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!