Our family’s been urban homesteading for the last 20 plus years, but when we started actually documenting our journey online 10 years ago, we knew it wasn’t about “just doing it” but keeping track of what was done.

Keeping records really helps you to see where you’ve been and where you want to go.  “Keeping track” is a must for any urban homesteader when it comes to what/how much we use, what we grow, how it’s grown, etc, etc.

Besides stats, Farmer Justin has over a dozen “black books” detailing what he’s planted, when, watering schedule and even when/how he fertilizes.  Not only that, but every month we print up a schematic of the garden with each raised bed and other planting areas identified by number. Based on that garden diagram, Farmer Justin systematically writes down what was grown in each bed. That way he has an idea from year to year what was planted, which helps us maintain a successful crop rotation.

For Farmer D’s recent presentation at the recent EcoFarm Conference, we really had to update our graphs and stats.  The last records that were published here on the website went from 2001-2004.  The question was, ” How well are we doing – now, have we gotten better?” The problem was nobody had the time to sit and do paper work, but the recent presentation helped spur us to action.

So, thanks to the Eco Farm presentation, we finally sat down and went through all the notebooks and bills, and we’ve put together stats that are up to date (2001-2009) WOOT!

Where We’ve Been, Where We are Going

Though the site is still a work-in-progress, Jordanne has published the graphs here for your viewing pleasure.

Check them out here where it says URBAN HOMESTEAD CHARTS & FIGURES

One of the real shockers came when we saw that we have, in the last few years, cut our water bill in half while maintaining our high harvest yields.   With an eclectic combination of reclaiming water, using ollas, polyculture and continuous mulching, we hope to continue slashing our water use!

Keeping track helps keep us on the right track!

And with any urban homestead one needs to see how well your project coming along from year to year.  Record keeping is all about comparing you with you.  Records tell you if you doing or did things right or wrong.  Urban homesteading is like a life-school and although actual grades may not be important the fact of improving your skills is!  And of those skills is documenting your journey.

We actually can do better in our documentation – yeah really!  Like how many cans of something we preserve/put up a year, how much do we spend on clothing or personal items, how much are actually saving by growing 95% of our produce etc, etc.

Putting a pen to it, things really start to add (or subtract) up! Oh and it should be fun too.   Just like in baseball, with every swing the batter tries to improve his average and so it is with urban homesteading with every step we try to improve/lighten our footprint and you can’t know where you are going or how far you’ve come unless you’ve marked where you’ve been.

Keeping Track of Tracks

Have you started keeping track of your tracks in aspects of transforming your home into an homestead and your sustainable journey.  Has it been helpful and what records are you keeping?

Care to share your record keeping experience?


  1. Paul Gardener says:

    Oh yes, I can definitely second your thoughts on keeping records. We started working at keeping good records a few years back and every year they get a little better. I love to look back over the years work when I’m preparing for the next and it has helped me to plan and layout my garden so much more efficiently as well.

    Last year I felt like I was terribly behind from the year previous. I looked back into the journal from the year prior to see where I stacked up and was surprised to find that I was actually much further ahead than I had been at that point the previous year. Go figure?

    Just last week I went through our records from last year to figure out the actual dollars that we saved by growing and canning our 800+ pounds of food and it added up to over $1500.00!
    Thanks for the inspiration and leadership.

  2. Michele says:

    Last year we started but just diagramming where we put everything. This year we developed an Excel spreadsheet (my engineer husband) to track what we plant when and approximate cost of our planting. My goal this year is to track, by weight, the harvest totals to get a cost saving comparison.

    Anais…what is polyculture? I am not familiar with that reference. Thanks.

  3. Laura says:

    We need toget better about this. We do diagram our garden ever year but then the diagram get’s tossed. I should get a notebook to put this in. We do look at our electric bill to see where we compared to the year before.

  4. Steven says:

    I started diagramming the garden last year. i also keep track of how much is picked. It’s very encouraging when I see the real numbers. 150 Tomatoes this fall from my tiny 100 x 50 foot garden.


    I would love to see the spreadsheet your husband put together. Could you make that available?

  5. Linda says:

    My records are slowly improving. I have garden maps from season to season and year to year, and a garden journal where I keep track of things like planting dates, fertilizing and watering schedule, and harvest totals.

    This year, I’m also keeping track of water and electical use, as well as a comparison of foods grown, bought and foraged. I have all the spreadsheet info kept in a 3 ring binder (along with all the other garden items of interest I collect), and the daily garden journal I write in as I do work. I try to compile the journal data into a monthly/seasonal spreadhseet, but that is a work in progress.

    I can’t wait to see how others have organized their stuff – I might get some good ideas.

  6. Sarah says:

    This is actually the first year for me to track anything. This year, I am tracking production from animals (eggs, meat, milk), garden plant dates (when I started plants indoors, when I plant them outdoors, etc), of course all expenses for those things listed and them I will keep track of the harvest (Woot!).

    I am actually pretty excited to see how much we do this year, and then figure how we can improve next year!!

    I am just doing a simple spreadsheet on Microsoft Works… Easy…

  7. Becky says:

    Great info! I love to map out the gardens. PLEASE encourage Justin to share more of his planning strategy. Also, would love an update on the aquaponics project.

  8. Paul Gardener says:

    If I can be so bold as to jump in. I would define Poylculture as the act of growing multiple different species and variants of plants in close proximity at the same time. As opposed to monoculture where one variant of one species, for instance corn, is grown on a massive scale with all other plant life snuffed out. While monoculture requires a lot of “inputs” like fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, polyculture mimics more closely the natural world where complimentary plants not only grow in close proximity but actually thrive better because of it.

    Please not, this is my answer only, not the Dervaes’. They may have more to add. I just know they are a very busy family and thought I might be able to help answer your question in the mean time. (no offense Anais)

  9. Patti says:

    Excellent and well done. I plan on charting this year so I can keep track for crop rotation. I am not sure about tracking water usage; we try not to waste water, but it is rather abundant in our area. We do use rain barrels and drip irrigation. This will be my first year to weigh my produce, so I am excited to see how well I do! Thanks for sharing.

  10. MARCH HARVEST TALLY | Little Homestead in the City says:

    […] Why do we tally the harvest?  No, is not supposed to be a competition of us vs them/you but us vs us.  Keeping track, keeps us on track  Here’s some of the reason’s why […]

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