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Help me design my homestead

 
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Hello everyone this is my first time posting, I am looking for ideas and help on how I should layout my property. I recently purchased a home with 12 acres, I have not moved in yet but I am eager to start planning. Some things I know I want are chickens, goats, lots of annual vegetables and a perennial food forest. Here is an overhead picture of the property and I labeled some of the things that are already there. I welcome all ideas on how I should lay everything out and what should be where.  Also some other info, this property is in Michigan zone 5b, my wife and I work full time, although I get 4 days off a week most weeks, so we are not going to be full time homesteaders for now.



property-line.PNG
[Thumbnail for property-line.PNG]
 
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Hi Matt,

I can help you with ideas if you want, but it may take time, and lots of communication to figure everything out to perfectly suit you. More than a custom plan, you will need a plan of action that suits your time line.

Purple Moosage me if you want to talk more.

Hope that helps!
 
pollinator
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Looks like an interesting property, I see a path that for some reason was used enough to keep it visible in the picture... and a swampy area, so you have a groundwater table not too deep down, that helps.

Best advise I have to start: don't do too much yet. Begin with a compost pile for your kitchen waste. As close to the house as possible start with your veggie garden. Besides that walk your land often, especially when it rains, to just see where the water goes... What grows where already? How are the winds? Get a feel for what is everyday reality for what grows on your land. When you have a bit of a picture, then start doing what is most obvious to you. The more you understand your land and your climate, the more will become obvious...

Good luck!
 
Matt Dale
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R. Steele wrote:Hi Matt,

I can help you with ideas if you want, but it may take time, and lots of communication to figure everything out to perfectly suit you. More than a custom plan, you will need a plan of action that suits your time line.

Purple Moosage me if you want to talk more.

Hope that helps!



Thank you! I will be sending a message.
 
Matt Dale
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Rene Nijstad wrote:Looks like an interesting property, I see a path that for some reason was used enough to keep it visible in the picture... and a swampy area, so you have a groundwater table not too deep down, that helps.

Best advise I have to start: don't do too much yet. Begin with a compost pile for your kitchen waste. As close to the house as possible start with your veggie garden. Besides that walk your land often, especially when it rains, to just see where the water goes... What grows where already? How are the winds? Get a feel for what is everyday reality for what grows on your land. When you have a bit of a picture, then start doing what is most obvious to you. The more you understand your land and your climate, the more will become obvious...

Good luck!



Thanks that is good advice, I know it’s going to take a lot of observation the first year and will take time to implement everything I plan on.
That path I believe was where they rode Atvs, that’s why it’s worn down like that.

Does anyone know what I could do with the swampy area or any benefits there are to having that on the property?
 
master pollinator
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My advice is to start with a Kitchen Garden as close to the house as practical.  Start small, and gradually add as you become comfortable with each step.  Don't "animal up" right away.  If you really, really want animals, start with a few laying hens in a system close to the house.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Matt Dale wrote:
Does anyone know what I could do with the swampy area or any benefits there are to having that on the property?



Wetlands are some of the most productive land on the planet.  Don't make plans for it right away, just study it for awhile.  It might be possible to convert part of it to a pond later on.
 
pollinator
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Congrats on the new property purchase.  This must be very exciting.  I'm more of a food forest guy so I can't say much about overall planning.    One thing I can suggest is to start planting and propagating now.  You could plant simple guilds, start collecting local seeds and cuttings and etc.

I suggest is starting a plant/tree nursery for experimentation and propagation.  You will have to decide where to put it.  Close to a water source and if possible close to the shed so you have a place to store hand tools and get out of the rain.

A nursery keeps everything in one place and gives you a seriously handy way to move stuff out into your forest.  You become your own nurseryman.  It is a great place to experiment with your soil and different types of beds.   It's also a great way to experiment on a small scale..you will start to get a sense of what really

thrives, how it acts and if you even like it.

You can set up a small composting station, vermicompost, etc., covered beds, raised beds and etc.  May also give you the opportunity to experiment with hardscape.    

For example, you could plant a couple of berry bush X and those would be the bushes to take cuttings from to propagate.  Start perennial flowers now and use them to cull seed and or to separate and move out into the forest.  You could plant sunchokes and have a supply of bulbs to move out into the forest.   I'm a big

fan of having a nursery.  It should have been the first thing I did.

There is also a psychological aspect to it.  There will be a small convenient space where you can hang and not be slogging all over the property.  There will be days where you will just want to putter around.
 
Matt Dale
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Scott Foster wrote:

I suggest is starting a plant/tree nursery for experimentation and propagation.  You will have to decide where to put it.  Close to a water source and if possible close to the shed so you have a place to store hand tools and get out of the rain.

A nursery keeps everything in one place and gives you a seriously handy way to move stuff out into your forest.  You become your own nurseryman.  It is a great place to experiment with your soil and different types of beds.   It's also a great way to experiment on a small scale..you will start to get a sense of what really

thrives, how it acts and if you even like it.



That’s a great idea, do you have any recommended sources I could look into, YouTube videos, books etc ? I am assuming you'd be keeping a lot of things in containers how would those do over winter ?
 
Scott Foster
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That’s a great idea, do you have any recommended sources I could look into, YouTube videos, books etc ? I am assuming you'd be keeping a lot of things in containers how would those do over winter ?

I haven't used too many containers. You can look up healing in, air-layering and other techniques for propagating. There is so much information out there I couldn't possibly cover it all, nor do I know it all.   A book I found super helpful is  Gaia's Garden, Second Edition: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway.   This is a very simple book that brings it down to earth and gives you a basic

frame-work on companion planting and the basic concept of how to create biodiversity in your food forest.

For full-scale Permaculture, Geoff Lawton is your Huckleberry.   I suggest learning about specific things that interest you by doing Youtube searches on those subjects.   I will post some videos from the content creators that I watch the most, if you like them you can subscribe.   Maybe some other permies will chime in with suggested resources.  I'm a fan of jumping in and getting started...don't get cut up in analysis paralysis.  



https://youtu.be/MsSbImM58GA














 
Matt Dale
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Scott thank you so much for all of the info I really appreciate it. I will definitely check out those YouTubers and those books, I have been meaning to get a bunch of permaculture books to start reading before I get started so I will definitely add those to the list.
 
R. Steele
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Hi Matt,

Information that may help. What is your soil type? What direction is north in relation to your property picture? And what are the biggest changes in topography? If I know your soil type, I can give you a good list of mixed species annuals that should do well with low or no maintenance.
 
Scott Foster
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@Matt, you are welcome.
 
Matt Dale
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R. Steele wrote:Hi Matt,

Information that may help. What is your soil type? What direction is north in relation to your property picture? And what are the biggest changes in topography? If I know your soil type, I can give you a good list of mixed species annuals that should do well with low or no maintenance.



I'm not sure what the soil type is, I know its not clay, probably closest to sandy loam. North is the top of the picture, here is a picture with the topography.
property-with-contour.PNG
[Thumbnail for property-with-contour.PNG]
 
R. Steele
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Hi Matt,

Thats a nice layout. Your swales would follow the contour lines, and be spaced far enough appart in most areas it doesn't interfere with the usage, like mobile grazing fences for goats and chickens, but in areas where you wanted more trees like a orchard type food forest, you could run the swales a little closer, like tree row spacing. You'll want to measure things out, and figure out what will work best for spacing to set up mobile electic netting for livestock between your swales.

Around that old corn feild, have one swale on the high side and one on the low, with your market beds in that area roughly parallel to the swales. That way you can use it for maximum production of market garden beds, and or greenhouse/low tunnels in the less productive cool seasons.

You can do taller trees on the north side of your property, with the tree heights gradually getting shorter to the south side of the property. This can be around your swamp, and on the north boundary if you want protection from nortern winds, and large trees like chestnuts.

I'll do a second post for your warm season mixed annual cover crops.

Hope that helps give some ideas for now!

 
pollinator
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Very first, I'd mark out temporary zones. How far do you want to walk? Is the shed your boundary? Walk the area and mark out your comfortable walking distance for simple daily chores like tending the garden. You don't want to have to walk too far for things you have to tend all the time. Then another boundary farther out for things you need to tend maybe once or twice a day. For example, if you have a relatively steep hill you may want to put your boundary at the bottom of it. If there's a thicket of blackberries and you want them to stay, put your boundary short of that because it's not something you need to tend. If your area gets lots of snow, zone 2 might be closer in because you don't want to walk that far in the snow.

Once you have those two zones set, what goes inside each?

Also, the direction of prevailing winds. Sometimes these change with the seasons or the time of day, but in some areas it's pretty steady. Will you need a windbreak? Where? How strong do the winds blow?
 
R. Steele
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Hello again Matt,

I did some checking around, and provided your summer is warm enough up there, this list of warm season annual cover crop mix should do the trick. Now normally you would terminate a cover crop before it goes to seed, but since you'll have alot of pasture, you can let those areas seed out as these are also annual forage crops that will work well with goats to.

I found a supplier who carries them all, and does custom mixes. I've never used them, and don't know their reputation as a company; however, it's the one I found that had the necessary selection of annual forage cover crops for the best soil building mix.

Company name: Haystack Mountain, and they are online.

The 10 species warm season mix are as follows: Berseem Clover(Frosty), Cow Peas, Common Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Sunn Hemp, Sorghum-Sudangrass, Pearl Millet, Mancan Buchwheat, Phacelia and Forage Sunflower.

I would recomend calling them up before you order, and see if they have recommendations for the best mix ratios of your mix list based on seed count. They should also be able to give you seeding rates. They do have a section on their website for making custom cover crop mixes, and that might be set up with an algorithm to calculate seed percentage by weight; however, I would call them just to see if they have any advice on ratios by wight within your mix. They may also be able to quote you a price, and let you know how much your seed will cost to implement per acre.

When your ready for a cold season mix, let me know.

Hope that helps!
 
Matt Dale
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Thank you, yes that helps. The ideas are flowing now, and I'm getting a better idea of what I should do.

What would you recommend for planting on the south border? I would like to have something there to kind of mark the property line since the field continues on to the neighbors property, and something that gives a little privacy. But I should probably stay away from trees since it is the south side? or should I just have a fence?

Also with the cover crop, would I still be ok to plant end of June? Obviously spring is ideal, and would I have to plant a winter cover crop? would the spring cover crop not come back the next spring?
 
R. Steele
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Good Morning Matt,

You'll be fine planting the cover crop in June, as they are warm weather cover crops, so the timing close to summer is why I suggested them. The only question is will there be enough moisture to adequately initiate germination? Most of the mix is very drought tolorant, so once established they will be fine, pushing their roots deep into the soil. They may need a few weeks of most soil to get there though.

Do you get june rain events, or is your soil still moist for a few weeks in the beginning of June?

You may want to do some brush hogging after you seed, so the seeds have a nice mulch layer on top of them.

As far as your southern boarder, how tall do you want the privacy barrier? Personally having your entire property fenced in, with a permanent fence capable of holding goats would be wise if possible. That way if you have livestock escape their pens, you have a secondary barrier to prevent predation or further escape. But that type of fence doesn't offer privacy.

You can still plant along your fence line, just make spacing adjustments for everything in the plan. So the question is, what bushy or viney berries do you like, and what is your soil pH there? You could have hardy kiwi trellised on your fence. I would say blueberries could go in a row there. But will they be tall enough, do you like blueberries and will the pH be compatible for ease of growth? Gogi berries, elderberries, raspberries, blackberries, honeyberries or essentially whatever isn't to tall, grows well in the soil without a constant battle, fits your maintenence preferances, and produces something you like or want to market. There are lots of options, it's just a matter of your personal preferances. My choice for others would be the least maintenence, and so probably a toss up between Gogi berry, blueberry, and black elderberry or all three for low maintenance along the fence line. You could even turn your fence line into a short berry forest with a nice ornamental design, and if you don't mind annual pruning and tying up vines, you could do blackberries and raspberries trellised on the fence. If your soil isn't that acidic, the blueberries and raspberries may need ammendments though to keep your soil in the acidic pH range they prefer.

Food for thought!
 
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