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Making goals is part of life for everyone all the time, but most people tend to focus on them a little more this time of year. Establishing goals for the homestead is as important as setting personal goals, and often the two go hand-in-hand. Given the deeply personal nature of homesteading, my goals for my place are likely to look different from yours, but here are a few basic guidelines to get you started in the right direction on your own.
First, a word to the wise: If you share your homestead with anyone, it is crucial that you and they are on the same page with goal-making. If you want to take up beekeeping but your spouse is afraid of bees, or if you plan to build a sawmill while your parents envision devoting the coming season to doubling the size of the vegetable garden, these things are going to have to be ironed out first.
Another important point is to keep it doable. It is so tempting to want to dive into everything head-first, and too easy to end up in over our heads. Most homesteaders are passionate about what we do, which is what makes us able to accomplish so much with so little. Passion for homesteading is great, but don’t let it drown you.
There are three major factors which form the framework for goal-setting for homesteaders: money, time and most urgent needs.
Money and Time
Money and time are often homesteaders’ biggest obstacles. Many of us need off-farm jobs which, while they help pay for materials and supplies for the homestead, end up taking away from the time we need to work on homestead projects. It can be a constant juggling act, but few of us can afford to disregard either factor.
The factor of most urgent needs covers a broad spectrum for homesteaders. Most of us strive for self-sufficient lifestyles that include managing vegetable gardens, perennial fruits and a wide variety of livestock—including attention to feed, housing, fencing, breeding, healthcare and milking—along with activities such as processing firewood, tapping trees for syrup, making soap, using medicinal herbs, and more. Not only do we already have all those balls in the air, but most of us are usually trying to pick up even more and to improve the ones we are already handling.
The way to make it work is to prioritize. Some ways to do that include making a chart, doing research, and evaluating positive impact versus cost—or better still, all three.
Charts or spreadsheets offer a concise way to compare costs, importance, work hours required, potential benefits, and whatever else is an important factor to you. Once you lay it out on paper or on a screen, it should allow you to accurately identify what projects and tasks to tackle first.
Doing research ahead of time helps avoid surprises that can end up being overwhelming and increasing the likelihood of failure—as in, how much will that new maple syrup evaporator really cost with all the extras? Or, is this type of crop truly feasible in my climate? Or perhaps it’s useful to determine beforehand when purchasing used farm equipment if replacement parts will be available, or whether a planned livestock expansion will end up requiring more investment in infrastructure.
Evaluating positive impact versus costs can make or break a project—will the milk room upgrade or licensure pay for itself in dairy product sales, or will paying for a professional survey allow the sale of some timber, or does it make sense to take out a loan to buy some additional acreage or to seek crowdfunding to pay for a barn addition? Crunching the numbers ahead of time is vital.
Don’t Forget Small Goals!
Small goals matter, too. I try a new vegetable in my garden every year, to determine if I can successfully grow it or even just to experiment with eating something new. I often move my livestock infrastructure around—a new pen in the barn here, a new gate there—just to tweak their comfort or my convenience. Perhaps you want to try raising lambs for meat this year, or incorporating a new breed of laying hen, or maybe try again with a hügelkultur attempt that didn’t quite meet your expectations the first time around.
Personal goals are closely intertwined with greater homestead goals. This can include everything from finances to education to hobbies to family planning to healthcare to disaster preparedness, and look different on every homestead.
Whatever goals you prioritize at your homestead, remember to choose those over which you have some control. Goals that depend too much on luck or weather conditions or someone else’s choices can leave you feeling helpless and frustrated if they don’t pan out. A better method is to develop plans centered upon your own actions and decisions.
The truth is, there are a lot of different successful ways to set homestead goals. In the end, what matters most with goals is that you proactively make them, are clear about what results you seek, understand what it will take to make them happen, and are on board with others on the homestead.
What advice would you add on setting homestead goals? Share your thoughts in the section below:
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