Let’s just start this off with a confession, I have an obsession with journaling…..I blame the film The English Patient, I have dreamt about the journal from that flick…. with it’s leather cover, drawings and journal entries! I kept a consistent diary from ages 16-21, and I have annual notebooks from every year we have been living off-the-grid (2008-2018). In those notebooks, I make life plans, lists, notes from books I’m reading or programs I listen to, meal plans and list the goals I try to attain. But the most treasured of all is my homestead journal, one that I have been keeping since 2008. A homestead journal is so important because no matter how much you read and talk to other gardeners, each property is different and it is only with time, observation and experimentation that one truly learns the idiosyncrasies of the micro-ecosystem one is living in.
My homestead journal is separated into 8 sections:
Section #1 is actually a pouch. On one side it holds the tags for all the fruit trees and bushes we have planted thus far. In the other side I keep receipts for purchases I have made in the last 3 months for the homestead so I can add them up quarterly and track my spending…. I’m going to admit failure in this area. I always start out with the best intentions to track my spending, and then fail miserably…but I’m going to keep believing I’ll follow through on this one of these days!
Section #2 is for the garden. In this section, I keep lists of plants I grow, layouts for my gardens, planting and harvesting calendars, lists of ideas, and things I’ll do differently next year. I keep a very detailed garden journal where at least once a week I include the following important data:
- what I’m planting and how (inside, transplanting, direct seed and if they receive any protection)
- what I’m harvesting
- any signs of pests or disease
- the weather and rainfall
- things in nature (bird migration, wild flowers blooming, wild fruits ripening, insects, animal mating and hibernating behavior) This information is gathered because ultimately I want to learn when to plant based on the signals from nature, not from a date on the calendar.
Section #3 is for poultry. I record any new additions to our flock (breed, where and when they were purchased), egg production and any major changes (brooding, molting, illness and injury), and lastly when and how they moved on to the next dimension (butchered, captured by a wild animal, death by accident or just MIA) .
Section #4 is for hunting and fishing. I record all of the meat Mr. Crow harvests from the woods on our property and the lakes and rivers in the area. During the 2018 hunting season we got all of our meat from our property and this was a year where the deer hunting was horrible and we went without any venison. We have enjoyed deer, grouse, duck and rabbit and although we do have black bear, moose, turtle and other edible animals on our property, we haven’t explored hunting them yet.
Section #5 is for wild edibles. This is an area where I still have a lot to learn!! So far I have only explored fiddle head ferns, blueberries, raspberries, cat tail, dandelions, plantain, alpine strawberries, nanny berries, choke cherries and purslane. I WISH I knew a mushroom expert as our woods are covered in fungi and I know we have several edible mushrooms in the area. Unfortunately, mushrooms have a serious risk of death if misidentified…so I have been a bit afraid to dive into trying them.
Section #6 is for alcoholic beverages. We are just starting to dip our toe into making booze, but oh how fun it is going to be!! We made raspberry and pear wine last fall from fruit we got from my mom’s and sister’s gardens. We have also been playing with T’ej, which is an Ethiopian mead (mead is an alcoholic drink made from honey) that uses wild yeast.
Section #7 is for bees. Although we haven’t made the leap into having hives on our property, we have switched to having honey as the sole sweetener in our house AND have started making mead, so now we need to jump into the world of beekeeping ASAP!
Section #8 is for Goats. We have not started down this path yet, either. Goats are important for our long term plan as they will give us dairy. This means cheese, and milk for my tea and both of those are two non-negotiables in a happy life! For now, we buy cheese and milk at the grocery store, but I dream of the day when we have happy goats frolicking around and giving us their milk!
All this information in one journal has been SO helpful as I have been trying to grow our homestead. I LOVE to sit down in the depth of winter, when lots of things are in hibernation around me, and re-read my homestead journal from beginning to end. While I read the journal, I start to dream…then the seed catalogs arrive and I start to plot the next step forward on this endless path towards self-sufficiency!