March 3, 2020

Master Plan 2020 (I Need Your Opinion)

The last time I showed you a new master plan was four years ago. But now I'm working on images for chapter four of 5 Acres & A Book The Sequel, and realized that I need to update it. In recent years, I've worked with smaller close-ups, for things like pasture managementpasture rotation ideas, the goat corralsoil-building, and the tractor gate. The time had come to incorporate those, plus other changes, into the big picture.

I'm going to show you two versions (and an idea for a third) and ask which you think would be better for a 6-inch by 9-inch paperback (with half-inch margins). The first version is labeled with text, the second with numbers and a key. I prefer the text labels for an "at a glance" view, but when I try to label everything it becomes too cluttered. So I must be selective.

Version 1 with text

The other concern is that in print, the text becomes very tiny to fit the map on the page (becomes about 5 inches wide in the book). The numbers and key let me put more in, more legibly. The map below is more detailed and accurate.

Version 2 with numbers.

1. house
2. greenhouse (planned)
3. peach and plum trees, herb gardens
4. cherry, pears, apples, elderberries, and hay growing
5. kitchen and canning garden and hoop house
6. grain
7. apiary and bee garden (to be revived)
8. rainwater tank
9. rainwater runoff tanks (for the garden)
10. woodshed & outdoor laundry Future outdoor kitchen (formerly carport)
11. solar panels
12. sawmill
13. goat barn
14. goat corral
15. workshop
16. tractor path
17. barn water catchment tanks (1 large round, 2 small totes)
18. chicken yard and coop, pecan trees
19. duck house and pond
20. compost bins
21. goat path to browse areas (failed hedgerow)
22. buck barn
23. buck shelter
25. forest garden hedgerow
25. hay growing
26. crabapple tree and field crops
27. seasonal pond
28. Leyland cyprus privacy hedge and windbreak
29. wooded browse areas to become silvopasture
30. wooded, unfenced

Dotted lines are electric fences subdividing pastures for rotational grazing.
D1 - D7 = doe paddocks
B1 - B4 = buck paddocks

However, it's a bit of a nuisance to have to look everything up by number. Unless I go with . . .

Version 3

One last option is a possibility. That would be to split and enlarge the map to cover two pages. They would overlap some in the middle, so nothing was lost in the crease. Then I could possibly use text captions. 

Looking forward to hearing which version you think would do best in a paperback.


  1. First of all, a belated thank you for your block, which I’ve been reading with interest for a while now (from where I live and garden on a much smaller scale here in the SW of the UK).
    I much prefer the first version (which could also be the third), with the labels on the drawing. Does that mark me as lazy. Maybe, but it’s honest.
    Good luck, whichever version you choose.

  2. Deborah, thank you! I appreciate your kind comment about my first book. Also for the feedback on those plans. I've seen many maps with numbers like that (from which I got the idea), but I don't like them either. They're okay if I have to find a particular building, but otherwise, I find myself wondering why they did it that way. It might not be laziness so much as comprehension. It's harder to grasp the big picture looking back and forth at numbers.

  3. Verision 3. I find it hard to figure out where things are with numbers & a key. When is the sequel slated to be released? I'm looking forward to it. My husband & I made the move to our homestead dream in October. We are building everything we need. I wish I had started a journal to document everything we've been doing.

  4. Version 3. Unless I was looking for something very specific, I wouldn't take the time and trouble to try to decipher Version 2, and tiny text is useless to me.

  5. I guess I am a bit torn. I really prefer the words, but some detail is lost because you can't note everything. The two page version would be what I would pick if I could only pick one. Using words and bigger print.

    However, some detail might be of interest to those who are actually setting up this kind of life style. If there are maybe as few as 10 smaller items you would like to also represent, why not add those 10 numbers to the 2-page word map. Yes, it would add to the busy nature of the graphic, by a little - but it is a busy 5 acres after all! And those that need or simply want to know that detail would not be put off by the density of information.

    Just my thoughts.

  6. Stephanie, thanks. I tend to agree about the numbers, but it seemed like one option to consider.

    Congratulations on your new homestead! That's wonderful. It's never too late to start documenting!!! It's so handy for remembering what you did, why, and what it looked like before.

    I'm hoping the new book will be out early this summer. I have a string of cold and rainy weather days right now, which give me more time to work on in! :)

    Mary P., yes, the tiny text is useless, but the numbers take more work. Thanks for your input.

    RT, thank you! As usual, your thought process is very helpful!

  7. how about a version 4? put text in where it fits well, and numbers and a key for the very small bits? this would make it more readable, but also keep the key list fairly short?

  8. I too find the second version hard to follow. I would go with version 4 where the big areas like pastures, gardens and buildings have labels and the small items like individual fruit trees, sawmill, etc. are numbered with a key. This way you immediately get a sense of the big picture but can more easily look up the smaller items if needed.

  9. I was going to vote for version 3, but I like Woolly Bits's suggestion, a hybrid. Use two pages with a little overlap so nothing is lost. Add as much text (in easily readable size) as you can without making it too busy. Then add a key for the smaller areas so that you can add more detail about them without crowding the info into a small space with teeny print.
    Looking forward to the final version! I hope you post it here as well!

  10. I like the hybrid version, too. That way people who want only the general picture have it, and if they want finer detail they can refer to the numbers.

    In fact I was wishing for that when I saw version 1, then found you have the option of a double page, better still.

  11. Bettina, that's definitely something to consider. It would definitely help to keep the list as short as possible.

    Ed, a big picture is definitely helpful, but I also think some folks would be interested in the details. It's too bad color isn't so expensive, or I could color key areas like pastures and wooded. That would help.

    Unknown, the teeny print must definitely be avoided! That's a problem in 5 Acres & A Dream The Book, although no one has every complained about that. Getting the most amount of detail in may require something of a compromise.

  12. Boud, good feedback. I think different people will be interested in different levels of detail. I wish I could do color, but I'm thinking maybe some grayscale texture might help define differences in areas like pasture, food growing, and woods.

  13. Graphic designer weighing in here. Labels directly on the image work much better for typical readers than numbers and a key. And larger images of this type are almost always better than smaller ones; I wouldn't hesitate to run it across two pages. Just be careful about the positioning of the gutter.

    There are several other things you could do to make this map work better.
    • Use a solid tint for all the structures, so they're distinct from pastures/yards/gardens. If you do this, take the border off those structures, so they're not surrounded by black lines.
    • Use a finer line width for all the borders. This will make them less dominant than the labels, which produces a better visual hierarchy. Edward Tufte, if you've ever heard of him, has a lot to say about this kind of thing.
    • If your printing process will allow it, consider running those border lines in grey rather than black, to improve the hierarchy even more. (Your first example includes green plants, but I'm assuming color isn't an option. If color is available, you can use colors rather than grey, but that's a more complex design problem and easier to go astray.)
    • Use consistent type size, and be intentional about where the labels wrap (eg., push "not" in "wooded, not/fenced" to the second line).
    • After doing all that, I'd consider whether to run all the hedgerows/hedges in a different solid tint (as compared with the buildings), and remove those labels. They could go in the overall caption.
    • Finally, I'd consider whether a couple of the cramped labels would do better off the image, with long arrows leading to the image. I'm thinking of the greenhouse or buckshelter. Those arrows would preferably be horizontal (or have 90 degree turns), they wouldn't traverse over other labels or elements, and the text labels they lead to would be aligned flush left or right with each other.

    Thank you for sharing your homesteading experiences. I always look forward to what you're up to.

  14. Hello Leigh, and I am definitely a vote for two page, and gray scale is a fabulous idea. If you did number those smaller details, it would be great for those detail nerds like me, who want to look at every idea you have used. Looking forward to the sequel with great anticipation. Never forget how many folks you have greatly influenced to seek more in their lives! Thank you!

  15. Definitely use text in the illustration, even if it does require two facing pages. Nothing so frustrating as trying to match up a number.

  16. Personally, I would prefer the text labels, as trying to match numbers to their descriptions can be confusing (more so for some of us...) Lynn certainly has some good suggestions, but I would say either the smaller, one page map with text, or the two-page version.

  17. Lynn, lots of excellent information in your comment. This book will be a black and white print-on-demand, so I do have control over the grayscale and line thickness. I just want to make sure there is good contrast. One problem I see on the internet with the use of gray is too subtle of contrast. Light gray text on light gray background is very difficult to read, especially for those of us who are older. I like the idea of longer arrows as space allows.

    The bottom line will be how it prints out! I can print out my own samples, but the proof from the professional printer is always full of surprises!

    Wyomingheart, I'm starting to get an idea of how to do that, to satisfy both a general overview plus details for those who want them. I'm working on it now and will run it by you all soon!

    Sue, I agree. In my mind it looked better than it does in paper! lol

    Susan, thanks. I think it will have to be a two page version, since the text gets really tiny with a one-page map. That combined with a few numbers for details seems to be the consensus so far!

  18. I think perhaps the numbered sections - it's a lot less busy and will be easier to read. Map on one page, numbers/names on the opposing page.

  19. I'm thinking the 2 page version or even another option. Text where there is plenty of room and a number key for the more concentrated/tight areas. 2 pgs. might just solve it all though.

  20. Hi Leigh - I am going to suggest a version 4. The most crowded portion of the map is in the center around the house. What about treating this as a single block and then having a second map that is essentially zoomed in on that area. I was trying to see if I could categorize the areas into goats / pasture / garden / etc. but they don't really result in clumps that could be mapped individually. That said, of your three I would definitely go with Version 3.

  21. Leigh, my vote is version 3 with words. With words, I can tell directly what I am looking at. With numbers, I have to go to key, which inconveniences me at best and annoys me at worst.

  22. Debbie, I like the less cluttered look too.

    Lady Locust, that seems to be the direction I'm heading in! Especially, if I can simplify the text to show the big picture, with numbers for details if folks are interested.

    Ann, that's another idea! What can be categorized, doesn't really work out as areas on the map. I'll have to play a bit with that idea too.

    TB, I don't want to annoy my readers! ;)

  23. Hi Leigh. I like the first version better. It gives me information immediately and don't have to look to a list. I can also see right away what is next/near to where I'm looking without again having to recheck a list. It's easier to actually imagine the lay of the land, so to speak. Good luck with the book!

  24. Kris, I thought the numbers were a good idea until I saw them on the map! I'm working on an updated version which I'll share soon. Hopefully, it will work!

  25. A variation on Version 3 would be my vote, but maybe the center of the map would be called "Zone 1" on the first page and then just the Zone 1 area could be blown up and shown on the second page.

    Also, in case you run with Version 2, there is a typo in your list, "24" is missing and there are two "25"s. One of them should be a 24.

  26. Ron, good catch! I revised the list a couple of times and that was the result!

    I'm glad to hear your idea, because that's what I've been thinking as well.

    You can see that I still have my bee hives! We've had so many skunks, however, that I'm strongly reluctant to have another go (and another failure).

  27. I like the suggested version 4 the best. I would also suggest a dotted or dashed line for the un-fenced area in the back. the heavier line makes it appear to be fenced.
    Lynn had some really good suggestions as well.

    good luck, can't wait to see the new book.

  28. Renee, good idea about the unfenced area. I'm working out a revised version that incorporates a lot of the ideas I've gotten. I'll share it soon!

  29. I vote for version #1 with text.

  30. The first option with the areas spelled out, but number the buildings with the index key. That way, the bulk of the text will not be on the map - no worries about it being too crowded.
    Nice layout btw!
    Best wishes -

    Toni (in Niagara)

  31. Mike, that's definitely the preferred option!

    Toni, hello and welcome! You've presented another possibility, thanks!

  32. adding my 2 cents worth! - I think the first with a map and key on the following (reverse) page for those that want more detail :)

  33. Ohh...I am really not sure where anything should go, but I like the sound of all this self-sufficency.


Welcome to 5 Acres & A Dream The Blog! Thank you for taking the time to join in the conversation.