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Homesteading is hard. There, I said it. It seems to be a dirty little secret among homesteaders. We all imagine that we’re getting back to a simpler way of life, but homesteading often means that a simpler way of life is a harder way of life. We make it ourselves instead of buying it from a store. Much more blood sweat and tears go into growing a tomato at home than driving to a store and buying on off the shelf.
And to have the same quality of life as our non-homesteading counterparts means a large vegetable garden, a chicken coop, dairy animals, meat animals, and all of the work that goes into each part of our food chain.
Don’t get me wrong, the benefits are worth it. Knowing that the food that nourishes our family is grown with the tender love and care they deserve. Producing our own electricity, pumping our own water, building our own furniture, running businesses out of our homes, teaching our children ourselves; all of these efforts are labors of love. We invest a bit of ourselves in everything we do because our families and our lives deserve it.
Homesteading is a different frame of mind. It says, “I want it done right, so I’ll do it myself.” No one can take care of my family the way that I can.
But each of these responsibilities, tugging at you in their own unique ways is exhausting. Fences always need mending. Eggs need to be collected. Firewood needs to be split. Seeds need planting. And crops need harvesting. All of this on top of our every day cooking, cleaning, working, and living.
So how can we make it easier on ourselves?
My hubby is active duty military. There are very few things that really get under his collar, but inefficiency is one of them. Wasting anything (time, money, effort) is sinful to him.
In the military he learned a program called lean six sigma.
I’ll save you a lot of over-complicated jargon. Do you remember in elementary school where your teacher walked you through the process of writing down instructions to make a PB&J? It usually started as “1. Put peanut butter on one slice of bread. 2. Put jelly on another. 3. Combine.” But that wasn’t what she was after.
Teacher wanted DETAILS. “1. Go to the kitchen. 2. Pick up the package of bread. 3. Remove two slices. 4. Get out a plate. 5. Put slices of bread on plate. 6. Go to pantry. etc.” I was never very good at this exercise.
Anyhow! Do the same thing for your daily homesteading chores. Break them into individual chores (if you can) to make them more manageable. At the top of a piece of paper write “Feeding Chickens” or a similar chore. Then list out the individual steps. Get into painful detail here. It’ll be worth it in the end.
You can also write each step in the process on individual post it notes and possibly rearrange the order certain steps are done in to reduce waste.
Once you’ve got your Feeding Chickens process mapped out, take a step back and look at it. Lean six sigma looks for eight kinds of waste.
Where is the bag of chicken feed stored? Can you move it closer; either to the house or where the chickens are? Where is the chicken coop? Can you move it closer to the house?
Does a lot of chicken feed get wasted? Are they just spreading it all around and not eating it? Is some of it getting stale and moldy before you can feed it? How much of what you buy actually goes into the chickens?
How much energy are you expending in this process? Do you have to climb over a number of fences to get to the chickens? Is the door to your coop difficult to open and require a lot of muscle? Are you shleping a huge bag of feed out to the coop? Or a bucket? How many feeders do you have set up?
What do you have to wait on before feeding the chickens? The right weather? Do you only feed the chickens after the dogs have been put away?
Are you using too much feed? Are you walking farther than you need to? Do the chickens have to be fed first thing in the morning? Or can it wait until you are out doing other farm-chores and can kill two birds with one stone? Are you feeding them before they are hungry?
Are there a lot of unnecessary steps involved? Are you feeding too much, so food gets wasted, and then you’re having to clean the coop more? Look for anytime that you do more than required when a simple approach would have sufficed.
Does the bag of chicken feed get holes in it? Do you have to repeat this process multiple times? Are you shleping three times out to the coop for one feeding? Look for any rework or errors that happen often.
Is this something only you can do? Can little Johnny do it on his way to collect the eggs? Or on the way to the bus stop? Is this something a farm sitter can do easily if you should need the help?
Now comes the fun part! Brainstorm ideas to reduce the waste you identified in the process mapping section. You can combine certain tasks. For example, collect the eggs, feed the chickens, and the goat, and the cow all in one trip. Or have Little Johnny do it all on his way out to the bus stop.
Can you automate any of this process? What if you create a shoot on a timer that automatically sends down feed at certain times of the day? Can you create a different type of feeder that gives the chickens more access to feed throughout the day so you only have to go out once?
Let your creativity go wild, and enlist the help of the rest of your tribe. Look online for solutions other homesteader and farmers have come up with.
Hopefully this practice will help you find some quick fixes and makes homesteading life easier for you!