I’m big on goals. And although January is a great reminder for me to assess my goals, I tend to refine and tinker with them year round. I often find myself considering my goals when I have a few spare minutes but cannot actually work in the yard. Like when I’m sitting at my boys’ sports practices. Or on vacation. I find that developing and refining my goals energizes me. Today I want to write about my homesteading goal. This year my goal is to: Eat something I grew on my homestead in my breakfast or lunch and in a family meal at least twice a week, all year long. This can include not just veg I grow in the garden but also eggs from the chicks (but no more than for three of the four meals), possibly honey from bees later this year, preserves I make, and sprouts I grow inside.
I have been trying to grow food for my family’s consumption for a while now. So this isn’t a new concept for me. And it may not even be much of a stretch goal. But there are a few aspects of this goal that I am excited about. And that I think will help me get closer to my endgame of getting most of our food from our homestead. First, this goal is a commitment to actually produce food, and have it available to consume, every week of the year. This goal is designed to think through how I will grow enough food in a way that will allow for year-long availability. In previous years I have simply tried to grow food that I thought my family would eat. This goal is much more specific and is worded so I can actually measure progress against it.
This goal also requires that I more effectively coordinate meals with my Honey, who does the vast majority of the family cooking. And for him to use it, it has to be very easy. That is, the food has to be easy to clean and cook. And is something our picky boys will eat. Fortunately the eggs are easy wins. And I’ve decided to meet this goal, it’s possible for eggs to take up as many as three meals out of my weekly goal. (If we have, say, quiche and pasta carbonara for dinner in a week and then use them in a weekend breakfast that would be three.) But not four meals. Even though that may happen sometimes, it won’t count toward this goal
In terms of growing food in the garden, it is definitely more challenging for me to grow produce year round. But this year I’m going to really focus my attention with this goal in mind. It’s January so I am in the throes of seed planning and starting. I am trying to be as thoughtful as possible about choosing and growing seeds for food we will all really eat. And that I will really harvest. None of this Ethereal Red-Veined Mizuna that the boys won’t touch with a ten foot pole or oh so beautiful Petit Gris de Rennes Melon that will never a net me a single melon.
Truth be told, my gardening habits are a significant part of my challenge. I am quite terrible at harvesting when the crop is ripe and at its flavor peak. Except for tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes, I regularly leave the crop on the plants until I am in the mood to harvest. Really not helpful. Too frequently the kale is bitter or the beans are mealy because I waited too long. The mood hadn’t hit me in time. This year I intend to overcome this great-start-but-pathetic-follow-through pattern I have. To that end, I have started reading this book, High-Yield Vegetable Gardening by Colin McCrate and Brad Halm, that I heard about on Theresa Loe’s Living Homegrown Podcast (session 162). I am thinking that if I can set up a sustainable-for-me growing and harvesting system, I will do better. In this podcast, Theresa Loe and Colin McCrate talk about how planning and calendaring (is that a word?) can really increase production. Actually one of the key messages they discuss is how much better it is to spend 10 minutes a day walking through the garden than one hour in the garden once a week. So, just on that front, I am thinking that if I can make it a habit to walk through my growing areas each day (perhaps tack it onto my morning chicken check), that alone might help me hit my goal.
Well, the good news is that despite my poor harvesting skills, this goal may be too low of a bar. I may decide a bit later in the year to up my goal to three meals each for myself and the family rather than two. Not sure. I’m starting with two because I know there will be some very skinny weeks and I want to give myself a reasonable shot of hitting the mark. Just thinking about this week in mid January, I’ve used some garlic I harvested last year in my lunch yesterday and today. And we had eggs in Sunday’s family breakfast waffles. So I have three of the four. I may be able to harvest some alfalfa sprouts for my lunch today so with eggs likely in our Saturday morning scramble, I may be able to hit five meals this week. Oh, and I may use my last lemon from my lemon tree in my water or tea today. Yea, I think this may be too low. But I’m going to stick with this goal for now and see. I think I want to track it for a bit. Maybe check in after four weeks and see how I’m doing.
Tracking my progress is another thing that really helps me. Not just assessing how I am doing towards hitting my goal, but as I’m doing here, really consider whether I’ve picked a good goal. I haven’t quite sorted a sustainable tracking method for this yet but I have some thoughts. Maybe mark on an erase calendar I put up for another goal but isn’t a good fit. Or maybe using my little goal tracking notebook. I’m not sure.
Although I’ve had lots of challenges along the way, I often find that if I can crystallize what exactly it is I am trying to achieve, it really helps me achieve results. Maybe not exactly hitting the mark, but certainly getting closer than if I had not made the goal. With this one, I’m super excited at the prospect of getting and eating more food from our little homestead!