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How do you document your gardening? Farm journal, garden diary, smartphone app...

 
Dan Boone
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My great grandfather farmed for most of his life in Iowa and California. He kept a daily journal that was incredibly brief and almost entirely agricultural in nature. My aunt still has most of his journal volumes; a typical entry is one line of cramped handwriting that says something like "Light rain. 2 new calves. Planted oats." Sometimes he would record something else important; "Daughter Mary born. Healthy." But mostly it was about the farm. "Finished training new team." "Still too wet to plough."

Remembering what we planted, when we planted it, where we planted it, what happened to it, why it didn't survive or how well it produced when it did survive -- once you've been at it awhile, it all becomes somewhat of a blur in the details. So, some sort of documentation is a good idea. Farmers have kept records for as long as they've been literate. And permies typically have more complexities going on than farmers; more different things planted more densely for a bigger variety of reasons.

So, how do you keep track of it (if you do?) Do you have a big blank paper book, like my great grandfather? Do you use a spreadsheet on the computer? Do you keep a blog for the sole purpose of having some way to help yourself remember what you did last year? Or -- and this is the meat of my inquiry -- have you found an app for that?

I carry a smartphone. It's always in the left front pocket of my Key-brand overalls. It's got a ton of memory and a microphone and a camera and a compass and a GPS. I can talk to it, I can type on it with my thumbs, and I can take pictures of what I see and have the phone remember where I was standing when I did it. Thus it seems to me that there OUGHT to be a perfect app for that phone that would help me document my plantings. But I haven't found it yet.

There are a ton of gardening apps out there; they'll help you plan a certain sort of garden, they'll nag you about planting windows in your zone, they'll recommend just the perfect poison to kill what you don't want while hopefully not killing your kids. But despite my searching, I haven't found a good robust farm/garden journal/diary app.

There are notepad and reminder apps that work for the most basic functions. I can, and do, use these to make the sort of notes my great grandfather did. But I'd like something more. At a minimum, I want to be able to associate photos and voice memos with my notes. I know I could find an app that would do that. But I really want something designed for tracking agricultural efforts.

For example, I just planted a fruit tree. I'd like an app that lets me track that tree, keep a file of pictures associated with that tree with prominent date stamps, lets me attach photos of the instructional tag that was on the tree when I bought it and the receipt from the store that promises me my money back if the tree dies in the next year. There should be a way for me to record verbal musings about that tree and attach them to the tree's record. All of my notes about that tree over time (about irrigation, fertilization, deer browse damage, winter damage, fruit production) should be visually presented with the record of the tree. And of course, there needs to be a way to do this for every planting I do of whatever sort. Ideally, there'd also be a way to create a conceptual map or rough outline of my gardens or orchards or food forests, with icons for each significant feature that open up the files on that feature when touched on the touch screen.

I know that if I want the perfect app of my vision, I'll have to program it myself (probably not gonna happen). But surely there's something good-and-useful out there for smartphones? I use IOS at the moment, but I'm just as interested in Android solutions.

What nifty 21st-century software do you use to keep your gardening/farming/growing records? Tell us about it!
 
Cj Sloane
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I use a spreadsheet for documenting my harvests and foraging.

For example, last year I picked 1038 lbs of apple drops from various locations and distributed them to all the livestock. If it's a good apple year, I'll try to beat that number. 2012 was a bad apple year and I gathered only 108 lbs but it did inspire me to try harder.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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I use my calendar/schedule software. Type up a meeting or journal entry. I take pictures sometimes, but limit that because those files get lost eventually.

My grandpa's journal was one page per day and one year per line. So as you wrote your entry for that day, you could look back over the last 5-10 years and get a trend. I really should start the same.
 
Dan Boone
gardener
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Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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Just now I typed "garden journal apps smartphone" into Google in the hopes of finding something useful. #1 result? This thread, LOL.
 
Jen Shrock
pollinator
Posts: 363
Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
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Aren't searches so helpful? haha

I am just starting a journal this year and have started it in Microsoft excel. I figure that I can do a word search if I am looking for something specific later on. I am not used to doing a journal, though, so it is a learning experience and I have to try to remember the darn thing. I have caught myself doing things and then remembering quite a number of days later that I should have documented it. Maybe I should set myself an alarm on my phone to go off the same time each day and try to get myself into the habit of doing it.

What is the frequency that everyone typically journals? Is it every day like some have mentioned past family has done?
 
Charli Wilson
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Location: Derbyshire, UK
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In theory I keep a notebook (a digital one- so its searchable). In practice it may not always get updated as it should.
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1592
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I really like the idea of a large page-per-day journal and putting an entry on each page each year. That way you keep the progression year to year all in one book. I also take photos on my smartphone and post them to facebook, so if I note the album name each time I should be able to relocate the images easily.

I tend to take photos when planting so I get the species/variety name and it's location in the garden. I'm hopeless about losing tags to plants so keeping track of varieties is particularly important to me. Especially as I may eventually end up propagating to sell.
 
E. Barker
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I like to use a blank journal so I can add any kind of information that suits me at the time. Some years I have written detailed notes on all that I am growing and harvesting, but some years I just make rough diagrams and planting maps. I also add periodic drawings or photos of homestead highlights. I don't keep my homestead journal digitally because it feels like too rigid a format. I have used 3 blank journals in the past 25 or so years, but in that same time I've used many different phones and computers. Twice I've had computers crash without being completely backed up. I've really enjoyed having the homestead journals on paper because I also record the stories there that go along with the planting and harvesting records. My whole family enjoys pulling them out and reliving some of our zanier moments. I don't think it would be the same on my phone. The fact that a paper journal is less accessible requires me to be more intentional about recording things. I don't tend to use it every day or even every week. I don't mean to imply that there is no place for digital record keeping, only that it doesn't suit me as well as paper.
 
Karen Walk
Posts: 122
Location: VT, USA Zone 4/5
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Memoires (android app) actually does most of what you want. Photos, geolocation, search. It also records the current weather conditions. I can envision much more powerful reporting than it currently has, but it seems like a pretty good start.
 
Dan Boone
gardener
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Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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Awesome, I will check that out.
 
Alex Ames
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Location: Georgia
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So I thought I would put a few dayililies in my back yard. Just to keep them straight I jotted
down the names and locations. First thing you know I had this!
image.jpg
[Thumbnail for image.jpg]
 
B.E. Ward
Posts: 79
Location: Aside the Salish Sea
bee books forest garden
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Along these lines, I'm waiting for someone to create cases for phones and tablets that would make them usable with soily hands, or maybe even gloves on.....
 
Chris Badgett
pollinator
Posts: 289
Location: Whitefish, Montana
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You need a WordPress powered website that you can easily send content to from your phone.

For example there's an app called http://pressgr.am/ for that to send and publish images quickly.

To make the website super useful, you'll want to organize, categorize, and tag your content. Otherwise, you'll end up with just a Tumblr style site which is cool but not as organized and curated as it could be.
 
Jen Shrock
pollinator
Posts: 363
Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
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Just so that I know where particular cultivars of larger things are planted in my yard, I have been using my design from PDC and adding the names to it. Some of the stuff is still generic, but some I have specific cultivars listed. Some of it is actual and some is left over from the original design for the course. I should go through and make what is not actual generic and take out a few things that I have decided to rework, but I do use it for keeping track of where certain things are in my yard. I do know what I have because there is an online plant/seed trading site that I have logged what I have on site, so I can correlate between the two. Here is my design where I keep track of what is going on for my site. I am not sure if this is exactly what I want in the end, but for now it works.
Starting Design Concept.jpg
[Thumbnail for Starting Design Concept.jpg]
Initial site design
 
Peter Ellis
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Location: Central New Jersey
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Karen Walk wrote:Memoires (android app) actually does most of what you want. Photos, geolocation, search. It also records the current weather conditions. I can envision much more powerful reporting than it currently has, but it seems like a pretty good start.


This sounded promising, but searching the App Store brought up a bunch of memory quiz games and nothing that looked like what you described. Could you double check the name, or give a link, please? It sounds promising and I would like to give it a try.
 
Karen Walk
Posts: 122
Location: VT, USA Zone 4/5
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If you search for "memoires the diary" it should be the first result.

Keeping a blog and using tagging sounds interesting too.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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I use paper but it's not an ideal system. I forget to enter important info and sometimes I leave my journal or notes in the garden.

I'd really like an app that helped me to remember to enter tree data like date of planting, flowering, yield etc.
 
Case Thomas
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I am experimenting with using (free, optional 'premium subscription') Evernote.com and the site IFTTT.com. Evernote is an organization app that is super versatile, combined with IFTTT.com, you can create programming style 'recipes.' A few I have: Notify me when rain/snow/t-storms expected, save Evernote gardening notebook to backup location, etc.

Best part: free and multi platform, so ios/android/Windows/Mac.
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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I quit keeping records a few years ago....then it was in paper notebooks...somewhat retrievable information and I kept temperature and other weather records on a calendar.....I found I wasn't that good a record keeper and I would feel guilty if I didn't write things down and then I thought who cares? and felt like I have been growing for long enough that I will just wing it. This makes me think harder about what I am planting and when and where by instinct and some memory and more immediate weather patterns...I check the moon signs when I remember....more fun and just as reliable results for us. Lots of food...less like college note taking
 
Gary Lewis
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Location: Maine, USA
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I use FieldNotesLT (a free version) app for my iphone for some stuff....as it recorded the lat long, lets me save notes, photos, video and even voice....

Its not really a journal...but it lets me grab some info when I am walking around

Hope that helps..

Gaz
 
Dan Boone
gardener
Posts: 1750
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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Thanks! That's just the sort of app recommendations I was looking for.
 
Elissa Teal
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Location: Detroit, Michigan
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Here is a video that I made last year showing my simple but effective-for-me garden notebook: http://crunchymamasurbanhomestead.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/my-simple-but-effective-for-me-garden-record-keeping-notebook/
 
Richard Hauser
Posts: 28
Location: NJ
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I came here because seems this topic seems to be a natural Paul Wheaton worlds collide topic, being both a Permaculture and Java (OK, not exactly Java, but Android) topic.

Permaculture is all about polyculture, natural disorder and observation, so with all this diversity, as others have mentioned tracking all the different plantings would seem to be an issue.

So I was thinking about taking a page from my normal job and tag and track each plant individually in a database. At work we use barcodes, so I found a cheap barcode labeller: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005MR516Y and then found a program called ScanPet (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.maiko.scanpet&hl=en) that will allow you to add details on any item associated with a barcode. I’m getting mixed reviews on how long the labels will last, but with a portable printer, I could just reprint labels as they fade. This will allow many of the features mentioned. I just started and This seems to dump to a XLS which is nice, and saves in Dropbox, which is nice. Excel can be accessed like a database so you could set up alarms like "berries probably coming in next week", or "coppice soon", etc.

I just started this idea today, so this may not work, but is there a better way?
 
R Scott
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That sounds like an excellent idea for selective breeding. You can keep track of yield and quality of individual trees, how they do in various weather.
 
Angelika Maier
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Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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The notes to take are different for the annual vegetable garden (easy if I would stick to it) and
the perennial garden.
I would love to have a more or less accurate map with all the plant names, cultivars etc. and then I would have to update that every month or so.
How do I get this map?
 
Keelie Shrader
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Case Thomas wrote:I am experimenting with using (free, optional 'premium subscription') Evernote.com and the site IFTTT.com. Evernote is an organization app that is super versatile, combined with IFTTT.com, you can create programming style 'recipes.' A few I have: Notify me when rain/snow/t-storms expected, save Evernote gardening notebook to backup location, etc.

Best part: free and multi platform, so ios/android/Windows/Mac.


Another vote for EverNote. It lets you include typed notes, photos, voice recordings, etc. Bonus: taggable and searchable.

Found a helpful link with examples. https://productivityist.com/journaling-with-evernote/
 
Simone Gar
Posts: 108
Location: Alberta, zone 3
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Dropped Evernote quickly. Too restrictive and I don't like subscription. I don't mind paying for an app but no subscription and clunky service. Data hog on the phone too.
I use Notes on iPhone and then transfer into a google spreadsheet. I only keep track of dates of seeding, sprouting and transplanting. Hopefully adding harvest date this year. Tedious and not as handy as I would like it to be.
I am really looking for an iPhone app that does the following:

Quick entry of notes (one click to start new note)
With search
by day & month (not year!) so I can compare say May 16th of several years.
by month only (not year or day) so I can see what I did last May. Did it rain a lot etc?
hashtags as tags. So if you write "There was a lot of #rain today" I would like to be able to click on it and see all notes that have "rain" in the text.
function to add pics (nice to have)
web platform for entry or email service so you can send in notes (nice to have)
export function to excel or text file. (needs to be all files, by tag or single file)


Does anybody know if something like this is out there?

Can somebody make one?
 
Olga Booker
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Location: Pyrenees Mountains, South of France
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Well, when we started with Permaculture and wanted to document everything, my husband, who used to be a software designer in an other life, decided to write a bit of software for that purpose. It is free to download on a Greenware Licence, meaning that you can download it for free on the condition that you plant at least one tree a year. If it is not breaking forum rules and if anyone is interested, I'd be happy to give the link for it.
 
Simone Gar
Posts: 108
Location: Alberta, zone 3
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Olga Booker wrote:Well, when we started with Permaculture and wanted to document everything, my husband, who used to be a software designer in an other life, decided to write a bit of software for that purpose. It is free to download on a Greenware Licence, meaning that you can download it for free on the condition that you plant at least one tree a year. If it is not breaking forum rules and if anyone is interested, I'd be happy to give the link for it.


Can you message me the link? I have 30 trees coming today. Planting this weekend!
 
Benny Jeremiah
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Simone

It seems to be this...

http://www.toolsforafuture.net/myplants.html
 
Olga Booker
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Benny Jeremiah wrote:Simone

It seems to be this...

http://www.toolsforafuture.net/myplants.html


You are absolutely right Benny, this is the one.
 
Simone Gar
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Location: Alberta, zone 3
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Thanks
 
Abbey Battle
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Location: Wealden AONB
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Olga Booker wrote:Well, when we started with Permaculture and wanted to document everything, my husband, who used to be a software designer in an other life, decided to write a bit of software for that purpose. It is free to download on a Greenware Licence, meaning that you can download it for free on the condition that you plant at least one tree a year. If it is not breaking forum rules and if anyone is interested, I'd be happy to give the link for it.


I've just plant about 70 trees with another 20 or so still to do. Does that give me 90 years credit?

I'm so bad at documenting anything. I have written down the planting plan for my orchard though.
 
Penny Dumelie
gardener
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Location: AB, Canada (Zone 4a - Canadian Badlands)
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I use Workflowy to keep notes for everything (gardening, shopping lists, birthdays, housework plans, the books I'm writing, Christmas plans, recipes, a skills-to-learn list, notes for my (future) permaculture ranch, and more).

It's a simple online program (so no download) and it has a phone app that will sync between phone and pc. It is free. You can make lists, use indents, tags, bold, italics, dates. Nothing fancy but it keeps me organized. I use a folder on my laptop for pictures. In workflowy I can note "picture - (name)"... and I know there is a corresponding picture for the notation I have made, and what the name is. It's easy to find from there.
Links can be used in workflowy as well.

My sister uses a binder and loose leaf or plain white paper, and adds 5x7 photo sheets (the ones that fit in a binder and hold 4 pictures a page) to hold seed packets. She uses facebook to store pictures.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I used to keep lots of written records about what I grow, and how, and why. When I realized that I was spending more time keeping records than growing, the record keeping stopped cold-turkey. Because I could grow twice as much food, and do twice as much plant breeding without the burden of record-keeping. These days, my record keeping consists primarily of being able to identify species and varieties by looking at them, and the labels I put on seed packets when I save seeds.

I take lots of photos of the garden, and of the plants in it. I use image gallery software that allows me to tag images with descriptions. Most of the photos never get tagged, but enough do that I can find lots of photos of most things that I grow most of the time.

Photos taken from the same place during the growing season.


Cactus garden, 2011:


Cactus garden, 2013:


Cactus garden, 2015:
 
nancy sutton
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Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
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I haven't read all of this, so pardon please if this is already mentioned.  I am so inconsistent.. have several notebooks etc. that have been discontinued.  BUT I do get on my laptop to read Permies, etc.  So, I have a running email in my Yahoo email Draft folder.  I try to DAILY TODO/DONE report... very, very short, usually, and now more Done than To Do, and expanding to include non-garden project work also.  (At the end of the day, I used to wonder what I had accomplished.. many small jobs left me tired, but were hard to recall... now I know why I'm tired and feel more productive:)

Probably the best part of using the email account is that I can Search the list to find any info regarding anything.. the date something was sown, transplanted, etc., etc., etc.,  Plus I use the word 'Notes' as a search descriptor to identify info I have run across and want refer to later, harvest stats, plant drama, etc., etc.

It is a 'rough and ready' process.... but works for me better than past pen/paper attempts ;)  Did I say consistency was my downfall?
 
David Good
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I keep a notebook for yield tracking and my blog for the bigger stuff.
 
Tracy Wandling
garden master
Posts: 913
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
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I am really enjoying the 'photo journal' aspect of my thread in the Projects forum. I have never been very good at just keeping a journal for my own reading pleasure. But taking lots of pictures helps me to see my progress and stay inspired. And putting it on here to get feedback and support is very helpful in keeping me inspired. I have started a binder with planting dates . . . well, I put some of the first planting dates in there, and then just kind of . . . didn't. Maybe when I have all of my garden beds built, and I know how much space I'll have . . . Okay, there's always an excuse. I'll just keep taking pictures.
 
Travis Johnson
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I use Excel Spreadsheets, and when I could not find a good template or something that worked for my farm, I ended up making it myself. It is a work in progress, but after 8 years, what I lovingly call "Fiscal Flock" because I am a sheep farmer, has merged into something meaningful. I could go on and on as it encompasses a lot, but I have found its ability to chart percentages and trends over specific dates and times has really allowed me to make intelligent long range planning.

For instance, right now I know I am going to run out of winter feed on April 20th, 2017 based on averages given per day this year, and on averages over the last 8 years. Since I have put my sheep on pasture on the second week of April with the exception of one year; I am probably going to be fine as far as winter feed. That is highly valuable information. With it I can buy feed now when it is available and cheap in the fall, or sell my excess in the Spring when others have run out and are desperate.

I even do this with my forest. Two years ago my forester did an inventory of what my forest had for wood, by species and volume. I loaded that into Fiscal Flock and now every time I cut a load of wood, I log when it was cut, what kind of wood was cut, where it was cut in the woodlot, and how much. By doing so, I can tell with accuracy how many sawlogs of pine I still have, how many cords of hardwood, or how many loads of spruce logs are left in stand 10. It is important stuff. Like the last few months I have cut 250 cord of wood in stand 10, so I was interested in seeing what the recovery rate would be. Because trees grow back at 1 cord per acre per year, and 1% of the forest is reduced by disease, rot or windthrow, all that that is all calculated in, and it was determined, if I stop cutting wood now, by June 1st of 2020 my forests will have regained that 250 cords I cut. That is nice information to have. From that decisions can be made.

I encourage others to really keep track of stuff because not only does it enable you to make changes, see improvements, and realize goals; should your dreams ever require funding too, you have years of data to back what you say up when you file financial papers. People may scoff now, but upon retirement, or wanting to realize the dream of not working off-farm, you may say, "if I only had this", I could do it. I dislike debt too, but used carefully it can be to your advantage. You will need data to secure that funding. best to start now.
 
2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
http://richsoil.com/pdc
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