Choose House/pet Sitting Assignments Wisely
House and pet-sitting is a learning experience. It is a trust factor between two parties. It is a verbal and sometimes written contract that is monitored by a website. Both parties can give positive or negative feedback. The majority of times, it works wonderfully. Strangers in the deal become friends. We have gone back to house/pet sit several times in France, Australia and New Zealand.
This blog and other housesitting assignments – world wide – will be made into an ebook within the years 2017-2018.
The Hobby Farm Assignment Near Christchurch, N.Z
Out of the many assignments we took and loved in New Zealand, one stands out as a mistake. We ‘bit off more than we could chew.’ A small part of the blame lay with the owners of a hobby farm. There were two big dogs to become part of our care. The female owner described the hobby farm as an hour’s work in the morning and another hour’s work at night. The extremely hot Kiwi weather turned the assignment into a much longer work period.
“The animals and Birds take care of themselves!” Really?
This was part of the job description. We were excited. We love the countryside and nature. We would be on a hobby farm surrounded by animals. We would have a diversity of jobs – and all descriptions from the ad sounded like this would be an “easy-peasy, lemon squeezey” couple of weeks. We were excited.
The Job Description Didn’t Match!
We were told that both the morning and night routines would take about an hour to fulfill – and – there were TWO of us! The weather was in the 30C range, so it was essential to fill up the water bowls of the hens in their pens and fill up their food troughs. Easy! Right?
The numerous ducks, geese and turkeys would be let out of their separate pens in the morning and be herded back at night. We would fill up their food troughs and they would use the creek for water. Easy! Right?
The sheep and cows would be fed a bale of hay and the hose would fill their water troughs. Easy! Right?
The pigs were fed left overs from local farmers who dropped it off. Finally, we would water the vegetable gardens and walk the dogs. Easy! Right?
The Reality Sets In
The female owner walked us around the large property. It was out in the country and the greenery soothed our souls.
Our first concern was the many hen pens – some hens were loose and we had to ‘find’ their eggs, luckily in the same bushes. It was the lack of proper irrigation that made us gasp. It soon became obvious that water for these hens were in bowls and most had been kicked over.
The owner apologized and stated that her brother was coming to New Zealand to set up a proper irrigation system. That did not help us at the time. “You may need to fill them up a little more in this hot weather,” said the owner casually. That we did – constantly! We were “house-bound” in 30 plus Celsius weather. Hourly, we walked the property filling up the hens’ bowls, otherwise, the hens would be dead!
“Turkeys often Drop Dead!”
This was the owners statement as she picked up a dead turkey and put it in a nearby sack. Between the three of us, we got the ducks into one pen, the geese into another and rounded up the turkeys that often flew up into the trees. “They’ll come down,” laughed the owner. Trish and I looked at one another.
Did I Tell You About the Hatchling Ducklings? NO!
Next, we were introduced to young ducklings under a heat lamp. “Oh, in a few days you can take them down to the creek and put them with the other ducks.” We must have looked puzzled because she said, “Oh, today is Friday, let’s say you do the job on Monday!”
Did I Tell You About Hatchling Quail Legs? Maybe?
We walked to another part of the barn. “Did I tell you about the hatching Quail eggs?”
“No.” We both tried to temper our surprise with enthusiasm. She showed us how to monitor the temperature.
(Only one quail hatched and it died the same day). When we emailed the owner, she told us not to worry; “it probably died of loneliness.” When it died, Trish and I were in tears. We felt responsible and we felt its loneliness.
Go with the Flow! Be Optimistic!
The first minute that we were left on our own, we walked the property. We agreed that our workload would be more than two hours a day. We discussed the great and modern home and a hot tub to greet us if our muscles were aching. The dogs were friendly and had the run of the property – that was a plus. The hatching ducklings looked perky and healthy. We would bring them down to the creek in a wheelbarrow or cardboard box. The watering of the hens would demand our attention, but maybe putting and wedging stones might keep their bowls from tipping. However, with the blazing sun, water would evaporate quickly. We decided we would stay on the property – read, walk, enjoy the animals and drink wine at night.
A Car Provided – But Chauffer Duties
We thanked everyone for the car that they provided, but it did come with a condition. One of us would be a chauffeur. We made three return trips to the Christchurch airport to drop off the family and to meet and chauffeur other family members. The trip to and from the airport was approximately 45 minutes. The family was very friendly – what could we do?
Thank Heavens for Rainy Days!
For a couple of days, the temperature plummeted and constant falling rain filled the now secured hen bowls.
We made our escape to the earth quake city of Christchurch. Upon our return, the rain had driven the ducks, geese and turkeys into their separate pens. No work those nights.
I should include this humorous note. There was a duck that had imprinted, at one time, on a turkey or turkeys. He honestly thought he was a turkey. When accidentally, we rounded him up and put him with his fellow ducks, he became very agitated. He stuck his beak into the cage wire of the adjoining pen of turkeys and quaked non-stop. He flapped his wings and the turkeys came over to console him. I had to walk into the duck cage and carry him out. As I opened the door to the turkey cage, they came running up to greet him. He quacked happily and snuggled into the feathers of his turkey buddies.
Every housesitter needs to carefully look at each assignment and ask questions. If we had seen pictures of the set up of the numerous hen pens, the watering would have been a concern. We learned that ducks, geese and particularly turkeys are difficult to herd, but not impossible. After we had committed to remaining on the farm and constantly filling up water bowls, we relaxed and resolved to only pick assignments that had moderate levels of work. We are NOT against work, per se.
At the end of our time, we decided that most of the work had indeed been enjoyable. What made the time enjoyable was our love and commitment to the animals. We enjoyed feeding hay to the bleating sheep and the odd moos from the cows. We did find another dead turkey and we ‘tossed a coin’ as to who would pick it up.
I lost. The hot tub and the wine was heavenly as we looked up at the stars and the Southern Cross. Our beds were comfy, we were well fed and the night birds sang us to sleep. We counted our blessings and they overflowed.