. I hope that you are able to find suitable people for the job.

Kelly - Baltimore, md said...

I have milked a goat before. Growing up in PA, we had to milk our pet goat. She came down with milk fever after delivering twins. I can't help on the vacation front, but you to know people who can milk goats do exist. P.S. Over 40 and huge animal lover.

Jerry said...

Hiring a strange farm sitter has to be one of the definitions of bravery. Good luck. It certainly sounds important.

Sheryl at Providence North said...

I have the same 100 year old, musty, shifting, well worn farm house and love it!

Sounds like a dream vacation for the sitter! If I were single and didn't have my own critters to look after, I would do it in a heartbeat! I'm over 50 with lots of references.

So don't lose hope! There are people out there who are just right for the job. I have even had an egg customer offer to farm sit for me if I ever wanted to go anywhere and I would trust her.

Keep trying! Maybe post an ad in your farm store and any agrinews out there, places where farm folks will see it.