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When I do evening chores, I don’t wear a bra. There, I said it. In the evenings, one of my greatest pleasures in life is taking off my bra and getting into some comfy sweats and going out to the evening barn chores with my husband. This is my time. The goats don’t care that my hair is in a sloppy ponytail, or that my sweatshirt no longer has any elastic, and is covered in stains of god-knows-what. They also don’t care that I’m not wearing a bra.
When I’m in this zone, I am not expecting company. Period. If unexpected company does drop by this late in the evening, I assume it to be someone who I know well enough to have seen me in this hot mess state of being before. Because frankly, it’s scary.
So, imagine my surprise, when perfect strangers think that this is an ideal time to drop for a chat. Or to buy eggs. Or to sell us hay. Or to admire the goats.
“Honey, there’s someone in the driveway” I shout frantically as I spot an unfamiliar vehicle pull up the drive in the middle of evening milking.
“Go see who it is!” He screams back from beneath a goat
“I’m not wearing a bra!” My voice has now reached a hysterical pitch.
“Oh for the love of…..” And generally he storms off to deal with our driveway visitor.
One night, before I realized there was anyone in the driveway, I stuck my head out of the barn door to see a strange truck parked there, and a man with his upper half in my breezeway looking around. I freaked out. Our guard dog, a Great Pyrenees named Nimbus, could get into the breezeway and do some serious danger to this stranger. I still thank my heavens she was obviously distracted by something else at that moment. I flagged the man down and had to be the one to talk to him. It was sketchy. After a few minutes of talking, Nimbus made her appearance, throwing herself against the window, barking and snarling in full glory.
“Wow, you’re really lucky there’s glass there.” the man said nervously.
I looked him dead in the eye “No, you’re really lucky. That dog would eat you alive.” I couldn’t have made myself any clearer.
After further reflection we determined this man was scoping our place out, looking for expensive, heavy equipment that’s usually used around farms.
There have been several weekday evening visits, and each one makes me cranky. My husband insists it’s because we have an egg sign out. I insist that doesn’t make us Wal-Mart, and people should have boundaries and respect that this is our home.
Don’t get me wrong, I love sharing our animals and our lifestyle with other people. When I’m expecting them. And well caffeinated. And properly attired. Having visitors takes a lot of time and energy, because we really like to make sure we give people our full attention to answer questions and show them things.
Running a farm, even a small one, is a lot of work, and hours and minutes are allocated carefully for routine chores, big projects, and yes, even family time. Like a lot of other farmers, we have very strict biosecurity protocols for visitors so they’re not bringing foreign diseases and parasites to our farm, and that takes some prep before people arrive. Small children can be unintentionally aggressive with small animals, and feed them things they shouldn’t. These are huge concerns when your animals provide food for your family and the general public. And don’t even get me started on the concerns when dealing with the sue-happy public when interacting with farm animals and pointy farm equipment.
However, there is some kind of pre-conceived notion floating around out there that if you run a farm, your life is open to the public at all hours of the day. My good friend Jess over at The 104 Homestead recently experienced an example of this herself.
Another good friend, Cheryle Moore-Smith of Old Mountain Farm has shared numerous examples of people showing up on her farm to see her goats. Now mind you, Cheryle’s farm is far off the beaten path, and has no signs. Cheryle also has some of the most beautiful, highly valuable, Nigerian Dwarf goats in the country. People wait on a list for years (yours truly included) to buy her goat kids. She recently shared that one day she came home to find a random woman in her driveway looking for does for sale. When she was told there were no goats for sale, she pointed out to the field of her beautiful does, and said “Well why can’t I just buy some of those?”
Another farmer shared that one day, after baling hay and coming in from the fields, they found a group of tourists in their mud room taking photos of their rubber boots.
Just today a goat farmer was sharing that two older neighborhood boys were repeatedly going on to her property when she wasn’t home, and climbing her 6 foot fence to get in with her goats. On one occasion, a large knife was left outside the fence.
It’s a sad fact that people don’t respect people’s privacy when it comes to farm life. People don’t understand that their unexpended visits are at best inconvenient and potentially embarrassing, and at worst, potentially harmful to the people and animals involved. If I’m not expecting you, I can’t make sure my barn looks presentable, and that’s uncomfortable for me. If I’m not there when you drop by, I can’t warn you to steer clear of the aggressive rooster, or tell you that your kid feeding one of my prized dairy goats Oreos through the fence could make them very sick or even kill them. If your bring an uninvited dog and they hurt one of my animals – lord help you!
We all know that most people don’t have malicious intent when they drop by unannounced. Usually they truly just want to see the cute animals – and who can blame them! But we also know that doesn’t make anything less awkward when it happens. And not all folks do have the best intentions. Valuable livestock is stolen everyday, and animals are harmed as a prank, or at the mercy of a sick individual who sees an opportunity. There are a few steps you can take to try to discourage the wrong kinds of visitors, while trying to encourage the right ones at the right times
- Be Polite But Firm – For most of us, our farm is also our business, so we don’t like to offend anyone or turn them off to what we do. But, like any business, we have operating hours, and are entitled to a private life. If someone shows up unexpectedly, don’t be afraid to tell them if it’s an inconvenient time, and make an appointment for a better time for them to visit.
- Signage – Make sure that you have large, clearly legible signage on your property limits, either stating no trespassing, visits by appointment only, or clearly stating public visiting hours. In the case of dangerous or nuisance visitors, this can help if you need to issue a no trespassing order in the future.
- Know the Law – It’s always good to know your rights when it comes to trespassing and harassment. Not all people get the hint when you try to be polite, and it’s good to know what recourse is available if someone becomes threatening or belligerent
- Fencing – Good fences make for good neighbors. Putting up additional fencing, even some hot wires can be an effective deterrent. Gates or chains across your driveway for after-hours is also great. However, fencing can be expensive and time consuming to put up, and not all driveways are easily gated of even chained.
We love you, we truly do. You’re a big part of why we do what we do. We never want to be rude to you or appear grouchy. However, if you catch us when we’re dirty, tired or hungry, possibly all three, we most likely don’t want company and hosting a visit at that time isn’t always a great idea.
Most farms these days have websites where it will list visiting hours or state that you need to make an appointment to visit. Shoot an email. Give them a phone call. If I have advanced notice, I will have snacks and cold drinks, and a smile. And most definitely, a bra on.