How to Set and Reach Homestead Goals
Goal-setting is something that many homesteaders struggle with. Fear of failure as well as concerns about costs keep many folks paralyzed, although it doesn't have to be this way. Actually, with some planning tools and due diligence, you can set achievable goals for your homestead and see them through!
Ideas for projects usually arise out of a need on the homestead. Perhaps you have animals that need out-buildings and permanent fencing. Maybe you need to put in a gravel road that will help vehicles get to different parts of your property more easily. On the other hand, you may need to run water and electric lines to the back half of your property.
We've made all of these improvements over the years and learned a lot from the process! Let's walk through these projects and discuss the parts of goal-setting that allowed us to finally achieve our goals!
Our homestead included a fully-functioning house and a pole barn when we purchased it, along with about 5 acres of raw land. Shortly after we moved in, our pole barn caught fire and burned to the ground, along with all of our storage, farm equipment and memories inside of it.
This unfortunate event would launch a renovation opportunity that we weren't quite ready for. The planning took longer than we would have liked, but I'm so glad that we took the time to sit down and do it! I'm certain that going through these steps helped us to stay on task and finally succeed.
Farm animals were an important part of moving to this property, so we needed to replace our barn. The next steps would include pasture fencing, a water source and some type of power. Installing a gravel road from the house to the back of the property would also be needed.
All of this work would be done over the course of a year or so.
Clearly Define the Project
- What exactly are you trying to accomplish? This is the first critical step to setting goals. Be very specific and write everything down.
- Clarifying the purpose of your project will go a long way to define it and keep you focused.
- Also, unity of spouses is critical. Make sure everyone agrees and is “on board” before you begin any project.
“How to Homestead When Your Partner Isn't Into It” will give you tools to find the middle ground in your relationship!
When we were planning our first barn, there were many questions to answer.
- What kind of barn do we want? Wood, metal, pre-built?
- How big should the barn be?
- Should it have stalls? How many? What size should the stalls be?
- Will we pour a foundation (costly) or keep a dirt floor?
- What about lighting?
- Will we include electricity to the barn?
- Will the barn have a water source? (We were carrying water in 5 gallon buckets!)
I had no idea at the time that there was so much involved in just building a barn!
Most projects, in my experience, have “tentacles”. While you're working on one part, another “tentacle” wiggles out and says “What about THIS?” Be prepared to limit your project by referring back to your original plans!
Once you have a clearly defined project in your mind, it's time to decide how this work will get done.
If you plan to do the work yourself, begin writing down everything you'll need to complete the project. This step may seem a bit trifle to those who are “handy”, but it's the little leaks in the budget that add up! A few too many trips to the lumber warehouse can add hundreds of dollars to a project that wasn't budgeted for!
Will your county or township require work permits? Do your research and find out before you begin working. (We found out that there were errors on the county's survey and had to make modifications with the neighbor!)
What equipment will be needed for this job? Consider the cost of renting equipment if you don't already own what is needed.
Are there parts of your project that you'll need to hire a professional for? Perhaps you'll need an electrician or a plumber to make sure your project meets all local code requirements.
Perhaps you decide to hire a contractor to do most of the work. Be very prudent about checking out every last detail that you can find out about them. Check your BBB and ask for referrals. Do your homework!
How much do you intend to pay for this project? A better question might be to ask what you can afford.
Setting a budget before you begin is critical! Believe me, projects can quickly get out of hand and require more outlay of cash than you originally planned for. Stay focused on the original plan and budget!
Will you pay cash for this project or will you need to finance in some way? Once again, be very careful when taking on debt, especially if this project will not inspire additional income for your family.
Before embarking on any project, it's always a good idea to tweak your family budget to create some margin. “25 Habits to Change to Get Out of Debt” will give you great pointers on eliminating debt!
Possible delays or Obstacles
Here's the fun part.
Delays happen. There are just so many things that you will not be able to control. Some of the obstacles we encountered during our “barn/gravel road/water and electric project” included:
- Weather delays.
- Permit issues.
- Contractor schedules. (contractors tend to jump around between jobs)
- Topographical issues. (trying to take electrical lines across a large creek)
- Tree roots in the way, needed to remove entire tree(s).
- Contractor financial issues. (Despite our research about his background, our contractor went broke half-way through our project, leaving us to finish by ourselves. Major set back!)
- Waiting for supplies to be delivered.
- Material price increases.
And the list goes on. Expect set backs and delays. It just comes with the territory.
Wisdom will allow some “buffer” in your budget for these types of things. Don't strap yourself financially!
What Defines “Success” with this project?
As a “recovering perfectionist”, I love the saying “Perfection is the enemy of completion”.
Having said that, I do appreciate a job well-done. But this begs the question: “What will define completion for your project?”
There will come a point when it's time to “lay down the gauntlet”, so to speak and declare victory. Everything may not be exactly as you had planned. You may decide to make changes in the future. However, when the job is complete (refer to your original project definition!), step back, take a look at what you've done and pat yourself on the back!
Projects on the homestead rarely go exactly how you planned, but they can be a great learning experience!
Don't be afraid to set those goals, and take the time to do it in a planned and well-thought out way! You will have success!
About the Author:
Kelly Morris writes about her homestead journey on 10 acres in Ohio at “Gently Sustainable”. Kelly loves all things sustainable, including but not limited to gardening, honeybees, chickens, cows, donkeys, foraging and fabric arts!