Homestead basics – how to use a planning book!

Using a planning book to record your homestead activities can be an important tool for you to make progress.

My homestead planning book!

My homestead planning book!

What is a homestead planning book?

A planning book is a book into which you plan, record, budget and design all things about your homestead or farm. It’s part journal, part diary, part almanac that you keep about your endeavors.

My planning book, known affectionately as the Farm bible, contains plans for my first pole barn, layout of my gardens beds, shopping list of lumber for a loafing shed, the pH of our well water over time and so on.

A page in my homestead panning book - here a list of  materials I needed for a project.

A page in my homestead panning book – here a list of materials I needed for a project.

What is so powerful is that all this information is in ONE place…and not on separate sheets of paper hidden around the place. Information is at my finger tips and easy to find. Perfect really ๐Ÿ™‚

Types of information you can record in your planning book.
This depends on what sort of person you are…a grand recorder of each and every event through to a person who just needs the bare essentials of information to be kept.

Here is a partial list of what you can record:

  • Planting dates for vegetables
  • Vegetable varieties you plant
  • Crop weights and harvest information
  • Crop rotation information
  • Soil testing results
  • Rainfall measurements
  • Snow depth measurements….just for fun.
  • First and last frost average dates.
  • Well water flows
  • pH of well water
  • Water use (if paying)
  • Hatching dates of eggs
  • Purchase dates of animals
  • Worming dates etc for animals
  • Lifestock costs and sale prices
  • Rough plans for building, alterations, animal pens etc
  • Quantity surveying for projects (how much of each item will you need)
  • Quotes from contractors
  • Important contacts – like neighbors, veterinarian, farrier

What type of book do I need

You need a book that will contain enough pages for you to record all the information you want to keep. I think anything less than 200 pages is sort of too small. However, you want it to be a size and shape you can easily carry around with you. A full US letter-sized ring binder is a little too big to put in a pocket, and a small spiral-bound note book can be too small.

You don’t need anything fancy – a simple 50 cent school composition book can be perfect!

What do I use?
I will put in a plug for the what I have used the most over the years. It is a special book made of special paper that can get wet and still is ok. It is produced by a company in Washington State and the brand is called Rite-in-the-Rain. You use a pencil or a special pen…and you can even write in them UNDER WATER. (and in Maine that means if it drops from my pocket into a puddle, I don’t lose all my important information.

The one I like to use has columns on one side and graph paper on the other. ย I find this is great for making lists, collecting data and drawing plans ๐Ÿ™‚

The layout I like to use!

The layout I like to use!

Mine is 4.5 inches by 7.5 inches – which is perfect for fitting in my back pocket when I hit the farm store ๐Ÿ™‚

People have asked…so here is the link to the Rite-in-the-Rain field books ๐Ÿ™‚

I know that not everyone will use a planning book – but I hope that those who do will see the benefits from collecting and having all their homestead information in one place. ย The benefits I find for using a homestead planning book are:

  • I don’t lose information
  • I save money by be able to check against what I spent last time
  • I don’t repeat mistake I make in plant varieties that I have tried which failed.
  • I have a better crop rotation in my small vegetable gardens.

ย Let me know if you found this useful – write me a comment ๐Ÿ™‚ ย  You can also subscribe to these blog posts – just click FOLLOW in the lower right corner.


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About Gaz

I'm an Australian transplanted to rural Maine where I live on a small property with my wife and two youngest children. Life about family, work and trying the make the planet a better place for everyone.
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8 Responses to Homestead basics – how to use a planning book!

  1. asdf says:

    do you have any more details on that book? Perhaps an amazon link?


  2. Hi Gaz,

    Thanks for reviewing our notebooks; we’re happy that they work so well for you in so many different ways. Have you had a chance to torture-test our stuff in harsh or wet conditions yet?

    • Gaz Gaz says:

      Like you won’t believe – they have been in the heaviest downpours, in sleet and snow…and even dropped into a full irrigation ditch! They are wonderful (I won’t endorse things that are not!)

      Come on people…..they are super products!

  3. Yvonne says:

    Thanks for the post, Gaz! My son is an outdoorsman and had one of the books you describe; I agree: it’s fabulous. He was nothing but pleased with it.
    We use what I call a Farm Book but it’s a bigger one that stays on the table inside, doesn’t travel outside with us (though that would definitely be useful at times). We are a collective of 5 and it works more effectively for us to have people come to the book and record and, as well, it seems to promote more random notes as people eat or take a break or walk by at night and they remember something from their day. It seems to feel accessible to visitors or Work Day helpers, too, which is nice and we invite them to contribute whatever they might want to (though if there were TOO many of those we might get a different book for visitors but “too much help” hasn’t really been a problem for us yet…).
    I might get one of the books you described to have in my pocket so that any info I need to write down out in the world doesn’t get missed or forgotten though; that’s a need I hadn’t really addressed (and I could transfer anything important, I suppose, or just stick the small notebook into the bigger one at the end of the year – not as neatly organized but, still much less scattered than random notes that get lost, etc.). Good to give that some thought! Our book is hard covered, spiral-bound, blank paper and works well for sketches of ideas for projects as well as writing in relevant details to our daily farm life. From Amazon and about $15. I appreciate this post as it’s got me thinking BEFORE the season — while there’s still time to do so!

    • Gaz Gaz says:

      Thanks for the feedback! I sort of have two going…my pocket book which I have had for maybe 15 years and a new folder that I bought from a superstore for like 95c. I have blank sheets as well as some of my created pages that I use in the is more for the ‘big picture’ items while my smaller book is more for day-to-day things.

      What ever system you use, just knowing where to go to find information is so important…and a real time saver.

  4. Jesse says:

    I wholeheartedly agree, and I’d like to offer a postscript: if you’re both a homesteader AND a huge nerd (like me!), and you happen to have access to MS Office, give OneNote a chance. It’s the magical microsoft app nobody knows how to use.

    Basically it is designed to do everything the author describes, digitally. It has some awesome benefits…
    – if you’ve got a decent ‘net connection, you can choose to sync your notebook to the cloud. if you also have a smartphone, this means you always have your OneNote.
    – you can share / collaborate with others, perfect if your homestead isn’t just a one-person operation
    – you can reorganize your notes at will, group them, expand them, rename them, etc etc
    – you can inject rich features like images, and even attach files directly

    It’s awesome. Check it out!

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