Eddie & I need 2015 to be a better year — better meaning more productive with more skills conquered, more projects completed, and more calm from the chaos. So today, I want to share our 2015 Annual Homestead Project Plan and what’s more, I want to help you develop yours!
Here is our 2015 Annual Homestead Project Plan so you can see what it looks like. I created this in MS Excel, but saved it as a pdf so you could view it even if you don’t have Excel. For Eddie & me, this plan is doable and we are comfortable with it. With this in hand, we can now ensure that our daily & weekly to do lists reflect our 2015 homestead goals in a focused and intentional way.
But you may be wondering, “How’d we come up with it?” Simply put, we went through through ALL the steps listed below and this is what came out on the other end. After you go through these same steps, you will also will have an Annual Homestead Project Plan that should be comfortably doable for you.
Before I go any further, I wish to thank (profusely) my good friend & farmer extraordinaire, Janet of Timber Creek Farm for actively contributing to this blog post, sharing her expertise, and giving us some incredibly valuable advice about planning to bring animals onto your homestead! Bringing new animals to your homestead is one of the biggest & most important decisions a homesteader can make and planning for it is vital. Animals are a big responsibility, not to be taken lightly, so if you are planning to bring new animals onto your homestead this year, be sure to read what Janet shares with us below! Oh, and by the way . . . she was also gracious enough to share her awesome photography skills, too! These are all her photos! Thank you, Janet, for collaborating on this with me! I could not have done it without you!
Back to Developing an Annual Homestead Project Plan . . .
If you are not too computer savvy, don’t worry. In Step 2 below, you will find templates you can customize in any word processor or spreadsheet or you can just print out the pdf and fill them in by hand . . . or even just use blank paper or poster board. What matters is that go through steps regardless of the technologies you use.
As you work on your 2015 Annual Homestead Project Plan, keep these things is mind:
- It is one thing to be steadfast and determined, but something else to have a schedule so rigid and unforgiving that you are miserably spinning your wheels. Things come up, priorities change, and cash flow waxes and wanes (and sometimes stops completely). At other times, you come into resource windfalls like a big stack of old windows for cold frames or rabbit hutches set out on the neighbor’s curb and they are free. Blessing for you! Point is, priorities shift. So be ready to roll with the punches.
- An Annual Homestead Project Plan is a living, breathing, constantly evolving thing. So if you are doing it in a low tech way, be sure to use a pencil (not a pen) and have erasers handy! Make a point to review and update your Annual Homestead Project Plan a couple times a year or anytime something major comes up to change your plans.
- A good Annual Homestead Project Plan should include not just your project goals but also the skills you need to learn to accomplish those goals. Be sure to allow time for your learning curve and not just the project itself!
- Once your Annual Homestead Project Plan is complete, use it to decide how to spend your time in the days and weeks to come. Reference your Project Plan regularly and be sure you are focusing your daily/weekly time on the things that matter most. This is how you make baby steps toward your overall goals.
Steps for Developing Your Own Annual Homestead Project Plan
Step 1: Brainstorm and write down every single little project that you are interested in doing this year (or really any year because you can always rule them out later or postpone to another year). It does not matter (yet) whether they are important, doable, affordable, or rationale. Just brainstorm – let it all hang out. Writing the idea down is NOT a commitment, merely a thought on paper.
Step 2: Decide whether to use the computer or use paper & pencil.
- If you are computer savvy you can download this spreadsheet and open it any spreadsheet program or download this document and open it in any word processing program. Then skip to Step 3.
- If you are not computer savvy:
- Print out this .pdf and fill it in by hand or
- Get out some paper, a pencil, and a straight edge and draw a grid with eight columns and nine LARGE rows (using 4-6 sheets of paper or maybe even a poster board). Label your columns thusly: Area | Project | Priority | Cost | Effort | Target Season | Resources Needed.
Step 3: Customize the Area column. In all the files above, I have used these areas in the first column: Acreage/Land | House & Yard | Garden | Barn & Outbuildings | Vehicles, Machinery, Equipments, & Tools | Animal Enclosures & Fencing | Kitchen & Pantry | Major Expenditures. BUT this may not work for you. So remove the areas you don’t have and replace them with areas you do have. For example, if you have no animal enclosures, replace that with an area DO have. This might be a root cellar, a greenhouse, a pond, or … well, just look around you. What major areas do you see? Add more rows if necessary.
Step 4: Go through your brainstormed project list (from Step 1), decide which area each project belongs to and list it in the second column.
Step 5: It is time now to really think about each project. Decide if it is:
- Critical – these are MUST DO projects. No way around it. The world as you know it will end if you do not get these done.
- Important – these are not world-ending, but darn it, they matter. In the scheme of things, you cannot ignore them and you at least need to make steps toward getting them done.
- Desired – these are mere desires, wishes, “want to someday” sort of projects.
Step 6: Assign an estimated Cost, Effort, Target Season, and Resources Needed to each project. Save your file (if you are using the computer) and print it if you like.
Instructions for Using the Decision Matrix
Using the information in the spreadsheet, table, or poster board you just created, plot each project one at time on the 9 block grid by first checking the Cost (Low, Medium, or High) and find the appropriate column. Then check the Priority (1, 2, or 3) and locate the appropriate row. This will determine which block the project goes in. Also, consider the Effort required by placing an A, B, C, or D in the block along with a one or two word description so you know which project each entry is. As an example, here is what our Decision Matrix looked like early in the decision making process.
Step 8: Based on everything you know so far, sit back and evaluate your Decision Matrix, and then get REALISTIC and weigh your priorities thoughtfully. Ask yourself some hard questions:
- Is it rationale? Is this doable? Are there any alternatives? Can you come up with the needed cash & resources? If so, from where? If not this year, then when?
What the Colors Mean
- Projects in green blocks are almost always a go. You either HAVE to do them no matter what (or the world will end) OR they are so inexpensive and/or effortless that there is no reason why not to do the project. These stay.
- Projects in yellow blocks are usually up for debate and more serious consideration, especially if the Cost is High. However, if the cost is Medium, you will need to scrutinize carefully whether to proceed this year. If you decide NOT to proceed, you can scratch it off (don’t erase, because you may want to carry it over into next year.)
- Projects in red blocks are rarely going to get done THIS year unless circumstances change. For example, you might come into a windfall of cash or resources. Or maybe, the situation worsens to the point where the issue becomes critical and you are forced to find a way (like in our case, the furnace – we have no choice). Otherwise, those in red are likely cost-prohibitive and since they are not critical (yet), you should wait until they become critical. In the meantime, divert funds you would have spent on red projects to the yellow projects.
Now revise your matrix based on the color of the blocks in which each project landed and your more serious contemplation. Here is what our matrix looked like when we were done. Everything we scratched off and postponed for next year has had all available resources diverted to a NEW FURNACE.
Step 9: With these important decisions made, now you can go back to your original Annual Homestead Project Plan (where you listed and rated everything) and delete the projects you postponed. Save your finalized plan using the year in the filename (like projplan2015.xls) and print it out. NOW, you have an official 2015 Annual Homestead Project Plan signed, sealed and delivered.
Put it where you need it and will use it most (in our case, I just keep it on the computer). You could put it on the fridge, in your homestead notebook, with your calendar or your daily/weekly planner. Then, as you work on a daily & weekly basis, you know what to research, where to put your time & energy, and you can work toward your 2015 homestead goals in a more focused and intentional way. Didn’t know where to start? Well, you can start right there!
Step 10: Reference your Annual Homestead Project Plan regularly to be sure you are staying on target for this year’s goals and you’re updating it as circumstances change. Only then, will your Annual Homestead Project Plan be truly useful in helping you stay focused and intentional as you pursue your 2015 homestead goals.
Are Animals on Your List This Year? – Great Advice from Timber Creek Farm
If you are planning to introduce any new animals this year, here are some key points from our friends at Timber Creek Farm for you to consider as you finalize your plan. Janet shares some important advice right here:
The decision to bring any type of animal to your homestead should be made after carefully assessing your abilities to care for the desired animal. All farm animals start out small, cute, and cuddly. They have the ability to wrap our hearts in their little paws and claws and squeeze. I get this. But making a snap judgement to bring the animal to your home can lead to injury, and heartache for you and them. Can you give them everything they need to live a healthy life? Even animals that are being raised to ultimately end up on the dining table, deserve a safe and well cared for environment. This is the time to be totally realistic about your resources, physical abilities and available funds.
In addition to the daily feed costs, some sort of shelter will be needed. The structures often don’t need to be elaborate and the type will vary depending on your climate, but something will be needed to keep the animal sheltered and safe. Fencing can be expensive and labor intensive.
Go slow and plan ahead. The old saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” should also apply to building your homestead. Take time to add each animal and make sure it is acclimated and that you are enjoying the care involved, before adding something else. Research, Consider, Plan, Build, and Care for each animal that you add to your homestead.
If you are interested in some of the earlier projects that Eddie & I did before Homestead Chronicles became a real blog, you can find them in these two posts:
A Homestead From Scratch — Our first set of 20 major projects
Project Plan For a Homestead From Scratch — Our second set 20 major projects
Good luck! And let us know how this works for you!