Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
I am a planner by nature, but implementing my plans is a completely different story. As the new year comes closer, one of my top goals is to be more organized in the new year. After all, I’m planning a huge homesteading conference in October — I better be prepared and well planned! Taking on such a huge task, however, has shown me how much more I need to be organized on my homestead. And being organized is simply not my strong point in life.
When my husband asks me “how much did we harvest this year” or “how much money did we spend on the chickens”, I literally look at him with a blank stare all while thinking did you really think I kept up with that?! I’m horrible. I could throw a number off my head, but I’d probably be hundreds of dollars off — in both directions. I can tell you the initial start up cost of our homestead, and that’s about it. The yearly stuff? I’m just wingin’ it!
You can see my dilemma. My first issue is telling myself I simply don’t have the time to keep track. But the reality is that if I want a successful homestead that isn’t a money pit, I need to keep track of all of our expenses, what we’ve bought and sold, how many eggs we’ve collected in one year versus chicken feed, how many rabbits we processed, and more. Convincing myself that it only takes 3 extra minutes out of my entire day has proven to be daunting.
So this year I stumbled across some pretty spectacular printables through Reformation Acres, another fellow homesteader. You can find the printables by clicking here. These things are going to be a life saver for me. Not only that, but it eased me into creating a Homestead Management binder — say what!? Mama is really getting organized now! I bought a cheap binder from the dollar store, no need to get fancy. Or you can find them on Amazon.
Within the binder, I can house all of my homesteading and gardening information in one place. I have the printables, and then I have my calendar planner, garden planner, almanac (because I can never find it when I need it), incubation schedule/chart, and so much more.
The printables themselves include a seed starting excel spreadsheet that you can personalize on your computer and then print out for your binder. I did do this last year, and it was a real life saver. I was a much more efficient gardener when my seeds were started indoors on time, and I planted and rotated crops properly.
I’m also taking seed inventory from last year’s harvests and whatever I had left over from previous years. I quickly found that I have an entire seed inventory page of only tomatoes. Yeah, I think we’re good on tomatoes this year! The issue is that, because I didn’t take a seed inventory each year, I found that I would simply buy the same seeds over and over again. Now I’m stuck with 20 packages of tomato seeds. I think I’ll share some with friends! It also caused me to see which seed packages will soon be out of date, or are already out of date.
Each year my husband and I have the argument of our chickens being more “free loading” than the year before. He loves the chickens all year, until they stop laying, and then he says “get rid of them all!” I always chuckle, because he doesn’t mean it, he’s just bitter about not having his golden yolked eggs each day. Because of this, my new year organization binder will also house a handy dandy egg tally chart. This will be fun for our son, who has recently taken over most of the homestead chores on a daily basis. He can collect the eggs, open the binder, and mark down how many eggs we received that day. At the end of the year, we can tally them up. We can also look back the following year to see the patterns of our chickens. What did we feed them to get more egg production in the winter? When did they go into a molt? Was their molt hard or mild?
There are other great options in the binder as well, like dairy production, pantry inventory, freezer inventory, and year end cost analysis. It will also allow me to keep track of our rabbitry — breeding, raising, and butchering.
Besides the binder, we are enjoying a simplified homestead. But we have great plans to expand the garden this year, and expand our chickens as well. We’ll also be expanding our quail flock, which requires us to build more habitats. It will be interesting to keep track of cost analysis at the end of the year. How much money did we really spend on simple living?
So, the plan is, to keep up with the plan. We’ll see how this pans out. But I am feeling pretty darn good about 2017 being my year of organization. And it starts with our homestead! I know that there will be much satisfaction when I can look in my binder next December and say, “wow, we canned 25 quarts of applesauce this year”, or to look back and learn from our mistakes, learn from our animals, and learn from the weather and our garden. Not only that, but it projects us into growth and knowledge for the year afterwards as well.
This homesteading journey is more than just a daily task to accomplish. It is slowly teaching us how to maintain life and to learn skillsets that our generations have long forgotten. I would like to believe that simple living is still somewhere embedded in our DNA, it just needs a little water and fertilizer in which to grow. Even if that means I have to create a homestead management binder just to keep up with it all.
Wishing you a beautiful and prosperous New Year — from our homestead, to yours!
Amy Fewell is a writer, photographer, blogger, and homesteader based in Virginia. Along with her husband and son, she raises heritage breed chickens, quail, rabbits, and more! She believes in all natural holistic living for both her family and her animals. And she is currently working on a cookbook of traditional family Farmstead recipes. Check out more from Amy at The Fewell Homstead and www.AmyFewell.com, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.