Note: this was first written in 2017. In the meantime, we stopped hosting “Coffee & Cake Thursdays” – instead, we ask anyone wanting to come around for a visit to email or WhatsApp us first.
This post is not just about us; it’s about all of our fellow homesteaders, farmers, off-gridders and “simple lifers” around the world. It’s about something that comes up in (online) conversation at least once a week – but at the same time, we don’t talk about it enough.
It’s about unexpected visitors.
I’m not talking about friends and neighbours who drop by to borrow a thing of share some stuff – they’re often as busy as we are, so they’ll be on their way again after a chat and maybe a cup of coffee. And even if they were hoping for more than one drink… they’re in the same boat as us, so they understand when we say we have to get back to work.
I’m talking about locals or visitors who drop by unannounced and expect us to entertain them for hours, because they don’t need to be anywhere else today. They might be pensioners, farmers who’re done harvesting for the day, or people on a holiday or a day out…
We actually live here year round. And we might be home all day, but that doesn’t mean we’re doing nothing – we’re doing chores, taking care of the animals and other house members, finishing up on the fence that needs to be up before our animals arrive tomorrow, answering e-mails for our (paid) job if we work from home.
It’s not a random house, it’s our home. It’s in the middle of nowhere so when we don’t expect any visitors, we might be doing chores in our underwear… or worse.
In many cases, we actually want to spend time with you. We’d love to share a beer and a few stories – but right now, there’s chickens to catch or a meeting to attend. If you just turned up unannounced, we feel bad turning you away.
You might come here to get a good look at the place. See how we have our off-grid systems set up, check out the guest rooms, get to know the animals. You might want a “quick” tour of the vegetable gardens, on a 100 degrees summer’s day around lunchtime. Because when we’ve worked all morning and are finally sitting down in the coolness of the house to get something to eat, what better would we have to do than getting up again for a hike?
Or you might be a guest to our bed and breakfast. We probably tried contacting you in several ways to find out what time you were planning to check in – but since we didn’t get any response, we assumed you’d go with regular check-in times, and we’d be free to pop to the village for groceries before that. But then there you are, arriving early and not a living (human) soul around.
You might try not to disturb us, and just show yourself around?
Please don’t do that. This is not a public place, it’s our home. You might accidentally close a gate the wrong way, get attacked by our rooster (or worse), stress out a pregnant alpaca or crush some seedlings we planted in an odd place.
Oh, and did you bring your dog? How nice. Would you rather leave him to cook in a hot car, see him run after our animals, or pee on our outside furniture? If it’s a small dog, maybe you can hold it up in the air to see if our big dog can catch it.
Enough with the sarcasm – we love having visitors, and we’re happy with them bringing their children and dogs around if we’re prepared for it. We used to like unexpected visitors as well. It would break up the day, give us a chance to sit down and relax for a bit, and most of the time our visitors were nice people so we’d just have a good time.
We actually still like unexpected visitors…
But at a certain moment, we realized it was too much.
We’re not the only ones having this problem.
Read (and watch) Jess at The 104 Homestead reach out to anyone who might consider visiting a farm or homestead without an invitation, after getting a surprise visit that messed up more than just her day…
Unlike Jess and Carrissa, we’ve never had the real weirdos here. No nightly trespassers, nobody who made us feel unsafe. Yet.
However, sometime last winter, we realized we were losing hours every day to random visitors. We’d have big plans for a productive day, and then somebody would drop by – and catch up, have a drink together, maybe that would turn into a meal, and before we knew it nothing else would get done on the farm that day.
So last spring, I came up with a solution that works for us – like a charm.
We have “open days” on our little farmstead – although they’re more “open mornings”. Most Thursdays from 11 on, we offer Coffee & Cake: I’ll bake a few of the last recipes I’m experimenting with, DIY-man brews some coffee, and we welcome anyone who wants to come by – for the food, a tour, or a chat.
Our Coffee & Cake Thursdays are great ways to meet neighbors and visitors, get a tiny tour of the farm, buy/sell/swap farm produce (and books!) and hear the latest stories. And as it’s a planned thing, we get to child- and dog-proof our house and take our time to connect with each and every one of our guests.
The result? As more and more people around here know when Coffee & Cake Thursdays are, we don’t get that many visitors on other days, and we get more done during the rest of the week.
And if or when we get unexpected visitors, we can ask them to come back on Thursday – and not feel bad about it.
An unexpected plus? People are not only visiting us, they’re also meeting each other. Expats meet locals, newcomers meet people who have been here for ages, and information is getting exchanged, new bonds are being forged. In an area like ours, where young local people are moving away to the city, and new people from everywhere take their place, it’s necessary to get to know each other.
For us, it’s also a great way to show people how we live. Many locals are still a bit baffled about why anybody would want to live outside of the village; there’s perfectly good water and electricity connections there! Until, of course, they see our systems and the freedom we have and the animals and all the projects… They might not totally approve (we’re still weird!), but they do kind of understand.
Every visitor pays 1€ for the coffee & cake (or they don’t pay and get a glass of water), so I’m not making a fortune from it – but I’m not losing any money either.
Certain doors remain closed – the ones to our bedroom, or to guest rooms that have actual guests in them, and so do the gates to the animal pens and pastures.
Since we’ve started C&C Thursdays, I start noticing other farms and homesteads doing similar things. A bit like being pregnant and seeing big bellies everywhere. Some farms will have an “open farm day” with farm tours you can enrol for, homesteads do a (free or cheap) workshop involving their animals or the garden,…
Seriously, if you’re a fellow farmsteader and getting things done in between visitors is an issue for you, I would whole-heartedly recommend taking control. Welcoming visitors under supervision, on clear dates and set times, and under certain conditions, allows us to make sure no accidents happen – and people still get to visit your place, on your terms and in your time.
I call that a win-win situation!