Thursday, November 5, 2015

How We Write Homestead Goals

Last week, I wrote about why we set our homestead goals for the next year in October.  It's a great time of year for us to do so, and it helps me to stay on top of what needs done, when.  But I didn't really delve much into the hows and whys of setting goals for your homestead or what our goals for the upcoming year are.  So here are a few ideas to get you started on your goal-setting, whether you are "farming" a window box in a New York apartment window sill or 1,000 acres in North Dakota.

The first thing I do is daydream.  Seriously.  I ask myself, "If money, time, and talent were no limits, what would I want to do or to have or to accomplish?"  I jot down some of these pie-in-the-sky ideas as they come to me and let them marinate for a while.  I also look to other homesteaders for inspiration by cruising Pinterest and some of my favorite blogs.  You can get great ideas and a feel for what others are doing by simply searching "Homesteading Goals."  A few great reads on this subject can be found here from Montana Homesteader, here from Whistle Pig Hollow, and here from Imperfectly Happy Homesteading.

Keep in mind that these blogs are only for inspiration and brainstorming, not for comparison and despair!  They may be years ahead of you in their gardening, animal husbandry, or building projects.  They may also have resources that are out of your reach or not relevant to your interests.  The point is just to get the ideas flowing.

We definitely want to grow more rainbow carrots next year!
Next, take the time to think about what you did this year.  Did it work?  Great! Maybe you'd like to expand those projects to produce more next year.  We had a great time with our rainbow carrot crop last year and I want to give them more space in the garden this year.  Was something a dismal failure?  Maybe you need to research and revise your approach for next year.  Our squash was on that list.  I plan to research squash bug control before trying again.  Could something be done more efficiently?  How so?  Add all of these notes to your list.

The last phase is taking a look at all of these items on your list and prioritizing them, then breaking them down into manageable bits.  Maybe some of your pie-in-the-sky dreams included producing all of your own food.  That is a huge goal that may take years to approach.  But, you could set a goal of producing all your own eggs this year.  That would add "building chicken coop" and "raising chicks" to your goal list for the next year.  You might also be able to grow your own herbs.  That would add "build herb bed" and "start herb seeds" to the goal list.  Think about each larger goal and break it into doable steps that are realistic with your property, your time limitations, your finances, and your personal and family values.  Don't sabotage yourself by making goals so big that your year will end in frustration, but don't sell yourself short either!  Just because something may not be completed this year doesn't mean you can't get a start on it, and that is a goal of it's own!

Also, eat lots of muffins while you make your list.  Trust me.

Our Goals
Here are our 2016 Homestead Goals to give you a little inspiration.
  • Plant more fruits (apple trees, bush cherries, raspberries, and blueberries)
  • Expand garden by at least two raised beds
  • Plantings or fence for privacy along front and west edge of property
  • Landscape around house
  • Buy solar lighting for indoor/outdoor use
  • Plant medicinal plants integrated into landscaping
  • Repaint chicken coop
  • Search for more second-hand canning equipment
  • Enclose back of carport for storage
  • Add film to girls' bedroom windows to increase energy efficiency
  • Create outdoor sitting area for family time
  • Build connections and community with neighbors
  • Figure out a somewhat elegant recycling storage solution
  • Make 3-unit pallet compost bin
  • Build a rocket stove
  • Grow greens indoors all winter
  • Try a chicken fodder system for the winter
  • Buy gardening books specific to our USDA zone
 Feel free to share you homesteading goals in the comments!  I'm always looking for new inspiration!

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Good Case for Setting Your Homestead Goals in October

October is definitely my favorite month.  The weather is beautiful, cool and crisp.  The leaves put on their best shades of crimson and fiery orange.  We are settling into our school routine.  And, most importantly, the rush of summer garden chores are over.

In the ancient world, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, the fall marked a time of rest and celebration to mark the hard-won harvest.  It was a time when the vegetable and grain processing were done and stored away, and the cooler weather and lack of insects made it possible to begin the harvesting of animals for the winter.  It was a time for slowing down, moving inward, and pondering the long winter ahead.  As such, I think it makes more sense for me to think about what was successful for the year, what needs improvement for next year, and what our goals are going to be going into the next year of homesteading.

Part of the reason I set our goals in October, instead of with the calendar year turnover in January, is that the busy part of the year is fresh on my mind.  I remember that the squash bugs were awful, the the basil did well, and I need to figure out a better way to monitor the chickens' water in the heat.  If I wait, I will forget.  I know that there are amazing folks out there who keep meticulous logs of these kinds of things, and my hat is off to them, but I will never be one of them.  So, setting goals for the next year while this year is still fresh on my mind is a must.

Another reason October is the reset button for our little homestead has to do with the way the year unfolds.  I am frequently really busy from November through January with holiday activities, school stuff, and all sorts of obligations.  October is a slower time for us as a family.  It also gives me a chance to mull over the goals I've set, make plans, alter them, and break them down into smaller projects.  If I've set a goal to grow three new types of veggies in the garden this year, I will already have that in mind when the seed catalogs start to arrive.  If I know that I want to learn to knit, the quiet parts of the year afford me the time to do it.  And I have time to think about the goals I've set for myself, to amend them if the mood strikes me, or even to decide that what I thought was important for us isn't a priority anymore.  I have all winter long to think and dream and evaluate before the spring rush hits.

I know that what works best for me may not be what works best for everyone else.  But I know that having a written set of goals keeps us moving forward and making progress on our journey to the simple life that we yearn for.  Do you set written goals for your homestead?  If so, when is the best time for you to do so?  Please share in the comments!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Tucking In

It has been getting cold here.  Cold enough to frost, although the silly weather is getting to 80 during the day.  My sinuses feel betrayed and confused, but it's hard to be too angry when the trees are putting on their autumn best and the sunrise is so gorgeous.  Of course, a change in seasons always means work to do in the garden.

So, the girls and I brought out trowels and spades and pots to put our garden to bed for the year.  We pulled old plants and brought a few in to overwinter with us.
Pandi proudly displaying the last of our rainbow carrots.

Herbs we are potting up to overwinter in the house.


Some nice sage for our warm winter soups and stews.

Lavender to sprout for new plants next year.

My capable helper helping with the basil.

We froze this basil for use this winter and also started new plants.

Here is some basil for freezing in an ice cube tray, covered with olive oil.

Our lavender starts in their glass.

Two intertwined carrots that really fascinated Pandi.
So, the garden is ready for winter's arrival.  It is a long way until our spring garden chores, and in the meantime, we will take care of our small indoor charges and enjoy the season of rest.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The More Things Change...

We have recently felt very much like Reeds on the river, if it was a tumbling, tumultuous river.  Maybe with some water falls.  However, we have landed safe on familiar shores.  We are back in Illinois after some crazy adventures with tiny house living and enjoying life, but for right now, home is where we need to be.

That doesn't mean we are doing things differently, though.  We are still up to the same things, gardening, raising chickens and children, trying to keep things simple and elegant.  For now, I will just share some pictures of where we are at this moment.

Tiny gardeners helping with the raised beds.

You can see our chicken tractor in this one.

Those yellow flowers are our Jerusalem Artichokes.

I love a volunteer to help water.

There's not too much coming out of the garden at this time of the year.

And that's the tour!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Puppy Cookies

We spent some time together making some dog treats, or as Pandi calls them, puppy cookies.  It was a lot of fun for the girls.  We used this recipe, largely since we had most of the ingredients and didn't have to leave the house, and also because Appa really likes peanut butter.

I like to include the girls in cooking.  I think it helps them take ownership in the food we eat, teaches them great skills like measuring, counting, and following directions, and it's also just fun to see how excited they get over stirring.

Pandi's first time using the mortar and pestle
to crush sunflower seeds-our substitution for
chia seeds since we didn't have any.

We used a Hello Kitty cookie cutter. 
I think the best bonus of doing dog treats, other than how simple it was and how fun for the girls, was that, when you're making dog treats, you don't have to be quite as worried over kitchen hygiene.  For instance, Appa is much less worried if someone sneezes in his food than I am.

Trying the first puppy cookie.
The results are in, and Appa is really enjoying them so far.  Ours came out softer than a Milk Bone, so we are keeping them in a Ziplock baggie to keep them fresh.  It made a pretty big batch.  All in all, we are really pleased.

Decluttering Challenge:

I am also doing an August decluttering challenge.  It is from the blog of a wonderful Australian woman that I've been following for years, Down To Earth.  I stumbled on it Googling backyard aquaponics and was really amazed by their setup for growing tilapia fish in tandem with veggies.

I am following along with the August challenge and have, so far, tackled the girls' closet.  I cleaned out a garbage bag full of clothes that they have outgrown and will pass them on to someone who can use them.  We cleaned out and gave up so much when we moved to our new state (cutting down from a large four bedroom house to only what would fit in a 12 foot box trailer), but I am amazed by the things that could have been further pared down.  There are still things that haven't been used in our year here, things that I originally thought were important.  Those things are all going to be going in the next few weeks.   It's incredibly liberating to cut the ties to the things that I used to think I needed.  It makes me feel independent and light to know that there are very few things tying me down.  I am excited about the challenge and hope to have some more updates on it soon!

Sunday, August 4, 2013


So, let me share my biggest thrill right now with you (aside from Shark Week, that is).


The ladies started laying earlier this week, and we are now getting two or three eggs a day consistently.  I cannot even tell you how happy this makes me feel.  But, I will try to show you with some (fuzzy cell phone) pictures.

So careful with her precious cargo!

I love how they are all different colors and sizes.

We had two eggs out of our first six that were double-yolked! 
And look how golden the yolks are!

Eating the fruits (my Dad used to call eggs
"rooster fruits") of our labor.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Funkbeds

The girls have been growing.  Which is a good thing, generally, but it also means that they OUTgrow things.  Things like clothes, shoes, and eventually, furniture.  Pandi was, until this week, still sleeping in a crib.  Since she is newly two, it has been convenient for her to be there. For instance, it is incredibly nice to put your toddler somewhere and know that they will still be there in the morning.  But, she had finally reached critical mass for the crib and it was time for something new.  Enter the FUNKBEDS.

I'm not entirely sure why Sephie latched onto "funkbed."  Maybe because the word "bunk" doesn't mean anything to her at three.  But, thus christened, Preston took on the project.

Doesn't he look like a man on a mission?
Working from a design of his own, Preston put together a pretty adorable pair of toddler-sized bunkbeds.  Better still, he only used lumber we already had around the house that was scrap, so the project was totally free!  It took a little trial and error (for instance, we didn't measure the door to their bedroom ahead of time and had to undo a little of our progress to get them in the room!), but they came out nicely.  The girls love them and the only problem so far is the fighting over who gets to sleep "arriba" (up) or "abajo" (down).

It's hard to tell from the pictures because you can't really get an idea of scale, but the bottom of Sephie's bed is only about waist high.
Diggin' the crazy carpet?  That's a project for another day.
A nifty, homemade set of beds, just their size!