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HELP with design of my homestead in SE TN  RSS feed

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Hi Everyone! I'm an old lurker on these forums, but never made an account until now. I'm now in need of as much wisdom I can acquire. I've just recently purchased 10 acres for a good price in Southeast Tennessee from an old family whose grandparents lived there last 25 years ago. If this is the improper forum for this let me know and I'll correct. Now let's add a crude picture and explain the major landmarks.



It is drawn to be North being the top with a decent few of the rising sun and good view of the setting sun. The black area is off my property but flows evenly into it. The two white marks are neighbors, one for sale across road, and the one connected to me is a nice private guy, so far.

1. An old house built in 1900 that has been added on to in 46' from it's original cabin form. The cabin portion is still in decent condition, but the added on has to be gutted. Remodeling is an option, but seeing as some foundation work, electrical,and septic/plumbing needs to be done, on top of tearing out the old rooms and replacing them(bathroom, kitchen at least), then it would most likely be cheaper for me to tear it down, save what I can and build anew in a style/design I like. It has a well next to it, and as far as septic goes I'm yet to be sure of what they used with their commode since it's been said to me they didn't have a septic tank, but I perc'd it before buying slightly to the SW of the house, so I have 3 good build areas for a new house if I want, including the current location.

2. This area W of the House is all flat, nicely draining, good soil with a few structures on it. The 2 mark is directly where a fallen down old barn is, with lots of reusable tin and wood. South of it(the tiny white mark) is a little barn in the style of lincoln-log type of cabin where I'll be setting up camp while I work on the land for now.It's the only structure that will stay in the end. A couple of others small structures exist, but they are just salvage and will be cleaned off. A little NW of the 2 is a small incline to the road with a gate still there that can still be used(The road is about 2 foot elevated above property).


As for flooding in that section, it doesn't happen. Old family have seen the place since they were mountain men constantly passing it and word from neighbors and seller was that it doesn't flood and seeing no water damage on the structures suggest that to me as well.

THE CREEK is about five foot wide and maybe 1-2 feet deep of constant water that originate from a spring about a mile up the mountain and goes through about five well-kept properties before coming onto my land.

3. The flat area just S of the creek is badly represented on this map, but it's about an acre and half wide progressing into a triangle shape on the S side. It's lightly swampy from where the rain flows down the mini-bowl from 4. I feel it can be mitigated some with maybe a pond, swales/trenches, plants that love water, etc.
there is a small metal pig pen there and I've been told the old owner had pigs in that area, so I know it doesn't get unusable there. I hope.

4. Basically starts becoming a steeper mountainous hill a bit,but can be walked up through the middle with some effort. Nice view from it and a few level spots, all wooded. Not sure of the trees, but no pine is there. there is a couple very level areas that house could possible be put on it, but I'm leaning more toward building near 1 mark first, but we'll see in the future. I need to walk it more to get a better idea of it compared to the lower half.



 All in all, for me it's a very tranquil,serene spot not but 10 mins in both directions to two rivers I swam at my whole life, and about 25 mins from a major town. I'm young, with a wife and 2 children(eventually a third, but not yet) and we both work our own hours with decent pay. We own the land and have very little overhead right now. The area is a very rural, small town up in the mountains, but easy to get to with nice paved roads.
 My vision includes dabbling in everything a little, with a focus on kitchen gardens at 1 mark and hopefully a food forest with a pond at 3 if I can mitigate the swamp enough to do so. I'd like to
-Grow all I can, maybe a cash crop or two(small scale,watermelons sell great here    in summer)
-Grow fruit trees, nuts, vine plants, etc in a permaculture aspect
-Keep bees
-Grow edible mushrooms
-Dabble in wood working/blacksmith as a pure hobby thing
-Possibly down the road raise some simple animal, with Chickens being most   feasible. I know the old owner had pigs and some cows here.
-Up for anything that I haven't considered, if I receive some suggestions.

What I'm posting for is to get a group knowledge going specific to me and possibly others in a similar situation, hopefully. Suggestions, questions, answers...just wisdom in what my journey will possible entail.

I've always enjoyed this site and I look forward to adding to it as I learn and talking to you all as I become a possible valuable member of the site. Take care all and thanks in advance for any help given.

Chris
 
pollinator
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Congratulations on what looks like a very nice patch of ground.  You have a whole lifetime to build that land and raise a family,  What a blessing.

Are you thinking about making some swales?  Perhaps Hugelkulture?  Is there a large are you want to eventually make into a great garden?  If you have that spot identified, you could undertake some preliminary work like getting a soil test.  You could also plant some cover crops just to get things off in the right direction.  On the house side, sadly to say it looks like it is better to rebuild--but at least that way you can build what you really want!

Good Luck and let us know how things develop,

Eric
 
Christopher Stinnett
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Hi Eric! Thank you! I do plan on being here for the rest of my days and look forward to what becomes of the land.

I do plan on swales and am interested in Hugelkulture. The area W of the house is all open, flat land fit for use as gardens. About 3-4 acres total available for gardening in general, so while I won't do it all at once, over time and while curbing as much work as possible, as with Hugelkulture, is the plan. I do plan on doing the soil tests.

As far as planting cover crops, can you be more specific? I have a basic understanding of the terms and ideas, but specifics would be very helpful. This move was fairly sudden and while always spending my time in the mountains, actual homesteading is not my area of expertise, though one day it will be, haha.

Yes, my thoughts exactly on the house. My wife enjoys the old design, but we both know it's the smart play to build anew.

Again, thank you. I'll be sure to add pictures and add more posts as things come along.
 
Eric Hanson
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Christopher,

Cover crops are crops that are grown usually not so much for food as they are to prepare or improve conditions on the soil.  Opinions vary and I am by no means a subject matter specialist, but my suggestions (and they are only suggestions--you make your own decision) is to plant a nitrogen fixing crop (say, Crimson Clover) and a nitrogen sponge (say daikon radishes).  This is an extremely simple mixture and you can add numerous other seeds to your mix to suit your needs, but the clover will help fix atmospheric nitrogen into the soil and the daikon radish looks sort of like a 2-3 foot long carrot.  That radish will send its roots deep into the soil, break up hard layers, and once it dies, will rot down and add its own nutrients to the soil.  Cover crops can really help add fertility, both in fixing important nutrients and in conditioning the soil.

This is just barely scratching the surface on the potential of cover crops, but if you have more questions, please ask.

Eric
 
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I would keep #3 for growing as it's fairly flat and high and would get a long sun day if I'm looking at things right. You could put a pond to the right of that, near the top of that ravine. I think they call them dam ponds. They only have to scrape enough dirt out of it to build that dam which means very little earthworks/disturbance really. They do have to cut a key in with a backhoe, below the dam so the water doesn't infiltrate and blow the dam out.

Your terrain is real similar to mine. I have a high, flatish area down the middle with a ravine on each side of it and the terrain runs in the same direction as you. Mine's 8 acres though we just got the 7.5 adjoining it.

Also, constant flow of water = much hydro power. Of course, it might be a nice smooth flow until rain storms at which point it becomes a raging river. In that case, it's hard to do hydro because it will get demolished at times.
 
Christopher Stinnett
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To ERIC:
 Thanks for the specifics. I'll look into more plants of that nature and see what I want to do with that.

To JOHN:
 Yes, despite it's light swamp features that is the area I want to grow in if I can mitigate the standing water enough to do so. Although, 1 to 2 is where most of the sunlight comes in at. 3 is shadowed a little more, but it does also get good morning to late afternoon sun, so it's a definite possibility.
 Getting a backhoe to 3 could prove treacherous, due to it's swamp-like qualities and having to cross a creek(don't really want to disturb it, it's quite beautiful.) Yet I see your point. I do want a pond there, so I'll just have to investigate the options. Thanks for the input on it, it gets me to thinking.
 Congrats on getting the other 7.5, always nice to have more land to work with and for the future generations!
 Some minor hydro power is on my possibility list. I know we have some newer laws dealing with creeks and such, so I'll have to figure that out first, but if possible, OH YES! I've been told the creek stays pretty constant and doesn't rise much even in fierce rain, but that's yet to be personally seen.

To ALL:
 I'll probably edit this into the main post, but my general plan for now is 1  being where I build a new home, between 1 and 2 being my kitchen garden, yard, play area for the kids. 2 and W of it being a major garden area, future animal area. Along the outskirts of 1 and 2 would be nice for trees, vines, bushes just in various places to help up the privacy from the road. 3 if I can mitigate the swampiness would be ideal for my food forest, pond, mushroom stacks, maybe more animals there, and chill spots. 4 is my most unknown. Maybe a mini-underground home for fun, bees up there, nature observance, not really sure what hills could be used for in food production, but sure it can be. Ginseng? That would be wonderful.

 Feel free to input thoughts to that general plan. Thanks to you two for your input thus far.

Chris
 
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If area 3 tends to be swampy, it will probably not be ideal for many trees aside from waterlovers like willow. A food forest would likely do best around 3 on the lower slopes of the hill. I would certainly plan for a pond where it can turn the swampiest area into water and the land around it into firm ground. Pull the topsoil out and up for growing beds, and make a small dam as described. A pond doesn't have to be a huge disruptive project: https://permies.com/t/97743/critters/Building-beaver-dam

I know you want to maintain the look of the creek, but you will really want a good bridge over it at some point for access, including hauling firewood. Leaving it all as is will mean either no vehicle access ever, or damaging the banks where you cross. It would also be a natural place for supporting hydropower generation.
 
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What I think would be cool.
Half an acre vegetable + herb + mushroom(woodchip/straw) garden.
One acre pond
Two Acre intensive food forest
Three Bee Hive thats isn't harvest for a year or two.
Fish in the pond and Egg laying chicken.
2 to 4 wild harvested deer that wanders on the property.
 
Christopher Stinnett
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To GLENN:
 Which is fine, because my wife LOVES willows, so a few might be a good idea for soaking excess water. I was thinking the same with the food forest, so it can roll into the hills and woods. Just seems like the natural place for it.
 
 Thanks for the link, that's good information to think on. I really do want a pond. Pulling the topsoil has been brought up from my brother, so you reinforced that idea, so thanks.

 Yeah, a bridge would be nice. At moment, I can jump across it and I really don't want to take a vehicle over there anyway(may have to though, depending on scale of what I decide to do), but a bridge is a serious thought depending on my laws here (I've heard we are picky about messing with creeks nowadays) because I'm not going to be young and jumping 4-5 gaps forever. Hydropower has been brought up and is a wonderful idea and should be a fun project to boot. Thanks for your input.

To  S BENJI:
  I think what you think is cool. I can't believe I didn't mention herbs up there before, because those are most certainly going in the ground. Everything you mention are things I want to accomplish here. I imagine you listing those off in a fast paced, excited voice. Made me smile, so thanks!
 
  I'm aware deer can be a problem when it comes to messing with gardens, so I'll have to keep them in mind with all this.
 
S Bengi
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You can make your swale off contour so that the water is funneled into the pond area.
Possible pump some of the creek water as it enters your property to the pond area.
Use a dense matt of green organic matter and animals to naturally gluey the pond or pond liner. A 1/4acre pond is a nice min size, but with flowing water from the creek, you could make it smaller, it still not freeze in the winter and it can still have a 'high' stocking rate with fresh water/oxygen coming from the greek.

 
Christopher Stinnett
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To S BENJI:
 I get the idea of a swale and pumping into the pond, but can you elaborate on matts of green organic matter and animals to "gluey?" the pond? Not sure of the term gluey.
 
 I'm glad you pointed out the size and about it not freezing reasons. That's good info for me. What do you mean by "high" stocking rate? I have no knowledge of a good pond design when it comes to good plants to plant near/in it and what to stock it with that will succeed.
 
  Thank you for the info!
 
Glenn Herbert
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The term is "gley", which means to work clay/muck into the bottom and sides of a pond so it holds water. If you already have an area that never dries out fully, you may not need to do anything special with the bottom.

It would be more depth than area that would keep a pond from freezing, and if you have natural water flow, especially springs or seeps, feeding the pond, it will keep at least part of the pond unfrozen year round. In Tennessee, I would guess that freezing ponds would be less of an issue than in northern areas.
 
S Bengi
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Gley is when bacteria eat organic matter and make a 'slimy plague layer'
This layer make it where water cannot easily pass-through, then a pond is created.
https://permies.com/t/38201/Progress-Gleying-Pond-Pigs

As for stocking ratio for a pond.
Fish in an aquarium/pond need water. In an aquarium we would put an air-stone in increase the oxygen level in it.
In your pond as soon as the oxygen in your water is used up, you can just 'import' more from the creek.
Having the surface of the pond exposed to air, allows diffusion, so more water. Having water cascade over rocks/etc also helps.

Fish also need food, so you will also need to buy feed similar to chicken feed or pig feed.
You can also grow must if not all your feed too:
• mealworms
• black soldier fly larvae
• slaters, pill bugs
• mosquito fish
• daphnia magna (water flea)
• vinegar eel
• mosquito larvae
• duck weed Grow Bed
• azolla Grow Bed
• Green Algae Grow Tow
 
Eric Hanson
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Christopher,

I was just looking over the thread and a couple of thoughts occurred to me about your plans for your garden.  But first, I just wanted to confirm some basic facts.  Zone 3 is low and swampy right?  If this is so, then I don’t think it is the most appropriate place for a garden.  There has been discussion about making this a pond or small lake.  Might the area to the right/east be a better place for a garden?  It would still be close to your house, but at least on paper looks higher in elevation than zone 3.  If you did dig out zone 3, you might be able to build up the area to the right/east to keep it out of a low patch.  

Also, are you planning on acquiring any equipment like a tractor?  I live on a bit less than 10 acres and I have owned 2 tractors.  My first was a subcompact tractor.  I sold that to purchase a medium compact tractor.  Given the ambitions you previously articulated, a tractor may be a worthy investment.

Final question.  Are you planning on building a bridge to get over it the creek?  I have a couple of very small creeks on my property that despite their diminutive size are too deep for my tractor.  I am considering building a bridge to get over these creeks.  I have watched a couple of YouTube videos on how to build a solid, sturdy yet affordable bridge and I may do this at sometime in the future.

These are just thoughts I had and I would be willing to bet that you have already considered something similar.  Please keep us updated as to your plans.  It is certainly nice to experience this project vicariously through you.

Eric
 
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