Farm journals can be an invaluable resource for large scale and backyard farmers alike – but I admit I have never kept one. I have been thinking about doing it for YEARS but I can just never seem to find the motivation to get it going. I have lots of scrap papers and I love drawing out new projects and garden plans on graph paper, but they are all over the place and I can never seem to find them when I want them. Or I’ll spend tons of time scrolling through past Facebook posts or blog posts hoping to put a date to when I harvested tomatoes or got that first egg. Sound familiar? I am normally a pretty organized person and I know I would love a journal once I start it, but I tend to procrastinate new projects. I decided the best way to force myself to do it was to write a blog post – so let’s do this together!
What is a farm journal and why do I need one?
A farm journal is where you keep track of all things farmy – what seeds you planted where, how many pounds of tomatoes you harvested, how many eggs you collected. You can also use it like a diary where you write about joys or frustrations from the farm, or to keep track of progress on big projects like building a chicken coop or garden beds. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Why is it important to keep track of this information?
*You don’t have to rely on your memory – you have a zillion things running around in your head, how are you suppose to remember which garden plot you grew green beans in last year so you can rotate them to another plot this year? When you are ordering seeds how do you remember that super delicious melon variety you grew two years ago? When it’s July and you are impatient for that first tomato and it seems like 100 years ago that you started those seeds and you are about to give up, you can look at your journal and see the date you planted them and when to expect your first juicy fruit. Just how old were those chicks when they first started laying eggs? Where did we get that great feed that gave us those super tasty eggs? When was the last time we wormed the chickens? How many bales of hay did we use last winter so we can do a large bulk order? Just how many pounds of tomatoes did you get from 5 plants? How many jars of jelly did you can to get you through the winter? Did you have to ph balance your compost last season? There are literally thousands of things you could keep track of on a farm!
*It helps you recognize patterns – if know last December you only collected 29 eggs because the girls are taking their winter break, you can better plan for this December (and not freak out when your girls suddenly stop laying). If you grow tomatoes in garden plot #2 and they do amazing, but the next year you grow the same variety in garden plot #7 and they only give you half the yield (and are you only remembering a great yield?), you can remedy the problem next time. If you set your pepper plants in the garden at the end of April and they all died from a late frost you can avoid that mistake in the future. Having a journal to keep track of your farm successes and failures helps you become a better farmer!
*It helps you keep track of expenses – maybe you don’t want to know lol! But I like to know how much I am spending and where it is going, so this is a really attractive feature for me so that feed bills & backyard projects don’t get out of hand and so I can more accurately plan my budget
*It can be like a scrap book of farm memories – you might have a hard time laughing now at the huge mud puddles your ducks left all over your yard after that big spring rain, but in a couple years it will give you a good chuckle. In the hustle of everyday life you might forget how precious it felt to hold a day old chick or the excitement your children had the first time they pulled a carrot they grew themselves.
*It helps you work towards goals – sometimes when you are in the thick of a big project it can seem like you aren’t making progress, but with a farm journal you can look back at where you started and know exactly where you are planning on going. And there is just something really powerful about putting your goals and dreams down in print!
How do I get started?
First you need to decide, how do you want to keep track of things? Do you want handwritten journals? Online spreadsheets? A series of notes on your iPhone? Your decision will likely depend on what you are hoping to get out of these journals. Are you just looking for something utilitarian for keeping track of expenses? Spreadsheets definitely make the most sense there. I want to do it all, expenses right along with project planning, harvest yields along side farm memories and stories. As much as I love the computer, we only have one in the house and most evenings the kids are using it for homework or games and I try not to go on it at all on the weekends, so having a hard copy book makes the most sense for me. I will be much more likely to scribble a bit here and there in a book on my end table than to open up the laptop and type something. I also kind of like the idea of it being my thoughts in my own handwriting and having the ability to staple in lists or seed packets or even photos. And handwriting is just so “old school” in our computer driven world, it just seems to fit with farm journaling. I’d rather curl up on the couch with my cat and a cup of tea than snuggle with my laptop to write.
So I got a cheap composition notebook and started writing. Had I looked a little harder I would have got a super cute notebook like this one here, or maybe this one – oh well maybe next year! I keep it handy in the living room with a pen clipped to it so after collecting eggs (or produce if the weather ever warms up), it’s not hard to jot down quickly how much we harvested. As the egg log is one I will be turning to pretty much daily, I got some post it flags to help me quickly find the current month’s page. It’s only been a couple weeks, but I have to say I love it. I can definitely see where this is going to come in handy in years to come.
Do you keep a farm journal? What sort of things do you record?
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