Happy New Year! Today we enter the 20’s… isn’t that weird?! Tomorrow, “The 20’s” takes on a whole new meaning. It’s time once again to look at a year in review: 2019. What did we accomplish? What goals didn’t we reach? Are we satisfied with how things ended? And how do we plan on ushering in these new 20’s?
Our biggest goal for the year was to be more organized and clean. While we didn’t always succeed, or even accomplish as much as we hoped, but we made huge strides this year. 2019 was definitely a success. Organization and cleanliness are things we’ll continue to work on in the coming year(s). We had indoor goals, outdoor goals, homeschooling goals, spiritual goals, and relationship goals… but all of them kind of focused on organization and/or cleanliness.
There were a few things we had hoped to accomplish this year that did not get done:
1) Clean and completely organize the garage and granary. A small dent was made, but we’ve tried over and over and fallen short. We have been trying to get those spaces cleaned and organized since we moved in with no success. It’s been a lot of trial and a whole lot of error. I can’t say it’ll happen next year, but I think we can finally begin moving in the right direction with it, now that we have gained better insight into how we need it to function.
Why did we fail? This was definitely a time issue. There’s a lot to clean up, there’s a ton to reorganize, and we still kind of lack the vision of what we want/need to make it really functional. I think we learned a few things and our plans were clarified a little more, so hopefully that helps us this year.
2) Repairing the chicken coop and cleaning up from the fire. We actually made huge strides with both, but fell short of where we wanted to end the year.
Why did we fail? Our biggest obstacle was money. To finish everything would have required the funds to rebuild some walls and replace the roof, and to wrap up cleanup would have required the rental of some equipment. I’m not sure what kind of progress we’ll make in 2020, but I’m sure we’ll continue to push towards our goals.
3) Plowing the field. This isn’t a major issue, but it was a bit of a setback.
Why did we fail? There were two reasons this didn’t happen. One is that Scott ended up working overtime the last few months of the year, and the second is that it rained. A lot. It was a big problem for the harvest and for clean-up. And we went straight from rain to an early snowfall. There really wasn’t much we could have done differently.
But we did more than we didn’t, so even though we didn’t accomplish everything that we wanted, it was still a very successful year.
Though we didn’t accomplish all of our goals, we did get a lot done:
There were some pretty big landscape changes around here this year.
1) We made a huge dent in the clean-up from the fire, and it was like the beginning of the healing process from a terrible illness. Cleaning up brought new light and life to that part of the yard, and it freed us to new possibilities for the homestead. We cleared over half of the debris, cleaned the building out, and readied it for repairs. There will be a lot of work in the coming year(s), but it set us on the right path.
2) The kids’ gardens were fenced, Pumpkin’s greenhouse was finished, we planted a butterfly garden, and I finally finished the produce stand! There are loose ends to tie up on it all, but I can’t tell you what an impact this little portion of the yard had on my spirits when we spruced it up. There will be more changes to come to this area in the future, but I feel really good about where it’s at right now. Working on these projects checked off multiple goals on my list from the last few years, and it gave me hope that the rest of our plans will come together in the end, and let me know we’re on the right path with our goals.
3) The chickens got a new winter coop this year! The chickens spent last winter in a mobile coop that was sort of insulated for the winter, and it was okay, but not ideal, so once canning season ended, we put together a coop for the winter months using barn doors. It wasn’t quite what I originally planned, but I keep finding that if I don’t push too hard for what I want, God presents me with a better alternative when the time is right.
4) We added to and planted our largest garden to date! I put the tarp down last summer, and we removed it in spring for planting. We put the chickens on it and let them spread out the mulch. (I really like the tarp and chicken method of gardening, but we have some logistical stuff this year that will be having us prepare all of the garden space with equipment. But I’m hoping to get the tarp moved in early spring and then next year, have another area prepared using the tarp and chicken method.)
5) I planted more in the berry patch. I put in raspberry plants and strawberries. I should hopefully be able to do a little more dividing and transplanting of berries from other parts of the property this year.
6) Scott transplanted 6 of the apple trees we grafted last spring (2018) out to the center of the pie field. The trees were sort of “fenced” to protect against nibbling deer after a little incident, but they recovered nicely.
7) Scott cut the grass on three of the pie field sections to prepare for next year’s goals. We were going to plow that and next year’s garden, but we ran out of time. Even so, having the grass cut will be one less step for us in the spring.
8) He also cut the grass out in the big field. Eventually, we’d like to have grazing animals over there, and we have discussed a few other possibilities for a portion of that field. Cutting the grass allowed us to gain a better understanding of the size and contours of that portion of the property. We found some young trees growing that we’ve decided to keep, and that will change the look of things in a few years.
9) There were some smaller changes were right next to the house. A few trees had to come down, we had to significantly prune other trees because of damage they received from the harsh winter cold or from the fire, and we removed several shrubs. I also added in a kitchen garden, which may have been one of the highlights of the year for me. Turns out I LOVE having an herb garden! I even got my garlic planted for next year just the other day!
Changes in the home:
Inside, the changes were less pronounced, but still visible. Upstairs, we rearranged children’s rooms once again. The older boys were shuffled around twice, I repainted two of the bedrooms, and the railings in the stairwell are finally repaired properly. I have more I want to accomplish, but I’m happy with how it stands for now. Scott and the boys used the laboratory a lot this year now that it’s finally functional, and the “movie night bed” was finally repaired.
The downstairs had a lot less done to it. I built a window seat underneath the big picture window in the living room, and I’m hoping (fingers crossed) to work on more of the living room project in 2020. I wrapped up a few odds and ends in the bathroom, only to have to replace the sink later in the year. Now there are just a few touch-ups that still remain to be completed.
In the basement, we went back and forth between being clean and organized, or having messes and chaos. I struggle greatly to keep that part of the house clean because of the kids. We did, however, build a great, big pantry shelf for our canned goods. There’s still work to be done on the pantry, but we have the space for all of our canned goods, the empty cans, and all of the toiletries and dry goods.
Homeschooling progressed by leaps and bounds this year. It helps having kids who are bigger! I feel like we finally hit a stride with how to run our days and I made a lot of progress with how to handle the different age groups. The cleanliness of the house goes through phases. If I’m able to keep on top of the kids about chores, it usually stays in decent shape, but no matter how hard I work, we never get it all done. There’s always some room or corner of the house that’s a disaster behind closed doors! We strive to at least keep the main living areas nice and clean.
We’ve gotten better at prioritizing the important things like our spiritual welfare and our relationships with each other. The kids are to an age where there is a lot of bad attitudes that need to be checked immediately so as not to cause harm to relationships with each other. We can talk nicely and not call names, we can respect each other’s privacy and boundaries. We are slowly getting more involved in church as time allows, and we’ve made prayer and Bible time an important part of our homeschool day. It’s so important that on days we don’t get to do it right away, bad attitudes immediately follow.
Healthy eating wasn’t as successful as I had hoped it would be, but I gained a new appreciation for it, and my understanding of how to handle it with a large family has also changed. I know that I need to shake things up in this department for 2020. But still, we did pretty well, especially considering a new baby was added to the family at the beginning of the year… it takes a lot of time to care for a baby and it takes a lot of time to prepare good food! I think it will play a big factor in shaping the direction of new year for us. Health, in general, became more of a subject to discuss, and we tried to make exercise a regular part of our schedule.
Everybody was able to start new hobbies or continue to work on old ones. The kids got to do some more sewing, they learned more about drawing and painting and using computer programs. We learned how to make a movie and a little about movie editing. Music has become a bigger part of our lives. Scott and some of the kids have started to do genealogy together. And I worked on my stained glass skills and am learning how to preserve a deer hide.
Of course, caring for a baby was an event all of it’s own. From his birth to today, we’ve been busy keeping up with this happy little guy. He’s been such a wonderful addition to the family (they all have been). His smiles and giggles brighten our day, and seeing the kids and their desire to help raise him and nurture him has been wonderful. I love seeing the pride they take in their baby brother!
As for myself, it’s been another year of huge personal growth. I thank the Lord it wasn’t as painful as some of the past years. While there was a lot of important things I discovered about myself, but the biggest thing was how important it is to prioritize and know your limitations. That was a huge struggle for me and still is, but it gets easier with practice. I learned a lot about myself and how I manage stress (i.e. not well), and it helped me to fix a lot of the issues I’ve had with running a complicated household. Juggling homeschooling, housekeeping, and homesteading is not an easy task.
Let’s see… On top of all of that, we had our best (or possibly tied for best) gardening year and harvest. We butchered a deer in fall, and a bunch of noisy roosters in spring. (I learned that I would prefer to raise Cornish Cross to doing a straight run of birds and butcher the roosters.) The kids had successful gardens, we learned how to make maple sugar after overcooking a batch of maple sap, and we started purging our home and homestead of things we don’t need. Scott has continued to work on pruning trees and thinning the woods so that it can grow strong and healthy. I got comfortable with the pressure canner, we went on a road trip, hosted some fun summer parties, and we started a rocket club with some friends. Oh, and I was able to squeeze in some last-minute gardening the other day and get some clean-up done as well as plant my garlic!
I’m sure I’m overlooking a lot that we did, but I guess what it comes down to is that we accomplished a lot in our busy days because we were able to remember what was important and not to overburden ourselves. The hardest thing for me about homesteading has been understanding my limitations. That’s a really tricky thing to know when you have growing kids at home with changing needs. Your limitations aren’t the same from year to year or even month to month or day to day!
I came into the year with very low expectations. Having a baby in the house presents a lot of challenges, and I really wasn’t sure what we’d all be able to accomplish. I am very happy with the note we ended on. Of course, there’s room for progress, and who knows what difficulties 2020 will bring, but I really hope that we can stay on course with our goals and hit our 5 year plan on time! I’ll sure be praying! (This marks the 4th year of our 5 year plan… one more year to cross off some of our “to-do’s”!) Once we’ve had a bit of time to hash out our goals for the year, I’ll be sharing what are hopes for the year are. I’m really excited to see what 2020 looks like in review!
How did 2019 treat you? Did you reach your goals or fall short? Are you happy with where things end today? I used to see New Year’s as just another day, but I really like the opportunity we get to pause, reflect, and make changes with this period of rest in winter! Happy New Year!