I’ve been keeping a garden journal for several years now. Some years were more detailed than others, or I kept more frequent notes, and other years I only jotted down my varietals and a few early weather notes. Since moving to our current property, I’ve “upgraded” my note taking to include all homesteading things: wildlife sightings, chicken and bee keeping notes, gardening, weather, seed starting, and even our canning totals!
Keeping a log or journal can seem like a daunting task at first – how do you get started? What do you need? I’ve found that over the years my needs have changed, and being open to adapting and changing your format is key to a successful journal.
I still have my very first journal – a small notebook with three tabs that I used to divide the years. In those first years, I mostly wrote about seed starting – when each seed went in, what varietal it was, how long it took to germinate and when it went outside. After it was in the garden … well, weeding and plant management took over and the journal was long forgotten!
These garden or homestead diaries can be a wonderful resource to have. Often times I have wondered about a varietal I planted, or how long it’s been since we saw our deer neighbors, and picked up my notebook to take a quick look. With my notorious impatience for seeds to germinate, having a log proves really helpful, as it keeps me from thinking it’s been weeks and my seeds are duds, when in actuality it’s only been three days! Oops, guess I’ll keep working on that!
Because I find keeping a record of our planting and homestead activities so beneficial, I have compiled a list of tips & tricks that I employ to help me keep better notes, on a somewhat regular basis. It’s still a work in progress, and some seasons I am far more diligent about it than others! Hopefully these tips will help you as you start logging your own adventures.
- Keep It Simple – Don’t worry about a big fancy planner or binder, loaded with extra features, tabs and folders. I have found the easiest method to use is a basic notebook with lined paper. Plan on doodling or sketching some scenes? Skip the lined paper! Your journal can be as whimsical and personal, or as scientific and neat, as you want, after all – it’s for you!
- Keep It Close By – The fastest way to abandon your new note taking goal is by keeping your journal out of sight. I keep mine in our living room, on top of the bookshelf, where it is in plain view and easily reached by myself or my husband. Keeping a pencil or pen tucked in the spiral binding ensures that we have no reason not to take a quick note!
- Set Your Expectations – What do you want to use your journal for? Are you concerned mostly about your garden, are you bird watching, or tracking the hunting season’s weather and wildlife patterns? Do you want to log your canning and preserving efforts, so you have an end-of-year tally for your garden bounty? Deciding up front what information you want to log will help you keep yourself on track. I recommend writing even just a brief line or two on the first page with your intentions to help you remember.
- Be Flexible – Maybe those pre-set expectations change! Often times I’ve decided to include new notes, or stop note taking on something else. Some notes don’t need to be taken year round – for example, we log weather patterns, moon cycles and the movements/quantity of deer primarily around the hunting season, but let these fall out of our entries during the rest of the year. Some notes are occasional – like logging how much wood we burned at the end of the burning cycle, or an entry on a big event, such as when a hen starts laying, or mason bees are released.
- Always Include the Date – Dates are important, and help you to compare your various seasons and years. I highly recommend that every journal entry begins with a date! If you will be including details where timing is important (as in our hunting season notes), make sure to include a general time stamp if you can.
- Involve your Family – This may not suit everyone, but I love having my husband involved with the note taking. Even if it’s a quick note that I embellish on later, having someone else to jot down an idea or observation is very helpful. Sometimes it’s a wildlife sighting that I wasn’t home for, or a note I just didn’t think to write down!
- Decide on your frequency – Some people will keep one journal for each season, others will log in the same spot for years and years, until they run out of space. I find that keeping my entries grouped by year helps tremendously. This is where employing a notebook with tabs, or using a binder that you can add tabs to, is very useful. Then it is easy to flip between years to compare vegetable varietal yields, etc.
- Have Fun with It! – Make your journal something you enjoy, whether that’s a sleek and clean modern journal, with organized entries; or a patchwork of notes, sketches, photos and pressed leaves or flowers. Design your journal as you go, to best suit your tastes and your needs.