It’s a good idea to keep records of things. With our minifarm, we started keeping logs right from the beginning – I got the idea from my aunt and uncle. They have a huge garden each year, and they keep records of their harvests of each vegetable they grow. That way they can compare harvests from year to year.
Since 2014 was our first year here, our garden wasn’t that large yet, but I kept a harvest log. Each time I’d pick something, say zucchini or cucumbers, I’d keep a tally of how many I got. For this first year I just tracked individual items – for instance, I got 49 tomatoes, and 132 green beans. Hopefully this next summer I’ll start tracking pounds or bushels or something – I hope to get a lot more beans this year.
Keeping track of harvests can show you where you had problems – either you need to grow more the next year, or there may be something that didn’t do so well and you can decide if you just need to adjust things, or if it just won’t grow in your garden. For example, I tried to grow Swiss Chard in pots on my front porch. We didn’t get much chard – there is some afternoon sun that would hit them, but they needed to be watered all the time. We get a lot of rain here but the rain couldn’t get to them because of the porch overhang. So next year, I will grow it in a new garden bed I’m planning. I also grew a few cabbage plants last year. We like cabbage on occasion, but it’s not my family’s favorite vegetable anyway. Which is good because cabbage moths laid eggs all over them. I was picking off cabbage worms from each plant, and they had devastated a few before I realized what was happening. I fed the cabbage worms to my lizard and the chickens. They all loved them. And then the cabbages ended up going to the chickens as well since they were pretty gross. I won’t be growing cabbage this year. If I grow any of that family, I’ll need to use row covers to keep the moths off and also move them somewhere else in case there are eggs still in the soil. I noted all this in my garden log. That way I don’t forget in a few years and then try to grow cabbage (or brocolli or any other brassica) without a plan.
I keep my farm / garden log in a big 3 ring binder. I put notes about the plants, and about weather, and about different things I wanted to remember about the season. I noted when we got our first hard frost, and I’ll note when we finally get rid of the snow this year. When I find good articles about farming or gardening that I want to keep I’ll print them and put them in there. I also have my 2015 garden planned out in there. I got some graph paper and used that to plan a new garden bed and also to expand the one I used last year.
Another good thing to keep track of with my chickens is their egg production. I started keeping track from the first egg they laid on October 19th. We got 338 eggs in 2014. Just from my 9 hens, in less than 4 months. Keeping track of eggs can help you realize where you’re breaking even, or if you are actually making a profit from your eggs. Even if you don’t sell any, you should make a “profit” against your food costs, by not having to buy them at the store anymore. With our food costs we still made a small “profit.” Good thing my family loves eggs. I also note when the eggs are laid in weird spots, or if we have a broody hen, or once when we had a couple of eggs with thin shells.
Keeping a garden or farm log is a smart idea, and helps you keep track of what worked and what didn’t from year to year.