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Any advice for a beginner?

 
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Hello Everyone,
I guess this is my introduction? I'm a 20 year old female based out of Idaho and for the past year I have been hardset on a change in lifestyle. I am already tired of the rat race and living in the city, so I have been on the search for properties within a small budget, and close enough to town that my boyfriend and I would be able to work and pay the bills.
I count myself extremely lucky, and while discussing some properties up towards salmon, my mother asked why I wasn't just putting down roots at her husband's cabin on the Yankee fork. I was confused because I was unaware that we owned any property. Apparently, we have 120 acres with a small cabin on it and otherwise untouched land, and I'm set to inherit about 30 acres assuming my siblings claim their portion of the land. I feel beyond blessed, and am very excited to embark on the journey towards becoming self sufficient.
I am waiting a year (stuck in a lease until September of 21) but plan to go up and start mapping out the property. Does anyone have advice/ideas? I imagine I would only start working 7-10 acres max as I plan to garden/have a small herd of goats and alpacas. I would also like chickens but with the hard winter's climate it does make me nervous.
Any tips, tricks, or wisdom you would like to pass on? It would all be very appreciated!
Thank you in advance! 😁
 
steward
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Location: West Tennessee
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Hi Cara, welcome to Permies!

I think you're on the right track wanting to go and start mapping the property. Since you're early in this process and won't be there for a little while, I suggest going as often as you can for a complete year, in the rain, the sun, all sorts of weather and just observe. Where does the rain go? Does it pond in certain areas? Is there a creek or brook or river that crests its banks and floods certain areas? Maybe a seasonal spring will reveal itself. Look to see where the sun rises and sets, and if there are open areas, how much get's shaded by shadows as the sun moves across the sky. The springtime when trees bud out and blossom is generally the easiest time to identify what kind of trees and shrubs are on the land, especially the ones that produce food like nut trees, fruit trees and wild berries. Perhaps there are some sugar maples in the woods waiting to be tapped for homemade syrup. Maybe there are patches in the woods that produce edible mushrooms and other edible ground cover that will reveal themselves after winter releases its grip.

My other advice for a beginner, is books. There's all sorts of cool books on homesteading, permaculture, gardening, soil improvement, foraging, and the list goes on. Permies has a book review grid to help give you some ideas for reading material and it's here: https://permies.com/w/book-reviews
 
Cara Wright
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Hello James,
Thank you for your advice! Unfortunately, I won't be able to make the drive too often as it is located about 4.5 hours from where I live. On the bright side, my stepfather spent a good two years living there so I will be able to learn quite a bit from him.
I will definitely look into different books on the topic. I never considered maple syrup, but that would be a dream come true.
 
pollinator
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People tend to start something and then GO BIG. Particularly with animals. Why have 2 chickens when you can buy 20. Then people get into trouble because 20 chickens cost a lot more and the eggs they're getting are overwhelming, etc. So start small and restrict yourself. We have 10 pigs now and last night I was debating how many I want to carry forward into the winter and actually feed. Gotta be real with yourself and limit the crazy overload.
 
Cara Wright
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Ive read through quite a few posts about that and it's definitely something I'll keep in mind. I'm thinking a couple of goats and a few chickens to start off so that I can get an idea of what the reality is when it comes to taking care of animals. I want alpacas and maybe a pig or two for the future, but definitely don't want to bite off more than I can chew. Coming from a city and never having to really look after animals or dispatch them for meat means that it will be a big adjustment.
 
gardener
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Eight or ten chickens are not much harder to care for than a couple, and will keep two or three people in eggs full time once they are laying. A rooster can be annoying, but our experience is that they really work to protect their hens... and if you can get one or two to set on eggs, you have a self-perpetuating flock.
 
gardener & author
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Lots of reading is good. I also recommend the Permies book review grid. Videos can be helpful too.

If you have an idea of what perennial plants you might want to grow, and will grow well there it can save a lot of money to grow things from seeds and cuttings in advance.

If there's staple annual food crops you'd like to grow and you have some backyard space, you could also start with a small packet of seeds and grow them into a large amount of seeds to plant once you're there.

I started with goats and chickens while I was renting a house, it makes moving house a bit more complicated, but I learned a lot during this time, and was glad to have animal care skills developed before I got here. If you know anyone nearby with animals, you might be able to learn from them.

Preserving and other kitchen homestead skills can be learned anywhere too. I was also glad to have these skills, and my preserving/fermenting supplies before I moved to my homestead.
 
Cara Wright
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I wish I could keep a few animals but aside form a dog and a cat, apartment living makes that nearly impossible. I am hoping to cultivate a few crops on my porch to produce food/seeds. Working in my preserving skills is a great idea and luckily something that will be easy to learn from the older generations in my family. (A small brag but we currently have 5 generations of women on my mom's side.)  
I have also worked at learning other little skills such as soapmaking, crocheting/knitting, and hope to work on my sewing skills.
There is currently a fully renovated cabin down the road from the property I plan to move onto so I will be staying there for the first year or so. I am hoping to build a wofati style house on the larger property once I get settled and have time to plan/work. But it will be interesting to see how it all works out. I could do with the additional insulation in an area that can reach 30 below in the winter's.
 
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Location: Wyoming Zone 3b
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Cara, how are your homestead plans coming along? I bought about 1/3 acre in Elk Bend and plan to build my little retirement homestead there. Hope to be settled in there 6 years from now, maybe sooner if I can afford it. (In Wyoming until then...) I’m planning a little cordwood cottage with a rocket mass heater, chickens & meat rabbits, and a “paradise lot” style mini food forest.

Looks like we’ll be about 40 miles from each other, I think...? Just good to check in with permie-minded neighbors.
 
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Location: Fennville MI
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Yeoman's Scale of Permanence. Look it up ;) It's pretty direct and straightforward. Makes a tremendous tool for prioritizing actions and decisions.

Observation. While you indicated the property was four plus hours drive away, Google Earth can be an amazing tool for remotely researching a piece of land. You can get tremendous information about the soil types present, depending on location there may be good topographical maps, there will probably be a wealth of aerial photographs over a period of time that can tell you many things, like how the sun falls across the land over the seasons, whether your tree cover is evergreen or deciduous, historical information like if it's been clear cut and roughly when.  Google Earth can help you with locating water on the land too, as ponds/lakes will be pretty distinctive in aerial photographs, and streams can also be located this way. For our site, before I got back to the earliest photographs that clearly showed the drain channels in the relatively open meadow, I had been able to spot them in pretty much every winter photograph. When the tree canopy wasn't closed over, the channels were visible. Even at about 2 feet in width, visible in aerial photographs.

One thing we found about our wooded site in SW MI is that somewhere prior to the 1930's, it had been clear cut and an attempt made to drain at least part of the area. We can tell this because the earliest aerial photographs are from the 1930s and show the land as largely open, with a series of clearly visible channels cut running straight to an erstwhile county drain (I've found old maps that acknowledge it, current ones don't appear to), and from that time the photos show it converting to the entirely wooded area it is today.

Check meteorological records for the area.  How much precipitation? What kind? When? Is there a dry season? Temperature ranges. You expressed concern about it getting too cold for chickens, you can research how cold your area gets and then look for appropriate breeds of chicken. Birds with smaller combs are going to be preferable in colder climates.

Look into records of fires in the area. You're talking about a part of the USA where forest/wild fires are a genuine concern and potentially serious hazard. You can research that remotely.

When you do get up to the land, grab some soil samples for testing. Pick a service to do the testing in advance and gather your samples in accordance with the service's instructions, don't just grab some samples and ask for testing. You'll get better results with preparation.

Use the soil test, the weather research and everything else you can gather to help you research plant selections for your site. On the ground observations of what is already growing well there will be one of your most valuable tools for this.

Most importantly - good luck and enjoy the adventure!
 
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If you haven’t already bought your chickens, I would suggest Chantecler or Icelandic breed. Like you, I live in a very harsh winter climate (down to negative 20 pretty much every winter). I learned the hard way, with badly frost bitten chickens, that not all breeds are cut out for that kind of weather. Chanteclers and Icelandics truly are.
 
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