Like everyone else, I always feel like I never have enough time to get stuff done on my homestead. I have more projects to complete than there are hours in the day.
I also find myself wasting time, either stuck on a project or searching for tool/items that aren’t put away.
So here’s some way to counter that. Of course, I’m using permaculture to design more efficient systems.
You’re OK that, right? Good!
Use these tips to get more done, and with less time and work.
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Tip #1 – Reduce Work
If you decrease the amount of work you have to do, it means there’s more time to do other projects.
- Work sharing
- Smart design
Delegation is of course, getting others to do the work for you, which frees up your time.
Remember Tom Sawyer’s trick to paint the fence? He cons other boys into doing the work for him.
But all respect to Mark Twain, I think this is a little manipulative.
You might have a child or spouse willing to help with projects, just to spend time with you and do something together.
It’s also an example of work sharing. If you have a big project to do, you could ask friends and family to come help, and of course ply them with beer/food/conversation.
This is somewhat how traditional barn-raising worked (think Western pioneer or Amish). It is/was a community event with food and socializing where you knew your neighbors would help you, and you would help them.
Smart design can also help a lot with reducing work. By placing elements (chickens, food forest, water, pasture, milking shed) in the right place, you can reduce the time needed to complete tasks.
You can even use placement location to get natural behaviors and properties of elements to do work for you.
For example, place the chicken area slightly uphill of your garden. Feed the chickens food scraps and kitchen waste.
The chickens will scratch, turn, and eat the scraps. The residue along with manure will tend to fall downhill. Which is where you have so smartly put your garden.
Now you have rich compost right at hand to use in the garden.
And you didn’t have to buy it, move it, or turn it. Triple win!
Tip #2 Smaller fruit trees
Unless you’re planning on having a commercial orchard with a large picking workforce, it’s probably better to have smaller fruit trees.
Keep your fruit trees well pruned, so that you can harvest everything from ground level. You don’t have to use dwarf or semi-dwarf trees.
Even standard trees can be kept small.
Just prune to be able to reach every fruit.
It’s faster to pick, there’s less chance of injury from falling off a ladder, and it means you won’t get overwhelmed with trying to process huge quantities of fruit.
You can also plant smaller trees closer together than is normally recommended. So your production (if desired) can really be impressive.
Which also means you can plant different varieties to spread the harvest over more of the year.
This also helps to cut down on processing time and food waste.
Tip #3 – Homestead layout
Designing a homestead is more than just deciding on a floor plan for the house.
It’s deciding how best to arrange EVERYTHING that you and other elements interact with.
One way to do this for tasks is by counting your steps and frequency of visits.
Take a task, and count the walking steps to do that task. Then multiply by the number of times a year you do that task.
This gives you a yearly step count for that task. Now decide how to place that task’s elements to lower the step count.
For each task and element, there will be a tradeoff in placement location.
Placing large herbivores (AKA cows) pasture too close to your main dwelling is a mistake, because of smell and flies.
But your milking shed that has twice-a-day visits makes sense to place fairly close to the house.
Get the best fit you can given your needs and wants.
Also, keep in mind this is only one way to design. You should also consider permaculture patterns, zones and sectors, along with other permaculture design methods.
Tip #4 – Element relationships & stacking functions
Related to tip #3, you should understand and leverage the relationships between elements.
Each element should perform multiple functions, each function is supported by multiple elements.
This diverse interconnected web or network makes a robust and strong failure-resistant system.
For example, fruit trees provide fruit of course, but they also give resting places for insect-hunting birds.
In addition, any fallen fruit can feed chickens, to break the pest cycle. Trees also provide shade, clean and cool the air, and increase rainfall. At the end of their life they can offer wood for smoking meats, crafts or firewood.
Chicken provide eggs, meat, and manure which can fertilize the fruit trees or garden. They scratch and till up grass and weeds to prepare new ground for planting.
So each element performs many functions, and now we have multiple sources of food, fertilizer, and heating/cooking fuel.
Tip #5 Uphill and downhill
Use slopes to your advantage when designing your homestead. And when planting a vineyard, since cold falls downhill.
Remember the example before about chickens making compost to a downhill garden?
Due to gravity, it doesn’t cost energy to move something downhill, whether chicken manure, water, or rocks.
But it always takes energy to move something uphill.
So try to catch and store water high up on the landscape. Then you can provide that water to your house or livestock without using power.
Consider a task where you go towards the element carrying light objects (fruit bushel baskets, milk pails, egg cartons) and return with heavy objects (fruit, milk, eggs).
It’s a better ideas to put this element uphill from wherever you’re taking the heavy object to, likely the house.
On the other hand, if you’re taking heavy objects from the house and returning with light objects, put that element downhill.
Let gravity do the work for you!
Tip #6 – Inputs and outputs
Each element in your homestead design has inputs it requires, and outputs it provides.
The (ever-popular for permaculture examples) chicken needs: protection from predators, water, food, dust bath, roosting space and other chickens.
It provides meat, eggs, body heat, CO2, and manure.
One way to reduce work and increase production is to try to connect the outputs from one element to the input from another element.
You must have feed for it in some way by purchasing or providing it.
So as I said before, you can put the chickens under the fruit trees to clean up the fallen fruit and fruit pests like codling moth.
Or give them good pasture to eat bugs and dig through cow patties for maggots. Yum!
If outputs are not used properly, they become waste.
If inputs are not sustainably sourced, they become drains on the system that reduce its effectiveness.
Tip #7 – Match plants & animals to proper location & climate
Every living thing has a preferred climate in which it grows best.
Some plants must have lots of water to do well, while others with drown and rot in the same water.
Then some tolerate drought just fine, but plants used to wetter climates wither and die.
To help with this on your homestead, think about where the plant came from (what part of the world and what climate) and its needs to decide where best to plant it.
There are climate analogs (similar kind of climate) for my arid place in Afghanistan, Turkey, and Kazakhstan(home of the apple!). So likely the plants from these places would do well in my area.
Some plants need lots of sun, and some need partial shade.
Don’t make the mistake of putting a water-requiring shade plant in dry drought-prone soil in the blazing summer desert sun with no shade.
Ask me how I know…
Put plants where they will thrive best. They will be happier, and so will you.
Bonus Tip – Measure results & tweak processes
Sweet, a bonus tip!
To keep reducing your workload and getting more production on your homestead, you need to see how the system is doing and make changes where necessary.
Permaculture principle #9 is “Use small and slow solutions.” This means to make small changes to a system that will improve it over time.
It avoids the mistake of large drastic changes that will cause long-term damage to the system.
To do this we must use principle #1 “Observe and interact.” Really look at the system and analyze how each element is doing.
Is there a small change you can leverage to make it easier for you, or more productive?
Is there an output you can connect to an input?
Keep up with these small incremental changes, and you can develop and awesome homestead that will provide all your needs.
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OK, that’s all folks! Do you have any questions or comments about sustainable homesteading, permaculture design or anything permaculture? Ask your question down below and let’s talk! You can also use the contact form, or email me at info at thepermaculture dot life.
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