Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

A Day in the Life of a House Sitter – Heath, MA

This is the third blog in my series “A Day in the Life of a House Sitter”. The first one described an average day during our two-week house sit in The Villages, FL last December and the second one reported on our days in Kent, CT for three winter months.

Every house sitting assignment is different and the tasks, requests and expectations depend on the house, the property, the owners and the pets. Some home owners require you to do some yard maintenance, water the house plants or collect the mail; all of them, naturally, expect you to keep the house tidy and “return” it as clean as you found it or better. Usually there is at least one pet to take care of, which means setting food out once or twice a day, making sure the water bowl is always filled with clean water, taking the dog(s) out for daily walks, and sometimes administering medicines or brushing the animal. Although not every pet owner expects it, Mark and I have the tendency to shower dogs with love, attention and company. It goes without saying that a responsible house sitter is prepared to take the pets to the vet or emergency room when necessary and reports general issues back to the owners, while trying to fix or solve problematic situations. And yes, sh*t happens.

Jenny loves the front porch

Jenny loves the front porch

House sitters can mostly stick to their own schedule when taking care of somebody’s home, as long as the animals are happy. The pets – only one dog here in Heath – are our priority. Of course, we also watch the house, run a few errands and communicate with the owners about anything that comes up or needs attention. Most of the time, we live our own lives in our borrowed home and enjoy the company of our borrowed pets.

Opening the farm stand in spring time

Opening the farm stand in spring time

Here is our Heath “schedule” for a period of 4.5 months:

7am: Mark gets up, showers, has breakfast, catches up on the news and gets to work. Our bedroom does not have curtains, so we usually wake up at a decent time.

7:30am: I get up, check my inbox and Facebook on my iPad, shower, have breakfast and do some household chores.

Time to wake up, Jenny!

Time to wake up, Jenny!

8:30am: We wake dog Jenny up – she sleeps under our bed – and encourage her to come downstairs. She is 12 years old and likes to sleep in! In most situations I know of, it is usually the dog who wakes the owners up… We wait to be greeted – with kisses if we are lucky – at the stairwell and take her out for her morning walk.

On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, we climb the hill behind the house. The trail winds through a mixed forest of maple trees and pines and is a nice 20-minute workout. If we feel lazy, we stretch our legs on the long driveway to the gravel road instead.

The other days of the week, we walk Jenny to the farm stand on the main road through another patch of forest, crossing a cute little brook on the property. The owners of the house have a maple farm, called Berkshire Sweet Gold, that they run from September – April, while they live here in Heath, Massachusetts. We have agreed with them to stock and open their little farm stand on Route 8A over the weekends while they are away. Maple syrup is sold by the honor system, which works really well in this area. The proceeds go to the college funds of the three sons.

9am – 12:30pm: We work on our computers – Mark runs The Wirie business, develops software, improves firmware, tests and works on new developments, responds to phone calls and emails from customers and potential Wirie users, deals with ads, etc… I am working on my memoir, do writing exercises, read about non-fiction writing, write and post three Roaming About blogs a week, organize and edit photos, apply for translating and proofreading jobs, keep our social online life going, do some networking and blog hops, and hope to write articles again.

12:30pm – 1:30pm: Lunch break. We usually eat inside and drink our cups of tea outside on the yard platform with Jenny, when the weather is nice. Which has been often. It is so much cooler up here in the hills – about 10°F – than down in the valley or at the coast. Jenny loves being outside in the shade, sniffing the air. She likes the grass, but the front porch is her favorite place to hang out. We often leave her out there, if she isn’t taking a nap. Every other day, we water the vegetable garden and flowers.

Our favorite spot for a cup of tea

Our favorite spot for a cup of tea

1:30pm – 5:30pm: We work at our computers.

5:30pm: We take Jenny for her afternoon walk, along the driveway and up the gravel road, then to the mailbox at the intersection with route 8A. This takes about 20 minutes. Sometimes we take her on a longer jaunt in the neighborhood.

From Thursday – Sunday, we do our loop walk to the farm stand to close it and continue to the mailboxes to pick up the mail.

6pm: We feed Jenny, relax a bit and cook dinner for ourselves. Fridays and Saturdays usually with a glass of wine in our hands.

7pm: Dinner time and clean-up

7:30pm or 8pm: Mark and I watch something on Netflix or our hard drive, get engrossed in Facebook (but not too long), read, or just hang out. Jenny lays at our feet.

9:30pm: A last potty break for Jenny, who then finishes her food, drinks some water and heads upstairs with us to go to bed. She and Mark fall asleep immediately. I write my diary, lay awake for a bit and follow suit.

Throughout the days, we answer the phone and take messages left by maple syrup customers.

Frisky Jenny after a bath

Frisky Jenny after a bath

Every three weeks, we give Jenny a bath (she is not a fan) and take the garbage and recyclables to the collection center in Heath. We use the owners’ van, which has “the sticker” to do this. Once a week, I water the indoor plants.

Every ten days or so, Mark mows the grass and visits the attic to make sure everything is all right. A couple of times a week, we walk down to the sugar house (where they boil the sap of the maple trees and turn it into syrup) to check on things. We regularly send email updates to the owners and once a month or so, we start the engine of their second car.

During the weekends, we look for places to go hiking (or camping) with Jenny. These trails are usually located in State Parks, State Forests or along rivers – always in the shade and a pleasure to explore. The only times we can’t take “our” sweet doggie is on tubing adventures or at festivals. When we come home after those events, she is very happy to see us – lots of wagging and kisses – and then turns mad for a few hours. By morning, all is forgotten! 🙂

Going for a ride during the weekends

Going for a ride during the weekends

(We have permission from the owners to post information and photos of their property and business.)

Do you have certain routines every day? What would you like to change, if you could?

17 Comments

  1. I’m not a fan of routine, though a certain amount is inevitable. Whenever I can, if the weather’s good, I head off out. The chores fit around that, though traditionally Tuesday is my day for helping Dad. 🙂

    • While I was the first one to say “I hate routines. They make life boring,” I have to admit that some of them are actually quite soothing. Especially with an otherwise turbulent lifestyle. Our lifestyle is less turbulent now, but I appreciate some of the routines (involving comfort) we have now. 🙂 Have a nice visit with your dad tomorrow, Jo.

  2. I love this! It sounds like the homeowners are lucky to have you take such good care of their home and, of course, Jenny. Now I’m off to read your first two installments.

    • I think it is such a great exchange, Janis. Finally, our level of responsibility comes in handy (instead of annoying) and we so enjoy being with dogs! We will miss Jenny more than she will miss us, for sure, but there will be other dogs in our future to love and give a great time. How exciting. 🙂 Not sure whether you found this before, but I did write a post about how to find house sits a few months ago, and, since you asked, I’m adding that link here: http://www.roamingabout.com/how-to-find-the-right-house-sit/ Maybe it is a lifestyle that will suit the two of you at one point??

  3. This is such an interesting post! I love the roadside stands that operate on the honor system. I don’t have too much of a routine, other than doing online crossword puzzles and internet surfing in the morning with my coffee. Other than that, the day unfolds in unpredictable ways 🙂

    • I love how your day unfolds in unpredictable ways! That’s the best and most exciting way to live. Enjoy all the new adventures heading your way, today. Hopefully, the grease is one of them. 🙂

  4. Liesbet it should come as no surprise to me that your life is so organized after reading your monthly budget posts. It was fun to read about your life and to see how the house sitting works for you. You have likely mentioned and I forgot but how long is the house sitting for?

    • You are so right. For good or for bed, we do like to be organized (luckily, there is not much to organize in our basic lives, which makes that part very easy :-)). We are here for another five days, Sue, so we are wrapping up. Then, we will take a break from house sitting for a month and spend time at our “base” in Newburyport, MA with family and friends. And, in October, we head west for a three month house sit near Sacramento, CA. We plan to stay out west for a while, so no more base once we cross the country…

  5. Loved seeing the details of this- a lot like our life! We actually applied to sit for them a few years back, but were second in line. Now we stay with family most summers, in a little studio downstairs in the suburbs of Boston, not far from you folks. Western MA is so lovely. I was curious about what that sit would be like- the syrup biz sounds like fun. Did you get there in time to experience tapping the trees?

    • Hi Laurie! Nice to meet a fellow house sitter. That’s interesting that you actually know about this farm. Living in Boston over the summer is not a bad alternative to the woods, though. 🙂 Western MA is pretty,but five months has been enough. We are ready for some civilization again. We did not experience the tapping of the trees; we mainly took over the care of the dog and the house once sugaring season was finished and the owners left to the South Pacific for their non-profit projects there. The best thing about this sit is the unlimited supply of maple syrup – scrumptious pancake breakfasts every Sunday! I will miss those and dog Jenny, of course. 🙂

  6. Yep have to admit that in all the sits we have done, some sort of routine establishes itsself. Cool to read about yours and love the forest you get to walk in, that really is a bonus.

    • Thanks for visiting, Gary. It sure is nice to meet some like-minded house sitters! What a great exchange this lifestyle is – perfect for all sides. We love the peacefulness of the woods and the cries of the owls. But, after a total of almost eight months in the foothills of the Berkshires, we are ready for a different environment. For now… 🙂

    • Checked out your website which is quite impressive. You guys have had some amazing sits and experiences. Well done on keeping this lifestyle up for five years. We hope to follow suit and combine it with some international travel in the future, when we have made some more money and created less responsibilities on the work front! Unless we find a used camper that we like before that! 🙂

  7. I bet you miss Jenny! If I had a house and a pet, I would hire you to watch them. You treat the owner’s property and beloved pets as if they were own. I kind of envy your routine. I found comfort in my NYC routines. I guess that there are activities in everyone’s life that are ‘routine’ but with being on the move, we have far fewer than we used to. The interesting thing about your life is that while you have a ‘routine’ it lasts for the duration of your engagement, and then you go to another engagement and create a whole new routine. Keeps things fresh.

    • Oh, thanks, Lisa. It is so true that our routine changes with each house sit… Just like your routine changes when you are at anchor or at sea. Having somewhat of a routine gives the comfort and familiarity we enjoy these days. And, as long as there is enough variation, it stays interesting. I am loving all the variation in your life right now!!! 🙂

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