we recently bought 7 acres of land in a nice place in the middle of Catalonia (Spain) and plan to live there once the house there is fully restored.
Not long ago Barley was growing there. The person who took care of this recently harvested everything. We also have a couple of almond trees.
Our idea is to create a food forest and a main crop garden area. Now, while we are occupied by the restoration of the house we won't have much time to start planting and everything.
So, I thought, it might be a good idea, to first let the land do its own thing. Having weeds grow wherever they want. The idea is to analyze what is growing where when we can focus on cultivating, so we get an idea of how the soil is like. Also thinking about how weeds are a pioneer species preparing the soil for what is to come. Thinking of trees that build biomass quickly as well as shrubs, cover crops, etc...
Study how the rainwater flows in your land: the normal rains as well as the heavy rains.
Since you live in a dry area, you will especially need to profit from the rainwater you can harvest through earthworks (if you have access to equipment) or other means of slowing down & sinking water into the land through the laying out of rocks, branches, logs, mulchberms across the surface of the land. if you use logs above ground, you have to be careful that they are not in the flow of heavy rains that could send the log to do damage.
Glad to hear about your plans...I have a similar dream in mind w/ a property my mom recently bought.
Around 12 acres of our 27 acres of land has been cut 2-3x a year for hay for many years, leaving it in what appears to be somewhat poor condition (after the last cut I allowed them to do, it seemed very hard/dry/barren).
I also think letting it go for a season or two is a good thing, as I saw you mentioned. Personally, I want to invest in a sickle bar mower so I can chop-and-drop certain areas to retain the bio-mass and mulch. I think it's been hurting my land how they have just been taking hay without planting anything or amending the soil.
One positive about them cutting was I was able to get a good visual of the topography and actually located what appears to be 3 natural fresh springs. Just things to keep in mind if small ponds/canals were something I feel the need for.
My plans next are to get some soil testing done, and contact the government departments associated with land conservation/farmland/forestry to see what help they might have to offer, you should look into your local authorities and see if they offer any assistance.
I am fairly certain that some grant money (or at least low interest loans) and low cost (maybe even free?) native plants/trees can be obtained through them where I am at here in the US.
Ground coverage is good, sounds like you already have the right mindset about permaculture. I am a novice as well, but once we accept our place here as shared rather than dominating, the earth friendly approaches found here on this website/forum really shine! Quite possibly a bit more work and time go into permaculture principles in the start but over time (patience is key here) the payoff is literally life saving for the future.
And if you can locate any near by farms or companies that could hook you up with compost or mulch that would be great! There are a few tree service places I see on the way to my property and soon I plan on stopping in and seeing if they want a free dump site