Calendars love catalogs

This post is Part 2 of 12 in Stories: Tools for making plans

The new calendars

I got these about six weeks ago, when the selection was good (because, just any calendar will not do!). Today, I busted them out of their plastic. It’s only three weeks to the new year, the Holidays will vanish in a blur as they always do… I don’t know if it’s the new extra focus that comes from garden BLOGGING, this year’s extended Real Winter, Garden Season SIX coming up, or merely some planetary alignment thing (or…something else), but I am really, well, unusually EDGY and wanting to get started… Hmmm. Anyhow, the calendars…

It comes down to record-keeping. You read about all kinds of intense systems of garden notes and, from market gardeners, intricate planting schedules distilled from reams of precise planting data. I started out with all that in mind, recording every crop and variety by planting date on a map, and meticulously noting all the action in a pocket notebook (use waterproof ink, field notebooks in your pocket inevitably get SOAKED…forgotten in the laundry or otherwise!). This note-taking activity would trail off a bit as the season got underway, and more so over the years…

Now, I’m a minimalist when it comes to records, and this season’s system is the simplest yet. Almost everything worth noting goes into these two fabulously FRESH calendars. And there they are! Like the new seed catalogs, for me, new calendars in December hold all the promise of things to come…!

Details! Well, these aren’t just any calendars, they’re At-A-Glance brand calendars. Like any other tool, when you find the right one, nothing else will do.

I’ve examined and tried all kinds of free and commercial calendars (and notebooks, and journals…) and there’s always been something missing, something slightly WRONG. Then I discovered the large-format AAG, which I’ve been using for the past three years. It is…just right. I tend to get distracted and a little messy when it comes to field notes as the season progresses, and a simple thing like not having enough space to write in can throw things off. The AAG large wall calendar gives me ample, uncluttered room for every day of the week, and a crisp, matt surface to write on. And it doesn’t get lost. I hang a pen on twine from the same nail and it’s set. Perfect!

The little AAG I found this year. It’s the ideal companion to the wall calendar, the missing link. It even has the monthly moon phases, which I used to fill in by hand on the big one (planting by moon cycles is somehow always at the back of my mind…). The little one replaces scraps of paper and various notebooks for jotting down field work hours, market and stand sales, and the like. It’s more “business”, while the wall model holds the field stuff: planting and harvest dates, mowing, rainfall and other weather notes, a very few other basics like gas can refills, repairs and the like, plus upcoming events and various due dates. Easy! Whenever possible, I use a black pen for notes, red to highlight future stuff, and a mechanical pencil to pencil things in.

Bonus: For the small mountain of annual organic certification paperwork, the calendar format is a ready-made chronological log (They really insist on one…!).

So there you have it! A straightforward, impossible-to-lose place for everything usually keeps me on track, and this two-calendar system certainly ought to do it. ;)

8 thoughts on “Calendars love catalogs”

  1. Oh that sounds good. Like you as the season progresses my notes get more scattered. I am using the winter this year to get seriously organized and I like your idea. I have been using a “Mom” calendar to record egg production, a ledger to record market sales, a monthly calendar book to record planting dates, a notebook for field notes. Which all amounted to scraps of paper about August when the only calendar I could reliably find was the one on the wall. I resolve to better this time. Thanks for the info.

  2. Good idea, BUT is there enough room, or are you going to use some kind of code to shorten the entries?

    My solution for the past 4 years has been to use a Week to View RHS Diary. Usually plenty of space and a nice botanical drawing to look at to boot!

  3. Hey VP, thanks for the question, now I get to write even more about blank calendars! :) I figure that, between the big and little calendars, there should be enough room for almost everything I need to write down. (Of course, there is also my critical, more-compact-than-ever field production map, which completes this year’s basic System&em;it’s a grid printed on a sheet of paper, with crop locations. I’ll put it in another post.)

    I think it comes down to how much information you need. I used to record varieties right down to the bed level, like, if I did half a 50′ bed each of two varieties of spinach, that would be noted on the field map and in my notebook: date, number or rows, seeding depth. Multiply that by 120+ varieties across all crops (around 50-60 for tomatoes alone) in nearly 400 50′ beds, PLUS succession planting, PLUS all the movement from seedling to transplant, and that’s a crazy amount of notes to be taking.

    I eventually realized, most of that detail doesn’t do me any good, especially with completely unpredictable weather making season-to-season comparisons seem pretty futile these days.

    In next year’s System, varieties will be printed on marker stakes with planting dates and stuck in the beds as usual, and I’ll keep a reference list in case stakes get…obliterated, which happens. Beyond that, I’ll only keep a master list of the season’s varieties, and make notes on the calendars of outstanding things only, like, “July 15: ‘first toms: few Stupice'”. I use obvious abbreviations, but no formal code. On the little calendar, there’s that big yellow note space for each month, room enough to jot the variety lists in the months they’re first started. It might have: toms -> Stupice (Stu) as the abbreviation, but most varieties I won’t write much about anyhow! I’m ditching all but the essentials. Weather is important: min/max temp and sun (if not daily, at least the spikes and trends), rainfall, storms/major wind. Start and transplant dates. First and last harvest dates by crop. Notes on really good or bad performance of particular cultivars. Row cover dates, tillage, irrigation, other field action like that. At the end of the season, an overall mark beside each variety on the master list (I’ll figure that out when I get there, maybe an A-B-C grade). Simple! If something really needs more words, I’ll put it on a post-it (those nice square ones!) and stick it in the little calendar.

    This whole records aspect is probably (well, no doubt!) one of the few big differences between home gardening and market gardening when you’re growing many varieties. I remember first looking at templates and outlines for “garden notes”, imagining all that wonderful information for future reference. Heh-heh. Sounded great. I have relatively such a huge amount of…data that I could drown in it if I let myself, it really can become a burden and counterproductive if taken too far. Unfortunately, I don’t (can’t?) really sketch, or maybe my system would be entirely different. ;) I do take pictures, and put ’em on the blog, which has become part of the System too, I guess!

    That’s my reasoning…as usual, we’ll see how it works out!!

  4. Crumbs – that’s quite a system you have there! I guess you need that when you embark on a commercial enterprise. I feel most amateurish in comparison!

    Hope all goes well and have a good Christmas!

  5. Thanks Mike – glad you like the site! I see we keep on playing position swapsies on the top100 gardening sites too ;) I love your photos – especially the recent snow ones – we’ve got snow forecast for today, but it will be a mere sprinkling compared with what you guys have to contend with!

    Best wishes,

    Michelle (aka VP)


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