Winter is a good time to set homesteading goals.  I don’t mean New Year’s resolutions.  That’s a whole different kind of goal setting, and one that I am frankly not that good at. Though this year I did make a resolution to try to publish a blog every day so that I could develop more confidence about putting my writing “out there”.

In spring and summer when everything is green and beautiful, and I am so busy growing stuff, working on projects, and trying to use every bit of glorious daylight to see our dreams through, it’s hard to slow down long enough to do proper planning. But in the middle of winter when our trees are naked, and even the prettiest parts of our landscape and living areas seem a little lackluster, it’s easier to see what still needs to be done and make a plan for how to get there.

This time of year, I’m not as likely to be taken in by a pretty picture and the temporary feeling of abundance.  I can see the flaws and deficiencies that still need tending to. Winter makes me critical.  And the cold conditions also make me more likely to sit at a desk and do proper research and planning.  The short days leave me more time to read and learn.  It’s not just the thought of a new year that prompts the urge to set goals, but a convergence of contemplative conditions.

The photos above are of winter the year before we bought this property and fall the year after.  Despite the seasonal differences, you can see we’ve made big changes to the landscape.  The addition of a second pond and new structures are obvious.  There is not enough detail in the photo to see it all, but we added a greenhouse above the pond, a shipping container with solar panels below it, a large fenced garden, a fenced goat pasture, a pig shelter and pig paddocks, lots of fruit trees and bushes, a vineyard, an herb garden, dug several rain diversion channels and rain depressions, created paths, and amended soil with cover crops and sheet mulching.  And we’ve also changed how we use the property.  We’re raising more animals and growing more food.

In late 2015 and 2016, after these photos were taken, we added a fenced buck pasture and shelter, planted more trees, built a new duck shelter, amended a lot more soil, created duck paddocks, added more swales and hugelcultures, built a smokehouse, added some mini-ponds, and more.  It will be interesting to see what our the Google Earth view looks like the next time they deign to take our measure.

We’ve done a lot.  And there’s a lot more to do.  So, each year, around this time, I start this process again.  Assessing our progress, counting successes and failures, reviewing our “wish list”, and deciding what’s most important and what we actually have the time, energy and resources to handle.  Then I also leave a little room for spontaneity.  No matter how much you plan, better information, new challenges, and life happens.

There will always be more to do.  But each year, the list gets shorter as we transition from building to simply living,  and then oneday soon, to living simply.  And this is the definition of sustainability, there has to come a point where we stop building and start sustaining.  Infinite growth is not sustainable.  Thank goodness.