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Doing homestead projects with limited time. What ones can be done a small amount each day?

 
gardener & author
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There's a lot I want to do. I get overwhelmed sometimes thinking that in order to do a big task I need to set aside a full day (or more) for it, which is very tricky to manage when I have family, cooking, and everyday chore responsibilities.

Preparing a sheep skin for tanning is one thing I'd thought I'd have to do in one big day, but actually I'm finding I can pick it up for half an hour here and there and get work done on it. I've overcome the barrier I had towards getting started by just doing what I could, in the time I had.

Making mushroom logs was another thing I thought I had to do at once, but actually making one mushroom log a day means I don't have to deal with the beeswax getting solid again, so it might work out better this way, if other fungus doesn't get into my logs first.

Often homestead projects are presented as a one-off thing that someone with minimal everyday responsibilities does in one go, but I wonder if it would help others if some things were presented as something that can be done over time in half an hour or an hour each day?

What projects do you think can be done a little at a time? And how can you modify other projects to complete them in small bits over time?

If there is a dedicated workshop area, then tools don't need to be packed and unpacked, and work can be done on small building projects a little at a time, so that is one way to prepare for doing projects this way.

What about building a wofati-inspired root cellar? Could this be done in small stages?

Building sheds out of reclaimed materials? Is there a way to do this a little each day?

How would you break down a shed building project into as small stages as possible?
 
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I use an app on my phone to help me break down tasks, and to keep an eye on lots of little projects. The one I use is called "do it tomorrow".

It is essentially a todo list, but you have the option to mark tasks as "done" or to defer them to the following day. So if I have a gap when I can work I can quickly glance down the list and work out what I need to defer and what can be done now.

As for types of projects; you talk about building a shed from reclaimed materials. That feels like something well suited to being broken down to small tasks:
Break down pallets to get a stash of materials
Collect pallets from local sites
 
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I once got a USDA Grant to build an access road on my farm. It required 350 cubic yards of gravel, and all I had was a 1 cubic yard dump trailer. I had the gravel pit, but when a contractor quoted me $7000 to haul the gravel, I said phooey with that, my grant was only $9000.

But I realized I could move gravel, just not a lot at a time. BUT...if my wife and I hauled 10 loads per day, in 35 days our little dump trailer would have hauled 350 cubic yards. And that is just what we did! She used the SUV to haul the trailer, and I loaded her in the gravel pit with the tractor. In the end we got our road, and ALL of the $9000 of the grant.

(This summer, I used that same trailer to haul 700 cubic yards of gravel over the summer).
 
Kate Downham
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This pond was dug by hand over the course of a month: https://permies.com/t/118651/Pond-Hand-dug-month

He worked long days, but it gives me hope for making smaller ponds by hand with a smaller amount of time each day, and using the excavated soil on top of a root cellar.

To do this, I would probably want to do the pond first, so that the soil was ready to use on the root cellar as soon as the waterproof membrane was up.
 
Kate Downham
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Michael Cox wrote:I use an app on my phone to help me break down tasks, and to keep an eye on lots of little projects. The one I use is called "do it tomorrow".

It is essentially a todo list, but you have the option to mark tasks as "done" or to defer them to the following day. So if I have a gap when I can work I can quickly glance down the list and work out what I need to defer and what can be done now.

As for types of projects; you talk about building a shed from reclaimed materials. That feels like something well suited to being broken down to small tasks:
Break down pallets to get a stash of materials
Collect pallets from local sites



That app sounds like a good idea. Thank you : )
 
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I take care of my mom who is in late stage with alzheimer's. It is a FULL time task in and of itself. But we are also building/renovating an old rock house on our land so that we can all move there. We have no choice but to break down everything we do into small tasks. Mom's attention span is so short there are days I can't even fully load the wood stove to light it without stopping three times to redirect her.

But we've managed to rebuild a shed, build stalls in the barn for the goat mamas, build a poultry run and house, start a raised garden (we have 2 of 12 beds done), raise goats and milk them, raise pigs and process them, raise turkeys, cut down trees for building materials and process them, rebuild the entire floor system in the house, set up a water catchment system, install a grey water system and composting toilet, build a rocket stove/masonry heater hybrid, start digging ponds, build a bridge over a creek, lay out and clear 10 different paths through the woods, build over 2500 feet of fencing, and all of the associated activities that are required to accomplish those things ... part time over 3 years.

It's possible to do.

But it's also extremely slow - which is both good and bad. It's frustrating at times. I want the house done so we can live there and not have to commute back and forth from town or live in the stick frame suburban neighborhood with uptight neighbors and ridiculous codes that only allow so many square feet of garden space and insist on mowed lawns and manicured trees. But it's also been good in that we've learned to "learn" our land over time. We've seen it change, we are understanding the ecosystems that exist better, we are able to make "better" choices for what we do with what we have. For instance, we wanted to build on the opposite side of our property where this old house is. It was our full intention to cut a road and build back in the woods. But our land is small and the neighboring farm is about as far from permaculture as you can get. He has cleared everything except along the creek where the flood commission won't let him touch. And we've discovered, because of this, our land on the far side of the property, on the other side of the creek is a wildlife haven. We've had deer raise their babies under the wild plums for the last 3 years. There's a mountain lion that had babies in a dense cluster of cedar trees. There's one of the few strips of Indian paintbrush left in the county running down the sunny side as well. And this year, we record flooding rains, we learned that part of our property floods where we least expected it to.

Permaculture isn't a one shot thing... ever... in my opinion. It takes time. It's a practice and that requires trying bits and pieces until something whole appears and surprises you. So It's absolutely perfect for doing in small pieces.

Personally, we make a spread chart of the projects. Some would normally be a 30 minute project for most people, but for us turn into a few days. It's okay. Others take weeks and weeks. Like digging a pond ... we spend 20 minutes a day digging dirt. That's all we have to give that project. We had to dig out under the old rock house because the ground was too close to the floor joists and had rotted them (couldn't do and earth floor in this location because of ground water) but we managed to dig out 2 feet deep under a 16 x 40 foot house at 20 minutes a day in just a couple of weeks.
 
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