There are a lot of really important things when it comes to homesteading. Learning to grow, harvest and preserve gardens. How to take care of animals. Managing your schedule to get everything done. But I think the most valuable resource that you could ever learn is homestead flexibility.
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What Is Homestead Flexibility?
I’m not 100% sure where the term originated, but I know that when Jared was in the Army, he would always tell me that the Army’s slogan should really be Semper Gumby. I never really understood what it meant until I got into EMS and I never saw a truer application than homesteading.
The Art Of Semper Gumby is “Always Flexible”. Or in other words, having a ridiculous ability to adapt and change courses at a moments notice. My time as a medic has helped me practice this art form. A normal and easy transport turns into a oh, crap transport in the blink of an eye. Or something is dispatched out as this apocalyptic incident when in fact it’s a minor fender bender. Being able to adapt and overcome is one of my greatest strengths.
Semper Gumby has become a hallmark phrase on our farm and it accurately defines homestead flexibility.
Semper Gumby At Work
Yesterday, I was making Jared’s breakfast tacos. I make a TON of them so that he has breakfast for work for months. As I was working through the POUNDS of meat, eggs, and potatoes, I kept thinking, “I need to go check on Jade.” Baby watch starts for her, Champ and Oakley on March 9th. But something was telling me that she was closer than I thought.
I was going to check on her after I hung a load of laundry on the clothesline. But as I was hanging clothes, I heard Jade scream. While Jade is a very loud goat, this was a different scream. Jared and I ran to the main pasture where we overwinter the girls and there’s Jade with a kid half out. I asked Jared to go get my kidding box.
I pulled him the rest of the way out and she gets up and walks away. I’m drying him off with hay and getting his airway cleared when Jared and the boys come back with my box. Jared said, “She’s got something coming out.” Sure enough, she has a second baby coming like right NOW.
Jared manages to catch the kid, break the sack and start drying it off. At that point, Jade’s maternal instincts kick in and she starts cleaning off that one.
I got out a puppy pad and put the first kid on it. A buckling we named Onyx. Jared places the second kid on the pad and it’s a blue eyed doeling that we named Amethyst.
Why is this important to homestead flexibility?
Homestead flexibility is simply adapting to the changes in your plans. You cannot be so structured in your plans and goals that you can’t change directions quickly and effectively.
Our 90 day goals for Jan-March was to get the kitchen garden and main garden fenced, beds built, T-Posts set, arches/ trellis’ up, and soil and compost on the ground. We were supposed to get 11 chicken tractors built and ready for the chicks that are coming in. Plus, we were supposed to get the entire basement cleared out so that we could build those tractors.
But the rain happened
We live in one of the rainiest parts of Georgia but this last February has been the rainiest I have seen. Our pastures are complete mud pits, barns are flooding, and the ground is so saturated that we cannot walk without slipping and sliding. We couldn’t get much of the garden done because of the rain. We also struggled with getting the tractors done because our neighbor was amazing and let us borrow his log splitter. So Jared has been focusing on that.
If we were so structured and rigid on our goals and plans, we would be so far behind. Especially if we structured our plans around getting one thing done before we could move on to the next.
Structuring Your Plans To Stay Flexible
I’ve talked in depth about setting goals, the importance of having a vision, and if we have hit our goals. But I don’t know if I’ve truly gotten to the meat and potatoes about structuring them to achieve not only those goals but doing it with full homestead flexibility.
We know that setting S.M.A.R.T goals is important. But when you homestead, giving yourself enough time to get the task done is really important. Above I shared an event that took the rest of our day and put it in the toilet. By the time we wrapped up with Jade, it was almost dinner time. Jared and I were covered in birthing fluids and the kids weren’t nursing well yet. Since I was already filthy from kneeling in a mud pit, I scrubbed off the birthing fluids and I helped him with firewood, cleaned out the outdoor brooder and then took a shower.
But because we have time built into our plans, we aren’t as worried about getting all the other goals done.
It Won’t All Happen
When you homestead, you have to learn that sometimes that goal, project, or plan, just isn’t going to happen today, this week or this quarter. You HAVE to be okay with that. I’m not saying that you should just throw your hands up and give up. I’m saying that if your goal is to put in a garden in February and it rains 26 of 28 days? You have to be okay with doing it in March.
If your goal is to build 11 chicken tractors, but you can’t because your basement never got cleaned out? **Raises hand** You may need to step back and re-evaluate what you are doing. It’s not a bad thing, but again, understanding your time, your goals, and then structuring both to make the most of your time is key to homestead flexibility.
Structuring Your Goals
One of the ways that we structure our goals is to put a priority on them. I look at my infrastructure list and see what all we can do in the next 90 days. Then I start working on the details. For example: my goals for April-June are plant/ seed the gardens, butcher the next batch of meat chickens, create a better butchering station, start work on my greenhouse, stack/split firewood, clear out the basement, build the firepit.
The priority of these goals looks something like this
- Seed/plant the garden
- Butchering space
- Stack/ split firewood
- Clear out basement
- Build firepit
- Butcher chickens
- Work on greenhouse
The reality is that I don’t need my greenhouse right now. It’s March. But I can start gathering the windows, doors and vents as I find them. However, I do need my garden. It covers a large portion of our food for the year. I do need to figure out a better butchering space because there is just not enough room where we are doing it now.
We are also making sure not to overwhelm ourselves so that if something happens, and we can’t complete the goal, we’re still okay. This year I bought a different variety of meat bird. It’s a little slower growing and that will help us make sure that if we can’t butcher by or on certain dates, the meat will still be tender. Having these types of back up plans is key to your homestead success.
The benefit of being able to switch gears on a dime is an invaluable tool. Today, it’s pouring rain…. again. I can’t get in the garden, I can’t split/stack firewood, I can’t build a firepit. But you know what I can do? Clean out the basement.
In Georgia, we get these pop up storms and showers as soon as the weather starts warming up. Your entire day could be shot because it went from 75* and sunny to 45* and pouring rain. Now, your stuck inside. If you don’t have some projects that can be moved around and worked on, you will find yourself sitting there with nothing to do.
At the end of the day, your homestead is totally reliant on your vision for it, and your ability to work on it. Period. If you don’t have a clear vision, with goals, projects, details, etc. you are going to really struggle with achieving that vision. If you are unable to work on your homestead, due to health, weather, finances, etc? You will struggle with achieving your vision. But if you have a vision, flexibility and ability? Your homestead will flourish.
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