Improve Your Homestead Through Notebooks

Reader Contribution by Rebecca Harrold
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As a homeschooling family, I am discovering new learning tools that I often want to try out for myself. One tool that we make a lot of use of in our homeschool is notebooks. I’ve come to see the value of keeping notes, and in particular, how such notebooks can benefit modern homesteaders. So, taking a cue from my children, I’ve started keeping some notebooks about our property and all the activities that we pursue upon it. These books have proved themselves very useful, so I thought I might share with anyone interested.

We keep track of annual milestones in a book of firsts. This “book” is actually an ongoing log where I track when the natural world’s milestones occur around our homestead. What results from my keeping a book of firsts is a growing awareness of the natural rhythms that surround us. We’ve come to know when to expect certain events or to recognize if something is occurring later or earlier than it typically has in the past. We can also anticipate when to begin looking for particular milestones. For example, when to start looking for certain mushrooms, or when the wild black raspberries should be ripe.  

Here are a few examples of what I include in my book of firsts: spring peepers peeping, cicadas singing, first ripe tomato, and ice on the pond. These items are relevant to my place on this beautiful planet, southern Ontario. Obviously, people living in Arizona, Florida, or Oregon would want to keep track of milestones relevant to their locations. That’s the beauty of keeping notebooks, you keep track of what is important to you.

In addition to a book of firsts, a person can keep a more formal notebook/journal. We could call this a farm journal, homestead journal, property journal, or something else. Such notekeeping is nothing new. A lot of gardeners already keep a garden journal, in which they document what they plant, where they plant it, how it fared, and if it’s worth growing again. Furthermore, It’s rather common for some people to carry around a notepad and pencil to jot down to-dos as they pop into their heads.

A farm journal could be an expansion of a garden journal or observations noted alongside a list of to-dos. Or it could be something else all together. Maybe it would only be useful for a short span of time. For example, prior to starting a new venture, spend some time in careful observation and note what takes place at a given location; how it changes with the seasons, where the water pools, where the soil is richest, how weather patterns affect it. Maybe the journal would become more of a diary and become something that you make notes in each day, perhaps even sketches.

Keeping notes in a journal not only encourages careful observations, but also affords a place to consolidate any observations for quick reference. At minimum it can be a spot to record relevant information. At best, it will become a habit of careful observation and study. Either way, you’ll come to know your homestead on a deeper level by keeping notes.

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