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I love all of the different tools that I get to use on the homestead, from hand tools to tractors. But of all the tools I use everyday, there is one tool that precedes everything I do around here. Here’s “How to Keep a Farm Journal”.
Why is my farm journal my most powerful tool?
You’ve likely heard the old saying “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, and it’s true. This homesteading gig just cannot be done on the fly, if you want to do it well. Without planning, you’ll make the same mistakes over and over again. You’ll likely lose great ideas when they come to your mind. Worst of all, you’ll forget what worked or didn’t work last year.
Because when I spend a little time with pen and paper, I’m able to spell out and put words the goals and changes that I want to make. My journal isn’t anything fancy, actually it’s just a big memo book, that I write and draw in.
Every year, I start a new section simply by putting the year at the top of a page. Then I write down my top 5 goals for the coming year.
I begin with a “Top 5” because it’s a quick summary of what I hope to accomplish. Certainly, I might have many more goals that year, but I try to keep the “Top 5” at the forefront of my mind. Why? Because if all else fails, if everything else falls apart that year, I have at least 5 attainable goals to stand firm on.
Make sure that your Top 5 are truly attainable, and avoid making these goals huge projects. Make them doable. For 2017, my Top 5 goals were finished by June, and some years will be that way. So, if I’ve already accomplished my Top 5 by June, I can’t really go wrong for the last 6 months of the year!
Plan Your Garden
This doesn’t have to be an elaborate or even to scale drawing, but just sketch it out. Isn’t mine fancy???? Remember, you won’t be graded on your neatness, this journal is for YOU. Planning your garden on paper will help you to rotate crops from last year, which is very important if you hope to garden organically.
Your garden page is also a good place to note what plants didn’t do well last year, as well as which plants performed wonderfully. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember those details from year to year, but with a glance at last year’s page, it all comes back to me.
Also, makes notes about anything that was out of the ordinary this year, like excessive rain.
You may have plants that need to be moved, because they need different conditions, make notes about this so it gets done.
Make notes about livestock
I also find it very helpful to jot down dates that I purchased chicks, as well as dates that I put eggs in the incubator. Record dates of other livestock births, vet appointments and observations and a “to do” list of paperwork that may need to be completed. Also, you may want to keep an ongoing list of supplies that need to be purchased.
Record animal and soil testing
Taking a soil sample to the extension office for testing could make a huge difference in how your garden performs this year, but not if you don’t remember to do it. Fecal samples to test for parasites won’t get taken to the vet if I don’t have it written down somewhere.
While I keep a personal calender/journal, all farm related things go into my farm journal.
Record what happens in my beehives
Oh my goodness, there is so much to make notes about when you raise bees. Everything from how this hive started (was it a swarm, a split or a purchased nuc?) to how much honey we pulled off of a hive. Dates, dates and more dates are kept to record queen rearing! Dates that you treated for parasites are critical to jot down. It’s so important to keep all of this information in one place.
Keep track of how much you canned
Making a few quick notes about how many quarts or pints you canned each year will keep you from over-canning from year to year, and also keep you from overplanting!
Equipment purchases and repairs
I like to keep some notes about regular maintenance for our machinery as well as a list of tools or other supplies that I would like to find at barn sales.
Break down large projects
Those large projects can take up a couple of pages, so that you can break it down into attainable parts. Perhaps start a supply list, along with what obstacles need to be overcome or permits that need to be filed for. Keep measurements and other details so that you have them all in one place for shopping.
Keep track of expenses
Your farm journal is also a great place to keep a large envelope for receipts from the feed store, veterinarian and for fuel. You’ll be glad you did when it’s time to prepare your tax return.
It’s still early in the year! Grab some sort of notebook and just start making a Farm Journal!