A monitored security system is useless for us as the response is at least 20 minutes away
Not only are the stock thirsty, but the summer’s water supply just drained away. Having two water tanks, disconnected from each other, means at least you will have one tank of water to come home to. We have one large under-floor tank with a timer on the pump that will switch it off after 30 minutes of continuous use.
Another option is an electronic irrigation controller system which will cost around $700. This is controlled by your smart phone and can be set up with a flow meter to alert you if there is excessive flow. You can use the same electronic system to water your vege garden or nursery while you are away. Raised beds are great, but they dry out faster than the ground and one hot week can be death to your year’s supply of tomatoes.
Cheaper watering options are tap timers that screw onto your hose. Programme for a good soak early every second or third morning, ensure the batteries are good, and set up a couple of weeks before you go away to check they are operating properly and sufficiently.
Nursery trees and pot plants can be set in a tray or bath, raised up on a stand of bricks or upside-down saucepans. Drape an old towel over the stand and fill the base with water so the towel wicks water up to the base of your plant.
Coast to pretend it doesn’t happen. It’s also why our pig paddock is behind the house, neither visible or accessible by road.
I hate leaving animals unattended but we planned our block carefully so we could escape for weekends. With the neighbours keeping an eye on them, they are ok for a couple of nights.
Planning included making sure everything had ample space, food and shelter. The ducks and guinea fowl freerange in the orchard, with open access to their nesting boxes, a small dam and an old bath for water. The bath has a ballcock so it refills, and a little wooden ramp so they can get out if the water level drops.
Chickens also free range, as far as possible from my vege gardens. They happily put themselves to bed each night and automatic feeders supply dinner. The only animals caged are the little Japanese quail whose seed is dispersed by an old cat biscuit feeder.
The pigs free range and have nose rings to stop them turning the grass into mud. We’ve channelled a spring through an old barrel to provide continuous fresh drinking water before it runs into a natural wallow.
We also chose Devon pigs which are black and so well adapted to outdoor life. They theoretically will do well on grass alone but mine insist that this is a fallacy and enjoy their shelters and a daily meal. However, I know they have plenty to graze on to sustain them over a weekend.
Cows and sheep are more independent and I have a few paddocks that are highly visible to my neighbours. It is just a matter of scheduling my grazing routine so they are in there with plenty of feed whenever we are away. The neighbours will notice as they drive past if something is caught in the fence, looking ill or out of water.
The milking cow always has a calf or two share-milking with me, happily keeping her udder empty for a weekend without overdosing on milk.
Our entire house section is dog-proof fenced and two Dobermans guard the house and cars while we are away. They have their own kennels, heaps of room to run, a couple of bones to munch on and each other for company. Any would-be burglars would be extra entertainment.
These are our normal daily routines so there is no major change if we are scooting off for a weekend. Feeders and waterers are all tried and tested and the animals well used to it all. Everyone gets a good feed and last-minute check on Friday before we leave, and again as soon as we get home on Sunday. The neighbours are told if we going away and will keep an eye out for anything amiss. Weekends are easy, it is longer holidays that need more planning.