In our post A Homestead from Scratch, we gave you a list of the first 20 important projects we did to begin establishing our homestead from scratch. In this post, we present you with the NEXT 20 things we are doing to keep things going: Our Annual Project Plan For A Homestead From Scratch. If you homestead, backyard farm, or simply have a city garden, then you may already know that it is a pretty good idea to have a project plan or keep a journal where you can record your lessons learned and goals for the next year or so. There are many benefits to having a project plan or journal. Some of these benefits include:
- Helps to define and customize the direction you want to take (in a general and a specific sense)
- Provides you with a road map to success and helps you to better maintain a focus on your goals and monitor your progress
- Ensures that the most important things do not get over shadowed and are given an appropriate level of attention
- Helps to weed out (and therefore, not spend time on ) “busy work” that does not contribute (my biggest pitfall — really have to watch that)
- Ensures your precious research time is spent researching ONLY the things you most want to accomplish (not on things that are not even on your horizon)
- As time goes by and you mark things off your project plan as “Completed,” you can pat yourself on the back and celebrate your accomplishments (always a warm & fuzzy there!)
Think of it this way: If you go into the season not even sure what all you want to get done, then how can you possibly set things in motion and gauge or measure your success? You are pretty much flying by the seat of your pants. You know the old saying — if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.
Your project plan or journal does not have to be complicated or terribly detailed. A simple three ring notebook with some paper will do. Start with a list of 15-20 projects that you think are important. Some should be small (such as our #2 below) and others can be big (such as our #14). When you are done, go back over them and add the baby steps for each. A short bullet list is fine. (Our project plan below is a good model of this.) Also note, you can start this at any time; it does not need to be based on a “calendar year.” We generally revisit our plan in the spring and then again in the fall, which are the best times to capture lessons learned. (Our lessons learned don’t show here but they are in my notebook.)
Actually, you can do this anyway you want — even put it in a spreadsheet so can sort by Target Date or whatever. We just used a Word table. First, we brainstormed the projects we think are important. We then identified where the activity is to occur and then answered the questions, “What specific plans do we have, if any? What is involved?” The answers to those questions produced the “baby steps” listed for each project. Then, based on what is involved, we assigned a Target Date, not a strict deadline. Target dates are just dates that you shoot for and often change.
So without further ado, here is Jo & Eddie’s Project Plan For A Homestead From Scratch through Fall of 2014:
|Project||Where?||Target Date||What specific plans do we have, if any? What is involved? (Baby Steps)
|1||Build cold frames||Backyard||Fall 2014||Use the windows we got from the lady across the street. Research the different approaches and pick one. Secure any additional items (hay bales?) Set in place, plant for winter crops in 2014/15.|
|2||Build raised bed for herbs||Backyard||Fall 2013||Simple 30 minute/$30 bed as per the instructions in this post on Five Little Homesteaders. Install by back side fence (on the right as you face the yard). Fill with mix of compost, manure, used potting soil, shredded leaves, eggshell, coffee grinds & other scraps. Mulch & overwinter. In spring, till and relocate herb perennials and start herb annuals. Re-mulch.|
|3||Build outdoor garden & camping sink
(Could not track this guy down to get permission to use his photo, but if you click the link over there ==> you will see what it looks like)
|Backyard||Spring 2014||Turn a plastic shelving unit, two dishpans, and a bucket into a working sink per these instructions. This allows two things: rinse dirt off veggies outside (and use the gray water on the garden) rather than running that dirt into our kitchen pipes AND provides a portable “kitchen sink” for use at the campsite. Get parts list. Set aside an hour or two.|
|4||Improve our Compost Management System||Backyard & land||Summer 2014||Currently, we have two 45 gallon tumblers for most garden plant matter, one 6 inch worm tower for most kitchen scraps, several black trash bags as an experiment of self-contained composting of yard waste, and a large compost pile near the campsite (on the land) for when we are overrun with excess matter at the house. We are temporarily using zippered popup camp trash bags for holding compost overflow. In the future, use excess plant matter from the depleted garden to fill the base of the first raised bed for the herbs (Project #2 above). Also, rebuild the area around the compost pile on the land for better use and ease of turning, and start using it for future garden plots & raised beds down there. Great tips came to us from this post on Old World Garden Farms.|
|5||Expand main garden||Garden||Spring 2014||Remove timber edging from the long side of the square foot garden and expand the bed by at least 5 feet. This will add 90 square feet.|
|6||Develop & keep a garden journal & homestead project planner||Desk||Summer 2013||Already underway and in use. (The post you are reading is part of our homestead project planner). The garden journal was done with the help of some thought-provoking questions from Little Mountain Haven in her post 20 Questions for Your Garden Journal.|
|7||Tree management||Backyard & Land||Fall 2013 & Ongoing||Once trees go dormant, locate and plant the black walnut, black cherry, several fruit trees, and the silver maples that reside on the land. Dig up and move the maples and oaks that have been allowed to grow around the house. Take the bamboo and other trees that are in planters to the land and transplant them. Split the grasses from the house and on the land for relocation to other areas. In the larger pots, replant the apple trees started this summer. Start more apple seeds this winter/spring. Learn about grafting. Rumor has it, we are going to need to do that when they get older just to make sure they fruit.|
|8||Sow cover crops in future bed sites||Land||Open||Already purchased organic buckwheat and canola (both of which break up hard clay) intending to plant this fall. Not looking like we will get this done this year. The idea came from Old World Garden Farms on this post. Good stuff!|
|9||Implement secure storage solutions||Land||Summer 2014||Having been robbed several times down on the land, we need some way to store tools, supplies, water, equipment so that thieves either will not find it to begin with or must contend with a nearly impenetrable barrier in order to steal it. Keep brainstorming.|
|10||Fix Tractor(s)||Garage||Winter 2013||Three lawn tractors (riding lawn movers) sit dead in our garage. Get at least one of them working.|
|11||Storage space optimization & management||All rooms & shed||Fall & Winter 2013||Too much wasted space in this house due to disorganization and our “pack-ratness.” Need to scrutinize and sort every closet, drawer, shelf, box, cabinet, corner, and cubby throughout the house. Every item needs to be assigned to one of the following categories and then dealt with accordingly: Keep, Trash, Sell, Upcycle, or Donate. Space created needs to be better organized.|
|12||Garage organization||Garage||Fall 2014||Same as #11 but this is Eddie’s baby. Includes loft & rafters, tool chests, equipment, camping gear, etc.|
|13||Back porch optimization & greenhouse conversion project||Porch||Spring 2013||Same as #11, but Jo will do initial work and Eddie will then install 2 ½’ by 8′ stand that will have a split opening top under which we will store firewood and kindling. The top of this firewood bin will provide shelving for winter seed starts intended for the spring/summer garden. He will then build a second 2 ½’ by 8′ potting table with shelving underneath to house bins of compost, garden soil, plant containers, tools & supplies. Also we will buy or make an insulated storm door and provide a heat source. This will essentially convert the porch into a quasi-greenhouse (which has sky lights and is wrapped on two sides by southern exposed windows).|
|14||Redesign front yard beds & convert to edible landscaping
(Why is backyard one word and front yard two? English … I swear!)
|Front yard||Fall 2014||HUGE undertaking here. Convert the entire non-edible front garden (approx. 200 sq ft) into edible landscaping. Area is overrun with weeds and morning glories. The soil is almost useless & depleted of all nutrients and the bed is in nearly full shade. So we will rip out all existing plants (shrubs, bulbs, ivy, ornamentals) and rebuild the soil with amendments as appropriate. Compost, mulch, and overwinter. In spring, plant shade tolerant berries, herbs, and colorful lettuces & cabbages. This garden will look landscaped, not like a garden. The large center ring in the middle of the front yard will be completely removed and grass seed planted.|
|15||Reduce grid dependency||General – all areas||Summer 2014||Use deep cell batteries with 17 watt solar panels to charge & run:
On cloudy days, use a battery charger to get a full charge. Yes, I know it sounds crazy, but the best way to save money is not to spend it. Need to lower that electric bill! Why heat rooms you never use?
|16||Build rocket stove||Garage||Winter 2013||Already have all the parts, just need to put it together. Will use for heat and cooking while winter camping on the land.|
|17||Learn to make my own condiments||Kitchen||Fall 2013||Ketchup, mustard, steak sauce, barbeque sauce, mayo, cocktail sauce, tartar sauce, salad dressings, slaw dressing, etc. Pretty sure I can not only do it cheaper, but I can also do it better without all the nasty chemicals. Large batches (so I don’t have to do it often), canned & stored as appropriate. May not work with egg based condiments. Not sure yet. Many of the recipes I will be using can be found on this Pinterest board.|
|18||Get back to baking bread||Kitchen||Winter 2013||I baked last winter and was, for the most part, a failure. Will take time to try again this year knowing that learning to bake bread is something that can take years of practice. Not giving up yet thanks to some serious encouragement and great tips from Meredith at Imaginacres. Check out her post if you still struggle with baking bread. (After this, I will try to make egg noodles, but likely not this year.)|
|19||Learn to dehydrate potato flakes, tomato powder||Kitchen||Winter 2013||Love the convenience of instant potatoes & canned tomato paste but not thrilled with what I read on the labels. I’d rather do it myself so I can actually pronounce the ingredients. So big batches of properly stored instant potatoes and tomatoes will save money, be healthier, and hopefully, taste better. Just research it and do it.|
|20||Get back to homebrewing||Kitchen||Fall 2013||Eddie already knows how to make beer, but has not done it in a year or two. Need to resume with homebrews. Also want to learn to make wine and hard cider. We enjoy our libations but DAG … they are just too expensive to buy. Just research it and do it.|
No, we do not think we will get all of this done within a year – in fact, I am pretty sure we won’t, but these are certainly some good goals to strive for. If some things get postponed until next year, that is perfectly fine. Some things may even get dropped completely or replaced by even better ideas. So long as we remain open minded, flexible, and have fun doing it, it will turn out fine in the end. We will leave room for some failures and do-overs and not let ourselves get too overwhelmed — take things in small, achievable chunks. And we need to review, revise, and refresh our plan at least every 6 months — more often if needed. As long as there is some progress on things, then we know we are doing just fine — or, at least, the best we can without breaking our backs or our bank account. It is a great thing for those who are organizationally-challenged pack-rats. And WE ARE!
Last … there are many wonderful bloggers out there who have already written some great how-tos and DIYs on these topics, and if I did not mention yours here, please, please post your link in my comments below! Eddie & I would be extremely grateful to NOT have to recreate the wheel! So if you have done it and blogged about, share it. (I would set you up a linky if I knew how.) I will be keeping this post updated and when I find a post that fits the bill, I will add your link above! To my readers, don’t forget to check out my Pinterest boards! That is my favorite “go-to resource” when it is time to roll up my sleeves and tackle a project.
Do you have a project plan or a journal? Or do you wing it? What advice, tips, and suggestions do you have to share?