May 17, 2019

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:
    • transplant rice, tomatoes, peppers
    • finish spring planting
    • finish digging swale bed
    • clean out and move garden shed
    • buck paddocks
    • paint trim
    • get rain catchment tank
    • set up catchment tank
    • pallets for firewood
    • new clothesline
    • drains for tubs
    Fallen trees
    • cut
    • mill
    • chip branches
    • fix fences
    • split
    • stack
    Poultry Yard
    • make more grazing beds
    • duck house
    • move compost piles
    • 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?

Of Rhythm and Routine © May 2019


wyomingheart said...

We are basically the same as you, in that we tackle the big projects as the schedule allows, but food and water always trumps the daily plans. We try to discuss the weekly list before going to bed, and what we will concentrate on the next day.There seems to be a peace about that which makes me sleep very well. We have always been list makers and like you, cross off the items as they are done. That is very gratifying. We have always been early risers, hence doing the bulk of our heavy chores in the morning, and the afternoons spent on easier chores, or inside, weather depending. You are correct about being flexible, as there can be distractions that require immediate attention. Thanks for getting me to think about this. Sometimes we just go on automatic pilot, and it's fun to look at how we accomplish things up here on the ridge.

Retired Knitter said...

Well,I don't homestead or even hobby farm ... but I live by lists as well. Adding, crossing off and adding again. I do include routine things on my everyday list because sometime my day is filled with those things and if I didn't include them - nothing would get crossed off and I would be discouraged after being busy and productive all day. Different strokes ... I do love the idea of a calendar meeting - except that since I use the word "I" as opposed to "we" I guess a calendar meeting with myself to coordinate with myself so of looses some of it punch. :-). Of course, being retired and not homesteading means my life is far less complicated than your.

But if I were to weigh in on if you were still in establishment or moved on to the next phase, in your life style being focused on the seasons would be the main criteria to indicate - not in establishment 'no more.' When I found your book I was most interested in the establishment process - and it was very interesting - going from one way of life into a very different one. I am still interested, but the journey from where you were to where you are now was intensely interesting.

Great post.

Leigh said...

Wyomingheart, I agree. I think keeping things in perspective is so much more restful than simply having everything jumbled up in one's head and popping up chaotically. I'd rather be on automatic pilot than feel like a bumper car at the carnival, reacting to whatever I mentally bump into. :)

RT, thank you for your insight on my "where are we now?" question. We really don't think about getting established anymore. There are still a couple of projects we'd like to see happen (greenhouse and root cellar), but you're right, the focus is seasonal now. It feels like that was the goal all along. :)

I agree it helps to coordinate with oneself! I'm bad about forgetting to look at my list, and those are the things that invariably don't get done that day.

Woolly Bits said...

yes, we work with lists as well. not quite as detailed and not day-by-day, because we don't have critters to look after (apart from dogs and cat, but they would be hard to forget, because I'd fall over them if I left them unfed:), but without lists we'd forget stuff, esp. things that don't catch the eye all the time! we have tried over recent years to make some jobs less hard, scaling down jobs (hedges for cutting etc.), replacing things that might otherwise need replacement, when we're too old to do it ourselves etc. but we're still working down our lists year after year:)

Ed said...

Similar to you but not as formal. I have a piece of paper tucked into the back of my journal where I write down projects as we decide we want to do them and I cross them off as completed. Since my spouse still has a full time job, which jobs get tackled when is pretty much left up to me although she does bump a project up now and then.

Lady Locust said...

I would loose my mind without lists. I've also been learning to use the reminder app on my phone (my attempt to be high-tech,) but pencil and paper still work best for me. And yes, food and critters take precedence over clean floors or extra curricular activities. I love working with the seasons rather than opposed to them.

deb harvey said...

do you have a drainage book you recommend the yard is canted toward the house and snow melt and hard rain come in the basement want to try to move dirt into swales of some sort to deflect it the contractor said he will get over when he is able

Leigh said...

Bettina, that's it exactly - without lists stuff gets forgotten! I agree about making some jobs less hard. That's something we've been discussing a lot more lately, whether to find an easier way, an alternative, or do we really need to do it at all.

Ed, even with one partner working full time the list gets whittled. We've seen more progress since Dan has retired, but as we get older we've also slowed down a bit. Maybe that's the trade off.

Lady Locust, that's exactly how it was for us; we were so focused on projects that the seasons got in the way. I'd say that's a good use for your phone, although it seems faster to simple keep a handwritten lest handy.

Deb, oh dear, not a fun problem to have. Dan suggested two books. You might be able to find them at your public library.

Foundations and Concrete Work from the editors of Fine Homebuilding. It's published by Taunten Press as part of their 'For Pros By Pros' series.

Renovating Old Houses: Bringing New Life to Vintage Homes by George Nash. It's also published by Taunton Press.

Swales would certainly help, as would French drains. We had the same problem in a rental we lived in about 20 years ago. Better drainage helped a lot.

Rain said...

Hi Leigh :) This post was really good for me to read. How organized! That's one thing I am not is organized with chores, projects etc...I mean...I have my mental list and stickies all over the place, but I like that you and Dan have a method that works for you. I think that once we get our forever home, we'll be more organized like that. I do love to use dry-erase boards for my kitchen stuff though. I have one on the fridge to daily kitchen duties, then one in my office for the weekly dinner plans.

Rose said...

I did enjoy reading this...even though I live in the city. I need to do lists now...even for phone calls I need to make, etc. That helps when I have several.

Leigh said...

Rain, the dry-erase or blackboards are great for lists. I keep meaning to get a small bulletin board for the kitchen to pin our list on. Maybe I should put it on the list so I'll remember to get one!

Rose, I would have to put phone calls on my list too, lol. Never was one for chit-chatting on the phone. :)

Tanza Erlambang said...

You have the "priority" list what to do, I should copy your steps.

Have a wonderful weekend

Chris said...

With one kid ready to apply for their Learners permit (first step in obtaining a drivers licence) and another in early Primary, we're being asked to attend a lot of "early intervention" appointments, for learning difficulties, etc - working on our property, has taken a nose dive.

It irks me, but I have to be realistic. There's only so much of us to go round. So at this point, we're taking a bare minimum approach, to projects. I have a backlog, but hopefully this winter I'll be able to tackle a few big ones. ;)

greenjournalhomestead said...

Have to have my lists. I painted the entire wall of my office in chalkboard paint so I have a HUGE list! I have it listed in columns , Week, Month, Year, then a list of future projects. I move each over as possible. Crossing things off is so satisfying , but they always seem to be quickly replaced.

Leigh said...

TE, it seems like most of us like to keep lists. :)

Chris, sometimes life gets in the way, doesn't it? I always figure that family is priority; people are priority. As you say, there's only so much we can do anyway, but even at a slow pace, it's still progress.

Greenhousejournal, I love that idea! I know some people make 5 or 10 year plans, but we barely manage to get through at least some of our year's goals. I agree crossing things off is truly satisfying. :)