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Insanity - new homesteader

 
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So this might be long, just a warning.  I've been looking at this and many other things for years, but I'm sure that some of what I say or think is completely ignorant of some fact that I've missed.  This is why I'm finally posting here.

My wife and I moved onto 10 acres from the big city about 6 months ago (got out just in time methinks).  We have almost zero experience with gardening or homesteading.  My wife grew up rural, and me semi-rural.  We've both camped and absolutely love the outdoors (and are in love with our property).  About 2 acres is fenced off for our house and then the entire property is fenced in as well.  We have a slight slope that runs most of the property.  We have almost zero trees.  The area outside our inner fence is currently being hayed by a neighbor who is happy to do it until we are ready to begin using the property, which helps us deal with having this much land.  Right now, we mow and we have a couple of dogs who are great at digging up moles and keeping most other pests at bay.  We are currently battling ants, though we are putting up our cinnamon blockades and looking into plants to plant around our trailer.  I should also mention that we both have jobs here now, but I also collect disability from the VA.  We currently don't have a lot in the bank, but after the current emergency lifts, we should have plenty of money coming in each month to allow us to take on any projects.  Also, we are in the southeastern part of Missouri with all the wet and weather that entails.

So, now that I've already jumped off on a tangent, let's bring it back by talking about what we would like to do.  I am going to list them here with numbers for clarity.  It feels so overwhelming right now, I guess I’m just trying to get everything in my head out on paper and get some people who can help point me in a direction.


1.  We want to build a house.  Right now, I’m leaning toward WOFATI, even though we don’t have trees on our property.  There are forests all around us, we may be able to get logs from there.  Otherwise, I have no idea where to put it on the land.  It needs to be big, as we want to foster 3-4 children here (thinking 5 bd, 3-4 ba, maybe 2500 sq ft - less sq ft if I can convince my wife of it).  I think that would be an awesome way to help society and these children, showing them the permaculture life.  Looked into cob, straw bale, earthbag, and numerous other types.  None fit for one reason or another.  Would love some opinions.  Also, will need some resources on how to build one, as I don’t have a clue where to start.

2.  We want to grow as much of our own food as possible.  I am disabled, so we are going to have to plan out raised beds of some sort for our plants (or do something along the route of Ruth Stout’s methods) as bending down is really difficult for me.  I am going all-in on polyculture, but have no clue where to start with that.  For animals, we would like to start with chickens and go from there.  I really like the idea of having paddocks that we rotate to.  I also like the idea of having our chickens rotate through some of our polyculture food areas.  I feel like that will reduce pest problems and having to get feed.  I imagine we might lose some of our plants to the chickens, but with 10 acres, I figure we’ll have enough to not worry too much about it.

3.  We didn’t know when we moved here, but we seem to be along the path of the monarchs.  With that in mind, we want to plant a butterfly garden.  We would also like to maybe keep bees down the road, so having some good nectar producers would be great for that as well.

4.  My wife wants ducks, and I wouldn’t mind eating some fish every once in a while, so we are wanting to put a pond on the property.  Again, don’t know where or how.  I just know it’s on the list.

5.  I definitely want some energy efficiency, so looking to reduce energy consumption where possible.  Want to eliminate active heating/cooling systems.  We are a technology family and we love video gaming, so that will be a part of it.  However, I think that solar power is great now and still getting better, so we’ll want to add that.  Maybe add in a rocket stove heater for those super-cold days.

6.  We would love to have some sort of fruit tree orchard.  Apples and pears are big in our house.  Might enjoy some cherries and/or crab apples.  I can’t think of others off the top of my head.  Again, don’t have a clue what the best way to go about this would be.

Overall, I want to overlap systems to gain efficiency.  I am also somewhat lazy, and would like to find a way to design a system, put in the work to set it up right the first time, and then reap the rewards throughout the years with minimal effort.  Once it’s set up and working, I wouldn’t mind having tours and showing it off to others, doing talks, videos, etc.  I would even be willing to help others design and install their own.  Maybe even help bring the concepts into cities for those who want to do it there in their backyard.

My sense is that the closer we can get systems to mimic the ones we’re used to, the higher the adoption rate will be.  I don’t know how close it can get, but would love to find out.

Things in progress right now in our house:

1.  I bought the PDC and technology course from this site.  Wife and I started watching 2-3 hours in the morning with coffee (until we go back to work - then we’ll schedule times).  Hoping to find a lot of answers in the course.

2.  House came with a riding mower, push mower, and gas weed whacker.  Replacing with electric battery-powered versions until I can get on the level that I can dedicate to learning to use a scythe.

3.  A neighbor gave us a bunch of seeds she had sitting in a drawer.  Probably about 1,000 seeds, mixture of flowers, leafy plants, and various herbs.  Wife and I are planning to sprinkle them in a part of our yard and just see what happens.  They are old seeds, so we aren’t expecting much, but we figure it can’t hurt.

4.  Kitchen scraps are currently being composted.  Don't have anywhere to use them yet, just wanted to start the habit.

5.  Working on finding great plans for building a portable chicken coop using pallets.  Also, collecting pallets and other various materials.

6.  Researching various types of large workshop-type buildings for storage and workspace to build/tinker/experiment.  I would like to get that up as soon as I can so that we can begin to pick up various building materials and store there for future use.

7.  Enjoying having an outside.  Coming from the apartment, the difference in pace and stress levels is huge.  Going out and just sitting on the porch swing is a common occurrence.  My 11-year-old son can finally do boy things like poke bugs and climb trees.  I love it.

Told you it would be long.  Any advice, admonishment, or even just a “hello” is much appreciated!  We are on an exciting journey that I have come to believe is the way we were meant to live.  Thank you all, look forward to learning and sharing as much as I can!
 
steward
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Welcome to permies, and congrats on your new place!

You will learn a lot here, there are some awesome people on this site.

 
steward
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Welcome Trevis!  So it sounds like you're living in a trailer on the property currently?  By "trailer" do you mean a travel trailer or a mobile home?  How long can you stand to live in it before you build your house?  

1.  Typically, I would think that building a large natural house would take 1-2 years.  Probably longer if you have movement/flexibility issues.  Finding builders to do creative construction is often a hurdle.  I'm just mentioning this to temper your hopes for achieving everything in the first summer.

I think Paul says that wofatis are best for sloped, wooded land.  I personally believe they're also better suited for drier land since you have untreated logs in the ground.  Getting enough logs to build a 2500 square foot wofati if they aren't already on your property will be a hell of a challenge.  Take a look at this tour of Allerton Abbey and count the logs.  I think it's about 500 square feet so imagine how much bigger/longer/heavier the ones you'd need would be...  



Why did you discard straw bale out of curiosity?  I'm a fan of building with whatever fits the resources of your area and/or the historical techniques of previous settlers/inhabitants.  

2.  Hugelkultur might be an option for your raised beds.  My fruit trees seem to have fewer bug issues now that my chickens spend a lot of time under them.

3.  If you do polyculture gardening, the pollinator habitat will happen naturally.  No need to do a dedicated pollinator garden

6.  Just combine the fruit trees with the polyculture gardening and you'd be all set.  Way down south where you are there are lots of neat things to grow.  Start a bit smaller and keep adding.  Once you learn how to propagate some plants, you can expand for free.

Things in progress list comments:
1.  There should be a fair number of answers and lots of things to get you thinking holistically about the entire project.

2.  If you haven't bought the electric stuff you may want to save your money for the house.  Then in a year you could switch to scythes and not have blown money on the battery gear.  If you already got it, awesome
 
pollinator
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There are a few issues I can talk about.
1. Most people build houses bigger than they need. This leads to unfinished homes, no money and a high level of frustration.
2 Design your house so you start and finish say a Kitchen that later becomes a laundry, a small bathroom which may become an ensuite
and another room to sleep in which may become a dining or lounge room.
3 As you complete each segment, you save, collect materials for the next extension.
4. I have a friend who allows a neighbour to take hay off about 40 acres. In a bad yera he would be making about $10,000 profit.
I have encourage my mate to get a bit of balance with the income, because he could use that money to plant something elsewhere. But he does not want to upset the neighbour!!

5 Not knowing where you are, you may be able to have some stock on that paddock and maybe sell it or eat it.
6 Ponds for ducks and fishing take a long time to establish, you should think about starting early on that, but keep the ducks separate, they tend to make every thing a mess.
Good luck with your plans Best regards
 
pollinator
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Congratulations:

We are starting over on a new piece of property and putting to use a lot of the things that made our other property humm.  It took us a while to get it humming and learn what we needed and most importantly, WHERE YOU CAN GET It.  So far we have found firewood, horse poop, and woodchips.  The things that you will need over the coming years all of which need time to get to where they are usable.  We are lucky to have a lot of fruit trees so our focus is on berries, garlic, potatoes, and onions and potato onions and asparagus. We tried to do a lot with nuts previousy but it takes so long with nut trees that you would starve if you were depending on them.  6 years for chestnuts and still no English Walnuts after 7 years.  Hazelnuts do produce quickly but from a bucket load you get almost nothing.  Good luck to you.  The people here are fantastic and I've learned a ton over the years.
 
author & master steward
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Trevis, welcome to Permies! And congratulations on your new adventure!

John C Daley wrote:1. Most people build houses bigger than they need.


Trevis Kelley wrote:2.  We want to grow as much of our own food as possible.


You really don't need a lot of living space. What John describes is adequate. HOWEVER, if you want to grow as much of your own food as possible, you need to consider storage space. Not only the food itself, but also the equipment to process and keep it, such as canning equipment and jars, dehydrator, containers, buckets and bins for bulk storage, shelving, even egg cartons, etc. Do you plan to store potable water? Livestock feed? You mention being disabled, so make sure your access to your stored food is convenient for your personal needs.

I love reading about your plans and love your enthusiasm. Liv is right; there are many experienced and helpful people here. It's a great place for every homesteader to be.
 
gardener
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It sounds like a fabulous new adventure. Daunting to be sure, but there are a lot of good resources out there.

Leigh is spot on about the storage and work space. I have a small urban homestead with a wee little house (49m2) and our outdoor space (a covered porch/kitchen/living room/workshop/storage) is absolutely essential. We hang our laundry there when the weather is rough, it is where we brew and bottle beer, do woodworking, pot up seeds, care for the animals (they're small, so no barns), store the equipment.
Doing things the permie way requires more time and sometimes specific equipment, and it's good to realize ahead of time that you may need to even plan for things you don't know about yet (poultry netting, animal shaws, t posts, etc etc etc etc)
 
Trevis Kelley
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Wow!  I am overwhelmed with the responses here!  I love all of it!

Mike Haasl wrote:
So it sounds like you're living in a trailer on the property currently?  By "trailer" do you mean a travel trailer or a mobile home?  How long can you stand to live in it before you build your house?



We are living in a mobile home that is actually not bad.  Lots of things we don't like about it, but the plan is to be in it 5-10 years while we plan out/build what we want.

Mike Haasl wrote:
Why did you discard straw bale out of curiosity?  I'm a fan of building with whatever fits the resources of your area and/or the historical techniques of previous settlers/inhabitants.



Not sure how much straw bale was built around here, and I'm not 100% opposed to it.  My research indicated that straw bale building isn't great for wet areas, but it was never toward the top of my list so I could be wrong.  Also, we would need to engineer a living roof to go on top, as that's what my wife wants.  To be honest, cob was her #1 choice as she could make it look like a hobbit hole/witch house, but it's so labor-intensive and I just can't build something that takes that much work.  Wofati would allow the living roof to be built in.  I'm sure there's some solution for the untreated log in the dirt/wet, probably easier to implement than figuring out the roof.  I like the log cabin look on the inside as well.  Also, we don't have trees on our property, but we are surrounded on all sides by trees and have some helpful neighbors, so I'm sure we could get ourselves some logs.

John C Daley wrote:
Most people build houses bigger than they need. This leads to unfinished homes, no money and a high level of frustration.



Working on convincing the wife that we should build smaller.  I like the build for now, then add on later.  Maybe then she'll find out that we don't need so much space.  As for the pond, that's good advice.  As soon as we know where it's going, we'll get started on it.

Leigh Tate wrote:
You really don't need a lot of living space. What John describes is adequate. HOWEVER, if you want to grow as much of your own food as possible, you need to consider storage space. Not only the food itself, but also the equipment to process and keep it, such as canning equipment and jars, dehydrator, containers, buckets and bins for bulk storage, shelving, even egg cartons, etc. Do you plan to store potable water? Livestock feed? You mention being disabled, so make sure your access to your stored food is convenient for your personal needs.



We have a pressure canner, and an old water bath canner.  We haven't done anything with them in a while, but browsing through our old Ball recipe book, I'm sure we'll be able to get right back into it.  One of the things we don't like about our trailer is there isn't much storage space.  We have talked in the past about having a room full of shelving for food storage.  We have most of the equipment in some boxes in our bedroom, just waiting to be used again.  Good to keep in mind, as I hadn't thought about our food storage room in a while.


My wife and I have decided to move fairly slowly.  We are more concerned with getting a solid plan, then building it out in a measured pace.  We don't want to take on too much at once, but just as long as we continue to learn, grow, and apply new knowledge, we figure by the time we're retired, we'll have a pretty amazing homestead.  Thank you all again for all the advice.  We are definitely taking heed.
 
master pollinator
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Trevis Kelley wrote:My wife and I have decided to move fairly slowly.  We are more concerned with getting a solid plan, then building it out in a measured pace.  We don't want to take on too much at once, but just as long as we continue to learn, grow, and apply new knowledge, we figure by the time we're retired, we'll have a pretty amazing homestead.



I'm glad to hear you say that. When I saw your initial post, the first thing I thought was "wow, that's gutsy." The second thing I thought was "it has burnout written all over it."

Enjoy the process. Practice the art of the possible. Savour the small victories. You'll get there soon enough!
 
master gardener
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It sounds as if you have your head on pretty tight.  Continue to do what you are doing. Do a lot of reading, and move in well thought out deliberate steps.   I live pretty  close to you as things go ... only on the Illinois side of things.  There has been a great deal of good stuff posted here.  So as not to repeat, I would add that you have already avoided many of the errors I made starting out. I would suggest that if you decide to put in an orchard, put in full sized trees.  Also consider nut trees
 
master steward
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Welcome to the forums.  There is lots and lots of information that you will find useful.

I can't offer much except some suggestions to help with the battle with the ants.

Vinegar in a spray bottle so that you can spray it on counter tops and other places will help.

If you can find the hive, this might help:

https://permies.com/t/124185/Coffee-grounds-confused-good-bad#992274

Bryant said:  The acids in the coffee that is brewed this way will burn the ants up and by going far enough away from the obvious mound, you can be fairly certain of getting the queen in the laying chamber as well as the workers and the nursery.

 
Trevis Kelley
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I know it's not necessarily usual for people to update on a thread this old, but I figured some might still be interested to hear about our progress over the past couple of years.  We've learned a lot and are still learning, but I have to say that research before practice has paid dividends.  That, and moving slowly and deliberately.

COVID destroyed the timelines on our plans, as well as our finances.  My wife and I both worked for companies that had to lay people off, and the company I worked for went belly up.  My wife's old job still has not returned.  She took employment elsewhere for less pay, and I am probably not going back to work any time soon.  The house build has been put on the back-burner.  Luckily, our food production has gone up by quite a bit.

We've now got some cinder block raised beds.  A nearby church had a building they used as housing for their pastor that had a cinder block foundation, and we managed to convince them to let us take the blocks if we disassembled them.  We ended up with about 300 blocks and all it cost me was about a day and a week of sore back.  That translates to 200 sq ft of growing space.  Last year, we managed to turn that into about all the vegetables we can eat in a year, as well as herbs.  We grow potatoes and garlic in buckets and hope to grow more this year.

We've also managed to put strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, elderberries, apple trees, pear trees, and a cherry tree into the ground.  Not really expecting any return until next year for the berries and we're not sure/not really concerned about when we get a return on the trees.  It's just nice to know they're there and to watch them grow.  It'll be nice when we can harvest from them for years to come.

In summer 2021, we finally got a coop built and got 12 chickens.  We've since lost 2 to a very pernicious hawk, and we now have red wire covering a quarter acre of land.  That seems to have worked to keep the hawk out and we have been overwhelmed with the amount of eggs we are getting (and how little feed we're having to input).  We've also realized that according to chicken math, too many eggs means we need more chickens, so tomorrow I'm picking up 5 more.  It's a nasty bug to get bit by, but with the price of eggs lately and the neighbors wanting some eggs, we figure adding a few more can't hurt.  I should mention that we have a Black Soldier Fly larvae farm that also produces food for the chickens with nothing but neighbors food scraps (which we trade for eggs).

This summer should keep us busy as well.  First, we are looking to add rabbits.  I've got nearly everything to build hutches for them.  We'll need to find a good source for rabbits, but that project will come in due time.  We want everything prepared before we get the animals.  Second, we are taking a trip up to Greg Judy's farm to get some insight into raising sheep and to possibly order some for summer 2023.  That will be quite the game changer for our homestead.  Right now, the neighbor uses 8 acres of our land to run his cows (which means we don't have to maintain that land and we get the trampling and manure from the cows).  The sheep will put us in a position to utilize that land ourselves for our homestead.  But, we will see.  I've done a fair amount of research into raising sheep, but there is still a lot to learn.  We aren't committed to anything on that front.  Third, we're building a greenhouse this summer to grow some over the winter and to be able to start more seeds (although we do some of that in our house already).  This might allow us to turn it into a potential revenue source.

I've got to say, most days, it feels like we're not accomplishing much of anything.  But, when I look at our homestead and how much we now know, I realize that we've come a fair distance.  I have many days that it's difficult to get up and accomplish more than the daily chores due to my disability.  My wife is focused on her job and helping out around the house.  Yet, together we've managed to be able to grow about 25% of our food so far with plans to get up to maybe 50% to 75% over the next 2 years.  I wait for good days, and then accomplish as much as I can on the most pressing projects.  It eventually gets done and then I move to the next thing.

Far from being burnt out, we're finding this whole thing to be healing.  I can't imagine the stress and anxiety we would have had if we had lost our jobs while still living in the city.  Also, having projects to do and stuff to work on allowed us to feel better about the predicament.  We are so grateful to be where we are, doing what we're doing.  Thank you to everyone in this forum for sharing the knowledge.  We've only managed to get as far as we have because there have been so many so willing to share their knowledge.  I hope to do the same one day.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
master pollinator
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Thanks for the update, Trevis! I think you win the award for resilience in the face of adversity. Nicely done.

I have always believed in the value of being "grounded" in the land, in the soil. It provides a practical and psychological buffer against the careening madness of the outside world, and I woudn't trade it for anything.
 
John F Dean
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Before I would build ....before I would plan a design for my  house ....I would learn what the housing requirements are in my state for foster care.   At issue is not simply the regulations, but how those regulations are interpreted. As a very broad observation, the more Mainstream the providers look, the better the chances of being approved. That said, I have seen a number of adult foster care situations on active homesteads ( yes, I understand you are taking about children).  



 
pollinator
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Trevis, it is lovely to hear how you are getting on and obtaining a yield from your land. Trees, yes, they take a long time to mature and you may have heard the saying "walnuts and pears you plant for your heirs" which is something we should all be doing. Unlike houses, where you really don't need as much space as you think, greenhouses are something else as you always need a larger one than you have. My choice would be to build a modular one so you can add to it as you need / can afford to. I am looking forward to reading more about your journey.
 
If you two don't stop this rough-housing somebody is going to end up crying. Sit down and read this tiny ad:
"Permaculture Now! - Desert or Paradise?" movie by Sepp Holzer
https://permies.com/wiki/137395/Permaculture-Desert-Paradise-movie-Sepp
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