Homesteading is a topic that we all love to talk about, don’t we? Raising livestock, gardening, self-reliance, herbal medicine, food preservation…it’s all fantastic conversation fodder. But when it comes to homestead management, we tend to just wing it. Many of us don’t start with a plan, and that leads to all kinds of issues. In this post, I’ll show you exactly where to start with your homesteading goals, and how to stop winging it!
If you think about it, winging it isn’t a great way to start any large endeavor. It’s definitely not the way you want to start a new lifestyle, if you are a beginning homesteader! It’s not that you can’t just learn new skills, you totally can. However, if you plan on feeding your family through gardening or raising livestock, or making a business out of your homestead, you really need to have a better plan than winging it.
Homestead management is imperative to your homestead’s smooth operation. It is also imperative to you reaching the goals you have for your homestead and family. Do you want to homestead a newly purchased property? Use your garden or livestock to feed your family? Do you want to carve out an income using your homestead? These are all things that make homestead management important to Todd and I.
Our Homestead Management Story
We began urban homesteading about 10 years ago on a small property in a suburban city. It was .18 of an acre, and while that is pretty big as properties in housing tracts go, it was still small for our goals.
Four years ago, we bought our dream property in a rural area we fell in love with about 15 or so years earlier. We often talked about how cool it would be if we could get a place out here, and what we would do. While we dreamt, we also did all we could on that .18 of an acre to make it a homestead. We wanted to learn everything that property would allow about raising food for ourselves.
Since that house was paid off, we really didn’t need to live off that land. Homesteading was more of a hobby for me. I could grow a garden, or not. I could eat the eggs our two chickens provided, and it was fine if I supplemented with store bought eggs too. Homestead management just wasn’t as important as it is now.
Once we bought this 1 acre property, we quickly realized that with both of us nearly 50 years old and retirement looming, we needed to make this work. Taking out a 160k loan at this point in life was going to take some planning. We decided we wanted to pay the house off by the time Todd retires. We made a plan, and we are on schedule to pay it off in 10 years, rather than 30.
While we are working that plan, however, we need a plan in place to lighten our financial burdens in other areas. This is where planning for a garden, livestock, and land to feed us comes in. And not only feed us, but provide many other things we need, like gifts for friends and family, heat for the house, feed for our animals, and so much more.
Why You Need Homestead Management in Place
Having a defined plan for managing your homestead is an absolute must, if you haven’t gotten my drift thus far. Some of your most important hopes and ideas will sit on the shelf waiting for the right time to begin without a basic plan.
You Won’t Know the Best Order to Complete Tasks
Think about it. Without some sort of plan, it will be very hard to know what to start with. Many homesteading jobs build on themselves. Have you ever been ready to do a job, only to find out that you forgot something that is now going to push that job further back than expected? I have. And it’s very frustrating.
Having a plan somewhere will help you choose what is most important. You can try making a vision board, which is simply a visual “poster” of goals, and could center around any set of goals. But if you are more of a pen and paper person, try this:
- Write down everything that you would like to do on your homestead. These are just general items, like “get chickens”, “start a garden”, “learn to can food”, etc.
- Number each of these general items by order of importance. For instance, you would probably start a garden before you learn to can food. Unless, you wanted to master canning before food starts coming out of your garden. See how you can figure out what’s most important?
- Choose your #1 choice and write it at the top of another sheet of paper. Write down all the steps that it will take to accomplish that job.
- Begin working only on that #1 choice until it’s finished. Now you have completed a whole job that will move the ball forward for your other homesteading jobs!
Of course, with a vision board, you will still need pen and paper to put your goals in order, but having visual reference is really powerful!
You Won’t Feel in Control of Your Homestead
If you are a person who is easily distracted by squirrels and shiny objects (not unlike myself), you definitely need some planning to guide your homestead endeavors.
For me, I don’t tend to get anything done by flying by the seat of my homesteading overalls. As a matter of fact, because I haven’t had a concrete plan for our hobby farm, it’s been very slow going. Even though I have mastered a few skills and learned a lot over the years, it’s only been this past year that I’ve looked at getting serious about planning.
For most of the time since we started urban homesteading 10 years ago, I’ve felt out of control, just trying to learn what I could according to whatever I fancied at the time. That’s fine if you don’t need to use your land to produce food for yourself and your family. However, when you need to make farming work for you, not having a plan wastes precious time.
You Won’t Reach Your Goals
If you don’t know what your goals are, how will you ever reach them? If you are ‘playing around’ at homesteading and you won’t be relying on anything that you do, that’s cool. But if you bought a piece of land to homestead, like we did, you’ll want to do some goal setting. Try this:
- Figure out which seasons are the right time of year for the items on your list. For instance, if you want to learn to breed goats, breeding season is usually between August and December, roughly.
- Next think about the items on your list that need to be done before you breed your goat: reading books, nutritional regimen, scheduling an appointment with a buck, etc. Decide a rough date that you will accomplish those things.
- Lastly, DO those things when they come up on your calendar!
See how I’ve broken those down and made a simple system? Start on these steps and let me know if it helps you feel better about the direction your homestead is moving. You can totally do this!