Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Ten directions at once

Don came in from the shop the other day, looking a bit frazzled. The problem, he explained, is he had so many projects to do that he felt scatterbrained about which one to tackle first.

He was pulled in so many different directions that he would do just a bit of this and a bit of that, without bringing a particular project to completion.

In particular, he wanted to get a chicken coop built, but felt a more pressing need to begin the barn infrastructure for getting cows. (We can always get fertile eggs from our neighbors and hatch our own chickens, but he was worried we might have trouble finding Jersey cows.) The trouble is, accomplishing one thing was often hinged on first accomplishing another thing first, which in turn was hinged on accomplishing yet another thing ... and so it went, until he felt like he was a hamster spinning on a wheel, unable to focus and accomplish anything at all.

So we decided to do something we did many years ago, when a similar dilemma arose as we were developing our last place into a homestead: Make a list. Simple, right? But there's something profound about seeing it in black and white that propels people out of immobility.

We hammered ideas back and forth for our "wish list" while I typed it up. Wishes ranged from the immediate to the long-term, from lesser priority to greater. Here's what we came up with:

• Build deck for Older Daughter’s suite
• Build storage platform above shop
• Organize a yard sale
• Fence the pasture
• Build chicken coop
• Build more garden beds
• Build wood shed
• Order drip irrigation supplies
• Install hand pump for well
• Build loft above shop
• Cut firewood
• Make a well house
• Re-plumb pressure tank
• Disk field for corn
• Coat decks with sealant
• Install sunshade on western wall
• Build deck storage room
• Clean gutters
• Build cattle infrastructure in barn
• Clean out shed
• Buy cows

We looked over the list and came up with two priorities. The first is to build a deck off Older Daughter's suite. She has an outside door installed, but it's three feet off the ground and her cat Frumpkin has no place to go outside. Building a deck (and then installing deer mesh so the cat can't get out) would also allow her to open the door and get more cross-ventilation in her rooms.

The second priority is to get cows, but before we can do that, we have to build the infrastructure inside the barn to keep them in comfort (including a milking stall, calf pen, and feed boxes), and to find room for hay storage.

Right now the barn is still a mishmash of tools, equipment, and mountains of things we plan to sell at a yard sale. We also have some items in long-term storage for Younger Daughter. Before Don can work on building barn infrastructure, we need to clear floor space. He hopes to build a loft above the shop where we can store some bulky but seldom-needed items.

This is what I mean by projects hinging on other projects. Doing this hinges on doing that, which hinges on doing that, which hinges on doing that, ad infinitum.

But at least Don now has firm guidance for which projects to focus on first. Number one, Older Daughter's deck (which she'll help build). Number two, the loft above the shop.

It might seem strange that something more homestead-related isn't higher on the list – such as a chicken coop or more garden beds or something – but there's a method to our madness. We can build a coop later in the summer and it's too late for a garden anyway, so we may as well focus on different things.

And frankly, getting cows is becoming our top priority. We have all the lumber, fencing, and other materials necessary to install cows on the property. We just have to get these projects done.


  1. Wow!! What a list! I think everyone is making/adding to their original list. Every time I hear the news I revise mine. At 79 my list definitely differs from your's! But it's all relevant!

  2. I know that feeling well. And I use the same way of resolving it. What's really frustrating is when a step in the process ends up holding up everything else. So I typically have a list of side tasks that will help move things along faster when the bottleneck is broken. Especially when sometimes the bottleneck is my own body.

  3. triority- the 3 things that have to be done first.

  4. "No matter what you want to do, you have to do something else first." -- Murphy :-)

  5. Oh, my, I can TOTALLY relate! We've been at our place 12 years and I still feel pulled in ten directions at once. A priority list would help, for sure.

  6. My current list (in no particular order):
    Build structure for turkeys.
    Build pen and small shelter for new buck.
    Modify hydroponics system (that I no longer use) to water plants in greenhouse.
    Purchase more deep supers to replace those that had to be destroyed and split bee hives or get new swarms.
    Keep garden plants alive, harvest, and preserve bounty.
    Make contacts about major damage from irresponsible spraying on nearby property. It caused damage to fruit and shade trees on our entire property.
    Clean basement.
    Sell loom that I no longer use.
    Organize gardening and bee supplies in shed.
    Replace rotten deck on house.
    Harvest medicinal herbs and make products with them.
    Sell extra chickens and cull roosters.
    Move hay from farm property to homestead where it’s needed.
    Possibly get another doe to add to goat herd.
    Sell or donate items not needed to free up space in house.
    I know I’m forgetting things.

  7. I always added another priority to my never ending lists, that is the weather, sealing the deck is one that must be done in dry weather and can't be done in snow for example. Yes that looks like my life, I am getting together a hen house but waiting for the electrician to wire it, so many things are dependent on professionals and of course they are always backed up. So I guess it's the little things that I hope to accomplish, at least I did something. Warm weather always seems like a mad rush before the snow flies.

  8. I find that many things on my lists I am unable to do or that weather or something else won't cooperate.
    So recently I was pressure washing the deck 1/3 per day because storms have left so much debris that 1/3 was what I could plan on spending in time. It worked until day 3. I found bad leaks on the back of my new pressure tank at the well. So day 3 pressure washing deck is
    now on hold until that tank is fixed. The tank is on hold until repairs are completed on my vehicle. Yes, water storage has been a marvelous thing.
    The point is, no matter the list, stuff happens and you have to reprioritize.
    However, the tank has a warranty and now I know why so much power was being used.
    This tank is 30 gal and I had asked for a 100 gal tank. This is what was brought and they talked me into accepting it. The pump cuts on and off frequently, not mentioned when they brought it and it burns a lot more power than a 100 gal tank plus it burns the pump up faster. I'm hoping if this tank has to get replaced, for credit towards the bigger tank. In which case, that expense will reshift priorities again.
    I think with your daughter there she may be able to help out here and there with projects. Wish y'all the best.

  9. I hope you are going to close the hole under her door. The deck does seem like a priority right now. That kind of problem is even present in the small things like washing dishes or cooking. But, your item all seem so large!

  10. I worked in industry and construction for over 50 years. 40 of those years as a project manager. I learned early on that you need a schedule for every project from start to finish. At time I ran 20-25 projects at a time and over 450 projects worth over 500 million (non-escalated cost) dollars in a 40 years career from 1980-2019. I ran 2 scheduling systems in varying levels of detail. The beauty of them was that I could roll up all the projects running at a time and see where the problems were going to show up. You and Don may want to take your list and apply simple schedules to each task. I think the simplest way for you would be to use excel. Just a suggestion.

  11. My life is run by lists - for everything inside and outside and includes 'me' time which is usually reading. Graduated college 1968 and in my senior seminar the professor swore by this method - has served me well ever since. Of course, things happen but usually don't cause much disruption because I've built in a solution.

  12. OK, my previous comment about Murphy notwithstanding, herewith my own take on prioritizing things.

    First, I assign an immediacy rating of A, B, or C. A means get it done today. B is within 72 hours. C is low-hanging fruit.

    Then I assign a difficulty rating of 1, 2, or 3. 1 is something simple I can do alone in half an hour or less. 2 is something that'll take longer, or require another pair of hands. 3 is something major.

    Then I set up a database or spreadsheet so I can sort everything according to either immediacy or difficulty.


  13. Patrice, being in Project Management, this is the sort of thing I do on a daily basis. People often do not think of the importance of projects which precede other projects in order to accomplish them.

  14. It's always a then b then c then d... getting things arranged in proper order, and then keeping it in the proper order, is the main thing!