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Of Rhythm and Routine

"I like to call our beginning years of homesteading “the establishment phase.” We have our land and the goal of becoming self-reliant, but it’s going to take a lot get there: knowledge, equipment, tools, resources, and time. Because it is just the two of us, it is especially going to take time."
5 Acres & A Dream The Book
Chapter 5, "The Establishment Phase"

"As I sit at my computer and reflect on the five years since I wrote that statement, I find myself asking, "Well, are we established homesteaders now? Have we transitioned from one phase to the next?" As I try to figure out how to answer that, I realize there is no way to pinpoint when our establishment phase ends and the next phase begins."

5 Acres & A Dream The Sequel
Chapter 5, "Transition" (rough draft)

About a week ago I showed you the results of many of our establishment phase projects (see "Ten Years.") We've accomplished a lot, and as I put that blog post together I couldn't help but reflect on where we are now and where we're going. While we still have goals and plans, somewhere along the way our focus shifted from the next project on the list, to what the season demanded. We shifted from pushing ahead with a linear mindset to the cycle of the seasons. That has given a rhythm to our life that we truly appreciate.

I talked about that some in my "Happy Agrarian New Year!" blog post: spring is busy with planting, summer for growing and food preservation, and autumn to finish the harvest and prepare for winter. Winter is the season of the hearth; a time of rest, reflection, and planning. This is our life framework now. While we still set annual goals every January (this year's listed in "Project Plans for the New Year") our focus has become very much more seasonal.

Our current to-do list looks something like this:
    Garden
    • transplant rice, tomatoes, peppers
    • finish spring planting
    • finish digging swale bed
    • clean out and move garden shed
    Pasture
    • buck paddocks
    Carport
    • paint trim
    • get rain catchment tank
    • set up catchment tank
    • pallets for firewood
    Laundry
    • new clothesline
    • drains for tubs
    Fallen trees
    • cut
    • mill
    • chip branches
    • fix fences
    Firewood
    • split
    • stack
    Poultry Yard
    • make more grazing beds
    • duck house
    • move compost piles
    Repair
    • lawn tractor
    • cart
    • welding machine
    • sickle mower belt

Things which are ongoing, such as mowing, mulching, weeding, cheese making, laundry, etc., aren't added to the to-do list because they'd always be there! Routine daily chores aren't on the list either.

On Sunday afternoons, we have a calendar meeting. This is something we started when the kids were still living at home and we needed to coordinate the week's activities. Now we use it to coordinate projects. I check the week's weather forecast and we discuss seasonal chores that need to get done. Then we look over the to-do list. We cross off things we've completed, choose the week's projects, and jot them down on the calendar. We prioritize with the motto "food first." Anything related to food production, either for us or our critters, comes first.

At breakfast every day (except our day of rest) we check the calendar. If something has come up we make adjustments. Flexibility is a necessity, but by having the week's goals written on the calendar we can easily make sure the week's priorities, at least, are done.

After breakfast we head out for morning chores. After that comes the day's projects. We often have a morning project and an afternoon project. They may be something we work on together, or separate projects. In summer I like to do my garden work in the morning, and then do a house or shade project in the afternoon. In winter that's reversed. Evening chores are done right before dinner. At dusk we do a last check of water and hay feeders, separate the kids from their moms for the night, and close up the chicken coop. That's the routine of most of our days.

At the end of the month we sit down and evaluate the list. We don't expect to accomplish everything on the it, but we do revise it. Completed projects are deleted and new ones added according to the season or because something new has presented itself. Although the list never gets shorter or goes away, by it we are able to keep our goals manageable and our priorities straight. It's a tool that works well for us and sets the pace and tone of our seasonal rhythm and work routine.

How about you? How do you keep your plans and projects manageable?

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