If you are used to the rural life and have some spare time on your hands, why not consider becoming a smallholding house sitter!

Living and working as a smallholder is an authentic immersion in rural life.

Scenic, bucolic but also remote and far from the conveniences and infrastructure which town and city dwellers take for granted.

In addition, smallholders solitarily hold the charge of your lands, buildings, pets and livestock as a continual consideration and responsibility.

Just about everything requires resourcefulness and ready planning. In most cases, the collective energies, resources, focus and time of their entire household is diverted to the management of their real estate.

It is therefore no surprise that stepping away from a smallholding property will likewise require controlled logistical and operational planning to ensure losses due to neglect are not incurred.

Whole days away and more so, overnight stays, can throw feeding livestock and tending to daily upkeep into disarray.

Routines and rhythms which take years to become established and productive can come to an abrupt halt.

It may seem to most that leaving a thriving smallholding is impossibility without the expense of a retinue of a shadow team of standby workers ready to pick up the slack when a smallholder take time out.

Where can reliable help be found when taking planned absence from running a smallholding?

Typically there are a range of options available to ensure that a smallholding property runs smoothly while owners are out of town.

Reasons why smallholders at times need to take time away from the daily routine could be:

  • Emergencies  such as accidents or fires, or personal circumstances.
  • Holidays  - smallholders with families may desire the opportunity to travel  or visit relatives and friends.
  • Life Events – marriage, a new baby, or the death of a relative may necessitate leaving the land for a small window.
  • Rest  - maintaining a smallholding can become tiring, especially after particularly labour intense seasons such as lambing or harvest. A step-away for even a few nights may prove restorative for the work ahead.
  • Business – country fairs, farmers markets,  county shows and trade expos related to your smallholding business may take you off-site for hours or days at a time.

Enter the smallholding house sitter...

For these reasons smallholding house-sitting services are becoming increasingly sought after as a stop-gap for time away from a homestead.

The smallholder benefits

Rural crime is not to be underestimated, so continuous occupation of farm land and property is prudent.

Though usually sourced from amongst friend relatives and community networks, at desperate times, the availability can be lacking, yet if the need is pressing an owner will be forced to look further afield.

This has precipitated a rise in professional smallholding sitting services appearing on the internet.

Such service providers by default carry the prerequisite experience and expertise to competently handle the many duties of running a smallholding while the owner and family are away.

If short on leads for such services, smallholders need only look as far as online smallholding forums to get started with finding their ideal candidate.

Isn't a smallholding sitter just another name for a regular house sitter? Don't they do a similar thing?

There is a difference between house sitters and smallholding sitters.

House sitters tend to be property focused, occupying and maintaining it according to your wishes for the duration of your absence. Even feeding and walking household pets, if required.

A smallholding sitter however brings a specialist knowledge of small scale farming and animal husbandry to the fore. They are usually equipped with the skills and expertise to appropriately care for livestock and manage the various uses of land.

Typical duties may include these tasks which should be handled by a capable smallholding sitter:

  • - Lambing
    - Milking by machine
    - Hand milking
    - Detection and management of calving, farrowing or lambing
  • - Move pigs/cattle/sheep and their young without stress
  • - Medication of pigs/cattle/sheep
  • - Mucking out
  • - Feeding

Smallholding house sitters do not have a specific type or profile, other than, lots of experience with animals and agricultural living, plus are well connected within a number of nearby rural communities who use their services.

Qualification for the work may be experiential, formal (HND in agriculture) or a bit of both...as in the case of the Smallholding Sitting Service.

For a broader experience of rural management with more specialism in animal care, see Assist YG .

Often smallholding sitters do not travel across country or abroad as traditional house sitters, but they tend to be quite busy filling in regionally.

How much can you earn as a smallholding sitter?

Costs and therefore fees charged vary according to the type of arrangement required.

Relevant questions to ask could be:

  • - Is occupation of the property required?
  • - If not, how frequent are visits required?
  • - How much hands on management of livestock is required, such as hand milking etc.?

Prices vary, but are largely competitive considering the livestock management. Remember, travel and accommodation should be accounted for as expenses.

When choosing an appropriate stand-in caretaker for a smallholding owners will carefully review qualifications and references. It would be prudent for a sitter to go as far as providing a DBS clearance. Insurance too would protect against any accidental damages.

How much planning should be involved in smallholding sitting?

Even with the most diligent sitter, a smallholder will need to carefully consider a handover plan to ensure that an absence from their land runs smoothly.

Consultation with planning will at times be expected so be prepared to wade in with suggestions and commentary on your limitations or perceived risks.

Sound communication will often offset risk.

Providing a template Smallholding Handbook could go a long way demonstrating diligence prior to agreement. Such a document should outline all routines regarding property, land & livestock - detailing what needs to be done and how.

Emergency numbers must be declared as for preferred escalation for specific issues – such as veterinary emergencies and perhaps details of a neighbour who can assist if an uncommon need arises.

Final tip...

Ask as many questions as needed beforehand, never overstretch yourself and do not fail to document (with backup) all instructions!

Do you think you have what it takes to become a smallholding sitter?

Why not advertise your services cheaply.

Are you looking for a professional smallholding sitter?

Advertise your job and get some help lined up.

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