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Keeping dairy animals is a huge commitment. I know it goes without saying, but I’m saying it. You sacrifice a lot of things to maintain a consistent milking and feeding routine. Your family won’t understand – they will continually ask “can’t you just find someone to take care of things for a day or two?” And the answer will continue to be no, because anyone you know who knows how to milk and cares for animals has their own to care for. And apparently there’s no amount of money you can offer someone to learn to be your farm sitter.
As it stands, this really changes your day to day life in drastic ways, and causes most people to give up on dairy goats within three years. Your surly teens will resent you and accuse you of allowing your goats to ruin their lives. Your friends will find you off-putting because your favorite topics of conversation are the benefits of raw milk and goat care. Your day job rarely understands when you fly out the door to attend one of your goats giving birth. If you and your partner are not on the same page, it can cause problems in your closest relationships. Choosing to be a dairy farmer is a commitment that few understand and even fewer can stick with.
For us, the biggest challenges always arise during the holidays. My husband and I both have family that gather out of state for the holidays. To visit my family, at least one overnight is required. Sometimes we can pull off a trip to see my husband’s family, but it’s a sun up to sun down venture. When the holidays are also breeding and frozen water bucket season, it makes it even more challenging to leave for any decent stretch of time.
We are hoping to create a tradition of hosting holidays at our home eventually, but right now that comes with it’s own challenges. Our home has been in a serious state of construction since we moved in due to a lack of funds and time to get anything truly completed. There are unfinished walls, and an embarrassing guest bathroom that makes it uncomfortable to have a lot of company. I dream of a day when I can have people in my house and not feel bad about it. Today is not the day. Neither is tomorrow.
When we first moved to the farm we had a roommate that we hoped would give us the flexibility to do more things outside of the house, especially since this roommate had owned goats and milked in the past. No go. We keep trying to find someone we can hire who we can trust, but apparently that’s akin to hunting unicorns.
Last year I put us into the WWOOF network as a host farm so I could explore the site, read the forums and learn more about the program and what seems to work and what doesn’t. I know of a few farms who have hosted WWOOFers and have had such success with it that they consider it to be an essential part of their farm. I’ve received quite a few messages from potential WWOOFers who are interested in our farm, but we have yet to take the plunge on trying any of them out. We have some reservations, but I think this may end up being a great way to get some extra help that we need while participating in a great program. We shall see.
So for now we’ll continue to negotiate, and feel the guilt, and try to avoid holidays where one of us has to stay behind alone with the animals. Christmas is coming and I’m digging in to make it the best at home holiday I can. Wish us luck!