So you like the idea of homesteading and are trying to decide where to begin. Or perhaps you are already on your homesteading journey and are trying to decide what you want to add or change in the coming year. Planning a homestead can seem overwhelming and it is easy to take on more than you should. This guide is designed to help you set homesteading goals for the next year and walks you through the practical steps to assessing your current property and planning a homestead for the coming year.
To get started, make sure to check out the articles below for more background on starting your homestead (backyard farm) and what I mean when I refer to creating a modern homestead. The rest of this article will be most useful if you already have property, but you can practice homesteading principles even with a small patio or other indoor space, and you can use this planning guide below even if you are just setting garden goals for the coming year.
- What is a Modern Homestead?
- How to Start Backyard Farming
- Plan a Homestead Garden
- Selecting Backyard Farm Animals
- Homesteading on 5 Acres
How to Set Goals when Planning a Homestead
If you have a basic idea of what you want for your homestead, it is easy to just jump in and start doing. This is the ‘learn as you go’ ‘set goals on the fly’ approach. Quite truthfully, it is often the route I take. This method does not always lead to the best outcomes, though, and you can often come up against unforeseen obstacles that stop you in your tracks.
When we brought our first goats home, (with two week’s notice), we had not finished building the shed, or completing the fence. Our goats spent two days in dog crates in the garage with occasional time out in the yard. With slightly more planning and forethought, we could have had the shed completed and equipped well before it was time to pick up the goats. It is important to remember that a well thought out plan is ultimately a work in progress. You will constantly tweak and change your goals as you learn more. You may set a goal to have goats, only to decide that sheep suit you better.
Knowing this upfront will give you flexibility to dream unhindered and still feel like you are achieving your goals. Keep in mind that specific, easy to measure goals are more likely to be achieved and will give you greater satisfaction. Homesteading is not an all or nothing endeavor. You can dream as big or small as you like, just be realistic about what you want and what you can achieve and you are much more likely to reach your own level of success.
Step 1: Make a Homesteading Dream List
Before you start to set specific goals, start a dream list of everything you want on your homestead. Don’t get too caught up in the reality/practicality at this point as you will have a chance to come back to this later. If you’ve always wanted goats, but live in an apartment, you should put ‘goats’ on this list even though it isn’t practical! This list will grow and change as your homestead develops but it is helpful to come back to this list in the future. At this point, you can keep your dreams general (Raise milking goats works well versus build fencing for milk goats).
Step 2: Set a Long Term Vision
Write out what you want your homestead to look like in 1, 5 and 10 years. This can be relatively general, as you will be working on details later. Also take a few moments to identify any obstacles that exist to achieving your long term visions. For many of your ideas, you may need to wait until you move to a more ideal location. Perhaps you are considering changing jobs and you hope your new job will allow you more time and resources to devote to your chickens. Record everything that could keep you from implementing your goals.
Step 3: Assess What is Working
(Skip this step if you are brand new to homesteading)
It’s important to assess what is working well and what isn’t working when you start setting new goals and planning a homestead. This will look different for each person since one person may meet their goals when they have an herb garden, while another person won’t see this as success until they are completely self-sufficient.
You will also want to consider why you haven’t met your goals. This can be for many reasons, but you want to start to identify these obstacles. For example:
- If one of your goals is to have a fruit orchard, but you just planted your fruit trees last year, you just need more time to meet your goals.
- If one of your goals is to have chickens, but you live in an apartment, then you will need more land to meet your goals.
- Perhaps you have 3 chickens but you want to have enough eggs to feed your family all year. You may need a new coop and need to select the right chicken breeds to get you more eggs.
Write out a list of successes and challenges on your current homestead.
Step 4: This step gets into the heart of homestead planning and you can start to prioritize your goals.
Start by listing your goals using the dreams from step 1 in the different categories based on when you hope to achieve your goals (make one list for the first year, one for the 2nd and so on). Now is the time to start thinking logically about what is practical, and when you hope to achieve your goals. Exactly how you do this may be different based on the obstacles you’ve identified. For example, if you won’t be able to achieve many of your goals until you purchase land, you will need to adjust your timeline for when you can achieve your goals.
It’s important to note that not everything from step 1 needs to go into these list AND just because you aren’t setting the goal now, it doesn’t mean you can’t add it in later.
To set good goals make sure they are achievable, measurable and specific, but also remember these are your goals. It might be best to set a 1 year goal that you will have 5 chickens in a newly built coop, but you can also say that you will add some chickens to your homestead. Do what works for you.
Next to each goal, make a list of action items you will need to achieve your goals. If you are planning to start raising chickens next year, you may list action items like: order chicks, build a coop, purchase feed.
Step 5: Identify the Obstacles
Look at the goals created in Step 4, and take a hard look at the obstacles you need to overcome to meet your goals and decide for yourself if these goals are worth the obstacle. Consider other parts of your life that may be impacted if you put your effort into overcoming these obstacles.
This is your chance to think holistically and purposefully about how these goals fit into your life. Below are a few examples to consider.
- If your goal is to raise goats, but your obstacle is not having enough land, are you willing to move? If the answer is no, it might mean that raising goats is not going to work for you at the moment and you can move on to other dreams.
- If your goal is to grow a large garden that produces enough food to can and preserve and your obstacle in having enough time, are there ways you can make more time if your schedule? If not, can you hire someone to help? Or perhaps you should scale your garden back to a smaller space.
- Perhaps your goal is to raise bees, and your obstacle is not having the funds to purchase hives, can you set aside some money each month, ask for hives for a gift, or do you want to prioritize your money elsewhere.
Revisit your goals list and cross out any goal that you decide isn’t worth overcoming the obstacle in order to achieve. Then, list out your obstacles and come up with a plan to overcome these obstacles. Be as realistic as possible when planning a homestead.
Step 6: Create a 1 year plan for achieving your goals.
Once you have a set of short and long term goals, some action items, and you’ve identified your obstacles, it’s time to create a plan for the next year to achieve your goals. You can do this directly in a calendar or planner, or use the printable pages Take your goals for year 1 and start plugging your action items into a calendar. Remember that you can turn your obstacles into action items as well.
That’s it! You are on the way to your dream homestead! This will give you a plan for your first year for planning a homestead.
Many of these thoughts are already available in my ebook: The Modern Homestead, but I invite you to follow along here and on my Facebook page for a deeper look into ideas and thoughts on creating your dream homestead. You can also find a wealth of information at the tabs at the top of the blog about gardening, raising animals, and learning new homesteading skills. If you’re looking for experience and examples, check out the Homestead Highlight series for first hand accounts from homesteaders.