After realizing that my to-do list didn't hold me accountable to times of year or weather, I went to visit the library and found a good guide to help me focus my plans to ensure that the mulch got added before it snowed and that the fruit trees didn't get pruned until after it had snowed. This whole farm planning approach brought to light several things that we weren't getting accomplished that really should have taken a much higher priority. It also showed me that I was focused too much on the little things and not making enough time for bigger things that would increase efficiency and save time in the long run.
Revisiting my whole farm lists at the turn of the calendar also helps me ask hard questions like - why should I keep the chickens if they aren't paying for themselves and is it a better business/lifestyle decision to breed piglets here on the farm or source feeder piglets each spring and perhaps take the winters off from swine related tasks. Maple syrup has not been on our to-do list for the past couple of years as a direct result of this annual review. My time in the spring has a much better return on investment if it is spent on vegetables and spring building tasks then it is watching sap boil. It might be more fun to hang around the arch and visit while the sweet maple steam wafts out of the pan, but if I am going to achieve my goal of being home when Little man gets off the school bus, some things have to take a back seat.
Now I keep lists of many things: how many eggs the chickens lay each day, dates when the pigs come into heat, groceries needed, projects, stuff that we need for the farm, stuff that I need when I can find some extra cash, dates of birth for both pigs and poultry, expenses, seed inventories, projected harvest dates, etc. I also compile a weekly list - well, actually it is three lists. Little man's father cringes as the pen and papers are set next to my cup of coffee on Saturday morning.
First is the grocery/errand list - we need to eat and so do the animals. Groceries, feed, and supplies that I need to complete weekly chores go onto this list.
Second is the meal planning list - sometimes I am lucky enough to start this before Saturday. The plan is to use up some of the oldest things in the refrigerator and freezer first, then supplement with groceries. This time of year the freezer inventory is dwindling and shopping sales is more important than ever. By completely emptying one of the freezers, I can consolidate, shut it down and clean it out before the first spring produce and broilers are harvested. Many an argument has also been prevented with this list as neither one of us can say we didn't know what to make for supper or that we didn't have the ingredients to make it.
Third is the weekly to-do list. I make a big list of everything that needs to get done during the coming week and include a project or three from the farm planning list. Then each day I add two or four tasks to my daily planner that are related to the bigger list. Some days I get two done, other days I get five or six done. By the following Saturday the goal is to have better than two thirds of the previous weeks tasks crossed off. This particular list also helps to ensure that my house is presentable when people stop by.
It turns out that my list making process is actually proven effective and written about by bloggers much more important than I. This past weekend the fruit trees were pruned before we got 12 plus inches of snow on the farm. Unfortunately, somewhere under that snow are the new supports for the greenhouse roof. Maybe I should be planning a little more than one week out...