Arguably one of the most important traits of a successful homestead is his ability to efficiently manage his time. Homesteading chores take up the bulk of time. There is truly always something that can be done on a homestead – there’s no place for boredom – and if one allows it to, the to-do list can quickly become overwhelming. Gardens need weeded, fruit trees need picked, coops need fixed, animals need fed, and something keeps eating the chickens at night.
So let’s take a look at what we can do to save time while performing homesteading chores.
#1 – Always Have Both Hands Full
To the best of your ability, always have something in each of your hands. If you’re only making a trip with one bucket, when you could be doing it with two, then you’re effectively wasting time and doubling your workload. Now, you have to make the same trip twice.
#2 – Keep 5-Gallon Buckets EVERYWHERE
As Joel Salatin says, “Five-gallon buckets make the world go round.” It wasn’t until I upped the ante at my own homestead, adding a pig, goats, and another garden to the mix that I truly understand what it was that he was saying. Five-gallon buckets are truly the workhorse of the farm.
Whether it’s feed, water, compost, tomatoes, or tools, things need to be moved about a homestead, and one of the best ways to carry large amounts of such is through the usage of five-gallon buckets. You want to make sure that you always have one on hand as well. I strategically position them throughout my homestead. I keep two up by the house, one by the chickens, a few by the garden, and another by the water hose.
#3 – Buy and Use a Garden Wagon
This one was a total game changer for me. I’m not talking about a wheelbarrow. I’m talking about a wagon, something like the Landworks Heavy Duty Garden Wagon with removable sides. You can only carry so much by hand, and a wagon not only allows you to carry more weight per trip, but allows you to decrease the total amount of trips that you have to make for any given task as well. Throughout the summer, I consistently begin my day by loading up my wagon with the water, feed, and tool buckets that I’ll need to maximize my efficiency. Without my wagon, I’ve found that it can take me up to three times longer to get my morning chores done.
On top of this, a wagon saves effort as well. Carrying two five-gallon buckets full of water requires a lot of strength and energy. When you get finished carrying that amount of weight any reasonable distance, you’ll be gassed. With a wagon though, you can easily get that water to where it needs to be with a minimal amount of effort, and enough energy to immediately move on to the next task. Throughout the course of a day, this means that you’ll have more energy available to get more accomplished.
If you have a serious homestead and want to apply my “keep them everywhere” bucket philosophy, you can buy the Landworks Garden Wagon as a 4-pack. Why work like a dog when you don’t have to?
#4 – Place Things Close to Where They are Used
You need to ensure that everything at your homestead is placed strategically if you want to ease the back and forth of executing the many homesteading chores you face. What I mean by this is that you want to make sure that you don’t have to carry things as far.
For example, I keep my chicken feed in a metal trashcan with a lid right outside the chicken coop. I keep my garden tools in a shed right by my garden. By doing such, not only do I free my hands up to carry other items with me when I go to check on the chickens in the morning (such as loaves of old bread, chicken wire, tools, etc.), but I save time by not having to make as many trips. A garden wagon can only hold so much, and I try to pack it full each time I use it. By placing necessary items as close as possible to where they’ll be used/consumed however, you’ll end up saving yourself time.
#5 – Make PVC Pipe Chicken Feeders
These were a real game changer on my homestead. With the installation of three PVC chicken feeders, feeding my chickens went from being a daily activity to something that I only have to now do twice a week. You can make these yourself.
On average, feeding my chickens takes me about eight minutes a day, if I have to go out there with a corn scoop and fill up a tin dish for them. Over the course of a week, that’s 56 minutes – almost an hour a week gone that I could spend doing on other things. With my PVC pipe chicken feeders, I can cut that time down to about 16 minutes a week. You can get a lot done around a homestead with an extra 40 minutes a week.
#6 – Use Water Barrels
Water barrels, like this DIY kit off Amazon, are another easy-to-install game changer. The hauling of water is one of the most time consuming and physically intensive tasks that a homesteader has to do on a daily basis, and if you add a substantial number of animals to the farm roster, it can quickly grow to be quite a daily physical endeavor.
During the summer heat where I live, daily watering for chickens, a pig, goats, honeybees, a cat, and a dog took up a significant amount of my time, with the pig requiring multiple waterings per day. If you have to haul all that water via 5-gallon bucket over and over and over again, that’s a lot of time and energy being spent that doesn’t necessarily have to be.
One of the key ways that you can cut down on this amount of labor is through the addition of water barrels to your homestead. I keep one attached to the gutter system behind my chicken coop, and thanks to its central location, I can easily water my other animals from it as well. It easily saves me around 100 yards of trucking 5-gallon buckets full of water. That’s a lot of time and effort, and it probably saves me 15+ minutes a day. See our other tips for rainwater collection.
#7 – Get Heated Water Bowls
The addition of heated water bowls I haven’t made to my homestead just yet, but I intend to do so in the near future. I don’t particularly mind the cold, but I don’t like what it does to my workload. Freezing temperatures cause all my animals’ water bowls to turn into solid blocks of ice, and at the moment, that means that every winter morning, I have to add on an extra 20 minutes hauling hot tap water out to the animals from my basement bathroom. That very quickly grows old, and when you have to do that every morning before your day job, it can very easily lead to a tendency to run late.
Heated water bowls are a bit of an investment, yes, but in the long run, they save you a lot of time. And on the homestead, like in life, time is money. Every minute saved adds up as you go through your daily to-do list of homesteading chores.
#8 – Create Your Homestead EDC
There are a few things that you should always have on your person if you have a homestead. This is your every day carry (EDC) Kit, and often includes: a knife, twine, pliers, a Philips head screwdriver, gloves, and snips. Thankfully, you can get most of this package all in one handy multitool.
There is always a reason to have a knife on your person on a homestead, even if you’re going out to do chores that you don’t foresee needing one for. About a year ago I went out to gather eggs, didn’t take a knife, and walked into the coop to find a chicken hanging upside down from a roost with a string wrapped around its foot. Somehow a piece of bailing twine had gotten into the coop (wind?), ended up wrapped around the roost, and then ended up catching that chicken. The point is, stuff happens, and you never know when you’ll need a knife.
I’ve found that twine is quite possibly one of the most useful tools that you will carry on a homestead. There is quite literally always some plant that needs to be trellised, chicken wire that needs a temporary patch, a peach tree that needs help, or the like. I regularly carry gloves with me because you never know when you’re going to have to do something that involves contact with poop, chicken talons, or sharp goat hooves. Gloves will save you a lot of worry. And potentially a tetanus shot as well.
#9 – Always Keep Baskets or Buckets in the Garden
There’s a difference between recreational gardening and homesteading. If you’ve done both, then you know what I’m talking about. With homesteading, your garden is going to produce food, and lots of it. Gone are the days of carrying all your harvest back to the kitchen in your hands or in your makeshift shirt bucket. You are going to need a way to carry all of your produce back efficiently and safely up to your house without the threat of dropping and bruising tomatoes along the way, or of having to make multiple unnecessary trips.
Your baskets do not need to look pretty. They just need to be functional. You can buy lower-cost garden colander trugs, nicer harvests baskets, or just look for used baskets at flea markets and lawn sales. Buckets work as well, but baskets have a more aesthetic appeal if you are looking for that cottagecore aesthetic.
As a result, I just about always have a basket or two with me when I go out to the garden in the summertime. I like to keep 5-gallon buckets inside the garden fence as well. Proper weeding is essential to a vibrant and healthy garden, and all those weeds have to go somewhere.
At my house, they all go in those buckets before making a trip to either the compost pile or the chicken coop. Ideally, I like to throw everything to the chickens that I can. It helps the run to smell better, helps the poop to decompose, keeps the chickens from getting bored and pecking each other, and they enjoy pecking through the rubbish.
#10 – Let Animals Do the Work
This is something that I learned from Joel Salatin. Why do the heavy lifting for a task that an animal would be more than happy to do for you? Do you really need to spend time turning your compost pile when a chicken will happily work at it all day for you for free? Is there any need for you to spend your time attempting to dig up stumps, when a pig will do so with ease provided you dig a series of small holes around the stump and fill them with corn? There are a number of areas where animals can truly save you a lot of labor and will have an absolute blast in the process.
Other examples that I can think of off the top of my head (that I’ve actually used) are letting goats clean out the brush in an area for you, letting a pig plow a clay field for you so that you can sow grass seed, getting a cat to hunt mice so that I don’t have to constantly set traps around my chicken feed supply, letting animals fertilize an area so that you don’t have to, and letting animals eat in areas that you don’t feel like weed eating.
An animal is in a constant search for food, and they all have different ways in which they seek to do so. Think through what the animals on your homestead enjoy doing inherently and figure out how they can use those instincts to decrease your workload around the homestead.
#11 – Utilize Square Foot Gardening
I feel like a parrot sometimes when it comes to square foot gardening, constantly harping about its benefits. But the truth is, square foot gardening works – and can save you a lot of time. You can easily grow more food in less space using this method, and due to the smaller sizes of each particular plot, getting to where you need to weed is a lot easier of a process as well. There’s less space you have to move to weed a square foot garden than you would with the same number of plants grown in a row fashion, and as a result, it can save you quite a bit of time. I highly recommend looking into it.
Homesteading Chores Time Saver Summary
This is by no means a comprehensive list of what you need to do to save your time and energy around your homestead, but it’s most certainly a place to start. Time is like your savings account. Eventually it adds up. By utilizing the above ideas, you’ll run a much more efficient, and much less labor-intensive homestead than you had before.
Are there other time-saving tips that you’ve discovered that weren’t listed above? Have you utilized any of the above on your own homestead? Let us know in the comments below!