How to Organize a Hot Mess Homestead - Review of the Homestead Management Binder & SmartSteader App

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My hot mess desk, with my neat new binder, and yes, I wear my Xtratufs while I sit at my desk working.

My hot mess desk, with my neat new binder, and yes, I wear my Xtratufs while I sit at my desk working.

Organization is something so many people struggle with. What one person thinks is the holy grail of neatness and useful information, looks like a nightmare to another person. Personality and lifestyle are what I used to determine how to organize myself. So when weighing your options, consider a few things. Do you use technology often and adeptly? Is the information you require better served by viewing multiple pages at once? Do you think paper is a giant waste of trees? Are there so many notifications popping up on your device calendar reminders get drown out? Are you like me and nodded your head at all of these things? See, I told you this would be tricky. I won't promise this new system I found is the best, or give you false hopes all those things you've been forgetting to do will now magically be done. It can give you some ideas to look into though. One thing is certain, no matter how fancy or expensive the system, you'll only get organized if you use it. 

Enter the Homestead Management Binder. At 119 printable pages this sucker looks daunting. Seriously, there are so many pages available in this thing just looking at it gave me anxiety. When tasked with a huge mountain to climb, I have the tendency to freeze for a bit so I can evaluate how to break it into manageable chunks. I don't get to sit down and tackle huge hurdles in one sitting having as many pies to poke as I do. I didn't let the size of this organization mountain deter me from trying it, I'm a sucker for cute graphics. I can see why this system is so big. There are pages to cover just about every aspect a homesteader could want to track, from seed sowing calendars, to pantry inventories, to cut flower notes, to animal gestation calculators, to expense reports, WHEW, this thing has it all! I barely scratched the surface. Check out the binder here, then come back and finish the rest of this post. 

Inventorying my seeds was a HUGE first step. I still have probably 2 or 3 more pages to do, but baby steps.

Inventorying my seeds was a HUGE first step. I still have probably 2 or 3 more pages to do, but baby steps.

A little overwhelming, right? I know purchasing a book that already has everything printed and organized for you would be easier, but think of the waste. Unless you have dairy goats, dairy cows, animals you butcher, bees, cure your own meat, and do all the other things there are pages for, you'd have a lot of blank space. So for less than $9, a 1" - 3" notebook, and some dividers you get a fully customized planner for your homestead. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me. 

I only have laying hens, an orchard, and garden space for the time being. The coming year's plans include goats, a few more laying hens, and meat chickens. My homestead is on the smaller size, so all of my pages fit in a 1" binder. of you have more to manage, you may want to consider a larger binder.  Here is how I organized the pages:

  1. Beginning of the binder, no section - 2018 Outdoor Checklist, 2018 Annual Schedule, 2018 Laying Hens Year End Tally. I'll add pages here as needed that pertain to general organization.
  2. January - This Month at a Glance, January Laying hens Egg Tally, January Homestead & garden Calendar, Weekly Planner Pages, Homestead and Garden Notes
  3. February - December all follow January's order. I plan to drop in orchard and garden harvest pages into the months that have a harvest. I don't know what months we harvest yet since we yielded so little in 2017.
  4. Expenses Section - Gardening Expenses, Orchard Expenses, Laying Hen Expenses, Meat Chicken Expenses, Goat Expenses, General Farm Expenses, Year End Homestead Cost Analysis.
  5. Garden Section - Seed Inventory, Indoor Seed Starting Records (I'll add more pages as I start more seedlings), Plant Summary (I plan to do one page for each type of plant we put in the garden so I can observe what successes and issues we have with each type, Cut Flower Records.

I don't have my seed sowing spreadsheet in there yet. After I've received all of my seeds I will update that spreadsheet and add a copy to the gardening section behind the seed inventory, then pencil in when each plant type should be started indoors and transplanted onto the calendars. Another section I will add is animal health records. I'm going track each animals health by recording observations, and care administered. I just haven't settled on a schedule yet for that. Other pages you don't see in my book that I use are the freezer and pantry inventory sheets. I taped those to the door of each so I can track them right there. I'll never be able to remember to add it later.

Each quarter I will pull out the pages from the binder that are no longer needed and scan them in to store in my cloud. PDF's can be scanned in a format that allows searching for keywords, so no need to keep each years binder in paper format to flip through when you need to reference it. Open your PDF and BAM! You have the info you need. Bonus points go to you if you can access your cloud from your phone. 

I had a wonderful side effect from going through this exercise I was not expecting. Putting all the plans on paper, and filling in the monthly, weekly, and daily tasks (which I was able to project using the Homestead Seasonal planner we read this month for our fun homestead book club) allowed me to feel at peace with where we are at, and helped me realize the pace we are going at is just right for us. When I saw each task written out, I recognized how much work needed to be done to prepare for each addition. This plan will keep me from coming home with a crate full of goats, and having no where to keep them! I know that in January I need to "get goat ready" which looks simple, but I broke it down on my outdoor checklist. Getting goat ready includes building their fence, building their shelter, mucking the barn stalls they'll sleep in, preparing goat entertainment, testing the fence wire, buying their care supplies, and maybe even getting a livestock guard animal? Like a donkey? I can't wait to see Jared's face when he sees my lists. Sneaking fun extras into our "to do's" always get's him going and gives me a laugh.

So why paper? Why not a digital app? If you prefer a digital app, the same folks that put this binder together wrote an app called SmartSteader. The reason I can't use it exclusively is it is missing all of the task checklists, calendars, time calculators, and inventory sheets I need to stay organized. If you just want to track yield and expenses, it's pretty awesome! It just so happens I won a free year of it, so I will have all of 2018 to give it a test drive and see what new features they add. My hope is it will eventually have all of the management binder's capability. This year I'll be keeping the paper and digital records up to date until I decide whether to continue the app subscription.

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As you can see from the screen shot, the only egg laying hen records the app tracks is production, finances, and notes. The sections are the same for all of the production records. If that is all you need for each aspect of your homestead and stay on schedule another way, then this app will work perfectly for you. It is $2.99/mo or $29.99/year. If you have a lot of production and expenses to record it is well worth it to keep it all digital.

In all honesty I've seen planners that cost around $100, so paying $9 for the printables, and $30/year for the app is not ridiculously expensive if like me you think a hybrid system is best for now. At the end of the year I'll give you an update on how I did with both. I think I'm still going to be kind of a hot mess, because that's just what happens when you intentionally keep yourself as busy as I do. My hope is I'll produce more and keep better on schedule.   

While getting organized won't solve all of my homesteading issues, I think it will help me immensely to stay on task and create those daily routines that are necessary to have a successful busy life. I know they call this the simple life, but trust me when I say it is everything but simple. My life is hectic, full, messy, and filled with simple pleasures like holding my chickens and harvesting good food. My hope is being more organized will allow me to enjoy it more.

Cheers!

Bev 

This post contains ads & affiliate links (this links to our full disclosure about browser cookies, and way more than you probably wanted to know about ads and affiliate marketing). We make a small commission when you purchase from some of the links shared in this post. Making a purchase from a link will not cause you to pay more or affect your purchase in any way. It will however, support our wildest farmin' dreams, which is mighty awesome of you.

What do you use to organize your homestead? I'd love it if you told me here, on Facebook, or Instagram! I'm also trying to use Pinterest more. Give me a follow and maybe repin a few of my blog articles you've found useful?