Introduction: How to Manage a Garden on Vacation

About: Building design/consulting in Vancouver, WA. Resource based problem solver... in other words, I always take a minute to look in construction dumpsters :) ---the way some have to workout everyday... i have to …

A significant hurdle to homesteading/gardening/backyard chickens is the risk of leaving for a summer trip. I was pretty concerned going into a 9 day hiking trip in Montana. Some good neighbors and a simple, low-tech, tracking system made the difference!

Main Goal. We are fortunate to have wonderful neighbors. This tracking board is a tool to make it easier for a few neighbors to coordinate and look after our ladies and yard while we were out of state.

---see our girls on instragram or these recent posts (frozen treats, winter chickens)

Step 1: Salvaged Whiteboard

Some recent dumpster diving behind a local strip mall turned up this Melissa & Doug Easel. The easel has some excellent hardware and both a whiteboard and chalk surface... all will certainly be useful for upcoming projects.

The board had sharpie ink to remove... if you're ever limited in resources simply write over the sharpie with dry erase pens and wipe away!

Cleaning the Board

  • Isopropyl Alcohol - I link to the 91% solution... stronger the better. That said, the 50% solution from dollertree works fine. Also, always make a pin hole in the safety seal. Best way to use alcohol.
  • Cotton Balls- I link to a bulk pack of cotton balls... for this I used the cotton that comes packed in an ibuprofen container during shipping.

Step 2: Setting a Grid

The easel came with few straight members that made a perfect straight edge. I used the width of the straight edge for my rows.


  • Dates
  • Chickens
  • Garden
  • Notes


  • Headers
  • Example Row
  • Days on vacation

--used a Black Sharpie for all rows and dates.
--used a green dry erase for notes and checklist.

Step 3: Dates + Details

Dates. Used a simple format and was sure to include notation for the day of the week. Easiest way to keep track of dates. The use of a sun or Sunday was actually the company standard for my old tour company.

To complete the columns I added a few chore details. In the next step I show an example.Details.

Step 4: Example Row

Here I show how I use initials to volunteer for upcoming days. This is especially important as our next door neighbor would pickup any that weren't covered. Easy for this neighbor to at a glance see that the chickens and garden were managed.

Step 5: Securing the Board

My first attempt was to use salvaged washer and screws to secure on our fence... not the best. After a first rain the particle board was starting to curl. (melissa & doug products don't seem to be made for the garden!)

Step 6: Secure the Marker

Simple process for keeping the market at hand.

  1. tie a double knot
  2. wrap with electrical tape
  3. wrap the full length with electrical tape
  4. secure the line using a bowline to the fence

yes, electrical tape is by far my most used tape... duct tape is rarely used here but came in very hand on our backcountry trip for blisters.

Step 7: Travel With Ease!!

In this photo you can see how two neighbors shared care for our chickens. They were also balancing their own vacation schedules and found the system useful. Admittedly, it's pretty intense! That said, it's something physical that doesn't require signing into a google doc.

Peace of Mind. It is easy to text a photo to know that everything is looked after and covered.

Thank you's. Also helpful when you return to know who to provide with the most thank you presents. Jess has already baked a few desserts since we got back with more to come!

The Garden. See a few photos of our intensive garden! It's going wild from the chicken compost.

Thanks for reading! -Jeff

Reuse Notes. Thank you to the local Toy Store that threw away the Melissa & Doug Easel. Shame they broke enough components throwing it in the dumpster. I'd have shared it as a gift had it been in better condition. Reuse is the only 'R' that counts for me... the others (reduce or recycle) both feel wasteful.

A few other recent posts: