I don’t know about y’all, but I want to do everything. 🙂
I want to try beekeeping, make a willow basket, raise sheep, and do a hundred other things … and that’s just Tuesday.
As a general concept, however, homesteading is about developing and practicing skills that will help us become more self-sufficient. The nature of gaining skills is that it takes time and practice. The journey is better done a baby step a time. (Ya, bummer. But that’s reality.)
Setting Reasonable Goals
So with that in mind, how do we order all our wishes and make them into a (somewhat) sane plan? How can we make things happen without being terribly overwhelmed? Where do we start?
Paper and Pen
There are probably a number of ways of organizing your plans, but my favorite is grabbing paper and pen and giving each dream its own page. It’s a place to explore ideas, find your why, and make a list of all the baby steps you will need to get there.
I have pages for our rabbitry, our garden (which we will be sharing with our kids and grandkids – oh, boy, is that going to be an adventure), the kitchen, and more.
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What Does That Look Like?
Well, let’s take my garden as an example. I grab paper and pen …
Goal – I want a nice, healthy garden that takes care of our fresh fruit and veggie needs (I don’t expect to do it all, but I’d like to do a little more each year). Now that we are sharing the garden with others, we will need to grow enough for them too. Oh, and the rabbits, I want to grow something for them (a goal on the horizon is researching plants we could grow in the garden and landscape that will help with feed – that gets its own page).
My Why – I want healthy fresh food. I want to have fun gardening with my sweetie and others and sharing gardening knowledge and skills. It would be nice to have a bit of food security and the convenience of running out to the garden to get salad ingredients just before dinner.
Baby Steps to Consider – Our starting point was not zero in terms of gardening skills. My husband and I have gardened over the years (though most of that was done in Texas (zone 8b) and we are having to learn how to garden in Washington (zone 6a)), but we started a new garden from scratch a couple of years ago. We’re talking flat land with clay soil and lots of grass and weeds (we did have rabbit poo for fertilizer though). 🙂
We're all in the zone. What's yours?
From The National Gardening Association:
Learning Library: USDA Hardiness Zone Finder
On scratch paper, we drew and re-drew the perfect (for us) garden (and gave a lot of thought to sun, soil, and placement). I had a list of veggies I wanted to grow. We researched fencing (we have deer) and considered compost bins.
The first year we marked out the proposed garden with stakes, cleared enough ground to plant two fruit trees (one of which died), and planted a couple of tomato plants where some of the raised beds would eventually go. We planted some pumpkin and squash along the top of a small ridge (training them to trail down the hill). I made a compost heap (no bins just yet). Oh, and I fed several gophers some very nice lemon cucumber plants. That was pretty much it.
Baby Steppin’ It
Those were our first few baby steps (little steps that take you from where you are to where you want to be). Small steps are doable and you can do as many as you have the time, money, and energy for. The strength in baby steps is that they keep you moving toward your goal and you can easily see how far you’ve come.
This last year we planted another cherry tree and built one large section of raised beds from concrete blocks. (The long-term goal is to have several beds two or three levels high. That would give us something to sit on when we garden. We are both 60+ and we hope to garden the rest of our lives.) We experimented with a couple of new varieties of squash and tried our hand at a few more veggies. My sweetie made me a small raised bed by our home for herbs and a few flowers.
The garden page has graduated to a garden journal where we write/draw out our plans.
Garden Journals - Why do you need one?
I take notes on what we’ve done each year, what we liked, and what we didn’t. A garden is a fairly complicated and ongoing project, so we needed more than a page to keep track of it, but the concept is the same. Make goals, plan baby steps to get there, and take plenty of notes along the way.
But What If I Don’t Even Know Where to Start?
Goal – I want to have bees/honey.
My Why – I want my own honey and I want pollinators for my garden.
Steps to Consider – I need bees and bee houses. What do I feed bees? How do I protect them? How do I protect myself from them? Ah …
Yup. I’m not ready to create baby steps because I don’t even know what I need.
I really need to do a fair amount of research.
There is certainly a lot of information online. I could get a bee book. I bet there are bee groups on and offline too. Bee classes maybe? Are there bee mentors?
I will need some equipment eventually, so I created a list for that. I’ll add things as I learn.
Because I am so clueless about this, it’s going to be a “someday” goal. It’s not going to happen this year, but as I read and talk to folks, I can add items and make a baby step plan. When I have a better understanding of what I need to do, I’ll firm up my list and get started. Here are my bee notes.
Gather Your Papers
When you come up for air and take a break from your planning, you’ll have papers in various stages, some with fairly clear ideas and direction and other pages will be pretty sketchy (that’s totally normal). I’d lay them all out and ask yourself if there are some doable baby steps.
Grab a sheet of paper and label it [this year’s] Homesteading Goals. What baby steps would be do-able right now or in the very near future? You might have a couple of gardening steps, maybe get a dehydrator and dry some herbs, or start a bit of research on raising quail.
That small list is for this year. As you work through the steps on your list, be sure to check them off and celebrate your progress! 🙂
If your goal list is small and you finish it, you can always pick out a few more baby steps from your work pages. If your goal list keeps getting longer and longer and longer, you know you’re overdoing it a bit. Rethink. Cut back a bit.
The Long View
The lovely part about making written records of your dreams and practical steps is that nothing gets forgotten. You may not be able to start canning your produce this year, but the dream won’t get lost. It’s written down in black and white and next year may be the year you buy that canner and try your hand at making jam.
One step at a time, folks.
“Plan your work and work your plan.” Napoleaon Hill
My 2021 Homesteading Goals - The real dirt on Dandelion Hill Homestead.
The Homesteading Journey - Building a lifestyle of self-sufficiency.
sheep © David Mark / Pixabay
notebook & pencils © monicore / Pixabay
garden bed © Lori / Dandelion Hill Homestead
paper and seedling © Hello I’m Nik / Unsplash
bees © PollyDot / Pixabay
jars of jam © QueenCarolyn / Pixabay
Pinterest image / notebook © Image by David Schwarzenberg / Pixabay