Why you should keep a farm journal:  

Journal

My great-great-grandfather Benton was a successful banker when he decided to move Out West and become an orchardist. He was analytical and kept a detailed journal of his travels, expenses, the people he met, and his thought process. He eventually went on to establish a large orchard that is bearing fruit to this day. My granduncle transcribed the journal and had it made into several books that he gave to family members. The journal is a wealth of knowledge on life and homesteading in general.

Journaling every day not only gives you a productive outlet and structure to your life, but it’s also an important tool for organizing your life and working through problems.

Keep track of expenses: Benton wrote down every penny he had spent that day along with any money he had earned. As a banker he understood the importance of keeping track of your expenses. Without doing proper accounting, you can’t know how or if your homestead is successful. Keeping a journal keeps your expenses in perspective. He also gave the reasoning behind most of his purchases.

Record your thoughts: Recording your thoughts keeps you focused and organized. My great-great-grandfather would write extensively about his reasoning behind where he was establishing his orchard. He talked about the cost of land in different areas, along with the pros and cons. He considered such things as the climate, elevation, and the distance from downtown.

Record things you learned: Benton wrote about the things he learned while hanging out with other orchardists. He wrote about the pros and cons of growing different fruit, the importance of diversification and what percentage of his land should be a certain type of fruit. He also wrote about how to organize his orchard based on how much water certain fruit trees needed. As you read through his journal, you can see a progression of how the things he learned began to shape and mold his future plans for his orchard.

Record Memories: He did a really good job of recording specific details of places he visited and people he met. Humans are incredibly bad at remembering specific details. This is the main reason why our justice system is becoming more and wary of eyewitness testimony. You notice this a lot with fishermen whose prize catch seems to get bigger and bigger every time they retell the story. However, even though your memories may change, the specific details that you record won’t. When I experience something that I think may be of some importance, I immediately write down specific details of the event.

Keep track of goals: I most commonly use my journal to set goals and make sure I meet them. I have found this to be an incredible efficient tool  for organizing my life and getting things done. I love to use this for my garden. I will write down what date I should start seeds and when they need to be transplanted. Some plants such as tomatoes need to be started later than others. Having specific dates to accomplish goals helps keep me motivated and outline clear manageable steps toward accomplishing my goals.

Keep track of people you meet: I keep a record of people I meet along with their phone number and address. I learned the importance of this when I broke my phone and lost all of my contacts. The same thing happened when I put my wallet through the washing machine. Now I write down everyone I meet and details about them. If I need advice on hunting or gardening I can go back to my journal and find them. I have someone for everything and it has saved me a great deal of time and money.

Benton wrote about everyone he met. He wrote about town gossip, people he did odd jobs for, and other orchardists who he could call on for help in the future.

An old timer who used to own the general store and sold hunting/fishing gear stressed the importance of recording everyone you meet. He told me that his journal was the most important asset he had in running his business. He knew everyone in the community, what they liked, and what they needed.

3 Comments

  • Larraine Brandt says:

    Any chance of getting a copy (electronic or other?) of his journal? I would love to read it and learn from it!

  • Charlene says:

    Yes, it would be fun to read Mr. Benton’s journals! I recently read “Letters of a Woman Homesteader” and enjoyed it very much. My own great grandmother kept a journal for 47 years, from the time her 19 year old daughter died until just a few months before her death. “A complete record” as she would say, every day, even filling in the 9 days she was unconscious after an operation! Personally I journal in Word so I can do a word search and find out any bits of information that I need and have forgotten. As you said, an invaluable tool. It serves as tax documentation as well.

  • Charlene says:

    I see you have shared the journal. Thank You!

Leave a Comment