DH and I bought a small farm last winter, and now have our horses at home. We're lucky to live in a VERY horsey area, and I've been fortunate to have trusted help to take care of things while I'm away. Unfortunately, my most trusted help just left for college, and I'm in the process of thinking about looking for someone else, well in advance of the next time I need to go out of town.
So, how have you found decent help? Hired a professional service? Used on-line BBs like this one and VirginiaEquestrian? Flyers at the tack store?
Tell me your stories...the good, the bad and the ugly!
I own a decent sized farm so when we are away I have to have someone stay in the farmhouse for the duration. I have 50 horses so I need someone around 24/7. I am lucky in so far as a few of my boarders are superb farm sitters. They know how the farm is run and they know the expectations required.
Funnily enough I was contacted by a lady starting up a horse/dog sitting service in my area. She had worked out her prices and had thought about what people might want. I worked out the price it would be for me to go away using her pricelist and working out her costs to take care of the horses, dogs and cats. According to the flyer it would cost me approximately $2,000 for her to live here for 5 days. I did contact her out of interest and just in case I did actually need to use someone else to take over full care of the farm and I asked her about her knowledge and capabilities and to be quite honest there is no way I would have someone as inexperienced as her here. She really didn't know much above basic horse care and with my guys, who are generally no-problem animals, even if one just had a minor injury, this lady did not know enough to deal with basic needs or primary medications.
I do A LOT of house/horse/farm sitting. In fact, just finishing up a 10 day one tomorrow, and moving onto my second long term (8 months +) job next week. A majority of my work honestly comes through word of mouth. After I finish each job, I get a reference letter from that person (thankfully, they have all been good so far!).
I start booking in Jan and Feb for summer through emails, facebook messages and phone calls. If you know people in the area, ask them who they have used and their experiences. Chances are, if I've already done your neighbors and know the area, I'm more likely to take that job!
Craigslist. Found two great employees this way. Plus it is nice that your ad is "blind" so you don't get phone calls or folks showing up unannounced. You decide who to respond to. After the position was filled, I edited my ad to announce that the position was now filled and thanked all those who responded. it is also free!!!
I have a small place---4 horses, 32 chickens, 3 dogs and cats. 1 of the horses is a boarder. I give her a discounted board in return for 10 hrs of labor per month (she can't afford much board). She will mow, spray weed killer, trim back trees for me, helped make a shavings bin with me, etc. I haven't been away from the barn for long periods of time since we bought it almost a year ago but I guess I'll use her when I need to go away since she knows the routine pretty well.