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For the small farm owner, who works full time & has horses at home

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  • For the small farm owner, who works full time & has horses at home

    We bought a small farm in 2006 and brought 2 of our horses home in July, 2007. I love having them at home, but have learned that it is actually much harder than I expected it would be. It's not the feeding/caring of the horses that has consumed our time...it's dealing with the maintenance of our small farm. Caring for our precious horses is the easy part. (Sound familiar?)

    Mowing, seeding, fertilizing, dragging the arena, etc etc...There is always a big list of projects that await us. The problem is that I work *almost* full time hours, my hubby works *more* than full time hours, we have two active kids, and so it leaves little time for rest and other household chores. Also, I don't ride nearly as much as I used to when they were boarded.
    It sometimes feels like we have a second job. (Again, sound familiar?)

    We finally did something about it...I have hired someone to come in and work on the weekends. He works for 5 hours on the weekend and wow, it is already making a big difference! Yesterday, he used the weed eater around my entire fence-line, mowed down an overgrown area, and cleared leaves from a large section where they get all bunched up. He worked hard, he worked fast, and everything that he did looks so nice!

    Beyond his salary, we tipped him and I also made him lunch, so it was a good experience for both of us. My hubby and I can't quit talking about what's on our list for upcoming projects...

    Next weekend - if it's dry out - I'm going to have him remove all of my jumps out of the arena, paint them, and give the arena a good drag since there will not be anything in it. This would have taken me all day...time away from my family, time that I need to go to the grocery or do some laundry.

    In summary, this is making my farm life even better. I love it here, but now I'll be able to better balance my time.

    I wanted to share this with other small farm owners to inspire you to do the same! I can't believe we have waited this long. Essentially, for the cost of one decent dinner out for our family of four, I can have someone to really make a difference in our family life every weekend.

    Any other small farm owners have farm help and want to weigh in? And what kind of projects/work do you have them to do?

  • #2
    Hi SpringOakFarm,
    We have 2 horses on less than 5 acres. I work full time but have flex time so I work longer days M-Th and then get off at noon on Fridays. That really helps. However, my husband is retired and our neighbor works from home, so they have done so much around our place (and his). Still, it seems that there is ALWAYS something that needs to be done!
    I do like your idea of hiring someone part time. Our mares prefer to be out so we don't really have any barn chores, but to find someone to do general handyman "stuff" would be ideal. I always scoffed at people who lived in retirement communities where everything is taken care of, but now I can see why they do it!


    • #3
      Couldn't agree more! I have a farm handyman who has all the equipment - tractor, four wheeler, drag, spreader, mower, etc, so I don't have to buy any of it. During the spring-fall he comes every 10 days, drags the manure in the pastures, mows, etc. Now that the grass has stopped growing, I have him come for less time, every two weeks. I need to make room in the budget to go back to his summer routine so he can get some projects done for me, like landscaping!
      If you think about the cash outlay or monthly payments for a tractor, the farm handyman makes a lot of sense if you're fully employed yourself.


      • #4
        We have about 15-17 horses here at any given time so we are not as small. Care was pretty easy since most are young...we are a breeding farm. But there was a lot of farm maintenance that I could not do and being full time I was having a hard time doing everything and getting to work on time and staying a full day. I was losing weight which was great but it was getting ridiculous...my pants fell off when I walked (can't stand belts)...there might not have been anything left of me this year. So I hired someone. I still do a lot here but he does the grunt work and handles the feeding and haying most of the time. It has been great and best of all was that I had the freedom to go to some out of town horse shows this year and not worry about leaving the farm unattended. I was even actually able to ride a few times and hope that I'll be able to start riding more now. It's a new farm with a lot of projects which have been sucking up my time (fencing, cleaning up multiple huge junk piles, building a shed, etc.)

        Even with a very small farm it is completely worth it to pay someone to do the laborious stuff so you can actually enjoy your farm, your horses and have some quality family time.
        Altamont Sport Horses
        Trakehners * Knabstruppers * Appaloosa Sport Horses
        Home of stallions: Ambrosius af Asgard "Atlantis" & Hollywood Hot Spot
        Birmingham, AL


        • #5
          Originally posted by Altamont Sport Horses View Post

          Even with a very small farm it is completely worth it to pay someone to do the laborious stuff so you can actually enjoy your farm, your horses and have some quality family time.
          Agree here! We have 6 horses and a lot of pasture and mowing! I hired an excellent women who comes from 1 to 3 times per week for 2 hours per time. It is a lifesaver as it allows us more time to enjoy our farm. Also, my husband purchased a 15 foot bushhog which cut our pasture mowing time from 7 hours to about 4 hours, which was occurring every 2 to 3 weeks in the spring and monthly thru the summer. All of these things allow us to enjoy the farm.
          Like us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/edgewoodmeadowfarm


          • #6
            A couple of questions for those of you who have hired someone:

            How did you find the person?
            Did you check references or even ask for references?

            I've been mulling this idea over myself for a while, and I'm just interested in how to go about doing it safely (I'm a single female, live alone in a fairly secluded spot, etc.).

            "We need a pinned ears icon." -MysticOakRanch


            • #7
              I've been trying unsuccessfully to get my nephews to help out (paid, of course). Neither is interested in real work. I won't launch into my tirade about how kids are spoiled these days and everything is handed to them. My 2.5 year old already helps feed and throw hay to the horses for pity's sake! She works for the occasional Breyer horse, though she does require constant supervision. So I've given up on finding a teenaged helper.

              Luckily a solution kind of fell into my lap. My husband runs a small business and a couple of his employees are in need of help financially. They have been asking for extra hours but there aren't any at the business. I suggested that they could do some things around the house and they were willing. I'm giving them my least-favorite, but most necessary task of picking up manure in the pastures. I'll put the horses away so they don't have to worry about them being in the way, and they get to use the polaris ranger with the dump body so it's not as backbreaking as using a wheelbarrow. I'm really hoping this works out because it could end up saving me a ton of time. Money is a little tight but it's totally worth it knowing I get more time for things I want to do and that my money is going to good people who need the extra help and are willing to work for it.


              • #8
                Originally posted by meaty ogre View Post
                My 2.5 year old already helps feed and throw hay to the horses for pity's sake! She works for the occasional Breyer horse, though she does require constant supervision. So I've given up on finding a teenaged helper.
                My husband and I are betting that our 2.5 yo will be able to feed, bring in and turn back out and hay by herself by the time she is 5.(not that we would let her, but that she COULD and WOULD do it if allowed) Currently, she calls them up and lets us know when they are ready to come in. Sets out her horse's food dish, helps me open the gate to let them in, then closes my horse's stall door and helps to disbatch hay and put them all back out. Plus she is the main treat distrubtor. It require no bribes or payment.. she just wants to be with the horses. I hear "I wanna go ride!" more than any other phrase. That gaurentees that the baby in my belly is going to HATE horses... doesn't it... lol

                On Topic... Everyone I know that has a handyman that has worked out and they still like and use it's happened to by chance. I wouldn't know how to go about looking for someone.
                If i'm posting on Coth, it's either raining so I can't ride or it's night time and I can't sleep.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Catersun View Post
                  Plus she is the main treat distrubtor.
                  I'm glad I'm not the only one who lets my little one dispense treats. I know they can bite, but they just don't. My non-horsey relatives and friends don't understand that. The breyers aren't so much payment as they are "encouragement" to hope she keeps the love for horses up, but I'm pretty sure it's fully installed in her. She rarely ever has tantrums, but the few times she has thrown herself in the floor have been when I've told her she can't come outside with mommy to feed the horsies because it's too cold or raining. I know that won't last through her teens though!

                  Seabreeze, since you are isolated, I think I'd probably just screen them the best way you know how (ask for some refs) and then lock yourself in the house and watch them work (start with a low-risk task that can be done in an hour or less as a "test-run") and if all goes well work your way up. If you get the heebie jeebies just move on right away (always listen to that 6th sense). Maybe put an ad up at the feed store and then if you get a bite, ask the feed man/woman if he would let that person work at his/her farm?

                  Edited to add:
                  And for God's sake don't find one via Craig's list or myspace. (Ok, I'm sure there are some decent people offerring services online but I'm fairly certain that the number of psychos who list services in the phone book or through word of mouth is much lower than the number who lurk on those sites!).
                  Last edited by meaty ogre; Nov. 3, 2008, 10:28 AM. Reason: added


                  • #10
                    I'd give my left arm for a handyman. Or more to be handy myself. Or have my husband suddenly become handy.
                    I'm at home all day and have 4.5 acres. They were raw heavily wooded acres we bought almost 5 years ago (with a house) and have been slowly turning into horse property. It's a long time commitment, costs a small fortune and does require some handy capabilities.
                    I do find working around the property a full time job pretty much...at least most of the time. There is *always* something to do...either repairs, new projects and most often just general daily maintainance. Leaf removal alone is a month long project involving full days outside.
                    But there are projects I'd love to do that I just either don't have the know how to do or just don't have the strength to do them solo. I'd love to be able to find a handyperson who can come over for a nominal fee and help out with these things. Either helping me do them or showing me how to do them. Hubby and I built a gate this weekend for inside the barn as an easier way to close off part of the aisle for a run in. I use it that way now but use a web-gate and the newer horse has figured out to crawl over it, I don't want him getting tangled in it so thought I'd buy a 10' tube gate. Hubby thought since we have wood on the property we should build a wood gate instead. I reminded him how unhandy we are...long story short:
                    About 10 boards ruined trying to figure out how to miter corners right.
                    Between picking up the hinges, a gate wheel since the darned thing weighs a ton, brackets to hold together our badly mitered corners, stain, wood putty to fill in our badly mitered corners, and a bunch of other stuff to finish the gate...well let's just say it's so far cost about $40 more than the tube gate would have and it's still in my basement because it's not fit to hang yet.
                    I want to re-do my barn aisle floor...we matted it over packed process and it works very well but we couldn't get the mats to fit right even with cutting. I want to edge the aisle in cement pavers and then lay the mats in the center...I found the right pavers that will allow me to lay the mats I have in the center without cutting and get rid of the ridges I have in there now...but dragging all the mats out of a 12 x 40 aisle and unloading the amount of pavers needed and then replacing the mats is probably more than my arthritic shoulders can take. (one mat weighs about 85% of my own body weight but it's not so much the weight as how hard they are to maneuver) Plus I'd probably mess up laying it out right.
                    But...I cannot find a handyperson aroound to help out who doesn't cost as much as hiring a professional contractor to come do it with a full crew. I just don't want to spend $150 plus materials to have a gate built or $500 plus materials to have an aisle reconfigured.
                    You jump in the saddle,
                    Hold onto the bridle!
                    Jump in the line!


                    • #11
                      I have 3 horses. I work full time, plus I trim horses part time. My husband works full time. I ride at least 3 days a week, sometimes more. Our farm is pretty much spotless. Well maintained. I have found out that you really CAN get a LOT done on a weekend day if you just DO IT. Within about 6 hours or so the two of us together can have the lawn (3 acres) mowed and swept, fence repaired, stalls cleaned, water tanks filled, (small)arena watered, trees trimmed, equipment put away, and be back in the house in time to make dinner, mop the kitchen floor, and do the dishes. We work together really well as a team. It really doesn't take that long to do things if you just have a plan and a process, and just DO IT.

                      Yeah, the farm is a lot of work, but I don't find it overwhelming, and I could certainly not justify paying someone to do the work. Maybe if I had kids, like you do, that would make a huge difference though.

                      I post on coth during the day at my desk job, but at night or on the weekends - rarely ever. If I devote 2 hours on a Sunday morning to house cleaning, I can have everything spic and span for the week coming up. I think the biggest help has just been developing a plan and implementing it, versus sitting on the couch staring at 15 jobs that have to be done and not having a clue where to start.

                      I have found out that devoting 15 minutes in the morning before work to cleaning stalls saves me a MASSIVE amount of work. If I do it at night, the chickens will have gone into the stalls and scratched and churned everything into a mess by the time I get home and it will take me 1 hour, versus 15 minutes.

                      Just stuff like that saves a lot of time.


                      • #12
                        We have a 16-year-old and a 7-year-old...we have no need to hire a farmhand to help around our little 13 acre farm!

                        Even with caring for three horses and a few other critters, plus mowing, weed eating, planting, building, repairing, maintaining, etc. etc. etc...we get the job done. My husband and I both have full time jobs and still manage to get the work around the farm done AND we ALL have time to ride 4-5 days a week.

                        You just decide to do it and get it done. Prioritize the things that MUST get done, and save the other things for weekends. Yes, we're busy, but it's a GOOD busy, and healthy and enjoyable busy for ALL of us.
                        Last edited by BramblewoodAcres; Nov. 3, 2008, 11:25 AM. Reason: Typos


                        • #13
                          Sounds like a great idea.
                          It is just me & my 2 horses on my little 5ac farmette and I am the classic Grasshopper when it comes to chores. I work 4 days a week and volunteer on the 5th.

                          I'll ride before I mow or do any other farmwork - always Pleasure before Work

                          As a result my pastures are less than golfcourse-esque, my gardens are a bit on the {ahem} "casual" side but things in general are neat and tidy and useful.

                          I would LOVE to have a once-a-week handyman to do the stuff I can't or won't. Right now I am waiting on a contractor to call back with an estimate for re-caulking all the windows on the house and replacing the henyard fencing.
                          Both jobs I could do myself, but would rather pay to have done right the first time.

                          I do a heckuva lot of things I never did before - when I lived in the city & boarded - and I do them well with minimal equipment.
                          I am the Queen of Make-Do.
                          Still, it sure would be nice to have some muscle with the correct tools to help out once in a while.
                          *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                          Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                          Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                          Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                          • #14
                            I have 2 horses on 3+ acres, DH and I both work full time, including an hour commute each way. After barn, house, and yard chores on weekends, there just never seemed to be any time to ride, horses weren't being groomed regularly, and tack wasn't being cleaned.

                            My new strategy - I hired a cleaning service to do the house every 2 weeks, and ride first on the weekend, so at least I'm not stressing about the house and I'm riding 2x a week. Still though, I do seem to spend all day in the barn on weekends. Sunday, I trailer to lessons, which eats up about 3-4 hourse. I drag pasture once a week, and spring and fall do seeding, lime, and fertilizer.

                            DH hates paying someone to clean the house, but after 10 years I've put my foot down because we just don't have the time, and a dirty house makes me crazy.

                            For those of you who found someone to help with the farm chores... how did you find them? I'm still trying to carve out more time to get back to daily grooming and tack cleaning.
                            Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
                            Witherun Farm


                            • #15
                              When we had our own place, hubby and I both worked full-time and had anywhere from 3-6 horses on the place. here are the things that I did that saved me the most amount of time:

                              -Once a day feedings (works best if you hve them on as-low-as-possible grain)
                              -24/7 turnout, only in for that one feeding (saves lots of mucking time)
                              -Auto-waterer (saves tank cleaning/ refilling time, not to mention eliminates a lot of worry about the horses running out of water/ pooping in trough/ knocking over trough, etc)
                              - Ground clear is your friend. Especially around fencelines. Zap those fencelines with some heavy-duty chemical warfare and you are good to go for a year.
                              - Ditto on the housekeeper. Cleaning up after the horses is way more fun and therapeutic than cleaning up after ourselves.
                              - Mowing. Not much we found to reduce the time spent here. just gotta suck it up and do it, especially in the spring when it seems like the grass grows back in a few hours. Taking a beer along makes it more enjoyable.

                              Personally, I found myself over-extended once I had more than 3 horses to ride, working full-time, and taking care of the place. I wouldn't have that many of my own horses again that were in regular work, at least not while I am also working full-time. Taking care of 6 horses though- no problem.

                              I miss having my horses at home every day, even though there IS more time to do other stuff (although, we spend a lot more time watching TV than we used to which isn't really a good trade IMO.) I must be insane because I'm working on getting us back into a situation where I can have the kids at home again. But THIS time, I'll have my own (human) kid as well AND a longer commute. We learned a lot the first time around though, so I think we can set it up right away that it will be relatively easy to manage, cheaper than boarding where I am now, and imminently more satisfying.
                              ~Living the life I imagined~


                              • #16
                                I have some help with housework. It is the least fav job on the list for us. She comes twice a month and it really helps. I also have a "boarder" who feeds PM and does three of the five stalls (hers and a paying boarder) in exchange for board, so when I get home, I can ride. I enjoy the farm work, house work, not so much.



                                • #17
                                  Boy, have I been tempted to do this! So far (it's been 2 years) I'm keeping up OK because I've designed the place to be as low-maintenance as possible, and I enjoy mowing, but yeah, having a hired hand to put jumps away, do fence tightening and all that drudgery sure sounds appealing!
                                  Click here before you buy.


                                  • Original Poster

                                    For those of you that can do it all...more power to you! I'm envious of your energy and commitment!

                                    For my family, I think that we have been missing out on some of the things that we used to enjoy so much...like entertaining. We used to love having friends over for dinner and now I just feel too tired on the weekends because we have always have so much to do. Plus, my hubby doesn't play nearly as much golf as he used to. He works hard through the week and I want him to relax more and not work all weekend.

                                    I just don't want us to be slaves to our small farm anymore...I want us to just enjoy it. That doesn't mean that we aren't doing any chores...as you all know, there is always a huge list of projects waiting for our attention. But now we can get more done, or get things done in less time. And, we won't be doing the back-breaking work that makes us feel so miserable for days on end!

                                    Re: where to look for help - I asked the barn manager where my daughter rides with her trainer, and I also asked the crew that delivered my hay. I told them about the type of work that I needed and then 2 days later, my guy showed up - eager to work, very friendly, with references from local farms where he works through the week. We hired him on the spot and he started working the same day. I just couldn't be happier with his work. He is young (mid 20's), strong, and very willing to work.

                                    My "honey do" list is growing every day - we keep thinking of new projects for him and we're already feeling a sense of relief, and we're excited about the progress we will make on some delayed projects!