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How to plan your homestead year and prioritize your food and livestock goals. I confess I have not always been a planner. In fact, for many years of my life, I was the fly by the seat of my pants type of gal. Always thinking we’d just get it done when it needs to be done type of philosophy.
Now I’m not sure if this came with age and wisdom. But I am much more of a planner now. We still believe in spontaneity and change things on the fly at times. But I really come to appreciate the value that planning brings because it really has saved me more time and even making fewer mistakes. Thus, making the actual execution that much shorter.
It doesn’t matter if you’re working from home, have a day job, if you’re a stay a home mom, or if you’re retired. It doesn’t seem to matter what we are doing because we could all use more hours in the day so my goal is to make things more efficient as possible and that is where the planning comes in.
I now do more planning for the garden, hence writing my new book – The Family Garden Plan, but I’ve really tried to do this in all areas of my life. Because I’ve realized if I can go in, even if it’s just with an outline of a plan, it’s made a huge difference in my life.
Listen in below to the full podcast, Episode #231 How to Plan Your Homestead Year of the Pioneering Today Podcast, where we don’t just inspire you, but give you the clear steps to create the homegrown garden, pantry, kitchen, and life you want for your family and homestead.
My husband and I were actually going through our game plan for the year on our homestead – home, garden, and livestock. And if you have a spouse, significant other, or family member and gather them and get everyone on the same page about what you want to do. It also helps us to prioritize the big things we have planned. I especially love that the new year is in January because as far as the livestock and garden this is one of the months that we have the least amount of work on the homestead allowing us more time to plan for the year ahead. And I’ve learned the hard way that if you don’t plan ahead and take action on the things you’d like to do you can actually miss your window of opportunity because you didn’t plan ahead. And with things on the homestead that are very seasonally based you could potentially have to wait another year to take action on the things you’d like to do.
I’m always super curious about what others do so that is why I decided to share our plan for 2020 in hopes that it can inspire you and that you can get some additional tips as well!
Evaluate what areas of food production you’ll be raising this year, especially if you plan on raising any of your own meat.
If you’re not breeding your own livestock, knowing what you’ll be raising early in the year will give you time to seek and put in orders with local or online breeders. If you don’t do this early in the year, you run the risk of them being sold out.
Not only do you want to decide what you’re raising but you need to look at your existing infrastructure for fencing and pens and decide if they’re adequate and serving your needs, or if it’s time to make some adjustments. I’ll share below how we’re doing this.
The thing that my husband and I usually go over first is livestock. We always have our laying hens. This is always the point where we’ll talk about if we want to make any updates on the coop or to our chicken tractor.
This year we’ve still brainstorming on the idea of changing up our coop and enlarging an area and still having the chicken tractor where we can move them around. We haven’t really changed anything in the last eight years or so, but that is why I still like to go down our list and discuss each item so we can have the chance to talk about it and to see if there is a better way to do something we’ve done in the past.
We raise organic pasture-raised beef for ourselves. This isn’t something we do as a business. We always have cattle on the homestead to breed. At the beginning of the year they have already been bread, and we won’t have any calves until much later in the year normally mid to late summer. This is different from many people as they normally have calves in the Spring, but the way we’ve been breading has actually worked well for us because we can get a lot of snow and bad weather in our area in late Spring.
If you’re breeding your cattle, it’s important at the beginning of the year to decide how many cows you’re breeding, when they’ll deliver, and how many you’ll be butchering or selling. Some things we consider:
This is the time we also decide if we’re adding in new fencing, pens, etc.
This year we were trying to decide if we were going to raise pigs on the homestead and if so, how many do we want. This is important because we don’t raise and breed our own pigs, so we have to have a breeder and get our order in. We then have to get the pens up, fencing up, and shelter. We actually took the last year off in raising our own pork because we had an abundance of meat. When making this decision I head to the freezer to evaluate how much meat we have left and if we can go another year in not raising a specific type of meat. What was especially tough was that last year the breeder that we always used retired. It’s important for us to know our breeder and visit the farm to see how to raise the pigs, so we’ve never gone to an auction. Thankfully, I think I may have found another potential breeder and we have plans to go and visit soon. If it all works out, we’ll be raising pigs this year.
We’re also trying to decide if we’re going to be rotating our pasture with the pigs and their pens. We have been using metal tea post and hot panels with a strand of hot wire, but we like to rotate them, so we do pasture rotation with not only the pigs, but the cows and chickens as well.
I have to be honest, it’s kind of a pain to move the pigpen every few weeks, so we have all this at the top of mind as we’re deciding if we want to raise pigs this year. In addition, we’re brainstorming if there is an easier way to do anything or if we want to test any other type of fencing.
In the past, we’ve also raised meat chickens. We actually took a break the last couple of years in raising the meat chickens, because of the abundance of meat we already had in the freezer. We have a few more whole chickens left in the freezer so we’ll actually be out in a couple of months. Knowing this ahead of time we’ll have to make the decision on whether we want to raise our own chicken, purchase the meat from the store, which I can’t tell you the last time that I bought a whole chicken from the store, or purchase. We ‘re also evaluating the cost of raising the meat chickens the:
versus purchasing organic pasture-raised chickens. I think it’s important to reevaluate the costs to make sure we’re not only being smart with the financial aspect, but with our time too. We are thinking about doing the meat chickens again this year but on a smaller scale.
Here’s How to Butcher A Chicken at Home in part of my raising your own meat birds.
Some other things around the homestead that we’ll be changing is moving and putting in new bracing on my high tunnel (off-grid greenhouse). This greenhouse got damaged last Fall during a huge windstorm. In addition to fixing it, we’ll also be moving it to a new location on the homestead. This is in our plans as we need to do this in early Spring so it’s ready to go for the vegetables that I grow in it. We’ll also need to tarp the future location of the greenhouse so that I can kill the grass.
The next thing that we’ve discussed and have decided to do is to build a barn or a shop. This has always been on our list of things to do as we can afford it.
We decided that we are going to slowly move ahead, not in building it this year but to get this complete over a longer period of time and in phases. The area that we’d love to put the barn at has some tree stumps that will need to be removed so we can level off the pasture, so that is on our list to do for this year. Even though this project won’t be fully complete this year it still gets me excited that we are actually taking steps forward, in addition, we won’t feel overwhelmed with a full project from start to finish especially since my husband works a couple of jobs outside the home and we’ll only have a few weekends to devote to this specific project. The important thing is whatever plan you create to make sure that it works best for you and your family, even if it looks different from other homesteaders.
Order the Family Garden Plan: Raise a Year’s Worth of Sustainable and Healthy Food and all the bonuses to grow your food here . You’ll learn cold frames and season extenders, composting, and so much more!
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.