Calendars and Charts, Gettin' Those Ducks in a Row

My All-In-One Planner

Every December, one of my favorite gifts is my shiny new planner. Yes, I said every… I always manage to con one of my gift givers into making that their Christmas gift to me because I love my planners so much. I have never been much of a phone calendar person-yes the alerts are nice but I like to have something I can open and see all at once, easily flipping back and forth between months or weeks.

I spend my winter December evenings, filling the pages with birthdays, upcoming events, work days, etc. Then I start filling in my book list and movie release dates. Last, but not least, I list my monthly homesteading tasks – my favorite part.

Before the first of each month I take out my planner and make sure everything is down that needs to be. Of course life happens and things get added and whited out, but this way I easily remember all the things that need to be done in my homestead life, work life and social life.

One thing I try to do, is to have a different color pen for each category of life. Because I didn’t start this year off thinking of our homestead as anything different than a baby hobby farm, all my homesteading activities are in light green pen, which is my social life color! I still don’t find any farm chores to be “work” so it still fits.

Dark navy is my work color, royal blue is for appointments, purple is for my list of books I’d like to read and turquoise is for the movies coming out that my husband and I would love to see. I utilize stickers as well for important events, our pets’ heart worm medication and pay day.

After I’m done filling out the dates of my calendar, tasks that have no specific dates yet go into the “Notes” section. This is also where I put the list of movies and books as they have no specific dates assigned to them either. Just whenever I get to them!

For the  weekly view in my planner, I have half hour time slots and a column for a list. Very few things go into the time slots as life on the homestead is not that structured. However, my work day hours can, as well as any special events like weddings. And I’m really OK with this arrangement… it makes me feel like I have more free time!

My system is by no means perfect, since we just officially started this homesteading adventure, but it works and helps tremendously. I’m sure as the months go on and the years pass I will tweak it here and there. Regardless, putting everything down in one place helps me simplify my life and remove unnecessary stress.

*Would you all like to see what my planner looks like each month? Let me know in the comments!*

Budget, Decluttering and Simplifying, Gettin' Those Ducks in a Row, Readings, The Piggy Bank

Why I Decluttered My Phone

Wedding Photo Credit: Devon Garton Photography

After reading the books Grace Not Perfection and A Simplified Life last December, I simplified many areas of my life, including my phone. Those bookss were my inspiration to find peace in simplification. However, this past month, of the biggest distractions I’ve had to being productive, to spending true quality time with my family and to getting all my homesteady reading accomplished, has been my phone. I find that I’m frustrated with myself for allowing this to happen again.

Even though I once again found my phone cluttered with apps that aren’t necessary, I still had used the principles I’d learned from the books when installing them. This included turning off notifications and moving necessary apps I did not frequently use away from the home screen. I turned off notifications for everything but phone calls and texts, and Emily Ley even recommends turning off texts too!

The biggest time suck? Farmville 2. Ya’ll, for a homesteader that doesn’t have her homestead established yet that game is addicting. Yes, I know it’s not accurate at all and there are many other more productive things I could be doing, but that didn’t stop me from playing while walking around in the yard with my husband and our pups just yesterday. I have never been that person before. And I didn’t like it.

So I changed it. My tech was starting to take away from my family time and my productivity. Today, before writing this article, I went through my phone and carefully dissected each app. Do I use it often? Do I actually need to use it often?

The first thing that went was Farmville. Next, I found myself with 6 photo apps, when I only use the camera and 3 others from time to time. So the extras were quickly trashed. There were more shopping apps on my phone than I’ve ever had as well. Not only are we building a house and need to save money, but I also only use Amazon and Ebates regularly. So out the others went.

Wedding Photo Credit: Devon Garton Photography

So on and so forth I went until all the fluff was gone. I even deleted my payment information from Amazon to make it less convenient to purchase items I may not need. Things with frequent little red notification bubbles (even though alerts were turned off) went to the third page where I could no longer see them. Yes, that’s right, I said THIRD. Third, because I put all the apps I use daily, or at least weekly, on the second page.

My home page? It is reserved for me to rotate favorite photos of my husband and I. It is reserved for what should be most important, and what I’m going to make sure is.

Wedding Photo Credit: Devon Garton Photography
Calendars and Charts, Gettin' Those Ducks in a Row

Chore Duty

In our home, I do the laundry and my husband does the dishes. It works well for us because dishes are my least favorite chore and he hates folding laundry. Don’t get me wrong, we still jump in and help one another or do the chore for the other from time to time, but this arrangement makes us both very happy.

As we got to learn one another more, it became clear what we did and did not like to do. Thus we were able to separate the chores naturally and without a fuss. My husband does all things dishes, though I do jump in and do them myself when need be. I do all things laundry, but he also jumps in when necessary.

He has always taken care of the yard, mostly because he chose a hand push mower when we lived in Colorado. However, now that we live out in the country I truly enjoy helping with the majority of the outside chores. The only outside job he dislikes? Planting. And I do not mind taking care of that for the both of us. So on and so forth our list goes.

However, there are various other methods of splitting chores, two of which I’ve read in books. One of my favorite books on organization is A Simplified Life by Emily Ley. In it, she discusses that she and her husband used a sticky note method to divy up the chores.

With this method, Emily and her husband wrote down all the household chores on individual sticky notes and laid them out on the coffee table. Each of them took turns taking one sticky note until all the notes were gone. Quite effective if you and your spouse both dislike several of the same chores.

One method I really like, and one that I will probably employ when we have children, I read of in the Do It Yourself Homestead. Instead of having specific chores assigned to specific children, she has a “kid of the day.” She has a list of daily chores and the kid of the given day gets to choose what chores they’d like to do first. Then the other children get to split the rest among themselves.

I love this because each child will know how to perform each task, but won’t get burnt out on one chore. It also makes chores fun for the child who gets to pick their favorite for the day. This could also be utilized for adults too. For instance, if a chore list is pre-made and the adults rotate through who gets to pick theirs first each day.

I’ve found, especially in new marriages or relationships, that no one wants to open up and admit they’d love to absolutely refuse a specific chore. My husband, for instance, is often guilty of not wanting to burden me more or hurt my feelings. Other times, people are passive aggressive about what they don’t enjoy or about how much they actually want people to help (not healthy for any relationship).

Our chore split happened organically. I love the way it happened, though I love these other ideas too. I highly recommend simply taking the time to pay attention to what your partner seems to avoid doing. Then sit down and talk with them about it. However, if you are not particularly perceptive, just have a discussion on the topic and employ one of the above methods. It will save a lot of headaches and arguments in the long run. Trust me.

Gettin' Those Ducks in a Row

Book Club

One of my recent reads, The Do It Yourself Homestead, recommended holding a monthly book club to increase community, help one another learn new skills and share ideas gleaned from books. I personally love this idea and have a few friends who are interested in doing so with me. However ours will be more as a group message instead of an in person experience due to being separated by several states. I’d love to start something local as well so that we could get together for some hands on skills but I’m so excited to start regardless!

The book I mentioned above includes a suggested monthly book for 1 full year of book club with an activity that ties along with each book. I love this idea for the in-person book club, but for our case I just created a list of those I wanted to read most. Since we are starting in May instead of January I will include suggestions from the selection I’ve already read for the first 4 months of the year.

January: Welcome to the Farm, by Shaye Elliot

February: The Backyard Homestead, edited by Carleen Madigan

March: The Backyard Homestead Seasonal Planner, by Ann Larkin Hansen

April: The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals, edited by Gail Damerow

May: Gaia’s Garden, by Toby Hemenway

June: Root Cellaring, by Mike and Nancy Bubel

July: The Homemade Pantry, by Alana Chernila

August: Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz

September: The Organic Canner, by Daisy Luther and C. Morgan

October: Beyond Basics with Yeast, by Melissa Richardson

November: The Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook, by Jennifer Kujawski and Ron Kujawski

December: The Art of Natural Cheesemaking, by David Asher and Sandor Ellix Katz

I, personally, am going to aim to read more than one a month as there are a LOT of books I’d like to read before we get our own farmhouse and outbuildings built, as well as before we start adding to our farm animals and food production. For those I do get read, I will be more than happy to share some information on and provide you with a link!

I may be the biggest nerd in the planet, but I find reading these books to be addictive. In fact, the more material I read, the more reading suggestions I’m given on various topics. I will probably never get all the information read that there is out there, especially before our home is built. But you better bet I’m going to keep striving for it.

Gettin' Those Ducks in a Row, Popular

Deciding How to Grow

Though we have dreamed of this hobby farm for years, and each grown up on a farm ourselves, there was (and is) still much to learn. As soon as I knew we would be able to move home I started adding homesteading books and equipment to my Amazon WishList. Telling anyone for any occasion that THAT is what I wanted.

I moved home before my husband (as my job was the one that allowed us to move) so he could finish out his last deployment for the Air Force and the end of his contract. While living in my childhood home, without my husband, and with my parents I slowly acquired book by book. It filled my time while we were apart and helped me to look forward and not dwell in the present.

I took notes as I read and applied my new found knowledge with what my parents already had established. I got excited and shared my learnings with my coworkers, who also displayed a certain amount of excitement for this homestead I hoped to one day achieve. Additionally, Eliott and I would discuss options and our individual intentions for this future hobby farm as we Skyped each day. Thus our dream grew.

The first, and most influential, book I read on the topic was Welcome to the Farm, by Shaye Elliott; I’m pretty sure that this woman is my spirit animal. Her words leap off the page and are the product of personal experience. She’s funny, inspirational and real- a person whom I’d love to be friends with. As a result, her book is a quick and easy read that provides so much knowledge about how to grow and sustain a small farm or homestead with love, care and humane practices. Not to mention that the way she describes her farm life is intoxicating, even when she discusses the difficulties and hardships. This is my #1 recommended read.

Next, I immersed myself in The Backyard Homestead. A more dense wealth of knowledge, this book has been a great supplement to the real-life-experience information provided by my prior reading. It adds some helpful information on gathering from the wild as well, which is great information for where we live. In addition, this book gives me multitudes of diagrams for an entire homestead based on acreage, for vegetable gardens and even some diagrams for building projects! In fact, I intend to use said diagrams to plan the layout of our hobby farm.

I quickly realized, as I traversed the above pages, that I needed one place to list all the items that needed to be done throughout the year; a checklist of sorts. Thus, I found The Backyard Homestead Seasonal Planner, a fantastic source for the To-Dos suggested to be done in the early, mid, and end portions of each season. It even have a description of how each portion of a given season is differentiated from another. I was especially tickled when I found this book had blank lines for each section of the “To-Do” Lists for me to write in things that may apply to me that the book doesn’t have covered. Ah-mazing.

Though I have not deigned to delve far into this particular book yet, we have also purchased The Homestead Planner and Logbook for the potential business aspect of our hobby farm, as well as the nitty gritty of farm maintenance. This particular book comes equipped with worksheets, envelopes and pockets for all those receipts and all that other important stuff. Super duper handy.

The last book I read on homesteading, I honestly haven’t even finished. I got slightly over halfway before I took an extended break from it (I do plan on finishing as it DOES have helpful information). The Do-It-Yourself Homestead was a VERY dense compilation of what the author described as 4 different levels of homesteading. Super great for someone who is a beginner and has no idea where they would like to start or what they even might like to do. I simply found it slightly tedious to sift through the information for information that applied to me in the first couple chapters. It is, however, organized into easily identifiable sections of what are essentially “haven’t started yet,” “beginner,” “intermediate,” and “advanced” homesteading within each chapter. It also provides homework in the form of “action items” at the end of each chapter with suggested readings for further information on the topics covered. For me, this was my favorite aspect of this book as it has given me future reading material on fermented foods, cheesemaking and so much more!

Thus far I’ve only read one book on a specific topic… The Big Book of Kombucha, which you see in the photo above… but that’s a blog post for another day.

The above books have all been influential in the decisions we have made growing our Hobby Farm. Chickens, a herb garden (shown above) and an expanded vegetable garden came last year. This year we have expanded with two bee hives and are considering the addition of a bottle milk calf (I already have her name picked out) and/Or a feeder pig.

Though I have not read these yet, the books on my list that I already own are:

-The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals 

-The Woodland Homestead

-The Backyard Homestead Building Projects

I hope these are helpful for you as you start to grow your homestead or hobby farm. If this isn’t something you plan to do full scale I still highly recommend Welcome to the Farm, if only purely for entertainment, or The Do-It-Yourself Homestead for ways you can produce some of your own food on a small scale from an apartment or rented home.