The Star Democrat - - REAL ESTATE -

Even a small herd of goats or a flock of chick­ens can change your life be­cause it’s not so easy to find live­stock care­givers for days or a cou­ple of weeks at a time.

You plan your time away based on what’s hap­pen­ing with the farm, said Roger Sipe, ed­i­tor of Hob­by­farms. com and Chick­ens mag­a­zine.

“A lot of peo­ple take their va­ca­tions in the late fall or win­ter when the work is less in­ten­sive,” Sipe said.

Stuff hap­pens when you’re away, too. The goats es­cape, the chick­ens are at­tacked by coy­otes, and farm ma­chin­ery dies af­ter you’ve turned things over to the tem­po­rary help for a few days.

You don’t know what you don’t know un­til it hap­pens.

Some farm­ers with decades of ex­pe­ri­ence, backed by fam­ily mem­bers and neigh­bors, still keep an eye on what’s hap­pen­ing at home while they’re away.

Things like a cell­phone weather app make that eas­ier.

“You don’t nec­es­sar­ily go into heart-at­tack mode when you see the weather’s chang­ing, but you cer­tainly pay at­ten­tion to it,” said Darin Von Ru­den, a third-gen­er­a­tion dairy farmer and pres­i­dent of Wis­con­sin Farm­ers Union.

For some folks, get­ting away from the farm for two weeks would be like tak­ing a trip to the moon. They milk cows twice a day, 365 days a year, so they prob­a­bly only take some half-day trips.

That’s not a life­style Von Ru­den nec­es­sar­ily en­dorses.

“It’s al­ways good to get away for a lit­tle bit, so that when you come back you ap­pre­ci­ate what you’ve got,” he said.

One of the main rea­sons that some farms have got­ten much big­ger is it al­lows a farmer to hire full-time help or to part­ner with some­one else and not be so tied down.

“Young peo­ple are more likely to get in­volved in farm­ing and to stick with it if they can get a week­end off and have a va­ca­tion,” said Mike Ball­weg, a Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin Ex­ten­sion agent.

“It’s been an age-old prob­lem go­ing back decades,” Ball­weg said.

Some peo­ple have turned farm sit­ting, mostly for hobby farms, into a small busi­ness. Oth­ers have kept busy as tem­po­rary help on larger, reg­u­lar farms.

But work­ing on some­body else’s place can be more trou­ble than it’s worth. Every farm has its own pe­cu­liar­i­ties, some of them not even no­ticed by the owner, that can frus­trate the farm sit­ter or tem­po­rary help.

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