Living off-grid isn’t a lifestyle that allows you to travel easily. In most cases, there are animals to take care of, a garden to keep healthy and growing, systems that need an extra check-in now and then, and in some areas safety is a concern as well: when going away for several weeks or months, most people will want someone else to stay at their house, so they don’t need to worry about their property while traveling.
That’s the case for us as well: living in the middle of nowhere in Aragon is really the best lifestyle we could wish for, but we do enjoy the occasional visits to our families abroad. Although we’ve got lovely neighbours and enough people who wouldn’t mind coming to feed the chickens and alpacas, we just don’t want to leave our home unattended for days on end… in our experience, you never know what might occur.
We get plenty of offers from people who want to come and housesit for a couple of days or even a week… These offers do allow us to go shopping in Zaragoza or Barcelona for a day and that’s great. But when we travel all the way to Belgium, the Netherlands or Canada to visit family, we’d like to say more than a few days 🙂
So what’s needed when house-sitting our house?
Before we Leave: Getting Acquainted
When someone comes to watch our house for a couple of days or weeks, we want them to meet the animals, routines, systems, get to know the area, even some of the neighbours. Know who to call for an emergency, know where to go for everyday or occasional needs. Know where to check the fence for weaknesses after a big rainfall, know what to look out for on hunting days.
That’s why we like house-sitters to arrive a couple of days before we leave; to make sure everyone’s comfortable and we can leave without worries.
While we’re Away
99% of the time, our systems behave exactly the way they’ve been set up to behave… until they don’t.
A leak causing water to keep pumping (and spilling) so our batteries get drained; a short-circuit causing everything to shut down, and messing up the programming; snow accumulating on the solar panels in winter, which could cause them to break.
These occasions are rare, but when they occur, they need to be tackled as soon as possible, so it doesn’t cause further damage.
Compared to some off-grid mini-farms, our little menagerie is extremely low maintenance.
A farm dog, a cat, a bunch of chickens and a couple of alpacas – they don’t really need much…
The neediest of them all is Jabba the dog: as he’s not allowed to be left outside on the property unattended (although he did behave perfectly when we used to do that!), he needs to be let out regularly. So no leaving before dawn to only get back after dark…
Apart from that, our animals’ needs are small. Daily food and fresh water, a regular walk around the property for Tom and Jabba – and picking up eggs and occasionally checking the fences for the chickens and alpacas.
It can be a little bit more under extreme weather (at least, we worry more and check more often) but in general… it’s not like we’ve got goats that need daily milking, or sheep to herd around all day.
We often get neighbours and friends dropping by, tourists and passers-by stopping to see the alpacas, and we welcome them all – for us, it’s a part of living here. However, we also know what can happen when a property gets “abandoned” and no one is home for a couple of days or weeks.
From visiting youth on a scavenging hunt, to professionals with less innocent intentions; as safe as we feel living here, we wouldn’t want to leave our home and property unattended for longer periods of time.
What to Prepare for when House-Sitting
So what are things to keep in mind when you’re going to be house-sitting? Some of the following might seem logical to you, but in our experience, they’re not for everyone!
- To house-sit an off-grid house like ours, you need transportation – ideally, a car. We’ve had requests from families “used to walking” who didn’t believe they needed one. The closest village with shops is ten minutes by car, and can you imagine walking that distance while carrying a week’s worth of groceries? Getting gas bottles is twenty minutes by car, and we’ve occasionally had house sitters who needed them before we got back.
- Outside of summer, it can get cold. Even in May when we spend our days in shorts and T-shirts, at night you’ll want a sweater or even a windbreaker when you’re going outside.
- When it rains, it doesn’t just get muddy; the clay soil sticks to everything! In summer, we’d just go out barefoot when it rains a lot (much easier to hose off), but in other seasons you might need a pair of shoes for around the property… and a different pair of shoes to go into town.
Anything we’re forgetting? If you’ve house-sat our home (or a similar off-grid property) before, please tell us a bit about your experience below!
And if you’re interested in house-sitting an off-grid home in Spain, please get in touch – or join the Facebook group, where people are often looking for help around their place!